BY SARAH IP
BCD Tofu House
17 W. 32nd St.
Koreatown, NY 10079
(212) 967-1900 /bcdtofu.com
J, my friend from Boston, came to visit New York City. He, DY and I set off to embark on a Manhattan tour, stomping from Soho to midtown, in search of interesting sights and sounds. Mesmerized by the lights of Broadway, we continued on to Koreatown for a little something to fill our bellies.
J: “Do you like tofu?”
J (points to the red, green and white logo): “Let’s go here!”
And so we were whisked away into BCD Tofu House. Tofu, also known as bean curd, can best be described as a soft “cheese-like food made of curdled soybean milk.”
A pleasant waitress directed us to our seats. There, we stared at our menu of options, specializing in the art of tofu soups: seafood, vegetarian, beef, pork, fish and more. You choose from four levels of spiciness: very spicy, spicy, mild or not spicy. I had mine spicy, DY had ‘not spicy’ and J’s was mild. All the lunch menu soups are the same price ($9.95).
BCD Tofu House is an international chain of tofu restaurants with over 13 locations in the USA, Korea and Japan. Most are found in Southern California. BCD’s Premium Tofu soups are made with carefully culled, silken tofu and high quality ingredients. A tasty blend of Korean seasonings (red pepper, soy sauce, garlic, etc.) enhances the flavor. Each meal comes with a bowl of hot rice in an individual hot stone pot, along with banchan appetizers: squid slathered in red pepper sauce, macaroni salad, kimchi and other pickled vegetables.
I love my kimchi any way I can get it. Maybe it’s the fermentation. Maybe it’s the red hot chili peppers. Or the play of textures and flavors – crunchy, spicy, sour, with a dash o’ sweet. BCD’s kimchi, however, is a little too soft and doesn’t shine a light compared to Gahm Mi Oak’s. However, I’ll take daikon any day!
Our waitress delivered a small tray filled with three delicate-looking white eggs. My friends and I exchanged glances. Were these eggs to be eaten before or after the soup arrived? Raw or cooked? And would we look like totally uninitiated newbies if we asked?
Turns out we didn’t have to. In the name of (you guessed it…) adventure, I took one of the eggs and gently tapped it against the table. When I felt a slight shake of liquid movement, it instantly dawned on me what these were for.
To be cracked into the boiling bowl of tofu soup, of course! Next, scoop up some rice with the soup. Eat it while it’s hot! Cold tofu soup will put a sour expression on your face.
Now, I’m not a big rice eater. The consistency has to be just right – soft and firm, sticky and chewy at the same time. BCD’s rice manages to appease my selectiveness. I found the portions more than adequate.
J rather enjoyed his Curry Tofu Soup, but this is no surprise. DY isn’t as big a fan of spicy foods, so he went with the Plain Tofu Soup. Both soups came with meat.
At the end of the meal, our waitress ladled water over our leftover rice. Drink the mixture like a soup. At first glance, it may seem like you’re guzzling bland water and rice, but rest assured this concoction aids the digestive tract after a spicy meal.
I think I’ll try one of the Combos next time, which pairs tofu soup with one of the following: BBQ rib, beef bulgolgi (barbecued beef), pork bulgolgi, chicken teriyaki, bibimbap, yellow Covina or spicy pickled crab. For vegetarians, there’s a Tofu Vegetable Salad Combo. The seafood, ox tripe, and beef & octopus look fun too. Kids might enjoy the ham & sausage tofu soup.
We couldn’t help but notice the customers to our left: a whole row of young men, each seated by himself, all facing the same direction! Three-in-a-row. I couldn’t help but automatically think of Tic-Tac-Toe. The men appeared to be thoroughly engrossed in their own thoughts, or else on a lunch break from whatever jobs they needed to zone out of.
*Thanks to J for coming up with the snazzy title when I was down with a severe case of headline writer’s block.