Kunjip and Koryodang

January 11, 2012 § 1 Comment

One of the many television shows I’ve been watching over winter break is Kimchi Chronicles, a PBS documentary slash travel show about the food and culture of Korea. Of course, it was only natural that afterwards, I had a fierce craving for Korean barbecue and kimchi. When ┬áit came to deciding where to meet some Georgetown friends in New York City, Kunjip in midtown came to mind.

The restaurant was just starting its dinner rush when we arrived, but within half an hour, there were lines out the door, which we took as a good sign for the food. Overall, service was efficient and almost a bit too hurried, but you could tell that the manager and staff had done this many times before and had developed a system to make sure tables were being filled as quickly as possible.

We began with panchan – small side dishes to accompany the meal – which included various kinds of kimchi, mung bean sprouts, steamed eggs, and fish cakes with vegetables.

We ordered haemool jun gol, a spicy seafood soup with a whole octopus, clams, shrimp, crabs, tofu and rice cakes. Although the flavors were good and I loved that our server cut up larger pieces of seafood with scissors, the octopus became quite tough and overcooked, pretty much inedible since it was so chewy.

We couldn’t have a Korean dinner with barbecue, so we ordered kalbi, which was served ssam style with fermented bean paste, rice, scallion salad, and garlic wrapped in lettuce. The meat was very tender and juicy, but the portion was a bit underwhelming considering the price tag.

Our final dish was ddukboki, starchy cylindrical rice cakes reminiscent of gnocchi in a spicy, sweet stew with onions and carrots. So comforting, my favorite dish of the evening for its simplicity.

Afterwards, we stopped at nearby Koryodong for bubble tea and dessert. The pastries and assorted breads were standard Korean desserts and not particularly jaw-dropping, but the space was the perfect place for all the catching up we had to do.

In the past, I’ve kind of forgotten about Koreatown since it’s so close to Penn Station, but after visiting these two places, I’m looking forward to exploring its restaurants and cafes a little more in the future.

Kunjip
9 W. 32nd Street
New York, NY 10001
212.216.9487

Koryodang
3
1 West 32nd Street
New York, NY 10001

Samgyupsahl

January 8, 2010 § 1 Comment

I tried this grilled pork belly dish for the first time at Honey Pig in Annandale, VA. When I went grocery shopping with my mom this weekend at H Mart, I saw already-sliced pork belly and decided to give it a go. Though I know the traditional way to prepare and eat this dish requires that the meat is unseasoned and given the good old lettuce wrap treatment, I wanted something spicy, sweet, and savory.

With the 7 lb container of gochujang that I still have from one of my mom’s impulse buys, I threw together a bunch of traditional Asian ingredients for a marinade and hoped for the best. Surprisingly, the pork belly turned out just as I had hoped. Here’s the gist:

3 heaping tablespoons of gochujang, Korean red pepper paste
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 green chili pepper, diced
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons sugar
1.5 teaspoons salt
as much water as you need

Whisk all those ingredients together while pouring in water little by little, until you have a thick liquid. The marinade should not be pasty but able to soak into the pork belly.

Marinade 1.5 – 2 lbs of pork belly in the red marinade for at least an hour, preferably several. When done marinating, grill or pan-sear, flipping on to the other side after about 30 seconds and after 30 seconds on the other side, take off the heat. Don’t move them too much while they’re cooking. Also, make sure you don’t grill them for too long otherwise they’ll dry out and I hate nothing more than dry pork.

You can either wrap this in lettuce with white rice and Korean bean paste, or do as our family did and simply eat it over white rice with sauteed greens. YUM.

Ddukbokgi, Korean-style gnocchi

June 30, 2009 § 2 Comments

A lot of people call dduki Korean rice cakes, but that name always conjures up images of the Quaker oats man and flavorless pieces of cardboard. I think these dduk can be more likened to gnocchi, but instead of potatoes and flour, these dumplings are made of rice flour and water.

One of the most popular dishes to feature these starchy bites is ddukbokgi which I tried for the first time at Mandu in Dupont Circle, DC. After some recipe browsing online, I realized that I’d never be able to recreate the dish authentically unless I had the Korean hot pepper paste, dochujang, and since I had never tried anything else with that same sauce, I thought I’d never have the opportunity.

However, thanks to my mom and her grocery shopping impulses, the last time I was home during spring break, she brought home a HUGE tub of the stuff that only cost $7 without even really knowing what it was good for. When I saw it after coming back from Hong Kong, on my first trip to Kam Man supermarket, I made a beeline for the cylindrical dduk (you can use ovalettes in this recipe too but I prefer the meatier cylinders) and cooked the dish the same day. Paired with Korean-style bbq short ribs, this makes a really delicious and satisfying meal.

Unlike the version at Mandu, I add red bell peppers, which accented the sweetness of the sauce and added the necessary crunch to contrast with the soft and squishy dduk. Yum. Just a note: if you’re heating leftovers the next day, it’s better to heat them on the stove rather than the microwave. That way they soften up again.

DDukbokgi

1 lb package of cylindrical dduk, thawed
sliced mushrooms, onions, peppers, or whatever vegetables you may have on hand
2 tbspn soy sauce
2 tbspn dochujang, Korean hot pepper paste
1 1/2 – 2 tpbsn sugar, depending on how sweet you want the dish to be
2 tbspn sesame oil
1-2 fat cloves of garlic, minced finely
salt to taste

Separate the dduk. If you think the cylinders are too big, you can cut each of them in half, but I like them to be quite substantial bites. Drop the dduk in a large pot of boiling water, making sure you salt the water first. Drain after cooked all the way through and soft; this usually takes about 5 minutes.

In a bowl, mix together the soy sauce, dochujang, sugar, sesame oil, and garlic. It should taken on the consistency of ketchup.

In a wok or large saute pan on medium heat, add oil. When hot, add vegetables and stirfry for 3-4 minutes until cooked. Add the drained dduk as well as the sauce mixture and stir until everything is evenly coated and heated through. Add salt to taste. For garnish, you can top the ddukbokgi with sliced scallions and toasted sesame seeds.

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