I finally found a worthy competitor to Pyung Chang in the South Bay, surprisingly not in Santa Clara, but in a little unassuming strip mall in Sunnyvale. With the rest of soondubu row on the opposite end of El Camino Real, I was surprised to learn that this mom and pop joint has been doing business for nine years tucked away in the back of the strip mall, anchored by Long's.
Soondubu is such a simple recipe, basically an anchovy broth and gochucaru (red pepper flakes), with silky soft tofu and your choice of protein. My favorite versions come with little bits of onion and zucchini for complexity, as well as slices of jalapeno for added kick.
From my experience, the variation in recipes come from the amount of red pepper flakes that's added, as well as how good their stock is, and stock to me is very important. The reason I like when places use fresh jalapenos is that they don't overload on the red pepper flakes, which are really only medium spicy, and tend to overwhelm the flavor of the delicate anchovy broth, and stew as a whole.
Here, they offer beef, pork, seafood or oyster as your protein choices, and I went with pork on my first go. The cast iron pot arrived at the table bubbling hot, perfect to poach the egg whole. I knew when I saw the bits of zucchini and onion, as well three slices of jalapeno in the broth, that it was gonna be a treat. The "spicy" broth was perfectly balanced, none of the flavors overwhelmed the other, just a harmonious stew with a well made stock base. The pork slices were tender, cut from the belly I believe, with a decent portion, enough to fill me up by the end.
Six little tasty plates of panchan included spicy fishcakes, spicy sprouts and regular sprouts, cabbage kimchi, cucumber kimchi, and marinated potatoes.
They offer a typical range of entrees, and even a section of items to accompany drinking. I saw some portable gas ranges, probably for cooking soups or BBQ at the table.
Current South Bay Soondubu Ranking:
1. Tofu Tofu
2. Jang Su Jang
3. Choi's Kitchen
4. Norbu Korean Japanese Restaurant
5. Myung Dong Tofu Cabin Restaurant
6. Cheon Joo Young-Yang Dolsot
7. SGD Tofu House
572 E El, Camino Real Sunnyvale, CA