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When you wish hard enough, tteokbokki will come

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I feel hateful towards everyone who’s healthy right now.
I have been battling a nasty cold since…NEW YEAR’S EVE! That’s right, on my way to a new year eve’s party, I started coughing, and by the time the new year came, was completely bed-ridden. I was on what was supposed to be my dream vacation, in which I stay inside an apartment in NYC to work (don’t judge; it’s very nice to write and think when you’re away) and only occasionally come out to try the best food NYC has to offer. I stayed inside alright, but couldn’t even muster any energy to work. So much for a happy new year! (my mouth started twitching from smirking too much at all the “happy new year”s people were posting on fb. Guys, wish harder. It’s not working!)

We just got back to Boston today, and the first thing I did was order soondubu jigae (Korean spicy tofu soup) from our favorite Korean restaurant. I was hoping the spiciness would help clear out the evil mucus, and it did. In fact, normally I wouldn’t order anything spicy from this restaurant, except bibimbap since the sauce is separated. I really thought I’d starve when we went to Korea last summer, if everything there was really as spicy, or spicier!, than Korean food in the US. Surprisingly, there were still a lot of non-spicy options, although the spicy options are as spicy as you’d fear them to be. The spiciness is strangely refreshing when paired with hwe, the Korean-style raw fish. Hwe most often includes different types of fish than Japanese sashimi, and is cut in such a way that the texture is more on the chewy side, with all the sinew of the fish still intact.
hwe korean raw fish sashimi

For other dishes, the spiciness really impaired my ability to enjoy the food. I ordered hwe nangmyun (cold noodle with raw fish), hoping they’d be nice like Korean restaurants in the States and put the sauce aside, but no:

hwe naengmyun

And then there’s tteokbokki. I was told that traditional tteokbokki is not that spicy, but because of the reputation of Korean food being spicy, a lot of tteokbokki places in Seoul have made it really spicy to satisfy thrill-seeking tourists. Our airbnb host in Seoul, however, took us to a place that did it the old-fashioned way. The place is hidden in a little alley in a nice neighborhood, walking distance from Bukchon village where we were staying. The place is called Meok Swi Don Na, which translates to “Eat, Rest, Pay, LEAVE” , which was exactly what we did, happily!The spiciness was just right, and the tteobokki came with a million options of add-ons! See how many you can spot below (note that we didn’t even choose everything!):tteobokki

 

After we finished eating all the good stuff, we ordered rice to soak up all the leftover sauce, which by now had all the goodness from all the stuff swimming in it (think hot pot, Japanese style, when they also use rice to soak up hot pot/nabe broth!):rice tteokbokki

 

I have had no success of finding such great tteobokki anywhere yet in the Northeast, but maybe you guys in LA, Atlanta or Annadale(VA) where there are many good Korean restaurants will have a better chance. For now, I’ll be content with my Boston bibimbap, and will force myself to add a little extra gochujang (chilli paste) into the rice mix to fight the mucus. This cold shall pass! If I think it will happen, it will happen!!

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2 Comments Join the Conversation

    • The hwe was delicious! I was skeptical about eating raw fish in the hot, hot Korean summer, but the fish was very fresh and really have a somewhat crunchy, chewy texture to it. No soy sauce, just gochujang to dip it in. Really weird at first if you’re used to sashimi but it has its own unique delicious taste!

      Reply

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