|▲ Donghwa Garden / CEO Park Yang-hee
About a 225 kilometers (139 miles) drive toward east from Seoul, Gangneung City probably is the best tourist destination in Gangwon Province. The mountain is high in the back and the sea is vast and blue in the front and the air is clean and fresh. While seafood and seasoned vegetables are abundant and popular among tourists, you cannot say you have visited the city if you have left without trying ‘chodang-soondubu (tofu)’, the most famous local specialty. Chodang is the name of the village where the tofu was first made with the salty water from the East Sea.
Drive down south a little from Gyeongpo Beach to drop by Chodang Soondubu Village. If you have not decided which restaurant to step into, try Donghwa Garden, one of the best and most popular. More than 3,000 outsiders are having the taste every day and you can check the fame by typing the name on portal sites or social media.
Order ‘onejo-jjamsooni’, the best seller of the restaurant. It is an original menu developed by combining tofu with jjamppong (spicy noodle soup). Instead of the noodle, CEO Park Yang-hee used tofu to create a unique taste and mouthfeel. The menu was developed for a lunch menu but it started to attract more people than chodang tofu and Park turned it as the main.
“A secret of onejo-jjamsooni is more than 15 times of frying when making the broth. Another secret is to use the freshest ingredients in a constantly rolling wok” says the head chef Wu Seung-won.
Donghwa Garden uses 100% Korean beans with the salty water from the East Sea to make chodang-soondubu. For this reason, the tofu has deeper and richer taste than that of other regions. Wu wakes up at 4am every morning to start making tofu for the day. Wu says that whether you can have tofu pure as it is or jjamsooni, it has the same quality but different flavor and mouthfeel. If you are a couple, Wu highly recommends you to try a couple meal consisting two jjamsooni and one pure tofu.
If you want to try something other than tofu, go for patented ‘ansongja-cheonggukjang (fermented soybeans)’ which is not foot-smelly thanks to seaweed and cordyceps militaris (a species of fungus) contained.
The second floor of Donghwa Garden is Cafe Donghwa and you can enjoy various tofu gelatos alongside coffee and other beverages after your meal at the first floor.
If you think the restaurant is too packed with people, you can expect another Donghwa Garden soon to be open in front of Gangneung High School. This manless restaurant will treat you with the same price you pay at the flagship restaurant and you can also shop tofu-based food and other vegetables and side dishes on the first floor.
CEO Park has been donating people in need for a long time and recently has become the 16th Gangneung citizen registered to the Honor Society. To be a member of the Honor Society, you must donate at least 100 million won (88,144 USD) at once or in 5 year installment.
“It is my goal to make Donghwa Garden as one of the best restaurants in the world. I hope to see foreigners come and have unique Korean tofu taste when the virus is contained” says Park. PowerKorea
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