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Korean Food


TarteTatin
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a friend of mine calls it the 'tofu church.'

google 'soon doo boo' and you'll come up with a site that describes the concept. it's one of the great dishes of korean cooking--a bubbling pot of soup full of silken tofu and other ingredients of your choosing.

whole restaurants (like jong ka jib) are dedicated to it. fantastic. don't worry about your husband: while soft tofu is the point, the soup is anything but boring.

can i come?

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Over in the current foodblog, racheld has an excellent metaphor concerning tofu:

"Tofu is like a teen in search of a peer group -- it takes on the persona of its surroundings."

Prepared properly, tofu is great -- and versatile -- precisely because of this quality.

But it is possible to prepare tofu poorly. My earliest experiences with the vegetable protein in college scared me away from it for years. Fortunately, I gave it another chance many years afterward.

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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Yeah... I don't quite get the irrational fear of tofu... it's one of the most innocuous food items out there. At worst, I guess it could be described as "bland". But when prepared properly, it can be fantastic. Hell, even water can be horrible in the wrong context, but how many people are afraid of that?

OTOH, my wife is allergic to soy, so I guess she gets a pass. Actually, now that I think of it, even she will sample a tofu dish on occasion, even though she knows it will induce great personal suffering. :-/

__Jason

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But it is possible to prepare tofu poorly.  My earliest experiences with the vegetable protein in college scared me away from it for years.

Sounds like... Tofutti?

Worse.

"Polynesian Meatlike Balls" made from tofu. Wrong in so many ways, I couldn't begin to list them.

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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nyone know anything about it?

Something about soft tofu to die for?

Hubby doesn't like tofu much, but our friend insists we'll love it.

To answer your original question......The place rocks, its the Sagami of Korean food.

They have lots besides soft tofu, short ribs rice bowls ect ect.......and dirt cheap.

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When V says dirt cheap, it's ~$8 for a bowl of the soft tofu and you have at options of beef or oyster or whatever going into your tofu. You'll get a bunch of tiny side dishes like most Korean including kimchi, the marinated bean sprouts, some kind of radish thing?, and a raw egg. The soup arrives bubbling super painful hot (try really hard to be patient here otherwise you'll have that memory of burn feeling for the rest of the night). I remember 5 or 6 levels of spiciness and medium isn't very hot.

Also, the one not immediately familiar item on your table? It's a doorbell that will get the waitstaff's attention (so don't just play with it).

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When V says dirt cheap, it's ~$8 for a bowl of the soft tofu and you have at options of beef or oyster or whatever going into your tofu. You'll get a bunch of tiny side dishes like most Korean including kimchi, the marinated bean sprouts, some kind of radish thing?, and a raw egg. The soup arrives bubbling super painful hot (try really hard to be patient here otherwise you'll have that memory of burn feeling for the rest of the night).

AW MAN LET'S GO TONIGHT

oh the cravings. so painful.

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To heck with Philly for your Asian Groceries!

I went down there and they had little!

You need to go to the 4 big box Asian Grocers!

Theres the two H-marts (One in Elkins Park off 611 and 309 and the other on 69th Street Upper Darby) Kobawoo in Cheltenham (Yuk Filthy) and my Favorite Assi Plaza in Lansdale (Welsh Road)

Assi has the best Bakery and 4 restaurants, plus they stock frozen Takoyaki and aspartame free gari I had FRESH MADE Korean Bindae Duk there one Saturday...

H-Mart has the best Japanese snack selection and sashimi konnyaku and specialty mochis... PLUS a great Korean Ban Chan selection.

Kobawoo is a BIG BOX store BUT It really stank and was filthy, but I still mention it for good measure!

Stay out the city, the burbs are where its at!

In the same shopping center that Kobawoo is in is the Mochi factory that supplies the entire area with Korean Mochis

-----

Assi Plaza

1222 Welsh Rd.

North Wales, PA 19454

Phone 215.631.9400

Fax 215.631.9404

H-Mart

7320 Old York Road.

Elkins Park, PA 19027

Tel : 215-782-1801

Store Hours: 8:30 AM ~ 9:30 PM

H-Mart

7050 Terminal Square

Upper Darby, PA 19082

Tel : 610-734-1001

Store Hours: 9:00 AM ~ 9:00 PM

KOBAWOO

1925 Cheltenham Ave.

Elkins Park, PA 19027

Tel. 215.886.5569

Fax. 215.886.5689

Wawa Sizzli FTW!

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To heck with Philly for your Asian Groceries!

I went down there and they had little!

Sounds like you encountered an example of the South Philly Pathmark Syndrome.

