March 2, 2008
Organic Tofu House: Ridgewood Finally Has Korean Food
- Organic Tofu House
The first time I ate at Organic Tofu House, there weren't any customers besides my mom and myself. I blamed the lack of tofu-loving diners on the blizzard that had blanketed the streets in a thick blanket of fluffy, frozen rain bits, thus preventing any cars from moving at a speed higher than "sloth."
However, when I visited again last Tuesday with my mom, my brother Bert, and Tristan, it was still semi-deserted. There was just one customer in the restaurant before us and no more had come in during our meal. It was a little late at the time—around 8:15 PM—and maybe restaurants aren't hopping on Tuesday nights, but I now fear that Organic Tofu House isn't getting enough business (a telling sign was the notice put up in their window within the past few weeks saying they would no longer be open on Sundays), which would suck most heinously because it is my closest source of Korean tofu stew and I need my Korean tofu stew, oh god, how I need those chunks of soybean curds.
For those of you who don't know (which is probably most of you as I don't believe the North Jersey food blog readership is massive), Ridgewood has loads of restaurants covering a surprisingly diverse range of cuisines. Don't forget that we're in suburban New Jersey, not Manhattan. I can think of five Japanese restaurants that I've eaten at (two of them being on the same block), three Thai restaurants, a Chinese restaurant (with dim sum), Greek, Lebanese, French, Turkish, Indian, Italian, pancake house, three (or probably more) pizzerias, four ice cream shops, and more, mostly all within walking distance of each other. But as far as I know, there was no Korean presentation until Organic Tofu House took the place of what was previously a Japanese restaurant, hence my possibly strange over-excitement when my mom told me that a tofu place had opened up.
First, you have your banchan of four small dishes and a salad. The first time I went we were given kim chi, chilled steamed broccoli and cauliflower, soybean sprouts, and tiny dried fish. The second time, the dried fish was replaced with julienned potato sticks (chilled after being stir-fried, perhaps?). Our banchan was refilled during the second visit without us asking since there were four of us instead of two, and the waitress (who I assume is the wife of the husband-wife team that runs the restaurant, but I could be wrong) must have thought we could more food after we had devoured the first round of banchan. Which wasn't necessarily true–god knows we had enough food, but we certainly weren't going to refuse more delicious stuff that was free. Also, I need all the vegetables I can get.
- Kim chi!
I liked how the kim chi was presented in a neat little stack instead of a messy pile. Not that there's anything wrong with a messy pile—I know it tastes the same both ways—but there's something more satisfying about pulling the layers away from the stack. Kind of like the difference between the levels of fun had while eating Pringles versus a regular bag of chips. Something about plucking those molded potato goop wafers off a uniform stack creates more endorphins than sticking your hand in a greasy bag of non-uniformly shaped chips. It's just human nature.
- SEAFOOD PANCAKE, YEAH!
- Take a slice!
The hubcap-sized seafood pancake was generously stuffed with tender squid chunks, whole shrimp, and a bucket of green onions. I usually look at flour and egg as the main binding agents in pajeon, but in this case it was green onion. Everywhere. Compared to the other pajeons I had eaten in my life (three, perhaps), this was the best for its explosion of green onions and seafood. Isn't that what everyone wants? An explosion of green onions and seafood? Yeah!
Goon mandu are dumplings that are fried all around for 1080° (I didn't think 360° was a sufficient amount) golden crispiness. Underneath the delicate, semi-translucent skin was a belly of minced pork and stuff. Something vegetal in nature. But it was mostly pork. Definitely a good thing.
- SOFT TOFU, YEAH!
The star of the meal is the miniature cauldron of soft tofu curds bubbling away in a spicy tear-inducing soup mixed with a smattering of an additional ingredient of your choice: soybean, mushroom, seafood and beef, seafood, kim chi, oyster, clam, beef, or pork. You can also just get it plain, which might be the best way to go considering how stomach-achingly full this will make you (which also has to do with the accompanying bowl of purple rice you will inevitably demolish in its entirety). Then again, the dish costs the same whether you get it with or without something extra; why not incorporate more pork?
