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Outer Boroughs Korean

Spicy Korean Stew in Sunnyside


Restaurants & Bars 9

Spicy Korean Stew in Sunnyside

galleygirl | Nov 15, 2002 03:52 PM

You know that after-Chinese-dinner thing that goes, "Read you fortune-cookie out loud, adding 'in bed', to the end of your fortune"? The same could be said for any menu item at Natural Tofu Restaurant, except it would be "Add, 'in a searingly hot chili-broth' to any menu item"..

So, this would bring you, "Soft tofu with Oyster, shrimp, clam, mussel and green onion IN A SEARINGLY-SPICY CHILI-BROTH", or "Tofu with Beef and Mushroom IN A SEARINGLY-SPICEY CHILI BROTH", or "Tofu with Kimchi and Pork IN A SEARINGLY-SPICY CHILI BROTH"... Beginning to see a theme here?

"Natural Tofu Restaurant", (40-06 Queens Blvd, Sunnyside), summons up images of earnest vegans, sitting around spooning up a pallid porridge of tofu broth and grains, while they insist to each other how great they feel since they became vegetarians...(Not that there's anything wrong with that..[bg]) I certainly wouldn't have stopped there, but for TomMeg's rec to Abbylovi as a great place to get tofu stew...

But tofu stew is a misnomer, and so is the name of the place..For those who know and love it, skip this part, but Korean Tofu Stew is a sinus-searing, flu-busting blend of clam or beef broth, infused with seaweed and anchovies and lots of red chili pepper paste and flakes; the soft tofu is added to make it ingestible by those with less than asbestos gullets, and to add protein...Then they add seafood, or veggies, or beef or pork, and you add a raw egg, which cooks to the consistancy of the tofu, and spoon in rice, which they dish up tableside out of stoneware pots...

There was a guy in the window, grilling meatlike things and making noodles, so that was okay...Inside was much cooler; clean, streamlined, wood...The panchan were lovely; kimchi, pickled Kirby Cuke, some kind of fried tofu strips, and a small bowl of what we discovered was cold soup..In addition to our Seafood Tofu Stew, we ordered the Barbecued Whole Squid with vegetables..OH OH OH....

They brought the cart over, and dished-up our squid tableside..First of all, the giant squid are sliced and twisted so that they become giant flowers, which are then grilled, in a very thick, hot, slightly sweet sauce, that seems the be composed of gochu jang, with a little oil, a little sugar...They grab the big blooms, and dismantle them before your eyes with a huge pair of shears. The slices are laid atop a sizzling platter, which has dispatched a bed of onions to tender sweetness..And the squid!! A little chewy on the edges, but moist and the perfectly toothsome all the way thru..the barbecuing imparts a smokey flavor, and the carmelized edges from the sugar compliment the heat of the pepper paste.. I loved it!!

The Seafood Soft Tofu included oyster, shrimp, clam and mussel. We asked for "Very Spicy", and they did NOT gringo it down; the red-hot broth, which came to our table still-bubbling in its stone pot, was strongly flavored with the sweet-sealike taste of the clams that had cooked in it....We did not, however, get to experience that rice-soup made from the toasted rice cooked onto the bottom of the rice-pot, which WAS the original point of the whole trip; our stomachs would not even allow us to finish the tofu-stew...

[In the spirit of full-disclosure, it has to be added that we first crawled the streets of Jackson Heights, where I stocked up on spices at Patel Bros, and then lost control over a huge fried pepper stuffed with potato, peas, cumin, and lots of hot things...I was so ashamed, I forced Abby to share it...]

Good Korean Restaurants may be thicker than fleas on a dog's back in Queens, but I can't believe they're all this full of healthy, hearty, satiating (and cheap!!!) bowls of stew..or maybe they ARE, and I'll have to return and chart the blocks of Flushing(where they seemed thickest!), one by one...In the meantime, go to Sunnyside, and use this as your measuring stick!

(BTW, this was Day 2, Meal One of the Outer Boroughs Chow Weekend...Cephalopod #2..)

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