It takes 20 pounds of beef bones daily to perfect the homemade broth for soondooboo, a spicy Korean soft tofu stew found in Sunnyside, Queens. Chow.com contributing editor Liza deGuia filed the following report.
Soondooboo, boiling mini-cauldrons of spicy, silky soft tofu stew, is the specialty at Natural Tofu Restaurant -- a busy, inexpensive, Korean spot in Sunnyside, Queens, complete with kitschy, village-like interiors.
Six varieties of tofu stews are available here from vegetarian, to kimchi, to intestine. I recommend their seafood soft tofu with boiled shrimp, clams, mussels and green onions. You can enjoy the customary side dishes while you wait for your soondooboo to cook.
Into a thick clay pot, the chef adds a spoonful of traditional Korean red pepper paste, a pungent mix of oil, chili powder and chili paste. This is how your heat level is determined. A half spoonful means mild. A whole spoonful means spicy, which is how I order it.
Then, in goes mussels, a handful of raw clams, unpeeled shrimp plus ground scallion. They then add in homemade beef broth and mix it together over a high flame.
After a minute, they stir in soft tofu. When it boils, they add even more, adding it in batches to prevent burning. When the flavors have fully melded together, they top it off with green onions and carefully deliver the dish, bubbling hot, to your table.
If you want it thicker and tastier, that’s what the egg is for. Crack it into the soup without delay and let it cook itself.
The stew has a ton of depth and burns going down from the spice, leaving your nose running and mouth on fire. But it’s a good burn that doesn’t hang around, complimented by the soothing effects of the silky tofu. The mussels, shrimp and clams are perfectly cooked too, adding a brininess and heartiness to every bite.
It's another great reason to love Korean food and well-matched with beer!
Natural Tofu Restaurant is located at 40-06 Queens Boulevard, between 40th and 41st Street in Sunnyside, Queens. For more dining recommendations, visit www.CHOW.com.