Sunday, July 24, 2011

Soon-dooboo: A Soup by Any Other Name

I've been hard pressed to find one common spelling for that ultimate Korean comfort soup, sundubu. Or, as I've seen it spelled on menus, soon-tofu.

Mountain, a new Korean eatery in Gardena's Tozai Plaza, spells it soon-dooboo. I ordered the soon-dooboo chigae, or as Wikipedia has it listed, sundubu jjigae. No matter how you spell it, the light but satisfying concoction is full of buttery soft tofu, a variety of shellfish, and a spicy but not overwhelming broth. Tradition dictates a raw egg, broken into the boiling soup when it arrives at the table. But my favorite part of a sundubu/soon-dooboo/soon tofu meal is the banchan.

Any way you spell it, Korean tofu soup is supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

While kim chee - or kimchi - is often thought of as spicy pickled cabbage, any vegetable can be made into kim chee, at varying levels of heat. Dylan and I were served the requisite cabbage and daikon varieties, along with the inevitable potato salad. As the blandest thing on the table, this made for a good palate cleanser. But the most surprising banchan was a bowl of what would be best described as caramelized tidbits of beef in broth, an unusual prelude to the fiery soups we were anticipating.

Tongyeong "tapas" - banchan can be a meal in itself.

Mountain prides itself on health conscious ingredients. They even offer dishes that are considered great remedies for colds (and hangovers. Yelpers - who call the Koreatown location "Mountain Cafe" - are fervent believers in the restorative powers of abalone porridge and the sam geah tang, which is chicken ginseng soup.

They even offer a choice of white or brown rice, which always gets bonus points from me. Except that the "brown" rice was highlighted by a lovely shade of purple. Like the elusive common spellings for tofu soup, the jury is out on what gives this rice the color of a penny loafer. Luckily, it's a whole lot tastier than one.


  1. banchan and soon-dooboo sound like a very satisfying meal. why do i feel like there's a scooby doo joke somewhere in that phonetic spelling? in any case, your description makes me want to jump in the mystery mobile and head for mountain. regarding the mystery of the purple rice: it's actually not brown rice, it's black rice, sometimes called 'forbidden rice' (more exciting). i think it's supposed to be full of antioxidants. i've actually found this brand in the local chain grocery store here in kansas:
    it's ruined me for other rices. because, you know, once you go forbidden....

  2. It was very tasty. I wish they had the little, delicate sweet and sour dried fishes, but i enjoyed it