Sam-gye-tang. Ginseng chicken soup. Koreans typically eat this on the hottest of summer days. It's thought that as the heat wears you out, samgyetang would re-energize you. Me personally, I prefer consuming it on rainy evenings. As the sun sets, darkness blankets across the horizon. The world feels cold and unwelcoming, but a bubbling pot of samgyetang in your stomach will make everything feel like family.
Open for seventeen years as of 2016, it is said SGD Tofu House is the first soondubu shop to open in Santa Clara's Koreatown. Since its establishment other branches have opened in NorCal. They are known for their tofu soup as it suggests in their name. They also offer savory pancakes, bibimbap, and barbecue.
What does SGD stand for? In Singapore, those letters stand for "Singapore Dollar." However if you google it, the first link that pops up is "Saccharomyces Genome Database." In our situation, SGD means "So Gong Dong," a business district in Seoul, South Korea. Sogongdong is near the Deoksugung Palace and Gwanghwamun Square. I once went to a samgyetang shop there once. They served ginseng wine with the soup. Samgyetang and alcohol in the stomach = drunk chicken.
Upon ordering, out comes a set of complimentary banchan (side dishes). A common occurrence at traditional Korean eateries.
Their Napa Cabbage Kimchi is not sweet, which is a big deal. A huge deal. Many Korean restaurants around here make sweet kimchi, so I appreciate SGD for keeping it authentic.
The Seasoned Sprout is sesame-oily, making it my favorite side dish of this meal. The Japchae is lightly seasoned. If you're health-conscious, it's the type of flavor you wouldn't mind eating on a daily basis. The Fishcake also falls in the same category. The Seasoned Seaweed is spunky with its sweet and sour. The Water Kimchi (dyed pink with beet, I believe) is delightfully refreshing. It's ideal for a spring and summer day, but can be equally enjoyed during cold weather.
Of all the banchan, my favorite is the Seasoned Sprout and Water Kimchi.
My mother gets her boiling bowl of mushroom soodubu, which looks more bold than it tastes. The bright red color makes it appear so spicy. I try a spoonful, expecting my ears to tingle. My eyes hyped my taste buds up. The tofu soup is actually quite bland. That famous quote runs through my head: never judge a book by its cover! One can't help but judge, so be prepared for surprise.
Inside the standard samgyetang contains white rice and garlic. In my bowl there is five or six cloves! I lost count. There might've been more. As expected, the meat falls right off the bones. The bones, you can bite into and break apart as well. Watch out for those pieces of ginseng. If you are curious, have a bite. Discover how bitter it is. If you're having a bad day, take a bite of ginseng. More likely than not, your day is probably less bitter than ginseng.
The rice comes in a stone bowl. Your server will scoop it out into smaller individual bowls. Water is poured into the stone bowl and later you shall enjoy what is to be burnt rice. In our case, the rice wasn't burnt at all. If burnt, the rice and water mixture will taste toasty.
My mother and I dined on an early Friday night. By the time we left, SGD Tofu House was filled with families--mostly parents with young children. After paying your bill, grab a candy for the road.
SGD Tofu House
3450 El Camino Real, Ste 105
Santa Clara, CA 95051
SGD Tofu House (Blossom Valley)
832 Blossom Hill Rd
San Jose, CA 95123