Kaju Tofu House
A taste of home
Kaju Tofu House (Kaju Korean Cuisine)
56 Harvard Ave, Allston, MA 02134
Open daily 11 p.m. — 9 p.m.
Growing up in New Jersey, the nearest Korean grocery store and restaurants were a whole hour away in a town called Edison, so devouring a boiling hot bowl of soondubu, a Korean tofu soup, was a special occasion that involved a long drive and burning one’s mouth on the hot soup. As a Korean American, eating soondubu with my family amidst diverse plates of banchan and appetizers such as haemul pajeon, a Korean seafood and scallion pancake, is a profound memory of my childhood.
I recently found a place called Kaju Tofu House located nearby in Allston, which serves authentic Korean soondubu that looked, according to photos on Yelp, just like the soondubu my young self in Jersey dreamed about on the long car rides over to Edison. As the soondubu restaurant in Jersey is actually called Tofu House, memories immediately flooded my mind of eating the hot soup too quickly and my mom having to ask for a fork since I could not use chopsticks. (Admittedly, I am still working on my chopstick skills.)
After biking to Allston with my two roommates using the exactly three Bluebikes left at the station in front of Maseeh, I hoped this streak of good luck continued with the food. Thankfully, it did.
First, there were only a couple of tables left when we arrived, and not long after we sat down (around 6pm on a Saturday night), a line quickly started to form outside. Flipping through the menu, I saw not only many varieties of soondubu which are offered with different mix-ins and spice levels but also countless appetizers and even soondubu and Korean meat combos if a customer cannot pick just one dish.
I ordered their pork soondubu with no spice, the same order I get almost every single time I am at a soondubu restaurant. When I was young, I could not even tolerate one level above no spice, and even though I can proudly say I can handle much more spice now than back then, I have stuck with my original go-to order even after all these years of improving and maturing my spice tolerance.
As the boiling soups served in the traditional Korean black stone soondubu bowls were brought over to our table, I excitedly grabbed my spoon and had to restrain myself from diving in too quickly. While the soup cools, one must spoon soup over the cracked egg to cook it with the residual heat. Ever since I was young, I have always saved the runny egg for last and am careful not to accidentally burst it open by delicately eating the tofu, soup, and meat around it. The raw egg transforms into a perfect soft boiled egg that is delicious over rice and the last of the tofu and pork pieces.
After tasting the still slightly-too-hot soup, I almost could not believe how similar it tasted to the one I grew up eating back home in Jersey. The broth was rich, and the soondubu came in large, soft chunks, surrounded by a generous amount of pork. While some soondubu restaurants have you crack your own egg into the hot soup, Kaju does it for you, so no worries about accidentally getting egg shells in your soup!
Kaju Tofu House offers not only a taste of my Korean heritage, but a taste of home that fills me up with both authentic, delicious food and fond childhood memories. I am grateful for the abundance of Korean restaurants located in Allston and beyond, for they provide me the opportunity to continue to embrace my Korean culture through food without requiring a long car ride. Whether one is Korean and craving a taste of home, simply a fan of Korean food, or even trying Korean food for the first time, Kaju Tofu House’s authentic soondubu is well worth the wait. The cost? Just a slightly burned mouth.