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  • Bulgogi Hot Pot

    Bulgogi is probably one of the top three most famous Korean foods that is loved by not only native Koreans but also by anybody and even by those who are trying out Korean food for the first time...

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    Pajeon or Korean pancake is one of the most popular Korean dishes. Unlike the regular ones, this one adds a nice kick of kimchi and seafood...

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    This spicy cold noodle dish is called Nengmyun also spelled as Naengmyeon, naeng-myeon, naengmyun, or naeng-myun. This is THE dish for summer season in Korea as one of the most popular dishes in summer...

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Top 10 Most Popular Korean Foods

Korean food has become so popular that people from every culture increasingly enjoy these savory, spicy and almost soul-healing dishes. So what are some of these dishes that are so popular universally? Every culture has their own uniquely weird food but also some of the mainstream hits that almost represent as they identify of those cuisines. Following list is a great list of top ten Korean foods appreciated by Koreans, Americans, Europeans, other Asians and everyone else. So what are they?

1. Kimchi

Must I say more? If you don't know where kimchi came from, perhaps you need to go back to learn the most basics about Korean culture. These amazing yet addicting cabbage pieces strangely not only have been winning all the love on dinner tables throughout Korean history but have boldly stepped up to represent Korean food internationally. Koreans take their kimchi seriously. Every household proudly brags about their unique concoction in kimchi to dinner guests as if better the flavor of it, more cultured and somehow more dedicated to preserving their treasures of ancestry. If you haven't tried kimchi yet, maybe I will put going to a Korean restaurant on my to-do-list this week.

2. Galbi

If kimchi represents Korean food as a whole, galbi represents Korean barbecue. This soy sauce marinated, fruity and savory grilled short ribs are the biggest treat for any Korean families as their top choice of occasional eat outs. I remember the excitement and salivation whenever he got paid from work and decided to take us out for some galbi. Traditionally, galbi had been a choice of food for the privileged as beef was expensive in old day Korea. Not surprisingly, short rib is the part of beef that is one of the most expensive parts in Korea due to a high demand level. In the United States, not so much yet although in restaurants they still may be. Like every Korean barbecue dish, galbi comes with a variety of side dishes and lettuce wraps at restaurants.

3. Bulgogi

Beef teriyaki with kicks? Or perhaps is it totally different? My answer to that about bulgogi - same category with distinctive differences. Bulgogi is tender, savory, juicy and sometimes grilled. It's soupier than teriyaki. This popular dish has been one of the most commonly popular dishes universally. Any meat eating human being would appreciate the experience of eating bulgogi as I would say this is the least edgy mainstream hit in Korean food.

4. Samgyupsal

Korean bacon or unsalted bacon? Yes, the accurate answer is pork belly. Simple and fatty, samgyupsal is the runner-up in the Korean barbecue category, perhaps a threatening figure to replace galbi the winner. Why so popular? It's cheap. Really that's it? No, obviously by that standard, dirt would be the most popular. Samgyupsal is just amazing. Its flavor and all the side dishes and sauces you can add to it blow any hungry person to an outer space of joy. Moreover, it's so easy to prepare. If you can unwrap a pack of meat, you can prepare samgyupsal. As a boy, I tried samgyup sal cooked instantly on a shovel prepared by a group of furnace workers. It was just so good I did not have time to think about what they used the shovel for... until now.

5. Seafood pancake

This dish is also called Hemul Pajeon. This is probably what represents Korean appetizers. It's a thinly fried pancake with vegetables and seafood such as shrimp, squid and oysters. Usually, when I eat pajeon before the main course, I get to take all my main course home since I have some self-control issues. The dipping sauce is the killer. It's a mix of soy sauce, vinegar and spices.

6. Soon tofu stew

This spicy bowl of stew is just full of kicks and joy. Soon tofu (silky and otherwise mushy tofu) is ironically the least tasty ingredient in this bowl. It's the variety of other ingredients you can choose to put in there such as beef, pork, shrimp, squid, mushrooms, vegetables, kimchi, seafood and the list goes on. A cracked raw egg diving into a boiling stew still boiling in a heat-preserved earthen bowl, cooks to perfection. I like mine fishy and seafoody. I am a sucker for soon tofu stew whenever it rains. Watch out for msg usage at some Korean restaurants though if you're sensitive to msg. Apparently, some places without much expertise in cooking this stew uses a handful of it.

