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Aug 7, 2007 09:29 AM

Best panchan selection on El Camino Real in Santa Clara?

I'm having a major tofu soup jones going on. But half the fun of going to a good tofu soup joint is the delectable panchans that the place serves.

In pursuit of this, I'm going to go to the Korean community on El Camino Real in Santa Clara in the next few days. Which of the restaurants here have, in your opinion, the best selection of panchan? I know whose tofu I prefer - that of Sui Tofu. They make their own and it's my favorite. But this time it's the panchan that will help determine my destination.

Thanks for any advice.

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  1. I would check out the supermarkets - probably not Hankook supermarket.

    If you're on El Camino going away from downtown san jose, there's another giant market on the lefthand side (after hankook supermarket on the right). They have an all you can eat bbq next door that my korean grandma loves (I can't tell if it's because of the prices or the actual meal). BUT - the supermarket has a tiny cafeteria in the middle, there's also large displays of different kim che and other prepared items.

    5 Replies
    1. re: ayama

      That sounds like a possibility. I've been needing to buy a little tub of kimchi and that would necessitate a trip to a good Korean supermarket.

      Let me get this straight - so you can eat in the cafeteria and make a selection from the panchan display to go with your meal? If so, that sounds like heaven.

      1. re: teela brown

        I made the rounds of the panchan to-go spots, here's the post,
        but wasn't that thrilled with any of them taste-wise compared to restaurants'.

        1. re: teela brown

          I think you may have to buy those separately. I'm not sure exactly how it works. We tend to do the grocery shopping first and stop briefly at the cafeteria for a snack.

        2. re: ayama

          I think you mean HanKook market, which is next to Palace BBQ. The market you pass on ECR going away from SJ is called Galleria. Both are pretty big and have a selection of panchan.

          But for restaurant having lots of panchan, it's hard to beat Korea House. See my post and pictures here:


          1. re: tanspace

            I'm off in about twenty minutes to Korea House, with a planned stop afterwards at the Galleria to pick up kimchi.

            Your panchan pictures sealed the deal, tanspace. Thanks. I'm starving now, thanks to that bibimbap pic.

        3. Korea House.

          You get about 10 different types of panchan and they give you more upon request.

          Overall the restaurant is just as good but not really any better than the others, however, they do have the best panchan selection.

          1. I understand the lady who pushed "Korean Sushi" on you and would get the servers jumping (and the panchan flowing) by yelling in Korean is no longer the owner. Too bad, she was a character and I think the reason the restaurant was such a fun place to go.

            3 Replies
            1. re: thirtyeyes

              Oh, I loved that woman, the previous owner. I hit K House about once a month, and every time we (or anyone else) left she'd yell "see you tomorrow!). I still love Korea House, and the panchan there are definitely great. My mouth's watering now!! Where is Sui Tofu?

              1. re: Hoss

                Sui Tofu is a couple of blocks west of Korea House, on, I believe, the intersection of Kiely and El Camino Real. I actually ended up here, as Korea House has only buffet at lunchtime, and I saw no panchan assortment on people's tables when I peeked in.

                At Sui Tofu, I had the jonesed-for tofu soup, and chased it with their eight panchans. Their tofu is made on-premises, and it is satisfyingly crumbly and rich tasting. Panchans included: napa cabbage kimchi, sweet black soybeans, block of that good tofu in soy/vinegar/sesame oil, bean sprouts, radish cubes in chili sauce, and plain wakame seaweed (for adding to the soup). My favorite was their Japanese cucumber in red chili sauce with scallions. It had naturally sweet undertones from the cuke, overlaid with garlic-y chili; I had seconds of that one.

                At the next table were four Korean people, and they ordered a big bubbling cauldron of some kind of seafood stew in a rich, blood-red chili-laced broth. As they ate it, they started coughing, moaning, sweating and blowing their noses. I have to order my soup mild, so I can't even imagine a stew hot enough to make Korean diners suffer!

                1. re: teela brown

                  Sui Tofu did not used to have so many panchans before, I guess they've also started to offer more as a counter to Korea House.

                  And Korea House also serves non-buffet items during lunch as I've had it before. If it's toward the end of the buffet hours, they may even give you some of the left over items from buffet as extra panchan.