Korean Soontofu – Tofu House in Santa Clara

With the weather turning chilly yesterday, we decided to go have one of our favorite food – Korean Soontofu.

We went to the Tofu House on El Camino in Santa Clara. I dub this stretch of SC as the Tofu Row – for the many restaurants that specialize in Soontofu. Last time went back was almost a year ago. It seems that since then they have expanded over to the next shop, so they almost twice as much seating now. I believe they also have some other locations elsewhere, but not sure exactly where.

I ordered the Seafood soontofu (normal spicy) while my partner ordered House Special Combination (no-spice). Both came with lots of clams and a couple of shrimps. The seafood also had one larger clam in shell and a small oyester. The igredients were plenty. However, the clams, being soaked in the hot soup, became tough and overcooked. The shrimp, like it is served in most tofu houses, are small shrimps with head and shell that also become rubbery and not very tasty in general.

The soup was decent, but not very rich. The “normal” spicy level also is more toned down and I did not detect much spiciness, despite the red color. However, points are given for it being really boiling hot – enough to cook the egg. (Some places bring it out hot, but not boiling, so when you put in the egg, it doesn’t really get cooked enough) The tofu was standard, and the egg is about a “large” size, bigger than most places which use “medium” sized.

The Rice – which comes in a heavy clay bowl was cooked with too much water and was a little too soft for my taste. And to top it off, the waiter used regular water instead of bori-cha, roasted barley tea – which will truly bring out the flavor of the rice crust formed in the bowl. Water just don’t cut it.

My partner commented that her soontofu which was white (not-spicy) was very bland and she had to resort to taking the kimchee and mixing it in the bowl to get some flavor. She also found lots of tiny sand (or clamdust or something) in her soontofu. I was careful as not to stir the bowl from the bottom at all so as not to disturb any possible sediment.

The panchan included 5 dishes – kimchee, gakdookee (daikon), spicy marinated clam with julienned daikon, cucumber, and yellow bean sprouts. All were pretty decent. However, I overheard the table next to us, as soon as they sat down and saw our panchan, said that “Oh, their panchan has decreased! It was less than what we had last time!” (All this in a loud enough voice in Chinese – since they probably thought I was Korean)

The service was very friendly – even for non-Korean speakers. That’s why they get many Chinese and Japanese customers there. The price was about $8.10 for each soontofu. Condsidering that it also comes with a “chilled cabbage soup”, the price is good.

But overall I would not put this on the top of my Soontofu list. Last year I had tried all 4 of the popular Soontofu places on Tofu Row, and this place was ranked near the bottom. I think this year the ranking may be similar. 1 down, 3 more to go!

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