Actually, I preferred the kim chi to the pork. Yes, I awarded a higher ranking to fermented cabbage than bits of what is accurately referred to as "The Meat of Kings." I found that the pork flavor was too overpowering, which sounds kind of dumb considering that the other flavors were tofu (more of a texture than a flavor) and hot hot spicy mucus-running hotness (a rather strong flavor). Why wouldn't pork fit in? I DON'T KNOW. IT'S JUST THE WAY MY TASTE BUDS WORK. OR MALFUNCTION.
- Mm, egg
Raw eggs are served with the tofu stews in case you want to crack one in. As long as you mix it in, the heat of the soup will cook the egg. No salmonella for you.
- Mm, tofu
Although I didn't grow up eating tofu stew, it has all the makings of comfort food. It's hot, filling, and doesn't require much chewing. And you eat it with a spoon! The most magical utensil! Because it has two o's in it!
- No tofu!
They also have a selection of non-tofu dishes in case you're like my brother and find the idea of eating tofu as a meal completely inadequate. My brother ordered the BBQ bulgogi deubap, steamed rice with marinated beef. They also have broiled eel, pork marinated in spicy sauce, beef short rib, broiled squid, stir-fried vermicelli noodles, and something called well-being rice, written as "young ya bab" in Korean. Is this more magical than normal rice? One of you must know the answer.
Go to Organic Tofu House now! If it closes due to lack of business, I will cry and blame it on YOU NOT FOLLOWING MY DIRECTIONS!
Organic Tofu House
88 Godwin Ave
Ridgewood, NJ 07450
Posted by roboppy at 3:49 PM
Oooowww.. The soft tofu looks yummy! And the kim chi reminds me of the first time I ever ate Korean food (in Soho, London). Nicely stacked and way too spicy for a simple Dutch girl ^_^
Oh man, that tofu stew looks SO GOOOD!
I feel so full of FAIL for not having tried it yet. :(
I would totally go if I were in that region!
I always try to make people go to my favorite restaurants too. I tell myself it's nice to get word of mouth advertising for the proprietors of such fine establishments, but really it's selfish because I want them to stay open and keep serving me delicious foods. Mmmmm food.
seafood pancake looks good, damn. want.
That pancake looked mighty delicious.
I once tried to make my own seafood pancake. I think you can imagine how that turned out.
(If you're thinking "delicious," you might want to guess again...)
Man, I'm moving to Korea in 2 weeks, and the pictures of your food just made me about a million times more stoked.
Have you ever tried bibimpbap? It comes in the same kind of pot as the tofu chigae, but no soup, just rice and veggies, but you crack the egg and after a while, there's a layer of rice at the bottom that is a layer of crispy rice deliciousness...mmmm nom nom nom
gah mans, cracking the egg is my favourite part!! :) back home, rainy days automatically = tofu stewsss...
come to think of it, never had any since I've moved here ^_^...next time, ktown instead of chinatown?
...followed by olivia's churros, heheheh
Tristan: Come back for more! ^_^
Jenneke: The spices make you SWEAT! Oh yeaaah!
Sera: After Korean BBQ, we can move onto Korean tofu!
Yen: But I don't want it to get TOO crowded so I can't get a table, right? Bwahaah...:)
Raphael: FIELD TRIP TO NJ.
Christine: Aw...:[ Well I'm sure I'd get the same results if I tried. And I plan to! Someday.
Michelle: Ooh yes, I think bibimbap was the first Korean dish I've had. I looove the crispy rice bits.
Kathy: Yeah, let's plan for Korean food next!
The food looks great, but I'd never go there if it weren't for reviews like this one. The problem is the name. It implies everything includes tofu, and while I am now aware that tofu does attract it's share of followers, it's not something you can use to attract customers in the throngs that yellow fin tuna, chianina steaks or suckling pork does. I think they'd be better off with a name that says something along the lines of: "We have awesomey Korean food that Robyn and her followers yearn for in their dreams!"