I've shopped at both Hung Vuong (11th and Washington) and the H-Mart at 7050 Terminal Square (on my way home if I take the 109 bus all the way to 69th Street). I would not use the blanket characterization you used above to describe Hung Vuong; however, I would note that, while H-Mart is very ecumenical in its variety of Asian foodstuffs--while Korean foods may have pride of place, befitting the chain's owners, they stock a wide variety of Japanese, Chinese and Southeast Asian products too--Hung Vuong offers a much deeper selection of a more geographically specific selection of products, with Chinese and Southeast Asian items overwhelmingly dominant. (I note many varieites of sauces produced in Malaysia, for instance, on the shelves of Hung Vuong. I haven't seen any yet at H-Mart, and I suspect that what the do carry is more limited in scope than what Hung Vuong has because H-Mart wants to make room for the rest of East Asia as well on its shelves.)

Which brings me to why I refer to this as "South Philly Pathmark Syndrome."

One time, in order to stock up on huge quantities of ground beef at an incredibly low price for an upcoming cookout, I hopped on the 47 bus and rode all the way down to the Pathmark in Whitman Plaza at 3d and Oregon.

I immediately noticed two things about this supermarket relative to the Super Fresh at 10th and South:

--The store was about three times the size of the Super Fresh;

--The variety of products on the shelves was about half that of the Super Fresh. Space that might have been devoted to more brands, product categories or variety within product lines was instead devoted to a wider range of sizes of a more limited variety of products.

Supermarkets, catering as they do usually to a localized customer base, tend to reflect their trading areas in what you see on the shelves. Asian supermarkets may draw customers from a wider geographic territory because they specialize in products that appeal to a highly defined clientele that is dispersed over a wider area, but even there, differences in composition of the customer base matter. H-Mart also carries standard American products that you will never see at Hung Vuong because its owners have deliberately decided to go after a multicultural customer base, which probably also helps explain the wider geographical variety of foods you will find there.

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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nyone know anything about it?

Something about soft tofu to die for?

Hubby doesn't like tofu much, but our friend insists we'll love it.

To answer your original question......The place rocks, its the Sagami of Korean food.

They have lots besides soft tofu, short ribs rice bowls ect ect.......and dirt cheap.

Speaking of tofu:

On Tuesday night, I was roused from my routine around 11 p.m. by Greg Ling and a bunch of his culinary-professional friends and hustled up to a Korean barbecue restaurant and karaoke club called Music Town, at Front and Godfrey in Olney.

Among the many wonderful dishes I ate on this late-night run--which also included Katie Loeb among the guests--was a platter consisting of firm tofu and kimchi. The tofu and the kimchi harmonized beautifully, offering yet another example of how racheld was right when she said in her foodblog that "tofu is like a teenager in search of a peer group -- it takes on the persona of its surroundings."

The tofu was also milder than the varieties I'm used to buying. I didn't think that it was possible to have variations in something that pretty much has no taste of its own, but apparently that's not the case.

For this, I gladly belted out tunes from a songbook appallingly lacking in Motown and classic R&B.

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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I understand exactly what you mean by that...

Its kinda like Giant vs. Genuardis. Genuardis has a lot of different things and variety but Giant (to me) is fresher.

However, not naming names, BUT, I find that so many small Asian markets are filthy. I went to one in the basement of a building in Chinatown and the smell in that place was nauseating. I never feel that way in H-mart or Assi Plaza.

Have you ever been to Assi Plaza?

They have a ton of sauces...

I stopped there one evening on the way home and it was a beautiful experience, as Korea was playing in the World Cup and they had a huge screen up in the mall area and satellite Tv playing the game on it and EVERYONE was dressed in red and united in cheers. I loved it.

Wawa Sizzli FTW!

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On Tuesday night, I was roused from my routine around 11 p.m. by Greg Ling and a bunch of his culinary-professional friends and hustled up to a Korean barbecue restaurant and karaoke club called Music Town, at Front and Godfrey in Olney.

Among the many wonderful dishes I ate on this late-night run--which also included Katie Loeb among the guests--was a platter consisting of firm tofu and kimchi. The tofu and the kimchi harmonized beautifully, offering yet another example of how racheld was right when she said in her foodblog that "tofu is like a teenager in search of a peer group -- it takes on the persona of its surroundings."

The late night Korean/karaoke run was a blast. Kept me out much too late, but worth the fine company, food and song. I won't reveal any of our other companions, lest they have to shoot me, but suffice to say it was a most interesting evening in the company of many fine folk.

The food at Music Town was delicious, and it helped to have someone knowledgable ordering for us. The only picture I took that actually came out (and it's pretty blurry) is the following:

gallery_7409_476_26248.jpg

Really tasty stuff. Actually, everything we tried was delicious. And the karaoke afterward was loads of fun. Sadly, there was nothing in my range (no Aretha, no Bonnie Raitt, no Linda Ronstadt) so I begged off singing. Probably for the best, given that I can carry a tune in a bucket, but not much else. If I'd had a few more shots of Soju (Korean Sweet Potato spirit) I might have tried something from the Korean/Japanese songbook, so it's best that I stopped when I did. :raz:

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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I understand exactly what you mean by that...

