Journalist Sarah Efron explores strip malls and hole-in-the-wall restaurants in search of the city's best ethnic food

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Slushed ice soup and other tasty Korean specialities

"You've got to try Korean cold noodle soup," enthused my friend Hannah. "The broth is made of slushed ice."

Slushie soup sounded pretty terrible, I thought, but figured that Hannah, a Korean-Canadian writer who had explored the subject in a Toronto Star story, was worth listening to. We went to Tofu Village at 681 Bloor Street West to try the dish. 

While listening to sickly sweet K-pop music, we ordered up a sizeable feast. Tofu Village is known for its soon tofu (above). Pronounced "soon doo boo," it's a soft, creamy tofu served in a stone pot. You're given a raw egg, which you crack into the piping hot dish when it arrives at your table.

We ordered two kinds of slushed ice soup: the mul naengmyeon (above, $8.95) is made of cold buckwheat noodles in broth. Hannah explained that food trends are huge in Korea, and this dish has become popular in Korean restaurants around the world recently.

The noodles feel strangely cold in your throat, but the slushy texture of the broth is pleasing. The dish's punchy flavour, provided by the daikon, sesame seeds and spicy pepper paste, quickly won me over. The bibim naengmyeon (below; $8.95) had very little broth, but also featured cold buckwheat noodles.

More and more great dishes kept rolling out from the kitchen. The seafood and tofu pancakes were fried delight, and I was thrilled to see the stir fried spicy rice cake arrive at the table. I tried these alien-like bright orange sticks on the street of Seoul during a brief stopover a few years back. The chewy, spicy combo makes this memorable dish.

The Korean BBQ beef ribs, called galbi, were also excellent. Marinated in a sweet soy sauce, this meat is incredibly tender.

Following Korean tradition, the waitress gave us the pot the rice was cooked in with some hot water added to it. Hannah explained that historically, impoverished Koreans would eat the rice stuck to the pot's edges this way to avoid wasting any rice.

Tofu Village is at 681 Bloor Street West, Toronto. Tel: 647-345-3836. There is another location at 8362 Kennedy Rod, A06, Markham, Ontario; tel: 905 415-0077. Hours 7 days a week, 11am to 10:30pm. 

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  1. We just ate here tonight based on your review. Great stuff. keep up the good work on the column!

  2. Thanks Rob. Great sketches on your blog!