The Girl Who Ate Everything

Blogging about food and whatever since 2004.

A night of Korean Tofu and Milkshakes

[Initially I hoped to write about stuff I ate a month ago. But the meals...oh, they keep piling on. Because I've procrastinated too much and have yet to stop consuming. So that I'm no longer a month behind, here's a recap of what I ate yesterday. I'll have to catch up on the other stuff later.]

Yesterday morning my brain sputtered into consciousness to the sound of my phone ringing. What? People don't call me on Saturday mornings.

I rolled over, grasped the phone and brought it within three inches of my squinted, horribly nearsighted eyes. The monochrome caller ID display read Alex Brey.

"AHH, AHH!" I frantically shouted in my head. Excitement and half-consciousness got the best of me, causing me to accidentally hang up as I fumbled with my phone.

"NO NO NO NO NO, JEBUS!" I internally shouted as I clumsily flipped my phone open. (As you can see, half-awake Robyn translates into a useless, mildly insane Robyn.) I punched some buttons to get him back. More internal shouting followed. "I'M AWAKE NOW, I'M AWAKE DAMMIT, YOU BETTER BE THERE."

And he was! And by "there" he was actually in New York City with his dad!! And for some crazy reason he requested my presence!!!










That wasn't our conversation verbatim, but that's how I remember it. All in caps. All shouting.

And so after browsing the Frick Collection with Alex and his dad Pat (a great art museum by the way, and you must use the complimentary audio guide for the overly lavish descriptions of the artwork), we made out way to Cho Dang Gol in Koreatown for some tofu goodness.

banchan + pancakey thing
Banchan + pancakey thing

The first time I went to Cho Dang Gol was with Adam Roberts for lunch. I expected dinner to be pretty much the same, but the dinner banchan was missing kimchi. Or rather, I only felt like it was missing kimchi because I had been expecting it. Maybe I shouldn't have. I'm not Korean so I can't really claim to know what should or should not appear in a dinner banchan selection.

...But I wanted me some (cabbage) kimchi...

As we were presented with our banchan we were also given Pat's vegetable pancake, which he ordered as an entrée. Once again, my preconceptions resulted in slight disappointment. I was expecting something like Han Bat's pancake, which is a golden crispy manhole-sized beast cut into bite-sized diamond pieces for ease of consumption, but Cho Dang Gol's was a much more subdued version. [Update (11/26): Polimorfos pointed out that they're different, they're a totally different kind of pancake called bindae duk! Oops. That's what I get for not being well versed in Korean pancake-ness.] Their pancakes were not manhole-sized, nor radiating with as much golden crispiness. That doesn't mean they were bad—Pat happily ate them all, comparing them to the deliciousness of potato pancakes—and maybe it's a good thing they weren't manhole-sized to prevent the onset of "stomach feels like a goddamn brick" syndrome, know. I think giant pancakes are more fun. If I ever get another chance to give Pat some Korean pancake goodness, I'll take him somewhere else.

spicy tofu stew
purple rice

And then came the bubbling mini-cauldrons of light, porridge-like tofu stew, aka one of the most perfect foods you can eat on a bitterly cold day. Because it will boil your innards. Really, this stuff is super hot and when mixed with kimchi like mine was will give your throat and belly all kinds of tingly sensations, partially due to the singed tissue matter. Ha.

The hotness is eased by the accompanying semi-purple rice. Take half a spoonful of rice, fill the other half with jiggling tofu curds, shovel in mouth, and VOILA, you have protein-enhanced happiness.

Alex, nom nom nom
nom nom

If Alex can do it, so can you!

At the end of my previous lunch at Cho Dang Gol with Adam the waitress had filled our black pot of rice with tea, but for dinner our pot of rice wasn't even left on the table. So no rice tea. Which is okay, but I don't know why they would do it for lunch and not for dinner. If anyone has any input, let me know! I'm not very knowledgeable about Korean practices.

Our meal couldn't end with tofu. That just ain't right. What were we going to do for dessert? Alex craved milkshake while Pat and I didn't want anything in particular. So milkshakes it was.

walking on 34th street

We squeezed through the human laden 34th Street stretch between 6th and 7th avenues to get to 9th Avenue on our way towards the Ronnybrook Milk Bar. Since Billy's Bakery was on the way, we stopped in for an intoxicating whiff of butter. But we still had milkshakes on the mind.

...And of course, the milk bar was closed. (It's only open until 7PM. Ugh.) I had dragged poor Alex and Pat for over a mile through one of the most boring parts of Manhattan (although thankfully easy to walk through because nothing's there) so we could stare into a darkened store. Sweet!

waiting for shake action
Father + son at brgr

I redeemed myself by dragging us back uptown to brgr. (By the way, I pronounce it bee-are-gee-are. This is the wrong way to do it, but I see it in my head as the letters, not the word.) Despite the name, I'm afraid I wouldn't recommend brgr for burgers. The burgers aren't horrible, but in my opinion they just aren't good enough to justify the high price that comes with sourcing ingredients from small farmers and whatnot. If you're going to use high quality ingredients, you should make them into something that...uh, tastes better.

half a strawberry shake (shared with Alex's dad)
Mm, shake!

