San Francisco; a 45-minute Bart ride from my mum’s house, it’s a wonderland for vegans and non-vegans. Thrift stores, strawberry kombucha, and people-watching – if a city could hold my heart, it would be SF.
While I’m against city living (too much concrete and fatty foods within my reach) I like being able to stroll the streets during the day. Excitement is everywhere, if you know where to look. Getting lost is more than easy in SF, but with a GPS and a few plotted out points, the intricacies disappear – it is suddenly a wonderland of vegan goodies and hip, artsy knick-knacks.
Over Christmas Break my brother, being the self-less soul he is, was incredibly
tolerant humbled when I asked to go with him on his excursion to the city. And so we went.
2 thrift stores, eggnog-less Bi-Rite, 2 scoops of Bi-Rite Creamery‘s vegan chocolate-coconut ice-cream (yum!) and 2 strawberry kombucha’s later we boarded the Bart with our loot and shuffled back to a warm dinner with the mother and step-father.
Yet before any of this awesomeness, our first stop was Namu Gaji. This hip little restaurant in the Mission District is focused on Korean Fusion food; They source their ingredients locally, and their menu reflects the changes of the seasons; the menu is short, yet each item is crafted with detail in mind and reflects their Korean roots perfectly.
I chose a vegan version of the dosirak (which was already vegetarian, but lists different protein choices, including tofu). It is similiar to a bento box, or ‘lunchbox’ with a small variety of sides and rice as the main grain. The cashier even noted my order would include the ‘vegetarian kimchi,’ which I really appreciated; not many people know that kimchi has fish and/or shrimp paste in it, and I sorely miss kimchi because of this.
My dosirak was quite pretty! Included were:
– Fried brussel sprouts
– Vegan kimchi
– Bean sprouts
– Some nori sheets
– Marinated tofu (to die for!)
– Big hunk of white rice
– And a side salad, pictured below:
But everything was delicious. You seriously cannot go wrong with this combination of yummy veggies – the brussel sprouts were crispy on the outside, but nice and earthy in taste; it was seasoned simply with a sprinkle of salt. The side salad was just a small mixture of leafy greens in a simple vinaigrette, nothing to rave about. The kimchi, rice and bean sprouts were good, but again nothing to rave about.
Oh but the tofu, the tofu. I got 6 pan-fried squares, but just one bite and I wished I had so many more; forget the other stuff in my tray, if I could pay for the tofu alone I’d have been absolutely fine with that.
From my experience with tofu (*ahem* thank you Chinese culture) it was definitely deep-fried tofu that had been marinated in a sweet soy sauce mixture overnight, then lightly fried in a pan before serving. It was simple in flavor, but texture wise it blew it me away. The skin was slightly crispy, but still held on to enough soy sauce so that it gave way easily, yet not too easily (gosh I can’t even describe it). The inner portion had pulled away from the skin and held on to the flavors of the marinade selfishly; it was a flavorful & overflowing flat slice of heaven.
Each bite was a contrast between the custard-like inside and textured outer skin; I savored each bit, and my brother agreed that it was by far the best tofu he’d ever eaten (sorry mum).
All in all, Namu Gaji deserves 4/5 stars. I feel that given the simplicity of the meal it needed more bulk; the rice had an overpowering presence on the plate. I probably could’ve made this meal for less than $3 at home, but the marinated tofu brings in the punch (as well as the fact that they had vegan kimchi).
I will be returning to Namu Gaji, and this time I am going to take all the tofu.