Tofu Tofu (Mopo?), Soondubu in Sunnyvale
I finally found a worthy competitor to Pyung Chang in the South Bay, surprisingly not in Santa Clara, but in a little unassuming strip mall in Sunnyvale. With the rest of soondubu row on the opposite end of El Camino Real, I was surprised to learn that this mom and pop joint has been doing business for nine years tucked away in the back of the strip mall, anchored by Long's.
Soondubu is such a simple recipe, basically an anchovy broth and gochucaru (red pepper flakes), with silky soft tofu and your choice of protein. My favorite versions come with little bits of onion and zucchini for complexity, as well as slices of jalapeno for added kick.
From my experience, the variation in recipes come from the amount of red pepper flakes that's added, as well as how good their stock is, and stock to me is very important. The reason I like when places use fresh jalapenos is that they don't overload on the red pepper flakes, which are really only medium spicy, and tend to overwhelm the flavor of the delicate anchovy broth, and stew as a whole.
Here, they offer beef, pork, seafood or oyster as your protein choices, and I went with pork on my first go. The cast iron pot arrived at the table bubbling hot, perfect to poach the egg whole. I knew when I saw the bits of zucchini and onion, as well three slices of jalapeno in the broth, that it was gonna be a treat. The "spicy" broth was perfectly balanced, none of the flavors overwhelmed the other, just a harmonious stew with a well made stock base. The pork slices were tender, cut from the belly I believe, with a decent portion, enough to fill me up by the end.
Six little tasty plates of panchan included spicy fishcakes, spicy sprouts and regular sprouts, cabbage kimchi, cucumber kimchi, and marinated potatoes.
They offer a typical range of entrees, and even a section of items to accompany drinking. I saw some portable gas ranges, probably for cooking soups or BBQ at the table.
Current South Bay Soondubu Ranking:
1. Tofu Tofu
2. Jang Su Jang
3. Choi's Kitchen
4. Norbu Korean Japanese Restaurant
5. Myung Dong Tofu Cabin Restaurant
6. Cheon Joo Young-Yang Dolsot
7. SGD Tofu House
572 E El, Camino Real Sunnyvale, CA
Now that Tofu Tofu is closed, I'd give the title to Sui Tofu (aka Yang-Pyeong Sin-Nae Seoul Hae-Jang-Guk) for their awesome homemade tofu. The tofu is crumbly in texture, as opposed to the blocks of tofu served elsewhere. This alone elevates the dish, but the broth and ingredients are top notch as well.
Thanks again for recommending this! I went there tonight for my first soondubu and I'm pretty sure I was the only non-Korean there. The party of 16 next to me was sure having a good time! I ordered the oyster tofu stew and liked it quite a bit, but since it's my first time trying it I have no reference. I ordered the spicy but it looked hotter than it actually was, but that's typical when I go to Asian restaurants for the first time. The panchan was all delicious. I'll need to get back and sample more of the menu!
This sounds very interesting. Jalapeno doesn't sound all that authentic, but the logic of using it to amp up the spiciness without muddling the flavor is sound. However, I have to say that I do love an avalanche of red chile. ;-) (My fave so far is Myung Dong, although their kimchi was vile.) Have you tried Gaesung? That might be your style as well.
Gaesung House of Tofu
2089 El Camino Real, Santa Clara, CA 95050
I haven't worked my way further east on El Camino yet, but will try Gaesung soon. I went back to Tofu Tofu and got the beef soondubu, spicy, and this time there was more of an avalanche of red chile, like you say, and without the jalapenos. I guess the kitchen had a lighter touch on my first visit or I received medium w/jalapenos?
Are the bits of zucchini considered authentic?
Have you tried Cheon Joo yet? I remember their stock being pretty good but almost no gochucaru at all. They didn't ask how spicy I wanted it either.
Myung Dong I've tried twice, once spicy, the other medium, and both times the broth had a good amount of gochucaru, with a fiery red hue. I remember liking their panchan though, probably some of the best I've had in town. Their purple rice is a nice touch too.
re: Melanie Wong
My pleasure Melanie. I was almost ready to give up on the soondubu quest, until I saw this place in its peculiar location. There's not much in terms of ambiance, and it even seems like the owners use it as sort of a quasi office. When the chow is good though, I'm not complaining.