Thankfully, their milkshakes, which are made from Ronnybrook Farm ice cream, are awesome. They're super thick, smooth, flavorful, and very likely to give you an ice cream headache. Since I knew I couldn't finish one shake on my own (at least, not without suffering from dairy overload), I shared a strawberry shake with Pat. They'll divide a shake between two cups if you ask them to.

Alaina once told me that each cup packs in four scoops of ice cream, which doesn't surprise me at all considering how hard I had to suck the straw (as though my head were going to collapse on itself) to get the blended ice cream goo up the skinny tube into my mouth. After one or two of these intensely mouth-numbing sips, a sharp pain filled the space between my eyes usually occupied by brains (at least, I think they're brains; it might just be empty). All went black. Life...faded...

And then I gave a few hard squints and all was back to normal.


Alex drank an entire black and white (chocolate and vanilla) milkshake on his own! How did it all fit into his skinny body? Dunno. His head was probably full of phlegm that night, as he had been hacking up substances from the inner depths of his respiratory system for most of the evening. But was it worth it? Oh yes!

Many thanks to the adorable Brey men for treating me to fine art, Korean food and brain freeze. I WOULD DO IT AGAIN IN A HEARTBEAT! A++!


Frick Collection
1 East 70th Street
New York, NY 10021

Cho Dang Gol
55 W 35th St
New York, NY 10001

Billy's Bakery
184 9th Ave
New York, NY 10011

Ronnybrook Milk Bar (at Chelsea Market and closes and closes at 7PM, ARGH)
75 9th Ave
New York, NY 10011

287 7th Ave
New York, NY 10001


bionicgrrl / November 26, 2007 12:26 AM

it looks like u got some radish kimchi in your pic. kimchi comes in many forms! as for the "pot of rice," i think they took it away becuz they assumed u wouldn't like the "rice tea." i don't think a lot of non-koreans enjoy it. one woman i took 2 a korean restaurant told me the water she washes her underwear in tastes better than the "rice tea"!!!

roboppy / November 26, 2007 12:47 AM

bionicgrrl: You're right, there was radish kimchi. I ate it all. :) And Alex said he almost liked it, haha!

But I wanted cabbage (just appended the entry to clarify that)...gah...oh well. :(

As for them not thinking we'd like the tea, I would've at least liked the chance to try it! Oh well. I wonder why they gave it to us the first time...maybe because the table was 50% Asian? And this time it was 1/3rd? -__-

Also, that's an interesting comment the woman made about her underwear water. Doesn't that imply that she drank it? ;D

dana / November 26, 2007 1:56 AM

yay you post at such...hours. Makes me feel not so allll alone when I work in these hours.

you make me want korean food now!

you know, thanks to your blog, I'm much less hung up on food now. Just yesterday I went out and ordered a curry which I NEVER do. Well, I ate it, it was delicious, and nothing horrible happened to me.

and good call on changing the comment test. I used to get the 2+2 thing wrong. no kidding...

Tina / November 26, 2007 5:14 AM

Ya know, after all this time I still haven't gone to BRGR? I don't mind drinking a milkshake in the freezing cold. It's like drinking liquefied ice cream. cream.

Christina / November 26, 2007 10:06 AM

I want extremely hot tofu soup that singes my innards! Yeah, it's around 30˚ here now, which means I've entered a constant state of mild hypothermia. I get really excited over hot foods and drinks. CoffEE? SURE! HOT sooooup? YES! Something like that.

I'll definitely have to add Korean food to my list, though... there aren't any here? I'll have to look.

jinius / November 26, 2007 11:21 AM

you can always request the cabbage kimchee. just ask for "bae chuu kimchee"...i think that's how u romanize it. korean is not the easiest language to romanize!

haha and love the jebus line. go simpsons and tofu :)

Graeme / November 26, 2007 3:16 PM

Oh, Man - Milkshake ache is the worst. When it refuses to move, but you keep sucking until you burst a vessel and get Pinkeye or something.

Great post.

polimorfos / November 26, 2007 3:58 PM

Looks like your disappointment in the pancake department is due to the fact that you probably ordered the OTHER korean pancake -
Bindae Duk (as opposed to Pa Jun).

Made from mung bean flour and not as crispy but it has it's own merits. I love them both...

Michelle / November 26, 2007 4:05 PM

It does look like bindaeduk, and that is radish kimchi in the right of your picture. I actually prefer the radish kimchi because I like the texture better. And when I'm phlegmy, nothing clears my face up better than tofu chigae. Man, if only I could survive on tofu and kimchi alone.