Its kinda like Giant vs. Genuardis. Genuardis has a lot of different things and variety but Giant (to me) is fresher.

However, not naming names, BUT, I find that so many small Asian markets are filthy. I went to one in the basement of a building in Chinatown and the smell in that place was nauseating. I never feel that way in H-mart or Assi Plaza.

Have you ever been to Assi Plaza?

They have a ton of sauces...

I stopped there one evening on the way home and it was a beautiful experience, as Korea was playing in the World Cup and they had a huge screen up in the mall area and satellite Tv playing the game on it and EVERYONE was dressed in red and united in cheers. I loved it.

Actually, I'm not sure I need to visit Assi Plaza, depending on the answer to the following question:

When you shopped for Asian groceries in Philly, did you shop in Chinatown or on Washington Avenue?

Hung Vuong is on Washington Avenue -- one of three Asian supermarkets along this wide thoroughfare. Each is about the size of a 1950s city supermarket. And as I suggested above, they have lots of items -- deeper rather than broader, but a good selection nonetheless. I suspect that Assi Plaza and Hung Vuong might be comparable.

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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However, not naming names, BUT, I find that so many small Asian markets are filthy. I went to one in the basement of a building in Chinatown and the smell in that place was nauseating. I never feel that way in H-mart or Assi Plaza.

i feel like koreans don't use as much dried seafood as vietnamese/thai do. and hung vuong, 1st oriental et al are vietnamese markets. the smell hits you when you're near the back--unfortunately for hung vuong they put the dried fish next to the meat counter, so even though i know they carry decent (if mass-produced) product there and have high turnover, it smells like ass.

the point is, sometimes the market stinks, but it's not because things are bad. it's because dried seafood stinks.

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  • 2 weeks later...

YUM.

We finally went tonight, with a few friends that had been there before.

Never had Korean food!

Jong Ka Jib, on N. 5th St.

We had:

First, a pancake with squid and onions,

Second, a vegetable dish called boom bang bing or kim bop or bimimbap or something that was wonderful...the rice sort of cooked in the pot until it was crunchy and there were all sorts of delicious vegetables: Seaweed and/or spinach, turnip, rice, an egg, carrots. They mixed it together after it sat and cooked for awhile, with a medium hot sauce that was the consistency of tamarind, but red,

Then...a soft tofu with mushrooms, kimchi and beef dish. Yes, it was silken, incredible, even Mr. Tarte Tatin liked it a lot! There was a raw egg broken over the top of that, and it cooked while we waited a few minutes to be told we could eat it. Hard to describe, it's not like egg drop soup, the tofu is delicious, the consistency silken and the taste very more-ish (as in, I want more of that!).

Then.. we had Beef short ribs, marinated with five spice, slow cooked, sliced very thinly. Very thin flanken steak, pounded thin, with little bones in it. I tasted cinnamon and earth and the five spice, faintly tasted peanut butter maybe? Marinated for days, probably...

Also... had squid, which looked more like octopus, or as a dining companion said, maybe cuttlefish. Long, thin pieces, with a big piece of squid body that looked like a pancake that he cut for us with scissors...

Oh, they provide scissors, real, full size scissors as cutting instruments for both the meat and the squid! They sit happily on the side of the dish.

Everyone was given a bowl of the most glutinous rice I've ever seen, never thought it would be that tasty, but it was. The accompaniments were kimchi, great little brown beans (azuki?) that looked like baked beans without the sauce, delicious...other things we weren't sure of but were tasty...bean sprouts with vinegar or ginger?... Squid and ginger in a peppery thick red sauce...a clear sauce to dip with pieces of cabbage or kimchi in it...a marinated cabbage...Oh, the marinated cucumber with red pepper and cilantro was to die for! Thought it was zucchini at first, but then we agreed it was cucumber.

Four people, all this food, $50....Some of us put in $15 a piece, some $20 a piece. We left $70 with tip. Brought a couple bottles of wine, I know, Korean should be beer or something, but we're wine drinkers.

The staff doesn't speak English very well at all, but we got along just fine.

It's pretty far up north Broad St., north of Einstein, and then down to 5th. But worth it.

Can't wait to go again.

