New York City saw its first "significant" accumulation of snow today. For the most part the result was a slushy mess, however a few inches of snow did manage to settle down and cover the city in a wintry white. Here are some scenes from mid-afternoon in the middle of the storm.
Our first sunrise in Asia, as seen from the plane as we passed over Alaska
My wife and I have made our first return to Korea in over 2 years. It is now the third day of our trip and already we have met several family members, eaten several memorable meals, and seen a lot of unique sites. There is so much to share, so its my hope to update this blog at least every couple of days. In the meantime, please check out my flickrstream which I will updating regularly.
For now here are some of the early sites we've seen so far...
Friday night crowd in MyeongDong, Seoul's fashion and general night life mecca.
Smiles all around in MyeongDong. Generally Koreans don't have a reputation for being the most lighthearted people, but I think these sorts of scenes prove otherwise
With longer nights, falling temperatures and the impending end of the global financial system, times have never been more appropriate for some good ol' comfort food to soothe the soul. In my case whenever I'm feeling particularly down either spiritually and/or physically I invariably turn to my gastronomic roots, and seek some good Korean food.
Among my favorite cold weather Korean comfort foods is the classic soup Sul Long Tang, and perhaps no place in the city does it better than Gahm Mi Oak in Midtown. While Gahm Mi Oak offers a handful of other dishes as well, most everyone comes for the sublime milky broth that is at the heart of Sul Long Tang. The broth is derived from the slow boiling of ox bones over the course a day. Once the broth is done, rice, somyun noodles, and slices of beef are also added. To add the final touch, each table in Gahm Mi Oak also has bowls of roasted sea salt (add sparingly), black pepper and green onions for garnish.
Of course as in nearly every Korean experience, the meal is never truly complete without the addition of kimchi, and here is another area in which Gahm Mi Oak excels. As a counterpoint to the soup, the kimchi served here is of a slightly more aged and more pungently fermented than the kind you would typically be served. To indulge in this pairing of old stinky kimchi with simple beef broth is an truly an epiphany of the Korean gastronomic experience. Thus upon making your order, your server will return to you with a large bowl of KkakDuKi (Daikon KimChi) and BaeChu KimChi (Napa), and then ceremonially cut it into more manageable pieces.
As mentioned earlier Gahm Mi Oak has a handful other menu items, and a quick visual survey of fellow diners, will reveal that the handful of other menu items(SoonDae Sausage, BoSsam, and the ever present BiBimBap, which my aunt swears by) also sell quite well. For myself and my wife a bowl of Seol Long Tang and a good helping of KimChi are more than enough, but knowing that the BinDaeDuk (Mung Bean Pancakes) here are wonderful (think Korean latkes, but made with mung beans, and filled with veggies), I had to order some as well.
A serving of Seol Long Tang makes a great hearty meal and at $8.50 a pop (24/7), a great value as well. As the weather gets colder, and world seems to become ever gloomier, order some soup, and soothe your Seoul ;)
Gahm Mi Oak 43 W. 32nd St. New York, NY 10001 212-695-4113
With commodity prices continuing to soar, finding a healthy and affordable meal in Midtown has gone from slight challenge to near impossibility. However for those who are fortunate enough to have easy access to Koreatown, and are willing to spend around $8-12 for lunch, can choose from among at least a dozen different delicious and fairly authentic Korean establishments.
Now as most American are still relatively unfamiliar with Korean cuisine, I find that many Korean-American restaurants, are really nothing more than Korean diners. That is to say just as the prototypical American diner has its encyclopedic menu with "served 24/7," breakfast menu, BLTs and chicken fried streak, etc. Probably 95% of the Korean joints in the US have similarly thick and generic menus, with the standards of BiBimBap, BBQ meats, amongst a hundred other variations of stuff with veggie, protein, and loads of red pepper derivatives. Yet despite this seemingly cookie cutter nature, there are places that distinguish themselves through the care with which they prepare and serve their food. HanBat among my personal favorites in K-town, is one such place.
HanBat executes standard Korean fare with a consistency sometimes lacking in some of its neighbors a few blocks south on 32nd St. Little details such as regularly rotating panchan(which btw are side dishes, not appetizers!) make each meal unique.
On a recent visit, my wife and I stuck with the standards, and ordered the GobDolBiBimBapand KimChiChiGae. Both were just what we were looking for in the severely hungover state in which we were in. Again the little touches showed through, as my BiBimBapwas served along with a large (complimentary) serving of SolLongTang, which is a wonderfully slow cooked beef/marrow broth and noodles. While the BiBimBap itself was composed of a wonderful assortment of various veggies, which were really just a hodgepodge of other forms of panchan. Meanwhile my wife's KimChiChiGae (KimChi and Slice Pork Soup) had a soul full homeyness that would make any Korean mother proud.
To be sure there are places in the city, even K-Town that excel at their house specialties, like GahmMiOak for their SolLongTang, or say BonChon or Baden Baden for their Chicken, but for the best overall "Korean Diner," experience, HanBat is hard to beat.
As HanBat is open 24/7, anytime is a good time to go, however as the lunch specials are very reasonable, lunch is probably the best time.
HanBat 53 W. 35th St., New York, NY 10001 (near 6th Ave) 212-629-5588
With Blueberries in season, and readily available across the city's GreenMarkets. Pancakes have also come back in to season in our kitchen. Not having made pancakes in a while we referred to this Mark Bittman video on the NYTimes website. Basically the recipe is super simple just remember the rule of 1's. As in:
1 cup flour 1 tbsp sugar 1 tsp. baking powder 1 egg 1 one cup milk
To the mix we added some farm fresh berries and crushed walnuts for some extra crunch. Also the milk we used was Whole Milk from Ronnybrook Farm Dairy.
My wife and I saw this wonderfully easy and delicious pasta sauce in the health section of the New York Times, and just had to try it. With fresh arugula and tomatoes from the Union Square Greenmaket already on hand, we only needed to go our local Salumeria to pick up some ricotta salata.
It is also nice that this "sauce" is also no-cook, as anything to reduce the heat in our apartment these days is much appreciated. As tomatoes are now very much in season, this recipe offers a great and simple way to enjoy them.
A perfect summer side dish (PanChan) as it requires no heat, Korean Mung Bean Jelly (aka NokDuMook), is very similar in flavor and texture the other perhaps better known jellies (mook) derived from chestnuts and acorns. While these "mooks" are relatively tasteless, they have a pleasant feel on the tongue and go well with certain flavor combinations, in particular soy sauce.
For the Chung Po Mook above, my wife bought a cube of mook which was roughly the size in which tofu is also usually sold. She then sliced the cube into smaller rectangles, which she then dressed with soy sauce mixed with sesame oil, rice vinegar, red pepper powder, black pepper, sugar, sesame seeds, and green onions.