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Posts Tagged ‘Korean BBQ’

Hello everyone! After a busy summer, I’ve got a month off before school starts again in London. As a result I’m spending 4 weeks in gluttony in one of the tastiest places in the world: New York City. This city is, to me, filled with bests and worsts. I’d say it’s definitely the best for food diversity – from food carts to five-star, from delis to dim sum, New York has everything your heart desires. If you know where to look, it’s mostly pretty darn authentic, too. The worst part? It’s not cheap. A sit-down dinner including taxes and tip (which, from what I learned, is usually 20%!) will set you back at least $20 a head and that’s probably if you don’t get a drink. (A note: I feel the expectation to tip 20% is ridiculous. I understand wait staff don’t get a high base pay here, but IMHO, if they want 20% from me, they need to EARN it. Some service I’ve encountered here is worse than in London, and there everyone expects something like 12% tip – if at all. Get it together, folks!)

But I digress. We are interested in food here, delicious morsels of food that stick to your memory as much as to your gut, and naturally I’ve found a few of those meals in New York. I thought I’d start my New York Eats series with one of the best meals in my life. Seriously.

It was thanks to my high school buddy, S, whom I hadn’t seen in four or five years, at least. We’d decided to catch up in his neighborhood of Queens. I asked him what he would eat if he were to move out of the area tomorrow and he immediately replied “We should go out to Flushing.” Turns out, for those of us not from NY, Flushing is like the true Chinatown/Korea Town of New York City. Stepping out onto Main and Roosevelt was like flashing back to Hong Kong for me, with storefronts covered in neon Chinese signs, boba shops, and masses and masses of Asian people. S took me to have Korean BBQ at Han Joo and oh man, was it amazing. I’ve since read that before this place did BBQ, they were specialists in naeng myun, or cold, thin Korean noodles. One day I will perhaps go back and try the naeng myun, but after my meal last week, I’d be hard-pressed to veer from the BBQ.

From what I can tell Han Joo specializes in pork, which is in spades on their menu (hurray!). There’s a minimum of two orders per table if you do the BBQ, so we ordered the thin-sliced pork and garlic pork. I wanted to try the bibimbap as well but S, who’d been there once before, looked at me and said, “We’re also getting lots of small plates and stuff; I think this is enough.” I, who’d been thinking of the puny banchans in Hong Kong, wasn’t expecting a lot, but as the newbie at the table, deferred to him.

Well. It was a wise choice. Immediately after we ordered, no less than nine plates of banchan came out, from kimchi with blue crab to seafood pancakes to pickled sliced daikon, great to eat on its own or wrapped into the BBQ.

Just as we started nibbling, they brought out the grill – a super-heated slab of crystal, which was perched at a 45-degree angle, allowing the pork grease to flow into an empty container. I thought the slab was brilliant, not least of which because it seemed to make my clothes smell less BBQ-ed at the end of the night, and no meat pieces got burnt. The slices of piggy perfection came next, which our server expertly cooked for us.

She later added more kimchi to the grill and since the slab was angled, the kimchi became progressively more flavored as more pork juices flowed down – genius!

We got the traditional dipping oil, bean paste, fresh lettuce, and kkaennip, or Korean perilla (my favorite) for wrapping, along with a fresh dish of scallion salad to add to the filling.

I made my first one with the thin pork and the first bite delivered a trifecta via taste and texture: crunch and freshness from the lettuce, salty and savory juices from the pork and sauces, and a hit of sweetness from the ssamjang.

About a quarter into the meal, we also got a stone pot with bubbling steamed egg, or gyeran jjim. It reminded me of a Chinese egg dish my mom used to make – wonder if it came first from China or Korea, or developed in tandem in these neighboring countries. It was another nice touch to our meal, but it just added to what was, by then, an embarrassment of food for just two people.

But, S and I had no shame – how could we when the food was THAT good? We tucked in and demolished nearly all of it, save some banchan and a couple spoonfuls of gyeran jjim. Another bonus arrived at the end of the meal: complimentary dessert in the shape of small Korean yogurt bottles. A creamy, delicious way to balance the spicy and savory meal – and if the yogurt is like the Yakult I know, it’s supposed to aid digestion as well. An apt end, as I had no idea how I was ever going to eat again…but seriously, the meal was so worth it.

A week later, I am still thinking about Han Joo. I want to take my boyfriend there. I want to take my friends there. I want to take everyone I’ve ever cared about in my life there (provided they eat meat). Honestly, if you love Korean BBQ, if you love meat, or if you love food in general, you have not lived until you’ve tried this BBQ.

Han Joo
46-10 149th Pl. (between 41st and Barclay)
Flushing, New York 11355
718-359-6888
Cost: $25/person with tax and tip (no drinks)

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This is a very belated post, but since my last trip afforded such good food, I couldn’t bear to leave it off the blog! P and I went to Seoul over Easter break for a short three-day trip. Again, as with the Taipei trip, I spent precious hours scouring the web for the best food options. I’ve listed some of our favorites here, but in Seoul, addresses are a bit useless; due to a somewhat-random numbering system and twisty-turny alleyways, everyone relies on landmarks for directions. And, since I can’t read Korean, business cards were no use to me either. If you can’t find these places, don’t fret. In general, I found that it’s very easy to find good food in Seoul. Just follow your nose. Good luck!

