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Friday, August 6, 2010

Chodang Soon Tofu :: My Favourite SoonDubu Dolsut Bap


I've enjoyed SoonTofu Soup at Wonjo, Kachi and the ever-popular Buk Chang Dong, but none rival the fresh, flavourful, homey soup from Chodang SoonTofu. I hit this joint on such a regular basis that the owner cheerfully recognizes me and immediately gives me an extra bowl of soybean sprouts because she knows that I devour it pretty darn quickly. I always order at least two soups: one to gobble up on the spot, and another to take home and reheat the next day. Similar to pork bone soup, the flavourful broth seems to improve with time and reheats wonderfully. Needless to say, I am an addicted, repeat customer.


Chodang SoonTofu
Verdict: Go! Fresh tofu, cheerful service, take-out reheats wonderfully, great value
Meal: Lunch
& Dinner
Price: $
7 + tax & tip (great deal!)





Located in a little plaza in the middle of nowhere, the fact that the place usually bustling with customers (usually a fair number of Korean groups) is great sign. Word of mouth spreads quickly, and many people visit based on the raves of others. It's not exactly in a location where hungry pedestrians are walking around, but their consistently good service and delicious soups have convinced people that it's well worth the trip. The interior is a typical Korean joint and it is always very clean and well maintained.
 
Banchan
Those unfamiliar with Korean cuisine might be pleasantly surprised to receive a series of little "appetizers". These side dishes are shared amongst the table and vary between restaurants and seasons.

Chodang's star is always the deep fried tofu. Quickly dipped in the oil, the outer layer is crispy and tasty, while the inside still has a great texture. Made fresh for every customer, the sweet sauce enhances the dish and it never comes out soggy.
Deep fried tofu topped with sweet teriyaki sauce, green onions & sesame seeds
Fresh, chilled, firm tofu & soy sauce - wonderful texture & flavour

While no restaurant in the GTA (that I know of anyways) can ever rival the assortment that you'll get in South Korea, a happy sampling beyond just the typical kimchi and soybean sprouts is always a good sign. 

Chodang's deep fried and firm tofu are always great at showcasing how delicious their freshly made tofu is. If you like it, they sell it separately and sometimes soy milk too. I've taken home a jug of it in the past - no preservatives, silky smooth, and delicious. You need to drink it fast since they only use natural ingredients!

The eggs are for the soup, not for snacking!

I like their kimchi too - it's always fresh, nicely fermented, and dishes are quickly refilled when empty. I despise getting crummy or spongy kimchi, so this was worth a note.
The soybean sprouts were not oily and mixed with a bit of bell peppers. Small detail, but a traditional, well-prepared side dish is always appreciated. The mackerel was tasty, I always love getting grilled or fried fish with my banchan! The dishes vary from time-to-time - sometimes there are pickled vegetables, fried egg, or other typical Korean side dishes. Always Y-U-M.


Just to tease you, I thought that I'd upload some examples of the great banchan I had in  South Korea. Just to show you that it's worth a trip ;) Click the little thumbnails if you're curious (made them super small so people don't confuse the pictures with ChoDang).


Mushroom SoonTofu
Consistently my favourite, it is hearty with several different types of mushrooms and silken (soon) tofu. The mushrooms soak up all of that wonderful flavour and you'll find yourself scooping it up under the bowl is dry! Yum...this never fails to please.

You can choose mild, medium, or maximum spice. As a huge fan of the heat, I always ask for the max. Just crack your egg right in the bowl and enjoy it poached!
It's quite hard to tell which soup is which in my pictures. Fortunately for all of you, I will shamelessly admit that I've tried almost all of their bowls. My least favourite is their kimchi bowl, and my second favourite is the traditional Chodang SoonDubu bowl. While I enjoyed their seafood and mixed (which is beef & seafood) versions, call me picky but the lazy foodie in me doesn't like plucking the head off of the prawns, even though that's how it's supposed to be served. The seafood is quite good though, with mussels, squid, and prawns. Yum. Worth a try.

Nice, simple interior
I have yet to try their dumpling bowl, their dumplings are quite tasty so I don't see how you could go wrong there. 

Their soy bigi bowl is also tasty but the trek to Etobicoke is always for the soondubu. It's basically a bowl of ground soybeans, nice and thick. Great option for those who don't want to have the silken tofu soup, but like the taste of soy. No pics of this guy, because I had him way before I started this blog!


