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May 14, 2008 03:24 PM

Korean Soon Tofu in NYC?

Recently moved from LA to NYC and am desperately craving some Korean soon tofu? Anybody have any suggestions on where to find it? Thanks!

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  1. only one place really specializes in it in manhattan...its called Seoul Garden on 32nd street bet bway and 5th on the 2nd floor

    its decent, but nothing special...places like sokongdong or beverly soon do bu will blow it away

    also i believe cho dang gol on 35th st also specializes in it although it tastes different b/c they make their own tofu and the texture of their tofu is much different than normal

    22 Replies
    1. re: Lau

      What about Natural Tofu also on 32nd St.? Don't they specialize in soon dobu? The branch on Queens Blvd. in Sunnyside is pretty good. Great value if anything...

      1. re: Silverjay

        Aren't Seoul Garden and Natural Tofu different names for the same upstairs restaurant on 32nd? For Manhattan board purposes, Lau has covered all the soon dubu specialists as far as I know.

        Beyond Manhattan, Natural Tofu (a.k.a. Book Chang Dong) has at least three restaurants in Queens.

        1. re: squid kun

          squid kun is right, i believe its the same place

          1. re: squid kun

            Yeah, they're the same restaurant. I posted a couple of months ago saying that there was a big decline in quality of Natural Tofu. I had their soon tofu last week -- got much better, but still can't be compared to Beverly and SoKongDong. The Sunnyside branch of Natural Tofu is better than the Manhattan version. I haven't had the BCD in Queens, but if it's similar to the LA branches, I would probably say that's the best place for soon tofu in NYC.

            It's also not too difficult to make your own. I prefer that as I find Korean restaurants don't use the best seafood when they make soon tofu.

            1. re: Miss Needle

              I also wanted to add that I don't like Cho Dang Gol's soon tofu. It's way too bland and not what soon tofu is supposed to be. It's more like a weak tofu soup than a melange of smooth custardy tofu, meats/seafood and spicy flavorful broth. I like their other tofu dishes, though.

              1. re: Miss Needle

                agree w/ u on that as well, there is something about the texture of their soon tofu that i didnt like as well

                1. re: Lau

                  I think the tofu is very natural at Cho Dang Gol -- more grainy than the custard like texture of soon tofu we all know and love. I've heard it's very difficult to obtain that custardy texture in a kitchen (as they make their own tofu) and has to be prepared under more controlled environments.

              2. re: Miss Needle

                Good point. We usually make our own as well.

                1. re: Silverjay

                  my gf actually makes it at home, using her mom's recipe, i could probably post the recipe if anyone wants it

                  i think it turns out alot better than seoul garden, we usually use pork belly as the meat in it...i believe its pretty easy to make

                  1. re: Lau

                    Lau, would you mind posting it? The pork belly sounds delicious in the soon tofu. I'll bet that it adds a lot of richness to the dish. My husband thinks that pork is king.

                    1. re: Lau

                      Lau, please do post the recipe for the Korean tofu!

                      So far I'm liking the tofu place in Fort Lee the best. The Natural Tofu in Queens (at 41st st) is a close second, but last time their L.A. Galbi was way thinner than it used to be where as the place in NJ still has it quite thick and very juicy.

                      I remember not liking one of the tofu places in Manhattan, and remembered that it was a 2nd floor Natural Tofu, then?

                      My impression about the soon Tofu I had in San Gabriel Valley was that there were so much more soft tofu in the bowl than the NY versions. Even though the banchan weren't as good there (at that particularone), I did develope a soft tofu envy for the LA chowhounds....

                      1. re: HLing

                        alright this maybe a little more difficult than expected b/c a) she just eye balls everything (in terms of amts of the ingredients) and b) she uses this chili paste from her mom to make the base and apparently it might be a pain to make

                        so we're going to make soon do boo soon and try to measure the ingredients...the part with the chili paste maybe more difficult, but we'll try to figure something out

                        1. re: Lau

                          Word. I'm thinking about starting my own blog and am going crazy trying to write down the recipes as I also just eyeball things. Recipe writing is not very easy.

                          When you're talking about chili paste, are you referring to homemade gochujang?

