Local Hawaii ingredients used with an international flair
Monday, February 21, 2005
Warm up with Korean sundubu
I remember that on many a cold night in Seoul in February I would run across the broad street fronting the sterile Lotte Hotel in order to escape into the warren of little shops and restaurants with irresistible spicy things boiling or boiling behind foggy windows and glass doors. Customers ate bundled in heavy outerwear, their breaths steaming as much as the kettles of tea. I was never dressed warmly enough for the bone-chilling cold, so I needed to choose which place I would duck into fairly quickly.
My crash course in Hangul didn't help much because I didn't know what the food was or what it was called. I was a stranger in a strange land, but happy as could be. No matter which shop I might enter, I would enjoy a feast. And although it cost very little, it would be more satisfying than anything I could find back at the hotel.
Honestly, I tried to avoid February when I could. Seoul is much more pleasant in Spring, Summer or Fall. But I'm imprinted by my experiences in the cold winter, so that when the mercury tumbles in Nuuanu (all the way down to the 70's or something), I get that urge for a steamy pot of sundubu jjigae. Except that until recently I didn't know that I could find it here, or exactly what it was called.
This evening was a bit chilly so we set off for Sogongdong Restaurant, across Kapiolani Blvd. from Tower Records.
At this point I have to do something unconventional and send you elsewhere. The real expert on this cuisine and this restaurant is Sun-Ki Chai, moderator of the eGullet Hawaii forum. His restaurant reviews are excellent, and unfettered by limitations one might find in a newspaper, he takes the space that is needed to do justice to an unusual restaurant or cuisine. Plus, he includes fabulous photos you won't find elsewhere. So without further ado, please check out his thread: So Gong Dong, Chodang Restaurants, Korean Soft Tofu.
We got there about 6 p.m. this evening and just beat the crowd. I understand that they take reservations, and that might be a good idea for anyone planning to arrive later. Not that you'll freeze waiting outside, but why not be prepared.
We've enjoyed everything we've had at Sogongdong. Usually we each have one of the sundubu choices and share one other dish. Although we order "spicy", the spice level isn't challenging.
After reading Sun-Ki Chai's thread, how long can you stay away? Try this now, before it gets too warm in Honolulu.
Sogongdong (website with menu: http://www.sogonghawaii.com/en/index.htm )
1489 Kapiolani Blvd.
Honolulu, HI 96814
See map or you might miss the parking lot.
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