The tiniest chicken egg in the world?

I was feeling pretty lazy on Friday, but resolved that I would make a food excursion – I was craving spice, in a bad way.  I’m not sure, then, why I ended up googling Mangal, the Turkish eatery that’s the only Sunnyside entry on the VV list, because even the spiciest doner kebap I’ve ever had pales in comparison to what I usually require when craving spice.

Fortunately, serendipity struck again, and I found a message board thread that dealt with Mangal and its neighbors in Sunnyside.  When I saw the posting that mentioned Natural Tofu Restaurant and its four-tiered spice scale (from “very mild” to “very spicy”), I knew that it would be my evening’s destination.

Literally across the eastbound half of Queens Boulevard from the 40th Street stop on the 7 train, Natural Tofu, like its neighborhood, attracts a virtual United Nations of eaters.  Unlike the Flushing Korean restaurants which seem to attract far a far more homogenous crowd, you’re just as likely to see a table of boisterous young Koreans as older Irish gentlemen.  And, for once, it’s bigger than a breadbox – you could bring a group of people here with no trouble finding a seat.  (Hmm…that sounds like a good idea, in fact.)

It’s easy for me to see why it’s popular across ethnic boundaries – the food is both cheap and delicious.  A bowl of the soft tofu stew known as soondooboo is $8.  The price includes rice (served from a larger version of the stone crock that will hold your stew, brought by a guy with a cart) and a full array of the appetizer dishes known as “panchan.”  Besides the standard kimchee, the little dishes contained sesame-oiled bean sprouts, some kind of crispy minnow, what I think were sliced mushrooms, several slices of a sweet egg concoction, and one other thing I’m forgetting.

The other small dish that arrived had a tiny egg in it – I don’t think it was a quail egg, just a smaller-than-usual chicken egg (I guess all the eggs we buy in the grocery ARE marked “jumbo,” right?).  This isn’t some kind of milkshake additive or raw treat for salmonella-risking daredevils, but something to crack open into your stew when it arrives at your table bubbling with angry orange and red colors (courtesy of the spices, I’m sure).  It cooks!

I tried the very spicy stew, because I’m basically that guy, and I have to say that the heat was tolerable but, as with most things that are both temperature and spice hot, the temperature made the spice level a little harder to take.  I might try it in the “spicy” variety next time to see if it’s easier to eat without waiting fifteen minutes.  Oh, yeah, and it had oysters in it, which imparted a nice seafoody flavor to the broth, but the actual oysters themselves were kind of funky.  It’s also available in standard meat and veggie flavors, though, so never fear.

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