Spicy Tofu Soup from Chodang

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Tired of the same old tired orange chicken and California rolls? Want to venture beyond the standard suburbian-stale take-out? Here comes Chop PHX, with the Valley's rarer Asian offerings.

This Week: Sundubu Jjigae (Spicy Korean Tofu Stew) from Chodang (501 N. Arizona Ave,. Chandler)

The Basics: Sundubu jjigae is a spicy traditional Korean stew made with a soft, custard-like tofu. The exact ingredients of the stew range from beef and clams, to dumplings and mushrooms. Chodang's #2 "Soft Tofu Soup" comes with shrimp, mussels, clams and beef. The stew is served alongside a bowl of stone pot rice.

Sundubu, like many popular Asian dishes, isn't exactly cutting edge cuisine in Korea, and that's just fine with us. Sundubu is comfort food in every way: It's spicy, flavorful and hearty.

How to Eat It: While you wait for your stew, the waiter will bring you six side dishes called banchan. The types of banchan offered changes regularly but usually there will be a kimchi and a handful of other pickled vegetables.

When the waiter first brings your stew it should still be boiling. You will be offered a fresh egg to be cooked in your soup. If you take the egg, be sure to lance it with your chopsticks and give it a good swirl. The heat from the soup should be more than enough to completely cook the egg in a few minutes.

The stew will be served along with rice cooked in a stone pot. The easiest way to eat this dish is to spoon a small amount of stew over the rice and dig in. If you want to be a tad more civilized you can use a separate bowl to mix the two elements. Stuck to the bottom of the stone pot is a thin layer of crunchy cooked rice. This is called noo-rung-ji and is delicious when scraped free and eaten. It can also be saved for later and eaten as a crunchy snack.

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