In Orange County, there’s plenty of Asian restaurants to choose from… Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, Thai… and Korean. One Korean place that we like to go to is the California Tofu Grill in Fullerton, where you can get a hot cauldron of tofu soup with banchan, which are the Korean side dishes, for less than $10 per person. There’s different spellings of this type of dish: soondobu, soon tofu, sundubu, but basically the dish is made with uncurdled dubu (tofu), vegetables, sometimes mushrooms, onion, optional seafood (commonly oysters, mussels, clams and shrimp), optional meat (commonly beef or pork), and gochujang (chili paste) or gochu garu (chili powder).
The dish is assembled and cooked directly in the serving vessel, which is traditionally made of thick, robust porcelain, but can also be ground out of solid stone. A raw egg is put in just before serving (also optional), and the dish is delivered while still bubbling vigorously. This dish is typically eaten with a bowl of cooked white rice and several banchan (side dishes). The soup and the side dishes are meal in itself, but Stephen and I like to share an order of beef bulgogi, which are thinly sliced beef in a marinade sauce, and like many tofu places, there are combination meals which includes the soup and a small order of meat.
If you just order the soup, it’s very inexpensive. To add the bulgogi or other meat, it’s a about five or six dollars more. Our dinner of one combo plus an extra soup came to $30, which is not bad considering I took home half of my soup. Even if you are not a fan of tofu, they have plenty of meat and vegetarian dishes to choose from.
California Tofu Grill is located at 1993 W. Malvern Avenue in Fullerton, just off Gilbert in a huge strip mall with an Albertson’s, Ross, and Gold’s Gym.