YOOGANE

Grilling the dak galbi

In my research, I came across this blog post from What’s Cooking at Soomeenshee’s. The description of the dak galbi, or BBQ chicken, was so delicious. I knew I had to find it. Fortunately, P and I were staying in Myeongdong and a quick early-morning stroll accidentally got us to this restaurant. When we went back later that night, it was packed with dak galbi lovers.

At every table there’s a flat grill; when you order, the waiters bring a pan and the ingredients and cook it in front of your eyes. If you want to feel useful, after they leave for the next table, you can also shove things around for a bit. There are many options for the chicken, and we chose the regular and the “extra spicy” variety just for kicks. After eyeing the next table, we also got a side of fried rice, which the waiters mix in with the chicken.

So hot right now

I think cooking is part of the experience itself, since I don’t go to many DIY restaurants in HK (and definitely not in South Dakota!). Personally, I believe the food tastes better after you know your love and sweat has gone into it (however much you can muster in about 10 minutes). Anyways, the chicken was great – the spicy, slightly sour marinade was delicious, though it effectively set our lips on fire! Each order of dak galbi also came with potatoes, rice cakes, and cabbage. In my opinion, though, there was too much of the latter and not enough of the other two. The banchan also left something to be desired, but hey, when you’re here for the chicken, everything else pales in comparison. The fried rice was great too, especially at the end when the bottom of the rice started burning slightly, for the crispy finish I love.

On a side note, the owner (?) is an avid record collector and while we were dining, we heard everything from The Velvet Underground to Peter, Paul, and Mary. He’s got a massive collection and if you bug him enough, he’ll take requests. Yoogane is definitely a fun experience, and nice pit stop in the shopping mecca of Myeongdong.

Yoogane
Myeongdong
(02) 3789 3392
Cost: 8000 KRW/person

STONE HOUSE

One night P and I went to the Hongik University area, which was hopping with tons of bars, restaurants, and trendy students. We read it had a great music scene but didn’t quite make it to the venues as we got sidetracked at dinner. We literally stumbled into this Korean BBQ place; its Korean name roughly translates into “Stone House” (thanks to L for the interpretation!). The menu had six items (and there were more drink than food options!) and every table had its own wood-fire grill.

Hongik happiness

Again, when we ordered, we had no idea what we were doing. But, in between checking out other people’s food and communicating in pidgin English with the waitress, we managed to get some kind of pork to grill, and a pan of bibimbap. 

The open fire seemed raw and edgy, as if we had returned to the roots of humanity and were now cooking like our ancestors (or so it seemed to me, after two quick shots of soju!).

We didn't start the fire...

The side dishes were not too impressive, but there was a wonderful soybean-based soup with onions that was salty but a little grainy too, like the miso soup served at Japanese restaurants. Anyways, we patiently grilled our pork, garlic and mushrooms. When it was done, we dutifully drenched the pork in sauce and wrapped it in lettuce leaves – delicious. Nothing like taking your meal off the grill yourself.

On the left: Yummy soup. On the right: Dipping sauce for our pork.

Porky perfection

The bibimbap was also mouthwatering. We set the pan directly on the grill and waited until the bottom turned nice and crispy. A great side for our BBQ. And of course, great drinking food for our soju!

Bibimbap with a slightly burnt bottom

“Stone House” (벽돌집)
The back streets of Hongik
Cost: Anywhere from 9000 – 14,000 KRW for meats

INSADONG TEA HOUSE
Yes, Insadong is the name of the “old town” part of Seoul, but it’s also the name of a traditional tea house in the area. P and I met up with M and J, two Seoul locals who exchanged at my school in HK last year, and they took us to this charming place.

Insadong Tea House

The inside has three separate seating areas: a front area with wooden decor, a middle courtyard for outdoor seating, and a set of back rooms designed like a Korean hanok.

The cozy front room of the Insadong Tea House

M and J helped me order the “Five Flavors Tea,” or omijacha, a gorgeous blood-orange tea that tasted sour, sweet, bitter, salty, and pungent (didn’t know that was a flavor) all at once. I loved the distinct taste.

Omijacha

Insadong Tea House
Insadong-gil (the main street)
(02) 723-4909

SEOUL STREET FOOD

I saved my favorite food adventure for last: Street Food! P and I took one afternoon to wander around Myeongdong and stuffed ourselves silly. There are tons of stands selling everything from novelty-shaped flat cookies to fried potato chips on a stick to…well, everything else on a stick.

Like the state fairs back home

I definitely loved the small sausages and sausage-wrapped rice cake kebabs at one stand. Dress it up with mustard and ketchup and you’re good to go.

Street sausages

We also had fried chicken on a stick on the first day, delicious with a sweet and sour sauce on top.

Again, KFC will never been the same

I think my favorite street food, though, was gunmandu, or grilled dumplings. The stand was located in front of Noon Square, and P and I spent several minutes admiring the grilling station.

The mandu masters at work

Cutting them into halves...

...and the final product. Start salivating.

Street food
Myeongdong

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