KOREAN COMFORT FOOD

Full disclosure: I’m Korean. I grew up eating Korean food. My mom cooked every day and as I got older, I also ventured out to lots of Korean restaurants. Of course, whenever we’d eat out as a family, my mom would complain that she could make the same thing at home for much cheaper, no tip, blah blah blah. You know–typical Asian mom talk. I love my mom. As an adult, I also lived in Korea for a couple of years, so I’ve been pretty spoiled when it comes to Korean food in general. 

When you think of Korean food, what comes to mind? Korean barbeque? Kimchi? For me, one of the dishes that define Korean comfort food is soondubu jjigae, or soft tofu soup. The spiciness and umami of the broth, the silky chunks of tofu, and the protein inside are all you need to feel like you’re transported into a Korean drama and eating at one of auntie’s kitchens.

Seoul Tofu House
Kitchen: Where the soondubu magic happens

Near the corner of Dukes Lane and Kuhio Avenue, Seoul Tofu House has been open for about eight months. Though a relatively new restaurant in Waikiki, business seems to be booming. There has been a wait all three times we’ve been, and it’s been a packed house. There is no validated parking, bummer, but you do have some options. The easiest would be to park at International Marketplace, a short 3 minute walk over. You’ll have to buy something there to validate, but they have plenty of dessert and coffee options for your after-dinner stroll.

Seoul Tofu House
Entrance right off Kuhio Avenue

SOONDUBU BANSANG

What I appreciate about Seoul Tofu House, is that each soondubu order is served as a bansang, or basic table setting. Each soondubu comes out on a tray, complete with your bowl of rice, an individual package of gim (seaweed), and your very own tiny banchan portions. Most Korean restaurants serve the banchan all in the middle, family-style; but for slow eaters like me, it’s a bonus to have your own mini plates all nice and ready on your own tray. I don’t have to fight people for the last piece of kimchi or flag down a server for a refill. And I’m not a germaphobe, but if you are, then you’ll totally dig this place setting. Note: The banchan is not always the same. The kimchi and radish seem to be constant, whereas the other two have been different. Perhaps it’s what’s seasonal or the banchan of the week.

Seoul Tofu House
Pork soondubu bansang ($13.99)

The soondubu itself is very good. The flavor is rich and whatever meat you order, they do not skimp out on it. The ratio of soup to tofu to protein is spot on, and you won’t be left hungry. Oh, and don’t forget the all-important egg! Most soondubu places give your egg on the side so you can crack it in yourself; Seoul Tofu House puts the egg in for you before bringing it out. It’s been a bit inconsistent. Once, the egg was right on top of the soup so I had to spoon over the hot broth to get the egg cooking. The more recent time I went, the egg was already buried inside the soup and cooked naturally while I ate. Popping the runny yolk of the egg into my stew is one of my favorite few bites of the meal. The creaminess of the runny egg combined with the spiciness of the broth is a party in my mouth. NOTE: You may ask your server to bump up the spiciness level. I like to breathe fire. Each time I’ve asked for the spiciest they can do, it hasn’t ever been fire-breath worthy.

Seoul Tofu House
Soondubu with the egg buried
Seoul Tofu House
Soondubu with the egg on top

My favorite side order so far is the seafood green onion jeon. This seafood pancake is cooked in almost bite-size portions, so you better grab yours fast. Since it’s not just one giant pancake, each piece has a nice crisp edge and that’s my favorite part. Honestly, this dish is so tasty I burn my mouth while eating it every time.

Seoul Tofu House
Seafood Green Onion Jeon ($13.50)

Someone in  your party doesn’t like soondubu? No problemo. There are a few other dishes on the menu that will satisfy even the carnivore. Particularly delicious is the LA kalbi, or marinated short ribs. Super succulent and packed with flavor.

Seoul Tofu House
LA Kalbi - You can order this as a single dish, bansang, or as a combination with a soondubu

MY FINAL TAKE

Recommended! If you’re craving some down home Korean cooking, you won’t be disappointed. Their bansang style of serving each soondubu dish is satisfying and your meal won’t bore you.

Seoul Tofu House
2299 Kuhio Avenue Suite C
Honolulu, HI 96815
Ph: 808-376-0018
www.seoultofuhouse.business.site