Dear Tofu and Noodles,

February 4, 2009


40-06 Queens Blvd • Sunnyside, Queens

I know that’s not your real name, but can I call you that? Book Chang Dong sounds so formal. To me you are ‘Tofu and Noodles’, my special friend and neighbor, and that is how I have come to love you. There, I’ve said it finally. I love you! And now I am going to take my sweet time telling you all of the reasons why.

You have the best banchan in the whole city and you hand it over quickly and generously. I usually show up ravenous. As soon as the order is placed (which I sometimes do before even taking my jacket off), the banchan arrives without a moment’s delay. Little round bowls are heaped with hot, sweet, salty, briny bites of seaweed salad, fish cake, marinated cucumbers or bean sprouts, potato salad, shredded daikon, those little crunchy fish with the heads on and/or, of course, the housemade kimchi, which is one of the best I’ve ever tasted. All of these things are ingeniously designed to make you want more food as you eat them and they are always fresh and super-delicious. I usually clear my little plates systematically, leaving the chilled spicy garlic soup banchan for last. That one gets eaten when the main course is served in a feeble attempt buy some valuable cooling time, since most dishes arrive on sizzling platters or in hot stone bowls. I have suffered many burned tongues and would suffer many more.

You take good care of me! I don’t think I’ve had a single cold or flu since making your acquaintance! If ever I feel a little vulnerable to catching something, I march immediately to your door to have a meal that arms me to fight it off. I think Korean cuisine in general has these special powers but you are like a secret weapon. It is the perfect combination of intense spice which is very cleansing, the fermented items (like kimchi) which help balance out the system and fresh veggies, sprouts and seaweed that are packed with nutrients. It seems to kick start the immune system and knocks out any trace of a bug. Every dish comes with soft, shiny rice which is soothing to the insides and the hearty warmth of the meal certainly helps to restore a person back to optimum health.

And while I am here counting the ways, I have to praise your soon dubu chigae*, a dish that you make so well, I crave it in my sleep. I will not eat it in Flushing and have no use for it in K-town. It is the specialty which takes up one-half of your menu with its varieties (most of which I have sampled) and it always impresses Korean friends I have brought in who grew up eating the stuff. It also turns people who have never even thought of eating bubbling, boiling soft tofu stew into chigae-junkies. It is mandatory to eat it slowly. It makes a person sweat and sniffle with joy. I have noticed that as it cools, its flavor gets better and better and by the end of the bowl I am completely stuffed and completely happy, which is not only good for the body but also the soul.

I just thought you should know how wonderful you are.


*Soon dubu chigae = Soft tofu stew.


Banchan are like snowflakes, no two are alike.

One comment

  1. I couldn’t agree with you more!!

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