A Food Aficionado
By Anna Ing
Earlier this year, a pal from Seoul told me of a very delicious soondubu (very soft silken tofu) place that opened up in the old Seoul Bakery space that was a “taste of home” for her. Well lo and behold, I have gone to Kaju Tofu House 58 Harvard Ave (between Cambridge St & Franklin St) Allston, MA 02134 (617) 208-8540 numerous times as this is a sorely needed and welcome addition to the Boston Korean cuisine scene.
Unlike the strong Korean communities of Flushing NY, Fort Lee NJ, and of course the stalwart Ktown in Los Angeles that have a variety of delicious eats, Kaju Tofu House is a breath of fresh air for Boston. Kaju (in Korean stands for California) is where the owners hail from California and have some businesses there too. Also the soondubu jjigae or silken tofu stew is their specialty.
There are a variety of choices to choose from in terms of soondubu chigae as well as five different levels of spiciness. Personally, the medium level of spiciness suits me well. Their seafood soondubu chigae came out bubbling in a beautiful reddish broth studded with mini shrimps with the heads, oysters and tons of soft tofu in the ttukbaegi (ceramic pot). The broth can be flavored vegetarian style, or with meat or seafood.
Other broth base ingredients include (but not limited to) chili paste, sesame oil, fish sauce, kelp, dried anchovies, garlic, scallions, and hot red pepper flakes. Remember to crack the egg into to broth, you can choose to mix it in to thicken the broth or keep it whole. The seafood broth consistently came out as a delicate balance of sweetness and taste of the sea along with the custard like waves of silken tofu plus the frothy egg bits tasted utterly amazing. This taste only comes from really fresh and delicious ingredients as well as loving care! The standard banchan (little side dishes) are all house made with a generous amount of eight at our table. The banchan options always changes varying from steamed egg, seasoned spicy chewy dried squid, and various styles of kimchee (usually fermented spicy napa cabbage) to seasoned acorn jelly. Unlike other local places, the burnt/crusty rice (so delicious) – aka nurungji Bap from the bottom of the clay pot comes out with the boricha (roasted barley tea) as it is done in Korea. But we were so full, we never did finish it.
A can’t be missed value are their combo meals: chigae plus another dish ranging from the standard bibimbap (egg atop a veggie and rice dish mixed with spicy red pepper paste) to galbi (seasoned BBQ short ribs) that doesn’t top $20 but you get a generous amount of food. Their chapchae (sweet potato noodles mixed with veggies and meat) was great that was reminiscent of a friend’s mom’s cooking. Not overly sweet with a healthy portion of veggies and bits of beef. Their galbi came out in a sizzling plate with onion slices. Not overly sweet but the rib pieces with bone in were flavorful and tender. While the seafood pancake came out differently ranging from overly chewy to having a delightful crispy edge.
The servers were friendly and like Korea there were the service buttons at each table to press when you want their attention. The place is small (read long lines). It is always fun watching the Korean TV ranging from the news, Korean dramas to the latest Kpop videos while enjoying your meal. This is a NOT to be missed place for Boston area Korean soondubu chigae lovers!
This post is also available in: Chinese