Soon tofu like Korean chicken noodle soup
Location: Toronto, Canada
Address: 5445 Yonge Street
Type of Meal: Dinner
Buk Chang Dong Soon Tofu is a popular destination location in the Yonge and Finch area. On the weekend, it gets pretty busy, so expect to wait. But, this no frills restaurant is packed with tables and due to the limited menu, patrons turn over quickly so the wait is never too long.
Soondubu jjigae (aka soon tofu soup or soft tofu soup) is Korea’s version of chicken noodle soup (without the chicken or the noodles). It’s hearty and comforting, with the broth having such a depth of flavor, which is hard to describe – it’s spicy (depending on what type you choose) and savoury with an umami essence. After doing some research online, the soup base appears to be made from anchovies, kelp and mushrooms giving you an idea of how the earthy savouriness of the soup comes about. Then the soup’s spiciness is created by using kochujang (Korean chili paste) and/or red pepper powder. Buk Chang Dong Soon Tofu specializes in this dish and dominates their menu.
If you’re not a fan of tofu you still need to give this a try. The tofu used in the soup is silken egg tofu which has a very light taste and smooth custardy texture. Since the soup is very flavourful the tofu is never bland. This may be the dish that makes you rethink your perspective of tofu.
Before the main arrives you get four banchan (sweet soybeans, bean sprout, kimchi and kimchi turnip) and an egg (which is raw and meant to be broken into the hot soup and stirred). Use of the egg is a matter of preference – it makes the soup thicker and more stew like. Generally, I leave out the egg as I prefer the soup to retain its wateriness.
All the tofu soups are $7.53 and provide you with the ability to choose the type of ingredients accompanying the tofu and level of spiciness. In terms of types, I’ve tried the combination, seafood, dumpling and kimchi (kimchi is the one pictured below). Really there is not a huge difference between the offerings since the soup base is the same. I don’t particularly like the combination or seafood options as I find overdone rubbery seafood unappetizing. My go to choice is the dumpling which consists of thinly sliced beef and a couple of average tasting dumplings. On this visit I ordered the kimchi version (also has slices of beef and pork) as I’ve heard it’s their most popular one. After trying it, I’ll continue to order the dumping version as the kimchi one is too salty.
You also get a choice of having the soup white (no spice), mild, medium, regular or spicy. I can handle some spice and generally go with the regular one which has a good heat but doesn’t leave you chugging water. However, if it’s your first visit you may want to try the medium and go from there.
To retain the comforting heat of the soup, it’s served in a stone bowl. Sadly, on this visit mine didn’t arrive bubbling away; something about the crazy bubbling makes the experience seem better. Nonetheless, the soup was still hot and remained so throughout the meal.
Don’t let the word “soup” fool you; this is still a hearty meal. Each order also comes with a bowl of Korean black rice, which actually is a beautiful lavender colour once cooked. Studded with a few green peas, the rice is served in its own stone bowl and is scooped out by the waiter in front of you. Generally, the waiter will pour water into the stone bowl and let it soak with the remaining rice. I tried it during my first visit and found the concoction disgusting. Rather, I ask them not to add water and just leave the rice in the bowl so I can scrape off any of the crispy bits and eat them with the soup.
As a warning, just because there’s tofu in the title doesn’t make this a “healthy” meal. According to the Toronto Star, the vegetable version of Buk Chang Dong Soon Tofu’s soup contains 4,200 mg of sodium (which is 1,900 over the recommended daily intake). If that’s the vegetable version, I can only imagine how salty the kimchi variety would be. To be fair, the Toronto Star did test the meal with the side of kimchi and bean sprouts accompanying the meal; normally, these side dishes would be shared amongst the table so you wouldn’t eat the entire serving. Additionally, I’ve never finished all the soup as I will stop drinking it after the other ingredients are finished which also cuts down on the ultimate consumption of sodium.
If Buk Chang Dong Soon Tofu’s soup is full of salt, than their bulgogi ($8.85) should be tested for its sugar content. The dish was ordered once to share amongst the table and found to be extremely sweet. It’s certainly a dish I’d never order again. My suggestion, stick with what they are known for – soon tofu soup a delicious dish that leaves you oh so satisfied.
Overall mark - 8 out of 10
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Gastro World's Grading System
- Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
- 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
- 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
- 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
- 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
- 10 - absolute perfection!