Thursday, June 16, 2005


Soon tofu (I don't speak Korean but think it is pronounced something like "soon du bu") is a revelatory Korean stew filled with silken tofu and the meat of one's choice; it is coloured various grades from plain to violent red depending on how spicy one requests it. Usually soon tofu is served in a ceramic bowl and bubbles away as one cracks an egg into it, remaining delightfully hot throughout the meal. Sokongdong (2716 W. Olympic Blvd #104, Koreatown 213-380-3737) has the best version I've tasted. The soft tofu is infused with the flavour of the stock and the mushroom version I tried had tender pork slices, shiitake and a bunch of enoki mushrooms floating on top, plus a sprinkling of salty nori flakes. "Very spicy" is not inedible, just about right to let one taste the rest of the flavours circulating in the dish. Rice also comes in a stone bowl. After the waitress extracts it she pours some hot water into the bowl, making a bland rice porridge that can soothe one's palate. Sea combination also recommended. Pan chan - the ubiquitous small dishes embodying Korean hospitality - are on the minimalist side but included toothsome fish cake.

Like a lot of my favourite restaurants, Sokongdong has a very brief menu, and everyone in the place - almost exclusively Korean peeps - was eating soon tofu. Chowhound Spoony Bard and I were both hungry and contemplated adding either mandoo or "spicy raw crab". The waitress tried to discourage us from ordering the latter - often a good sign - so we plunged in and we were rewarded with one of the tastiest crab dishes I've had in Los Angeles. A generous portion of fresh raw crab is chopped into manageable pieces and served cold in a bright red chilli paste similar to the one squirted into bibimbap. Bell pepper pieces and cucumber garnish are a mere sideshow for the sweet and meltingly soft crab meat spread through the deepest crevices of the animal. We worked hard at the dish and were quite euphoric after reducing it to a pile of shell pieces.

Big thanks to "Tiff" for recommending this one.


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