Food & Drink

Taste This

OK, show of hands. Who (besides me) had pumpkin pie for breakfast this morning? Thought so. And I know I can't be the only one planning on a turkey-and-stuffing-and-gravy sandwich for lunch. Maybe with a dollop of cranberry sauce. Of course, I'll have to have some leftover corn pudding and roasted sweet potatoes and cheesy broccoli casserole and mandarin orange salad and pickled peaches on the side. And another slice of pumpkin pie for dessert.

And if history holds true, I know that sometime in the next 24 hours or so, I'll be suffering from the malady that plagues many Americans this time of year. That's right, the dreaded hyper-gobble-itis.

Fortunately, I know a foolproof remedy: a bowl of Korean tofu soup at Vit Goal Tofu in Durham. It's a painless cure -- downright pleasant, in fact -- and practically guaranteed to relieve the common symptoms of boredom, bloated belly and tryptophan overload. And that's not all. This gastronomic wonder drug can reduce blood sugar and cholesterol levels, strengthen bones, even prevent cancer and relieve menopause symptoms. It says so right there on the menu.

For me, Korean tofu soup's chief appeal is that in many ways it's the culinary opposite of Thanksgiving dinner. It's exotic and spicy (but not too much of either, unless you order it extra hot), it's refreshing, and it's satisfying but won't leave you stuffed or sleepy. The soup is a meal in a bowl, and it is offered in 10 variations, from plain to an extravagant combination of beef, oysters, clams and shrimp. All share a foundation of tofu (not the bland, rubbery cubes you may be thinking of, but delicate, fluffy curds reminiscent of a perfectly scrambled egg) and fresh vegetables in a garlicky, spicy-fragrant broth. The soup is delivered to your table furiously boiling in a preheated stone bowl, so that it remains hot until the last bite. And believe me, you'll want every drop.

I usually go for the kimchee beef tofu soup -- I find the play of lean beef against the bracing bite of fermented cabbage addictive -- but I may try the mushroom tofu soup this time. The earthy flavor of mushrooms would certainly hit the spot this time of year, and it would be a change of pace.

Which reminds me of another benefit of Korean tofu soup: There is no turkey flavor.

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