BCD Tofu House May Offer the Best Lunchtime Soondubu Jjigae in K-Town
When I last wrote about finding a sit-down, under $10 lunch in Manhattan’s Koreatown at Muk Eun Ji, I started by stating the obvious – the area is a treasure of affordable and filling lunch time options. But woe to those who have the tough but enviable task of deciding a venue, given the great selection – a good problem to have. If your heart is set on soondubu jjigae, the warming stew of soft tofu in a rich and spicy broth that simultaneously exhilarates and comforts, you’ll find no better on the block than at BCD Tofu House.
There are 11 riffs on this classic Korean dish; they vary primarily along the lines of which protein will be introduced to the spicy red broth. Each variation will cost you $9.95 (not incl. tax + tip). The cost of admission also includes a reliable line-up of side dishes (banchan) as well as a parting bowl of rice water (sungnyung), which is made from the toasted rice (nurungji) formed at the bottom of a hot stone bowl of rice.
Back when this place first opened, I used to come here solely for the complimentary fried fish. Seriously. It’s not a particularly special fish – oh sure, it’s pleasant, delicate and sweet, with just a whisper of salt. And this species of fish, yellow croaker, isn’t especially dear. But it’s a whole fried fish! And it’s free!
I’ve since fallen off of the fried fish band wagon, but BCD’s hook is firmly planted in my cheek because, 1) It’s open 24 hours, and is a fantastic late night refuge after a night of heavy drinking (or a good hangover cure for that matter) and 2) Their soondubu jjigae (soft tofu soup) is easily my favorite version found in Manhattan’s K-town.
BCD has carved out its place as one of the largest non-fried chicken Korean chain restaurants in the US, with multiple locations in LA, Washington, and locations in Manhattan, Fort Lee, NJ, Flushing, NY, and even restaurants in Seoul, Korea. They owe some of this popularity to some good old fashioned business savvy, but the foundation lies in their fantastic version of soondubu jjigae.
They claim that their soondubu jjigae is 100% organic and contains no MSG – I simply claim it to be delicious. They’ve somehow managed a far richer broth than their competitors, complemented by impossibly silky and delicate tofu. The other restaurants in K-town may offer lunch specials with more variety, but the excellence of BCD’s soondubu jjigae and banchan certainly overcomes their shortcomings in menu options.
BCD Tofu House, 17 W 32nd St (btw B’way+5th), 212-967-1900