(I also like how you change the question from 2+2 to spoon, it made me giggle)

roboppy / November 26, 2007 4:16 PM

Dana: I stay up until 3 AM usually. Not because of work, but because I'm DUMB and then wake up the next morning (or 4.5 hours later) wanting to DIIIE.

I'm so glad you tried curry! It's one of the best foods ever.

Tina: If you can go to the Ronnybrook milk bar, that would probably be better. I wish it opened later...:(

Christina: 30 degrees? Good lord, I hope you're bundled up. It's not that cold here yet, but I've been wearing my heaviest coat + scarf + hat + gloves. :(

jinius: You're right, I probably could've gotten it if I asked. I never ask for anything! The other day I went to Blue Ribbon Bakery with Kathy and her friends and Justin asked for our bread basket to be warmed. So...they did. And it was awesome.

Danny: I think it tastes preeeetty much the same. Any flavor difference is very slight. But ..WAIT, IT TASTES LIKE PURPLE.

Graeme: Nooo, do not want to think of burst vessels!


But yeah, it's kinda like that.

polimorfos: An, you're right, thanks! I checked the menupages menu and it has all the Korean names written in English. The menu in the restaurant only had the Korean names written in...Korean. The description reads:

"three kind of mushroom pancakes mixed with potato and hand made tofu"

I suppose it also has mung beans...tucked away in thar.

I'll try it if I get another chance.

Michelle: I like the texture of the radish kimchi too. Actually, I don't know if I prefer one over the other...perhaps I just WANT IT ALL. So greedy I am. ;)

I was getting some spam so I thought changing the question might help. And if not, yes, spoon is a great word.

Annie / November 26, 2007 5:07 PM

Oh Lord, Robyn--that tofu stew is BEAUTIFUL. Any idea where one could find the recipe for it? Or, let me just ask you this way, was it sweet? Salty? Sour? Did it taste like chicken or beef or fish? Did it have any recognizeable vegetables in it? I realize i am being a pain in the neck, but I have no way of getting into NYC for the next month or so and I really want to reproduce this soup!

michelle / November 26, 2007 8:55 PM

Hello Robyn, you have a great blog. Keep up the good food eating babe..! Your blog is one great discovery for me . : )

rataholicool / November 26, 2007 11:42 PM

GAHH, you make me want soon dooboo noww!
That's wierd... the cabbage kimchi should always come out with panchan.. I'm Korean, and Koreans ALWAYS eat cabbage kimchi with everything.

Man, that milkshake looks hella fineee...

Morten / November 27, 2007 2:22 PM

Is it just I who consider tofu tasteless? I've never had good tofu, but after Robyn and Giso talked highly of tofu I've tried every form I've come across, but it's always the same. The actual tofu never tastes like much on it's own, it doesn't seem to add anything to the rest of the soup and I always feel like the dish would be better if one substitutes the tofu with the meat, fish or vegetable that the dish tastes like.

Either I'm missing something or tofu is just something used to fill one's tummy in lack of something better.

Oh, and what's with the spoon?

roboppy / November 27, 2007 2:41 PM

Annie: I found some recipes!...ish.

This one!
Another one!

It's salty and spicy. Of course, that much salt and chili you put into it. Not sour. The soup didn't taste meaty, just...tofu-y. ;) And kim chi-y, as that's what else was in it besides some pork bits.

Michelle: Thanks! I EAT SO VERY MUCH.

rataholicool: Maybe I didn't get kimchi because I'm not Korean. Sniff.

Morten: Anyone else wanna reply to Morten? ;)

I personally do not love tofu, but a few dishes with tofu in it...yes. My favorite kinds of tofu are the firm kind marinated in stuff. Meat doesn't replace a craving for that kind of thing. And of course, I LOVE KOREAN TOFU STEW!!! It totally IS the soup. Otherwise you've just got..broth...screw that. The tofu makes it this soft pudding-like thing. Of yum-ness. And that's what I want, not meat or fish.

What's with the spoon? ...You use it to eat with? ._.

leena! / November 27, 2007 6:10 PM

I just tried kimchi for the first time at a Korean restaurant a month ago and I don't know why the hell I waited so long. It was like spicy, pickle-y deliciousness dropped into my mouth by diamond-crusted kittens singing Tenacious D songs, it rocked so much. Especially on top of beef. So I'm with you--gimme my kimchi!

Sukwoon / November 27, 2007 7:35 PM

From the photo it looks like you had "biji" which is a stew made of soybean puree that is left after making dubu (Korean tofu) and usually mixed in with pork and not "soon dubu jjigae"?
In any case, it is nice to see that Korean food is finally getting much wider coverage on may foodie websites.

roboppy / November 27, 2007 10:34 PM

leena: Yay, you tried it! Diamond crusted kittens!....yeah it's like that!...

Sukwoon: You're right, it's not soon dubu jigae. But I didn't know what it was called. -__- Thanks for telling me! Euuh! I have learned many things after writing this entry, haha...

I need more Korean friends.

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