Kimchi Soondubu with a healthy offering of multi-grain rice
Every bowl (kimchi in this case) comes with a stone pot filled with rice.  The nice, purple-ish colour is from the wild rice. The bottom layer of rice is quite crunchy from the hot stone bowl so water (or in some other restaurants, tea) is poured into the bowl after most of the rice has been scooped out. At the end of your meal, you can just scrape up the loosened rice at the bottom and enjoy it, and drink some of the water too. Or drink it with your meal. Personally, I like mixing my soup with my rice and eating it together - then finishing off with the ricey-water but to each their own.


My Favourite SoonTofu
So why is this the best? Their tofu is simply delicious. All of their products are freshly made with wonderful texture & flavour, and they use all natural ingredients - on a daily basis! Their silken tofu, firm tofu, and soy milk are all worth taking home if you like soy products. The owners are so sweet and happy, I love the service. The soup base is flavourful, and the side dishes are always tasty. Great for dinner now, even better in the winter when you want a soup to escape from the cold. Let's compare it to the competition that I've tried...

Now, I have to confess that I am often forgetful when it comes to food pictures. You'll just have to trust that I've been to these places. Big thanks to friends who donated the Kachi and BukChangDong pictures below. Wonjo is google-able if you so wish, I don't know anyone else who has made the trek to try it.

Kachi
I found Kachi's soondubu soup on the oily and watery side. The broth was lacking a deep, rich, flavour and their tofu wasn't as tasty. They're known for their pork bone soup anyways (which I don't think is that great either, to be honest).

I've been to Buk Chang Dong several times for SoonTofu as well. It's a solid bowl, and far more convenient for me since I live downtown. They have good side dishes and I've tried just about every soontofu on their menu.  I always order the combination bowl, the first item on the menu. Yum! It helps curb my cravings when I can't get down to Chodang.

BukChangDong
Wonjo also makes a solid bowl. The quality of the broth and the amount of meat given are similar to Chodang, but I personally prefer Chodang's silken tofu. What can I say? The freshness and texture can't be beat and I love, love, love the owners. While not horrible, Wonjo's interior could use a little retouching when compared to Chodang. However, Wonjo's consistently receives rave reviews, so it may just boil down to personal preference (as it often does!). Wonjo is a good deal for a wider variety of soups at a decent price. I've tried their Korean beef stew (Gomtang) and Korean ginseng soup (Samgyetang), all tasty for less than $10.

As for Chodang, I will admit I've never ventured past the left side of the menu - I'm so addicted to the soup that the idea of ordering katsu, teriyaki, or tempura seems like a waste of a trip. I've tried their table cooked stew called "Chodang's Best" which, shamefully, I don't really remember (which to me means that I didn't like it more than the soontofu). Whoops. Again..pre-blog days = no pictures!

At $7.08 this meal is a steal and if you go, I hope you enjoy the food and service as much as I do. The owners are always there with a smile and they work long, hard hours to provide delicious soup and tofu! Win.




Chodang SoonTofu
Verdict: Go! Fresh tofu, cheerful service, take-out reheats wonderfully, great value
Meal: Lunch
& Dinner
Price: $
7 + tax & tip (great deal!)




Chodang Soon Tofu on Urbanspoon

5 comments:

Anna said...

I went to Chodang with a friend after reading this review and I was not disappointed! I actually got the dumpling soon tofu (I like the tiny dumplings) and what a difference freshly made tofu makes! The flavour was incredible. I wish I've gotten some of those deep-fried tofu cubes as a banchan, but everything altogether was a perfect amount of food.

Erin said...

They don't always give it out - it seems to come out at random :). Perhaps it depends on how busy they are, timing with other orders, and it probably helps that my family is there on a regular basis and they know how much I like it :P
You can order it off the menu for $6 - totally worth a try!

Erin said...

p.s. quite happy that you went there based on this review and enjoyed it!! you made my day :)

Alice said...

The Tofu House if my very favorite Korean restaurant. I was thrilled to discover that their freshly made on the premises tofu is made from locally grown, non gmo soybeans.

Do you know whether the stock for the soups is all the same? I am vegan and I am always reluctant to order the soups bc I'm not certain that the soup base for the vegetarian options don't contain meat.

Thanks for your review.

Erin said...

Hi Alice~
No idea...sorry! However, if you find out feel free to post here, in case if someone else is wondering the same! :)

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