Maybe not those words, but you get my point. Basically everything you ate looks good apart from the tofu (yes, I'm biased), and possibly the pancake. You say it's good, so it's probably good, it just looks too weird to look good. Would still eat it (of course).
Gah, I want that tofu stew!
Long time reader, but I had to comment today. I can understand where you are coming from. I go to my Tofu House in San Diego at a minimum once a week for my Miso Special Tofu soup. Nothing else will do. Maybe you should stand outside of your Tofu House with a sign for new customers :-)
Trish: Hehe, I noticed that! Woo Yahoo! ...Ish. It's ridiculously how many comments our posts get on Yahoo; no one in their right mind could actually read them all. Also, people write the stupidest things sometimes. It gives us something to talk about at work. :P
Morten: I guess if they called it PORK HOUSE then people would go. ;) This name is very appealing to people like me who love tofu stew, but you're right that if people don't know what it is, they wouldn't go. There's a famous tofu stew place in Fort Lee (a high Korean-density town in NJ) and I don't think I cared much for it when I was little, but I'd love to check it out now.
What's "weird" is very relative, of course. I hope you get used to Korean food sometime...it's so good...
Janet: UM, YES PLEASE, I need my Janet time!
Tina: I suppose there's good stuff like this in Queens? :D
Christina: Haha, I can wear a sandwich board and run around the neighborhood. "OMG YOU GUYS GET SOME TOFU!!" And then I'll be arrested.
I hope they stay open! I've never had tofu stew, but zomg, it looks so tasty tasty! I've never seen it on a menu out here, so maybe I'll have to make my own. I need a cauldron!
Robyn, love, I already am used to Korean food, just not the sort that comes in the form of Tofu. You know my opinion of tofu, and this is in spite of me searching out each and every tofu bit I can find at all times as you keep saying it's amazing. It just doesn't work for me, though.
Anyheeeew...that's not the point. The point is that tofu isn't as popular as a lot of other food, and it's very culturally relative, which is why this sort of place works a lot better in a Korean area of a large city :p
OMG TOFU is Great!!! There's this one place in queens I went to on a late night run once with a bunch of friends, and all they served were tofu pots! The menu was on the place mat and they were mostly 8-10 dollars each.....I regret not taking note of the name of the place...cause I wanna go back there but have no clue where or what's it called~!!!! LOL Oh wells! Those dumplings look yummy too -=D
everything looks awesome - i'll have to put this on my list of places to visit.
all hail new jersey, king of states.
If I could, I wouldn't definitely fly out to New Jersey just to eat there. I don't care how crazy my family and friends would think I was (besides the fact that I alread know that I am crazy; they just don't quite seem to realize the extent of my craziness).
Julie: I've never tried to make my own but I would assume it's not that hard. ...Tofu and stuff. Actually I've never made any Korean food before! :(
wonders: I wanna know what that place is called too! :\
Michelle: King of States...I've never heard that one before.
BUT OKAY, YEAH!!
Christina: And NJ is full of so many other awesome things! Kinda! Not really.
i'm in maryland and theres this korean tofu stew place, 'soondubu' as its called, and they have a pepper scale for the level of hotness you want. needless to say i always order the seafood with max spiciness...i'm literally drooling as i type. a matter of fact, i'm going there tomorrow. thanks!
dudes. i eat at this place all the time man. the short ribs are the bomb diggity. the tofu stew is the awesomest. everything on the menu is truly the greatest thing that has come in contact with my tongue. go there mann. do it.
yum!! just had tofu stew at a new place that opened in taipei and it totally hit the spot. have it all the time in LA and can see it getting popular here. though they were lame and didn't have enough stuff for seafood pancakes at lunch for us (even though we saw other earlier orders coming out. boo)
Vince: I had to order the medium hotness as my tofu place...that was pretty tingly! -_- I need to build up more tolerance, haha.