                            1. re: Miss Needle

                              ok so we made soon doo bu tonight, here's a very rough recipe of how we made it...also i found a recipe online for the chili paste, now its probably not going to be perfect since the chili base is huge since its the rough base for the soup

                              1) Yang Yohm Jjang (chili paste, see bottom on instructions)
                              2) Package of this powdered japanese soup base, its says its udon soup base, but its a fish stock soup base...on the label it has a logo that is a big red bowl that says "east" in japanese on it (i can read it b/c its the same character in japanese aka "dong")
                              3) Gochu - the long korean chili peppers, we used the green ones, but u can use the red ones it doesnt matter; chop these into small pieces
                              4) Kimchi - we like to use kimchi that is more ripe (i.e. its been sitting around longer) b/c its more sour and softer, ours is usually pretty old (like sitting in the fridge for a month); chop this up
                              5) Scallions - chopped into small pieces
                              6) Meat - we use pork belly, but you can use anything (beef, seafood etc)
                              7) Soon Doo Boo - this is the tofu itself, we these this brand that comes in a tube (go to the tofu section of a korean mkt and you'll find it there), which is the silky type of tofu
                              8) eggs and onions - both of these are optional, you put the egg in at the end just like at the restaurants (it'll cook itself b/c soup is boiling when u serve it) and onions u put in when ure cooking it

                              - get one of those large black clay stone pots, the one we have is probably about twice the size of the black ones u get at most soon do bu places (which are more individual sized)
                              - fill it 1/2 way with water and bring to a boil
                              - add 1/2 a package of the japanese soup base + 2 spoonfuls of the yang yohm jjang aka chili paste
                              - then add the soon doo boo (tofu) and the meat to the soup
                              - let the meat and tofu cook until the meat is cooked
                              - then add the gochu (korean chili pepper), kimchi, scallions, onion (if u want it) the in terms of how much u want to add that is somewhat subjective, you don't need to add that much kimchi and be careful with how much of the gochu you add b/c u can make the whole soup end up tasting like those peppers...remember u can always add more, but its difficult to take out if u add to much, so be conservative u can add more
                              - none of these ingredients in the step above need to be boiled very long, so taste the soup (its fine to taste the broth since the meat is cooked) and decide whether you want more of anything or whether the soup needs salt...again this is somewhat subjective to your tastes
                              - should be ready to serve pretty quickly after this and you can serve (with rice) and thats its, its fairly simple

                              Yang Yohm Jjang (chili paste base) this should be a fairly fine paste
                              - 2 tbsp soy sauce
                              - 1 tsp sesame oil
                              - 1 tsp sesame seeds
                              - 2-3 cloves crushed garlic
                              - 1 spring onion, washed and sliced
                              - 1 tbsp gochugaru (ground red pepper)

                              here's a recipe i found online as well:

                              yours probably won't turn out exactly like ours since we use my gf's mom's yang yohm jjang and her mother's homemade kimchi (lightyear's better than the stores)...but it should turn out good and better than most of the restaurants in NY

                              1. re: Lau

                                Thank you Lau! I've always wanted to try to make soondooboo jigae (I make a decent kimchi jigae) and now I'm inspired.

                                1. re: Lau

                                  Thanks for posting! Sounds delicious!

                                  About the Japanese udon base -- are you talking about hon-dashi? I can't read any characters so I've got no idea if it has "east" on it.

                                  1. re: Miss Needle

                                    this is the character:

                                    im not sure what its called in japanese, i can probably find out though...its a powdered fish stock though

                                  2. re: Lau

                                    I make this a lot, from an old post. Very hard to search for it, as there is a typo in the thread name.

                              2. re: HLing

                                I agree that So Kong Dong in Fort Lee wins for best tofu. Unfortunately nothing in Manhattan compares. My wife and I trek out whenever the craving hits.

                                1. re: aiya

                                  Is this So Kong Dong related to the one in LA?

                                  1. re: Miss Needle

                                    i dont think it is...there are alot of soon doo doorestaurants named sokongdong and book chang dong (aka BCD) for some reason

                  2. The original comment has been removed
                    1. I hate Seoul Garden and Cho Dang Gol.

                      There are times when I wish I lived in LA so I could eat soon tofu at BCD 2-3 times per week. The only place that I get it here in Manhattan is at Shilla Restaurant in K-town. It's high quality. They offer several versions. And it's better than anything else around.