There's a little spot in Ridgewood, NJ, called Organic Tofu House, or something like that. It's over near Whole Foods, as a point of reference for all of you hippies reading this. You may not realize it, but Organic Tofu House is a fantastic Korean tofu stew spot, and worth a visit.
These are somewhat fiery soups, served very hot in an extremely hot cauldron. So hot as to be comical. It literally looks like a bubbling cauldron of lava that was cooked on the surface of the sun as it comes out to the table.
You get to pick a protein or vegetable for your soft tofu stew, as the picture of the menu above suggests.This one here was the kimchi/pork version. The silky stews, filled with soft tofu, have a very appealing subtle smokey flavor. The minced pork, in the kimchi/pork version, is acting as a textural contrast. It's truly one of my favorite dishes. Extremely satisfying on many levels. Healthful. Spicy. Wet. Luscious. Comforting. Hangover-curing. Other-worldly. Oh, and you get to crack a raw egg to mix into the fire.
Did I mention that 9 bucks is a steal for this level of food?
You'll get banchan (those small dishes of often wacky stuff that kick off a Korean meal) with your meal at the Tofu House. I won't pretend to know what the Korean names are, but during this meal we had the typical sprouts, delicious kimchi, and something else that I couldn't identify. I think it was tofu and onion, and it had a vaguely fermented fish element. Heck maybe it was dried fish. I could eat banchan all day long. As if Korean food isn't good enough, they start you off with a buffet of wonders.
There's no point in not ordering bibimbap if it's on a menu, and it was. For the uninitiated, bibimbap is dish of rice, vegetables, and sometimes a bit of meat, topped with a raw egg, and served with a sweet/spicy sauce, in a bowl almost as hot as the one the tofu stew comes in. The hot bowl serves a few purposes.
- It keeps the food warm for quite some time.
- It creates what is one of the culinary world's greatest treasures: crispy rice at the bottom of bibimbap. Genius.
I was shocked to find the place doing a brisk business on a Saturday morning before noon. Lots of Korean families, happily avoiding typical brunch food that other restaurants were no doubt serving. Sitting there, taking it all in, I said to the missus, "Now this is what I call brunch." She nodded, knowingly, as if to say "enough with the brunch hate--we all get it--loud and clear."
Organic Tofu House : 88 Godwin Ave : Ridgewood, NJ : 201.251.7734 : BYO
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