Pepe: Glad to hear from someone who eats there! Wooo!
Joanh: Not enough seafood pancakes? FAIL!!
I am a North Jersey reader (for the time being) and live a bit northeast. I think it takes me 30 minutes to go to Pal Park (try So Gong Dong for sun dubu - it's also pretty cheap), and 35-40 minutes to go to Ridgewood. Do you know what the general demographic is of Ridgewood? Is it mostly white? I live in a town where there are a lot of Koreans, so there are a number of Korean restaurants in this small town (mostly so-so). I am asking about the demographic b/c I think that's why the restaurant is empty or not very busy. That or not enough advertising.
Patty: You make a good point about why the restaurant is empty. Ridgewood is mostly white (like the town I grew up in, Franklin Lakes). However, I'm sure Asians make up the largest minority and out of that, it ...may mostly be Koreans? I'm guessing. That's not many Koreans over all though...
People got used to Japanese, Indian, and Thai food, so I hope Korean is next!
hahaha the young-yang bap you mentioned was probably brown rice, or sticky rice with barley/wild rice and thus a healthier, "well-being" alternative to plain sticky rice. i'm pretty sure, at least.
i haven't eaten korean food since i was last at home in ca a few months ago and these pictures/descriptions are making me delirious!! why have i been depriving myself?!?! must fix this immediately.
and three cheers for organic tofu house! they seem to know how to deliver the goods! i hope they earn a steady, healthy following of regulars :D
Yoojin: Ooh, I love wild rice. I would totally eat that.
FIX IT, FIX IT NOW!!#!@ Stuff yourself with soy-based Korean delights!
OMG. Korean food in R'wood! My mouth is watering over the idea of tofu stew. Do they have bibimbap too? Because then I might just hang there every night, and chain myself to the door if they try to leave.
I've been waiting for this for YEARS. Actually... a DECADE, since I first tried kimchi. This delay was so shocking to me since I do believe the largest Asian minority in R'wood is Korean (at least not long ago when I attended school there).
BUT NOW WE DO THE DANCE OF JOY.
Honestly, due to the location and the name of the place, I would not have immediately guessed it to serve Korean food. Godwin Ave. past Whole Foods is mostly drive-by to get to the schmancy part of town, or to Midland Park. Or to Van Dyk's Ice Cream. :D
Supri: YES, JOY DANCE IS A-COMIN!!!
I don't think they had bibimbap...someone else has to open a Korean restaurant in the area with that stuff. I WANT!
The location is kinda pooty, it's true. And you're right that the only reason I normally drive through there is to get to VAN DYK'S! How sad. I guess on occasion we drive into Ridgewood from that side, or my mom did. But as soon as I heard "TOFU OUSE" I was like, "omg yes."
I live right near this place and you're right, it's great! I wish more people would eat there. Last Friday night it was pretty packed though so that's good.
The house noodles are really really good, too.
Sara: Thanks for the rec! I'll try noodles next time.
wow your tofu pics look great!! I'm not sure if this is organic but they make powder packages at the supermarkets and all you need to do is add water, boil, and add your own tofu. Check it out on my blog: DIY Korean Tofu
You might want to try So Kong Dong in Fort Lee, if you're looking for soondubu deliciousness near NYC and in NJ. My family and I have been going for years... and we still endure the long wait and crappy parking. Nine dollars for a pot of tofu, a little more for a plate of kalbi (Korean bbq short ribs covered in... FAT). You also get (for free!) perfectly cooked white rice and the prerequisite pickled veggies.
I tried the restaurant on your recommendation it was fantastic. The seafood pancake was off the hook. I like the fact that they put whole shrimp in the pancake. I recommended it to two of my friends already. What other secret restaurants do you have hidden away?
Lori: I'm so glad you liked it! KEEP THE TOFU HOUSE IN BUSINESS, YEAH!
Alas, not many other NJ recs up my sleeve. I don't go there much these days...:[
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