Seafood soup for the soul

The warm delights of Tofu Village
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IT TAKES A VILLAGE Chuck chicken noodle soup. Forget pho. When I'm sick, I need the warmth and sinus-clearing spice of hot and sour soup, or in a pinch, Top Ramen with lots of Tapatio. But the last time I was sick, in an effort to explore my new Outer Sunset hood, I decided to take my chances on the offerings at the almost-year-old Tofu Village.

Now, I'm all about immediate gratification. So I was happy when, 30 seconds after I sat down, steaming tea arrived. Then, 30 seconds after I ordered, came little plates of banchan: seaweed salad, vinegar-soaked bean sprouts, stewed potatoes, kimchi, and fish cakes. And 30 seconds after that? A whole fried fish. (I know it's a delicacy, but I usually hate when my meat looks like what it used to be — except for cow-shaped steaks, which are fun. In this case, though, the crispy skin and tender flaky fish made my hesitant bite worthwhile.)

Then came the seafood tofu soup, in a basketball-size, steaming ceramic bowl. I ordered mine spicy (out of four options, this was the third hottest), and it was almost too much even for my heat-inured taste buds. The concoction was full of silky tofu, clams, and oysters — leading to my next triumph over a squeamish moment with unshelled prawns (carapaces, antennae, and pleopods — oh my!). The rice was kept warm in a similar ceramic bowl — a traditional touch — although the server didn't offer to mix it with green tea, as is custom. The bulgogi, served on a sizzling ceramic plate, was flavorfully marinated and tender against the fresh pop of green onion.

Like a mother — a brisk, efficient, multitasking, slightly hovering mother — Tofu Village left me happy, stuffed, and still sniffling but feeling better. The best part? Getting all that food for just under $20.

TOFU VILLAGE Mon.–Thu., 11 a.m.–9:30 p.m.; Fri.–Sat., 11 a.m.–10 p.m. 1920 Irving, SF. (415) 661-8322

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