Tofu is a versatile ingredient that features prominently in various Asian cuisines. The Chinese use it in many dishes, either as a supporting cast (like with Teochew braised duck) or as the main star (like with Sichuan mapo tofu).
The Japanese plan entire kaiseki meals around it, cooking it in different ways to highlight its versatility and even presenting it in its simplest form and allowing diners to cook it themselves at their own table.
The Koreans are no exception and serve soft and freshly-made soontofu in spicy hotpots mixed with all kinds of meats and seafood. It’s comfort food that we keep going back to whenever we feel like a hearty and fulfilling meal. And when we do, we always head down to SBCD Korean Tofu House.
SBCD has two branches in Singapore and we’ve always visited their main branch at Tanjong Pagar Centre, which is directly connected to the MRT station and very accessible. This time, because we also wanted to check out the newly re-opened Meidi-ya, we made reservations at their second branch in Millenia Walk, located at the end of the mall closest to Suntec City.
Their entire menu is printed on one sheet of paper, which they also use as their placemat, allowing them to avoid the entire QR code e-menu temporary measure that so many restaurants use nowadays.
Utensils are separately packed and no longer self-served from the slide-out drawer under each table. They still provide the flat metal chopsticks that I have a love/hate relationship with, and round spoons with long handles.
One feature of Korean meals that I like is banchan, the complimentary and re-fillable side-dishes that always include some form of kimchi plus other pickled and fermented items. I particularly like their fermented squid guts (or at least that’s what I think it is) which is an acquired taste but goes very well with plain white rice.
SBCD takes it one step further by throwing in a whole deep-fried yellow corvina that The Wife is obsessed with. Each diner only gets one portion of the fish and since I’m not a big fan, coupled with my clumsy Korean flat chopstick skills, most of my portion goes to her.
They do allow diners to pay for extra portions of the fish though, and as an indication of how much The Wife loves it, this is what landed on our table — half a fish for me, and 4 1/2 fishes for her. I’m sure this doesn’t happen often, because our waitress had to double-confirm the order of three additional fish remind us that we’d already be getting one each as part of the banchan.
SBCD sources their soybeans from Paju in South Korea’s Gyeonggi Province. Apparently Paju is famous for two things, one being their Jangdanbaekmok certified strain of soybeans and the other being its proximity to the DMZ separating the two Koreas. I’m not sure how those two things are related, but I do know that their tofu is very mashisoyo.
When ordering at SBCD, you could opt for a standalone ala carte order of just their soontofu, but the best value-for-money is to choose their combo meal which includes an additional dish for a nominal top-up of less than $10. You also get to choose the spiciness level of the soontofu, ranging from one chilli (meh) to four chillies (hajima!)
The Wife choose the (beef) Bulgogi Combo with Oyster Soontofu (which also has mussels and shrimp) at the two chilli setting. While there was nothing wrong with the oysters, they weren’t particularly plump and fresh-tasting and we’d probably choose another option next time. The tofu itself though, plus the spicy stew it came in, were as good as we remembered, even though two chillies didn’t pack sufficient punch.
Despite being an add-on, the bulgogi portion was generous and the combined meal of soontofu, banchan and hotstone rice made for a very filling lunch. The taste of the bulgogi itself was alright and I’d say slightly above average.
I chose the Spicy Baby Octopus Combo with Intestine Soontofu, at the three chilli setting. Across our numerous visits in the past, we’ve tried almost all the different soontofu options and I have to say that this was my favourite by far. The beef small intestines didn’t taste gamey or funky at all and the texture was so so soft, even more tender than those in well-braised kway chap.
The spicy baby octopus had a nice bite and was not overcooked. The spiciness was not at the soontofu three chilli level and was more sweet-and-spicy, closer to the flavour of yangnyeom fried chicken. I quite liked it and would definitely order it again.
We’ve had soontofu at other Korean restaurants before, and they’ve never matched up to the ones at SBCD. The tofu is never as soft, probably because they’re probably store-bought ones sitting in the fridge and not made fresh daily using dangerous (why? because near DMZ) beans.
The tofu at SBCD is like tau huay, the silky smooth and wobbly tofu pudding that even toothless grandmas (and grandpas) can eat effortlessly. It’s softer than jello, softer than marshmallows, softer than cotton candy (well… maybe not) but with a spicy kick.
We’ll definitely be back and perhaps, possibly, maybe, I might even live dangerously and go for four chillies.