Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Trying a new dish at the tofu house

Tofu Soup Ramyun at So Gong Dong in Palisades Park.

Editor's note: On the menu today is a new dish at So Gong Dong in Palisades Park, a shrinking milk gallon, a new brown rice mixture and a couple of my pet peeves when eating out.

In the decade or more that I've been eating Korean soft-tofu stew, my order has rarely varied.

I usually order my stew with clams, oysters, mixed seafood or head-on shrimp, and ask for it to be made "more spicy."

I've tried soft tofu at restaurants in Ridgewood, Fort Lee and elsewhere, but always come back to So Gong Dong, a second-floor tofu house in Palisades Park.

So Gong Dong has undergone some changes in recent months, including an expanded menu.

One of the additions is Tofu Soup Ramyun, which adds those krinkly ramyun or ramen noodles to a big bowl of tofu stew.

The serving is about twice as large as the stone bowl of tofu stew, but you don't get a stone bowl of steamed white rice to eat with it. 

The cost is $10.99, including tax, compared to $9.99 for a meal of tofu stew, rice, fresh egg, and four side dishes, including cabbage kimchi and bean sprouts. 

Side dishes and fresh eggs at So Gong Dong.

A large grilled vegetable-and-seafood pancake is $11.99.

I dived into the side dishes on Saturday night, we asked for more, and when my Tofu Soup Ramyun arrived, broke an egg into the hot broth.

Later, I ate the soft-boiled yolk over the noodles for a taste treat. This was a nice change of pace, and a little lighter than eating a large portion of white rice.

So Gong Dong, 118 Broad Ave., 2nd Floor, Palisades Park; 201-313-5550. Free parking on side streets.

Leftover wild king salmon and organic brown rice show up for breakfast.

Trying a new fish 

At Costco Wholesale in Hackensack, fresh wild-caught sockeye salmon has given way to wild king salmon -- a change that might appeal to shoppers who prefer the mild taste of farmed Atlantic salmon.

King salmon ($11.99 a pound) doesn't have the robust flavor or deep orange-red color of sockeye.

My wife bought a fillet of just under 1 pound, started it in a non-stick pan, then finished it in the oven with roasted pineapple salsa.

It was cooked through, but remained moist.

Of course, wild king salmon gets its color naturally from eating shrimp and krill in the ocean, unlike artificially colored farmed salmon.

The Lactaid container, left, is many ounces shy of a gallon, right.

Trying a new milk

In the last couple of months, I've been buying a large container of Lactaid Lactose Free 1% Milk when it was on sale at ShopRite, thinking it was a full gallon.

The large container is $6.19 on sale, compared to $3.39 for a half-gallon of ShopRite Lactose Free Milk. 

Instead of getting a better deal, I have been getting a lot less milk than in two half-gallons -- only 96 ounces in the Lactaid container, compared to 128 ounces in two half-gallons from ShopRite.

So, I was unwittingly paying more -- 1 cent-plus per ounce -- by  buying Lactaid on sale.

Half-gallons of premium orange juice sold in supermarkets long ago shrank to 59 ounces, but CostcoWholesale still sells a full-half gallon of Tropicana.

An uncleared outdoor table at It's Greek To Me.

Losing my appetite

I agreed to meet a friend for lunch today at It's Greek To Me in Englewood, a restaurant my family patronized frequently before we moved to Hackensack.

But when I sat down at one of the outdoor tables, I noticed the mess on the next table, including several olive pits on the shiny metal surface.

There is no greater turnoff in a restaurant than uncleared dishes and the associated mess.

A waiter brought menus, then a busboy cleared the dishes and olive pits, but failed to clean the table itself.

When my friend arrived, I got up and suggested we eat at Baumgart's Restaurant, across Palisade Avenue. 

Sushi rolls at Baumgart's Restaurant.

Stir-Fried Asparagus with Crispy Tofu and brown rice.

When I was looking over the menu at Greek To Me, I noticed that entrees begin at $15 and several whole fish are offered at "market price" -- including red mullet -- an apparent reaction to the closing of Nisi Estiatorio, a high-end Greek fish house that operated a few blocks away on Grand Avenue.

Now, Greek To Me has become a pricy restaurant.

Then, I ordered Stir-Fried Asparagus with Crispy Tofu and brown rice at Baumgart's, stared at the small portion and muttered, Is that all I get for $9?

For 99 cents more, I could buy a full meal at a Korean tofu house.

Korean 7 Grains mixture stands in for bread at breakfast.

Trying a new brown rice

On Sunday, I picked up a 10-pound bag of 7 Grains, a Korean mixture of brown rices, small beans and barley, using an H Mart 30th anniversary coupon.

The bag was on sale for $13.99 at the Englewood H Mart, but cost only $9.99 with the coupon.

The only negative is that 7 Grains must be soaked for 3 hours before you prepare it in an electric rice cooker or pressure cooker.

I used the former, and loved the mixture's nutty taste with organic eggs and leftover collard greens.

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