By Felicia Ho ’19
Looking for a quick bite after a long morning of running errands at Costco on Route 10 in East Hanover? Instead of reaching for a mountain of greasy fries from Five Guys, take a minute to walk just a bit further and stop by So Gong Dong (S.G.D.) Dubu Tofu and BBQ.
Once inside, you will be greeted by a simply decorated yet spacious room lined with traditional Korean brushstroke characters on all sides. At your seat, take a peek at the paper table mat to learn more about soondubu, S.G.D.’s prized tofu stew dish, and how it can reduce cancer risk—who knew you could learn so much at a restaurant?
The menu is very easy to follow as it is split into four primary components: soondubu, the tofu stew; bibimbap, a mixture of rice, kimchi, and meat or vegetables; Korean BBQ, a bowl of pork, beef, or chicken; and dishes to share. S.G.D. also gives you the power to choose how spicy your dishes will be to fit your preferences.
For those of you who are just venturing into the world of Korean cuisine, I highly recommend the vegetable bibimbap on a hot stone plate. The rice, egg, squash, mushrooms, bean curds, and kimchi will come out a little toasted on the bottom of the plate, adding a surprisingly pleasant crunch. Do not panic when your bibimbap arrives unmixed! Your job is to mix it all together and add as much gochujang, or Korean hot sauce, as you would like. Then, dig in – even if the dish may be as simple as putting white rice together with cooked vegetables, all the flavors will erupt in your mouth and truly warm you up.
The seafood pancake is a great choice to share with others. Similar to the spring onion pancake in Chinese cuisine, it is a fried pancake bursting with squid, chives, shrimp, and more. Brave the thin shimmer of oil and take a bite—you will not regret it!
Although you cannot grill your own pork, chicken, or beef at S.G.D., the Korean BBQ that is grilled in the kitchen and served in a steaming plate is fantastic. The meat is tender and chewy, melting in your mouth as you let out that sigh of happiness. Be sure to check out the onions tossed in to the plate as they have also been infused with that unique Korean spice and are super crispy.
In addition to the main plates, banchan, little cold Korean side dishes, will also be served with an egg drop soup. Banchan options range from sweet bean curds to cucumbers covered with gochujang. Even if you do not like spicy food, give the kimchi banchan a shot. Rather than numbing your mouth with an overpowering kick, the kimchi, combined with a dash of vinegar, gives more of a gentle nudge.
All items on the menu range in price from around 10 to 20 dollars, making S.G.D. an affordable place for lunch from newcomers to those who eat Korean food every day of their lives. As there are few Korean restaurants outside of Edison, Fort Lee, and K-Town in New York City, S.G.D. in East Hanover has always been a wonderful place for me to indulge in spicy kimchi without suffering in traffic. As the temperatures drop and the wind picks up, save that hot chocolate packet for later and instead look for the S.G.D. sign (indeed, it has several locations nationwide) to warm yourself up with a fresh and spicy bowl of bibimbap or tofu stew.