“Korean cuisine is no longer America’s ascending Asian cuisine; it has fully arrived” Eater.
Korean cuisine is a six billion dollar industry in America. After decades of flying under the radar, Korean food such as barbecued meats, fried chicken, tofu soups, bulgogi, and fermented pickles have come into culinary vogue.
The popularity of Korean food and restaurants has propelled over the years thanks to social media, renowned chefs adapting it in their mainstream restaurants, and second generations of Korean Americans who successfully bring their parents’ vision into modern society of food consumption.
Brother and sister duo Fabio and Estela Park left their corporate careers when their mom asked for their help to take their family restaurant to the next level. Kaju Tofu House was started in 1994 by family member and then passed on to their parents in early 2000.
Kaju Tofu House was one of the first tofu soup (soondubu jjigae) restaurants in Orange County, California. When ordered, the kimchi-based tofu soup arrives volcanic-ally hot in a hot-stone bowl and is served with the protein of your choice (beef, seafood, or pork). Non-meateaters can also order this Korean comfort soup with just kimchi (Korean pickled and fermented vegetables).
The first Kaju Tofu House in Garden Grove, California often has a 20 to 40 minute wait, especially during dinner time. The menu has more than 10 types of tofu soup along with extremely popular meat dishes that non-Korean customers covet such as marinated grilled short ribs (galbi), grilled beef, and spicy pork, and can be ordered with different level of spiciness: white, mild, medium, spicy, very spicy, very very spicy and triple spicy. The family business now has added one more location in Buena Park, California, which recently has become a booming Korean community outside of Koreatown in Los Angeles.
The family business requires all hands on deck. Fabio manages the finances, ensures quality control, oversees vendor relations, and conducts office management. His sister, Estela handles customer service, human resources and personnel, and training duties. Their mom, Byung Hee Park, is still involved in everything while entrusting her children with the business’ day-to-day functions.
Kaju Tofu House’s bbq pork ribs, short ribs soup, bibimbap. Photos Courtesy of Lisa Hu Chen
“Freshness and quality consistency are essential to us” said Fabio. “Every morning our cooks prepare the tofu soup broth and all the essential ingredients for the tofu soup and banchans (side dishes). In the afternoon, after the lunch rush, we do it all over again. Every night we run an inventory and order produce and meat for the next day. We pride ourselves for delivering the freshest ingredients.”
Kaju Tofu House’s most popular dishes are Galbi BBQ Ribs, Seafood Tofu Soup, Bulgogi BBQ, Galbi Tofu Soup, Combination Tofu Soup and Spicy Pork BBQ. Their Buena Park has a larger menu with many family style Korean dishes. When asked whether they plan on expanding farther, Fabio explains that they would like to and it’s a huge possibility, as long as they can continue to provide fresh and authentic Korean dishes to customers consistently.
Attention Vietnamese Pho lovers, you must try the short ribs soup also known as galbitang. This rich and satisfying soup is full of flavor with soft and tender ribs thanks to hours of slow cooking. For meat enthusiasts, be sure to enjoy their barbeque pork ribs and grilled beef short ribs with white or brown rice. Happy eating!
@YvonLux is a marketing CEO and founder of VANT4GE, LLC who also owns her custom-clothing line, Yvon Lux. She is also a published beauty and lifestyle blogger and editor for her empowering Apple News channel. Connect with her on Instagram and don't forget to subscribe to her channel!
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