From the first time I was presented with a table-ful of banchan, those tasty little dishes of Korean goodies, mostly spicy and vegetarian, I was mystified that I could get a whole meal before actually getting my...meal. Of course, banchan aren't meant to act as a meal—they're just side dishes—but they're like, really freakin' tasty side dishes, and they're like, FREEEEE. I like every dish, from the funky gelatinous seafood goo to the tiny dried fishes with their gaping eye sockets to the spicy chunks of daikon to the boiled mung bean sprouts to the chopped snow peas to the EVERYTHING.
Last Tuesday I went to Han Bat with John for dinner. I had been to Han Bat once before and it made my "visit again" list for a few reasons: 1) BANCHAN, 2) big portions and 3) opposite of pricey. It also seems to be frequently mainly by Koreans, which is a good sign, yes? But I did have another reason.
I craved pajun, a chewy, thinly crispy crusted, seafood chunk and green onion-filled pancake sliced into little diamond-shaped pieces for your convenience. During my first visit my table of 8 (or was it more?) shared one of these. I figured it could also act as an entree.
And yes, it can act as an entree, but I discovered why people probably choose to share it with others as an appetizer (that's just my assumption from observing other tables); because trying to eat a pajun that is the size of a hubcap results in tastebud fatigue. At first you're all like, "Oh, this is really good, I could totally eat the whole thing," and then later you realize your stomach is leaden with rice and flour and seafood bits and the texture has toughened up due to the dissipating heat and you can't eat another bite because the pajun has expanded to fill your digestive tubes. Or maybe not; I don't know the scientific part of it. Basically, you realized halfway through that it's a helluva lot of seafood pancake and you're not gonna finish it. I also realized that I was quite adverse to squid, even just tiny purply-tinged nubbin' bits of it. I would coax these bits out of the pancake with my chopsticks whenever possible.
John actually loves squid, so he ordered a big honkin' plate of it coated in some spicy sauce. ...Which came with noodles and rice. I tried a piece of the squid, chewed for a few moments and realized squid didn't have much flavor. It was all about the odd texture, some weird imbalance between softness and firmness, not that chewy, not not chewy, not jello-esque, not whatever the opposite of jello is, not...what the hell is this stuff? It's like jello of the sea at the 85% stage of turning into a real boy. I don't know.
I have nothing against Han Bat's squid; I just have a feeling that I only enjoy squid in deep-fried form. The pajun was great too, or would've been better if I hadn't tried to force every last bit into my belly (which I failed at).
We went to Koryodang for dessert, where I picked a fruit off the banana cake tree. Which doesn't exist, but it'd be kinda cool if it did (a modern miracle of botany!). I think the Twinkie-like aspect of it gave me the impression that it would have an inner cavity of delicious cream, but the inner cavity was just made of cake. Ah. Well. It was still a tasty light, banana-flavored cake, even without the cream that I had imagined and so longed for with every beat of my heart, eeeevery beeeeeeaat.
the next day...
The next day I went to Big Booty Bread Co, which I wrote about on Gothamist. I was planning to write a better review on this blog, but the desire ebbed away as the commenters informed me that any place depicting a Chelsea queen (a term I hadn't even heard of until after I made the post) is intolerable and makes crappy baked goods. Wow, I can learn so much from anonymous commenters! Not. And I won't go into the underlying messages of...stuff...ugh, nevermind.
I stand by whatever I said, that the bakery makes tasty things and the chocolate chip cookies also fall within that category. To whoever wanted to know what size the chocolate chip cookies are, I'd say depending on where you measure the diameter it could range from oh, 11 to 12 centimeters, give or take a millimeter. And if you want to know the diameter, why not the height? Perhaps a centimeter there? Dear god, I don't carry around a ruler and calipers with me as common food review tools and I'm not hardcore enough to make note of how big something is before I eat it. IT IS NORMAL COOKIE SIZED.
My Gothamist review didn't mention the cheese rocks. So here is a cheese rock. It's a little cheese-flavored roll that is soft, hole-filled, somewhat chewy, not dense but not very light either. It's good! I don't know what it's made of, but it didn't taste like any other bread I've had. The crust shielded the innards, but wasn't really hard or crunchy in any way. It was just...another texture. Hm.
I like reading articles on Gothamist, but spending time taking photos and writing about food, a process that takes away from the effort I put into this blog and usually results in staying up late on Thursday night to make sure the post is ready for Friday morning, for people who don't like where I eat or how I write, is heartbreaking. I know those type of people are few, yet I somehow attracted a mob of them in my last post. It's not my obligation to give those readers anything; I'd rather write for you guys.
Anyhoo. Guess what I found at Han Ah Reum after leaving Big Booty Bread Co?
Could it beeee?
Sweet ferocious fire-breathing possum, it's THE POPSICLE! Yes, that one! Kinda. Mind doesn't look as pretty, but it's close. There was only one lone watermelon popsicle in the freezer case. And it was miiiine. For $2.
I know the tastiness of it had partially to do with having seen the pretty photo on flickr, which gave it an air of magical popsicle mysticism, but it was tasty on its own right! Yes. Like watermelon. Watermelon with hot pink flesh that melts into a puddle of goo and is studded with chocolate candy "seeds." I polished it off on the walk back to Serious Eats because it would've completely melted otherwise. I plan to go back to Han Ah Reum for more Asian popsicle happiness.