I want to start by saying I know I don't update this blog frequently enough. No one is telling me this aside from the gnat that lives in the back of my brain and goes, "ROBYN, YOU DO NOT UPDATE ENOUGH," in whatever voice a gnat has. It makes me feel poopy, yet I'm not doing much to change my habits. Right now I'm perfectly aware that the time I'm spending writing about how I don't write enough I could apply to ...writing something useful. But instead I'll just divulge where some of the time has gone over the past week: spending an undocumented ("really long" if I had to estimate) amount of time reading Children of the 90s and feeling nostalgic and old; attending Nathan's International Hot Dog Eating Contest; in one afternoon, eating at two dessert shops followed by dinner; being perpetually depressed by American health care; being sporadically depressed by reminders of loneliness, but at the same time wanting to live alone (at one point even looking up one-bedroom apartment prices in Philly and feeling frustrated by how cheap it is); at some point, sleeping in my bed; sleeping on the subway (I'm quite skilled at this, not that it's anything to brag about); watching Moon (I was about to say something that would've given away the plot); watching the four-hour long Love Exposure and thinking love is funneh, Japanese movies are awesome, and Nishijima Takahiro is frighteningly adorable; working from 10 a.m to 7 p.m. on weekdays; biking around Brooklyn for one and a half hours; getting a haircut (and as you can see in that photo, eating carrot cake in Brighton Beach); eating...other stuff; procrastinating; emailing; showering.
[breathes out] That's some of it. Selected bits. Not that you have to know all that.
Another reason I don't blog as frequently as I should is because I insist on stuffing too much content into one post. This post could be four posts on another blog, but I'd rather get it all out in one massive, bloated go.
So on to the real stuff: FOOD.
Pocha 32, which I assume is a shortened version of Korean street food tents called pojangmacha, is known as "that divey bar/restaurant in K-Town where you can get huge pots of street food and watermelon soju." See those bottles on the sides of the awning? You're in for a drunken treat!
Okay, it's not that divey. It's mostly decorated with green fishing nets, bottle caps, and happy photographs of their gazillion customers. If you have an aversion to any of these things (photos of smiling strangers, all staring at you), you should go somewhere else.
Unless you don't drink, like me. Accompanied by Carol and some of her friends (I'd suggest eating here with at least three other people; it's $19 for a huge pot), I tried the budae jjigae, or "army-base stew," made with hot dogs, Spam, ramyun (ramen), cheese, rice cakes, pork, cabbage, tofu chunks, carrots, watercress, and god knows what else in a spicy/sweet gochujang-flavored broth. It's a hearty pot of delicious savory things that don't really go together, but don't not go together. And then you eat it because it's there, and subsequently realize, "Hey, this is pretty good." It might be better with alcohol.
The seafood soup with rice cakes and stuff (not the real name, but that's basically it) was a little less enthralling. It's not bad, just...unexpected, perhaps. It had bean noodles instead of ramyun, and there was a bit too much cheese for my liking. But if you love seafood bits + melty shredded cheese, you're in for a treat! (This combination must please someone or else it wouldn't exist. I'm down with melted cheese on fried fish cake-like things, not so much on, say, squid chunks.)
Hyo Dong Gak
I met with a newly un-veganed Colin at Hyo Dong Gak, a Korean-Chinese restaurant, for their specialty...
Jja jang myun, (or jajangmyeon or jajjajjgfug whatever, you get the idea), that beloved Korean-Chinese dish that I realize now, after eating it for the third time, I don't really like.
I'd have to enjoy the flavor of black soybean sauce a lot more to fully appreciate how it tastes slathered over a bunch of fat wheat noodles. To me, the flavor is...bland. Aside from the sauce, there isn't much else going on in this dish—onion nubs and pork chunks? I could do with more pork.
I'm fully aware that people love jja jang myun; my voice of dissent shouldn't prevent you from trying it. You might like it! ...Or, you know, not.
The noodles are so long that you have to cut them with scissors. Unless you like long, unwieldy noodles. In which case, a win for you.
Colin and I were much more into the Szechuan-style tofu made of soft tofu cubes slathered in a spicy mapo dofu-esque sauce that also had a hint of Korean red chili spiciness. (If I were more knowledgeable about spices and whatnot I could be more specific. But I'm not.) I'm putting it on the "WOULD EAT AGAIN" list.
BCD Tofu House
I've already had the tofu stew from BCD Tofu House, so on my last visit I tried something else: bi bim naeng myun, a mound of angel hair-thin buckwheat/kudzu/other starch-based noodles served cold in a pool of gochujang with some sesame oil and topped with sliced beef, kimchi, hard boiled egg, cucumber, and sliced radish. You get a bottle of vinegar on the side to squeeze in to your liking. Like jja jang myun, the noodles are so long that they require some snippage for ease of eating. Aside from the hindrance of length, they're also mega chewy—at least, if they're cooked correctly they should be. The chewiness is one of the best parts.
Although it was refreshing on a hot day, I couldn't eat the whole bowl without getting tired of it. The sauce tasted too sweet; I'm not sure if it's supposed to be like that. The noodles also seemed to lose some of their coveted sproinginess towards the end. I had this dish when I was in Seoul and loved it, but I would classify this version as "not bad." Next time I'll go back to good ol' tofu stew and try bi bim naeng myun somewhere else.
Gahm Mi Oak
Gahm Mi Oak is known for their seolleongtang, but the dish I remember best is their radish kimchi. I had never before felt so compelled to repeatedly dip my chopsticks into a pile of fermented vegetables. Serious Eats members informed me that the deliciousness was in the sweetness, and Roboseyo in particular said that seolleongtang-centric restaurants are known for having very good kimchi to compliment the bland broth.
This was my first time eating seolleongtang, ox bone-based broth filled with thin slices of beef brisket, noodles, and rice. The broth comes unseasoned; that's what the pot of salt (and chopped scallions) on the table is for. If I hadn't been eating with Alice and Greg I probably wouldn't have known what to do, or at least, wouldn't have known how much salt I had to put in. That is, roughly "a lot"—start with a few spoonfuls and taste from there so you don't overdo it. The salt brings out the minerally goodness of the milky bone-infused soup. While I wouldn't call it one of my favorite Korean dishes (I'd rather have the rice on the side so it doesn't become congee-like), I would eat it again, preferably in the winter.
15 W 32nd St
New York, NY 10001
Hyo Dong Gak
51 W 35th St
New York, NY 10001
BCD Tofu House
17 W 32 St
New York, NY 10079
Gahm Mi Oak
43 W 32nd St
New York, NY 10001-3805