Philly Francophiles

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sounds great, TT.

that first thing you had (the pancake) is called haemul pajun.

the second thing is indeed bibimbap, specifically dolsot bibimbap (the dolsot is the stone bowl; you can order without)

the third thing was the soondooboo tofu.

the next things sound like kalbi and bulgogi, although your description makes me wonder a little bit. i bet that's what they were, though. kalbi was the short ribs, bulgogi was the steak.

the only reason i mention all that is that these are kind of the standard bunch of dishes that you get in most korean places (except for the soondooboo, which is what jong ka jib is known for), so if you know the names you'll be able to order them again sometime or somewhere else.

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Oh man, I wish this thread was here a few months ago when I was visiting my family in PA. The husband and I were totally craving Korean food (in the end we satisified ourselves in DC and my mom bought some bulgogi meat from Assi). Assi Plaza is fantastic. I was so amazing by the cleanliness and variety the place had to offer. My parents actually lived pretty close to Assi and they were so excited when the place first opened. "Now we have an unlimited freezer/fridge space at our disposal" was something they said. I also like the little food court they had in the building. Assi reminded me a lot of this Asian supermarket that I visited in Toronto. I like how Asian markets are moving away from the dingy, crowded, smelly places to more open, bigger, western-style super market.

We haven't been to Chinatown grocery stores for over a decade. My parents stopped going there because parking in Philly sucked and they found better and bigger places (Chinese/Korean/Indian markets) outside of Philly and some in New Jersey.

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  • 5 months later...
I made it down to Hung Vuon and the others...

Nope. Hmart and Assi are TOPS to me!

Washington Ave has little Korean or Japanese ingredients.

Now that you mention it, there is a difference in emphasis between Hung Vuong, which is run by Vietnamese, and Hmart, which is Korean-run.

I can get miso at either, but Hmart carries far more variety. OTOH, I can find very few Malaysian or Thai products at Hmart, but Hung Vuong carries them in abundance. Put bluntly, Hmart's selection tends towards Northeast Asia while Hung Vuong skews southeast.

Since I'm eclectic on the subject of Asian cuisines -- no doubt someday I will make a dish that would offend my Vietnamese, Chinese, Korean and Japanese acquaintances equally -- I find much to like about both markets. However, Hmart looks far more like a standard American supermarket (by design, according to their Web site), and it carries Western foodstuffs you'd never see on the shelves of the Washington Avenue establishments. I guess the folks on Washington Avenue figure that there's always Pathmark and Acme for that.

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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That was an awesome dinner!

This trip was inspired by Laban's review of Miran, in which he mentioned a couple of Korean BBQ places that still cook over charcoal -- Kim's on 5th and Seorabol at 2nd and Grange. Mrbigjas' friends recommended Pandolre over the other two, so we obediently marched up there.

First up, banchan: I particularly liked the lotus root, konnyaku/seaweed salad (it mostly tasted like sesame oil), garlicky green beans, and kimchi, though everything was good. I think you're technically supposed to wait and eat these WITH your food but usually I'm so hungry I just jump on them immediately -- and anyways, we needed room for the rest of the stuff we ordered.

Other food: An excellent seafood pancake, mandu (boiled dumplings), barbequed eel and of course, kalbi, bulgogi and pork belly.

Looking at the pictures makes me want to go again for more plates of kalbi and eel. I want to like barbequed pork belly but I think belly is better served in chunks rather than slices if it's uncured. It's the marinade on and the texture of kalbi that I particularly love, especially with some spicy scallions, garlic and miso paste...YUM.

We drank Flying Fish Summer Ale, a Lindeman's Kriek, and some cava...no soju, we were being good. I'm pretty sure they have a liquor license as I saw bottles of the standard-brand soju and OB being brought out, but they didn't bat an eyelash at our BYO bottles. Nor did they charge us a corkage fee.

All that food, and the grand total was $26 pp/incl tax and tip. Ridiculous!

Dessert: Capogiro, of course. Aloha Monkey (pineapple and faintly coconut), banana gelato, golden margarita sorbet. Then a mini-cone of strawberries and cream as a palate-cleanser, which was delicious. The lesson there: you don't actually want to eat the fruit decorating the gelato. Although it looks delicious, it's frozen solid and actually pretty terrible.

Pandolre/Pandolne: 6775 N. 5th Street, Philadelphia PA.

Edited by Diann (log)
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Yeah, that lotus root was really tremendously good. Actually, all of the banchan was really first rate, but the lotus root stood out for me; it was really rich and meaty-tasting.

The seafood pancake was another standout. I'd skip the dumplings, though; they really just didn't taste like much.

I agree with Diann that the pork belly was underwhelming. Maybe if it had been marinated or cured or something; as it was, it didn't have all that much flavor. The kalbi, on the other hand, was really great.

I think we were the only people in the restaurant grilling over charcoal; everybody else was using propane. We weren't really sure why: that charcoal isn't especially smoky. (Nor did it taste especially smoky. But it was good.)

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