Life on the Veg: Dolsot Bibimbap at Kaju Tofu in Garden Grove

Categories: Life on the Veg
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Grace Le
It's HOT.
What better way to deal with this freakishly cold SoCal weather than by counter-attacking with some tongue-singeing Korean food? Dolsot (aka or stone pot) bibimbap is a wonderful way to keep your belly warm during T-shirt unfriendly weather and Kaju Tofu in Garden Grove does it right. With sauteed vegetables and juicy mushrooms piled over a slightly crisped bed of rice, this dish is filling, nutritious, and delicious (so long as you don't burn your taste buds off with the first bite).

Kaju offers dolsot bibimbap with add-in options of beef, egg, or both. Without the beef you have a lovely ovo-vegetarian meal and just subtract the egg to make the dish vegan-friendly. The colorful toppings consist of sauteed vegetables including julienned carrots, fiddlehead fern (gosari), shitake mushrooms, bean sprouts, spinach, Korean radish (mu), and strips of dried seaweed (kim). Season the dish to taste with hot pepper paste (gochujang) and stir everything together to create a mixture of savory bliss.

The second best part about ordering the dolsot bibimbap is the crunchy rice you get towards the bottom which is created by the extreme temperatures of stone pot. The thing literally comes out hissing, so don't go sticking your fingers anywhere near it until it has cooled down... or at least stopped making noise.

The absolute best part about ordering the dolsot bibimbap (or anything, for that matter) is the array of side dishes that come with it! Every entree comes with the following eight sides:

Fermented soybean soup (doenjang): Similar to Japanese miso soup, this dish is a warm and slightly briny broth flavored with soy bean paste and garnished with green onion.

Seasoned cucumbers: These are crisp slices of cucumber, marinated and seasoned with chili paste.

Beansprout salad (kang namul muchim): Slightly salty, these beansprouts are translucent, but remain crisp with subtle hints of sesame seed oil.

Potato salad: Self explanatory. Lightly seasoned, this dollop of potato salad is just a tad sweet with the occasional raisin found in the mix.

Spicy pickled cabbage (kimchi): This kimchi is flavorful, but not as salty or spicy as others tend to be. It's a good accompaniment to the other dishes and not overpowering.

Water kimchi (mool kimchi): Served in a cool broth, this dish is more zesty than spicy and is great for refreshing the palate.

Fish cake (tempura) and seasoned anchovies: Obviously not vegetarian, you can have these dishes replaced with any of the veg-friendly items listed above. Six out of eight choices isn't bad, though!

At $9.25 for the entire spread (including hot tea), the dolsot bibimbap is a smorgasbord of deliciousness just waiting to happen!
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