From My Wok to Yours - Taking the Mystery Out of Everyday Dining and Meals!!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Tofu House: Castro Valley, CA

I got to visit my family and friends in the Bay Area last week, as I was in San Mateo to be the Best Man in my Best Friend’s Wedding. It was a whirlwind week, with activities and gatherings every day, and I could not have asked for more beautiful weather during that time.

Thursday the family and I spent the day with my Dad and Sister. The girls got to meet Clover, Dad’s best friend, and she did not hesitate to shower Madi with kisses and plenty of puppy love. After introductions were made, and we had gotten familiarized with the surroundings, Dad took us to a little restaurant in Castro Valley for lunch called Tofu House.

I had no idea what to expect other than being advised that it was a little Korean restaurant. The sign happens to call it a Korean BBQ. Okay. Always a fan of new experiences, I followed Dad in. We were greeted by a friendly server and the wonderful aroma of food that accompanied her. The menu, while unfamiliar to me, was accompanied by photos on the wall, perhaps better descriptors than the written ones.

We joined a lunchtime crowd of fellow Asian diners, all of whom were already seated and enjoying their food. The menu was simple, with various types of soft tofu stew priced around $8.99 and some typical Korean dishes (bulgogi, bibanpap, japchae, pajeon, etc.) These were all available as combinations which comes with tofu soup, which I decided to try. Little did I know just how much food I would get. My combination of pork bulgogi was ordered mild, (from very spicy, spicy, medium spicy or not spicy at all) and came with 8 banchans to share with the rest of the table, and rice.

Banchans are small dishes of food served along with steamed rice as an accompaniment to the main course. (The most famous type of banchan is kimchi.) They are set in the middle of the table, intended to be shared, quickly followed by the secondary main course. Ours included fried tofu sliced, oi sobagi, which was spicy cucumbers, yeolmu kimchi, a thin summer radish, and my favorite, kongnamul, cold boiled bean sprouts with sesame oil. The one that got the most attention was Japchae, translucent starch noodles cooked in a slightly sweet garlic sauce. Those are good enough to be served as an entrée in their own right.

(Dad ordered something similar to my combination, Kathy ordered the seafood pancake, and Kim and Eleyna ordered the teriyaki chicken.)

When our food came, both Dad’s and mine were served in sizzling hot stone pots, with raw eggs available to crack in and cook. The main feature of the soup was the broth, perfectly spiced, with an abundance of soft tofu and seafood. I also received a sizzling platter of the pork bulgogi, served on a bed of sautéed onions. The seafood pancake that Kathy ordered was a little peculiar looking, and while I am sure that in the interests of objective analysis, I should have tried it, I was to intent on enjoying my own meal to be interested in any one else’s.

There was so much food left over, even for the 6 of us, that we had to pack it up in take-out boxes and take it home. (Unfortunately, in the excitement of visiting my family, we forgot about it and left it in Dad’s refrigerator.) Oh well. I hope he got to enjoy it, because it was a wonderful, flavorful meal. I can’t wait to go back.

Unfortunately, the pictures that I took were left on a memory card that I inadvertently left in Dad’s computer. I will post them as soon as I receive it, as he has agreed to mail it to me. I can’t wait…

Tomorrow: Chinese food by the Bay.

Until Then, Good Eating, Friends…

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