7. Spicy cold noodle

Spicy cold noodle - you said it all. It's spicy; it's cold; and it's a noodle dish. Wait, there's one more. This spicy cold noodle (bibim nengmyun) is really really good. Every time I go to a non-barbecue Korean restaurant, I always order this one. Maybe it's addicting. I always regret ordering something else if I do. Note this dish is also eaten as a dessert after a good meal of galbi in Korea. That is just too much of an indulgence I would say. I wonder if people do that because of the same feeling that I have when I eat something else - regret that it wasn't the spicy cold noodle! In summer time, please try this dish at a Korean restaurant. If you do not like spicy food, get the soupy one called mool nengmyun, meaning cold noodle in chilled beef broth with a bunch of yummy goodies thrown on top such as beef strips, pear, pickled dikon radish slices and more.

8. Korean fried chicken

This is a modernly developed dish. Or maybe there was a region in Korea where fried chicken with their own special Korean sauce was popularly enjoyed. Nationally, it was not until the 80's when this Korean fried chicken (KFC?) gained its popularity through chain stores and delivery services at night. They have several different sauces applied to the thinly fried chicken pieces including sweet and spicy (most popular), sweet and soy sauce flavored and more. In big cities in the United States such as New York and Los Angeles, the most popular franchises of Korean fried chicken opened their stores and heard they are doing very well. Google Kochon, Bonchon or BBQ Chicken Korea. My favorite part is that they come with sweet pickled dikon radish cubes.

9. Ddeokbokki

Every Korean kid lives and dies for Ddeokbokki (Tteokbokki, I know - the inconsistency in spelling). For that reason, every school in Korea has a Ddeokbokki joint in front of it and a massive influx of students raid those places after school. Interestingly, some kids may not love their mom cooked Ddeokbokki as the street and less nutritious versions may have won over their heart since young and been defined as comfort food. As for non-Koreans, some people love it some do not care for it - after all it's just some rice sticks with spicy sauce on it. Perhaps, the right place to be introduced to this dish is the streets of Korean cities as this is the most popular street food in Korea.

10. Bibimbap

Finally, we come to this - bibimbap. Didn't Tyra Banks say something about bibimbap? World's next top food? I tend of agree with that statement because of nutritional values in this dish. This dish just has everything one can crave for - meat, egg, vegetables, rice and spice. It's the winner dish for the most nutritious and tasty of all time. My grand father has eaten bibimbap for dinner everyday for about 15 years and lived until he was near 90. (Disclaimer: no proven connection or correlation with longevity and bibimbap.)

That's all folks. I hope you have or will have tried those top 10 most popular Korean dishes above.
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Sunday, May 22, 2011

Burgerville Pepper Bacon Cheeseburger - My Comfort Food

Although I grew up in Seoul and Korean food is still one of my top favorite foods, sometimes there is nothing like cheeseburger and fries. I'm not talking about some processed and transfat filled factory line burgers. I'm talking about some good honest burger and fries made with some good quality ingredients. To my surprise, there are big franchise burger joints that serve awesome cheeseburgers using fresh local ingredients including Tilamook cheese - Burgerville. Burgerville has about 100 locations throughout the state of Oregon and southern Washington.

Bergerville has three signature burgers - Tilamook Cheese Burger, Bacon Pepper Burger and Double Colossal Burger. They also offer seasonal side dish items such as fried portobello mushrooms in spring and fried Yakima Valley asparagus in summer. My favorite menu is the Double Colossal Burger. It's got the perfect level of juiciness and lots of Tilamook cheese. Tilamook cheese is native to Tilamook, Oregon located in Willamette Valley about half hour from the Oregon Coast. This place allows visitors to tour inside the factory and people can sample and purchase their cheese and ice cream, Tilamook's top two products.

So tonight I ordered a Bacon Pepper Burger and realized that I had a different expectation of this item. I thought this burger would include some hot pepper or grilled bell peppers all meshed up with their cheese, but it turned out the pepper meant "black pepper." This burger was still really good but the later half after the realization was much better perhaps because I let myself get in the way of interpreting a great burger for what I see through my own colored glasses of a certain set of expectations. I took out a bacon from the burger and it had crushed black peppers all over it. It made me happy that they use crushed instead of regular processed black pepper powder.

Burgers go way back in my childhood. Perhaps in modern days, every Asian kid in an Asian country growing up obsessed with eating burgers and fries compares to American kids' fascination for sushi and Chinese food that these foods coexist as comfort food years later for grown ups. Or maybe it's never too late to find a new comfort food as my old fashioned Korean father used to always call me out to his favorite restaurant - Jack in the Box. Really?
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