Meet Shanghai Mama Shin, Seon-Ae, aka, “kimcheemandoo” who as a Korean mama living in Shanghai, shares her experiences of Koreatown. In her first article, she reflects on some of her favorite Korean foods and shares one of her favorite restaurants in Koreatown off her “must try” list.
Eyes on Little Korea Gems
By Shin Seon-Ae
What is your favorite Korean food other than Bulgogi or Galbi? Can you name three Korean dishes except those above? If you can’t, here is an article for you.
As I was born and raised in Seoul, I can claim that I have the most standard taste buds when it comes to Korean food. My judgement on Korean food is critically based on the tastes I remember from my childhood. If I say, “this is good”, that means it is GOOD by authentic Korean standards.
People often ask me where they can find good Korean restaurants. And my answer to that is always Hongquan road, A.K.A, Little Korea Town. This short stretch of road offers so much in the form of Korean grocery stores, coffee shops, bbq, dumpling, seafood and traditional restaurants. So where exactly do you need to go for the best authentic Korean food in Korea town? What food do you need to order to pay off for that “long journey” you made from Pudong or downtown? Let me introduce you to the K-Food quartet from one of my favorite restaurants, ChungJinDong, in my “must try” list.
삼겹살 쭈꾸미 전골 (Samgyupsal Jeongol)
Go surf and turf – Pork belly with short arm octopus hot pot
This is one of the Jeongol dishes, which is a Korean style hot pot that is cooked at the table. Jeongol was traditionally served in the palace and hence part of Korean Royal Cuisine.
This dish is served in a big hot pot wok, containing some sliced pork belly, short arm octopus, tofu for protein, bean sprouts, green onions and pieces of rice cake sticks (nian gao) in meat broth seasoned with Korean spices. It holds rich flavors from both the land and the sea. Another joyful secret of this dish is that if you ask for a bowl of rice and dump that into the ‘almost finished boiled down’ soup you can end the meal with a tasty fried rice. That is the most genuine Korean way to finish up the Jeongol.
This is a communal main dish to be shared and also goes perfectly with Shoju (rice wine) or Makgoli (Korean sweet rice wine).
불고기 전골 (Bulgogi Jeongol)
Very Kid friendly – Beef in a sweet Bulgogi sauce
This is THE legendary Korean dish, Bulgogi Jeongol. It is not hard to notice that most Korean restaurants serve Bulgogi dishes, but each have their own unique twist, like simple beef bulgogi, mushroom bulgogi, or seafood bulgogi.
Bulgogi is super kids friendly. Paper thin sliced beef (easy to chew with baby teeth) is cooked in a hotpot in the base of sweet soy sauce.
ChungJinDong’s Bulgogi is simple but not ordinary, keeping the traditional style that I grew up with.
Ketogenic friendly – Boiled pork belly wrap
Bossam is a crunchy cabbage/lettuce wrap filled with unctuous Korean boiled pork belly and refreshing spicy radish salad.
What does 보쌈 Bossam mean?
One theory is that Bossam comes from a combination of the two letters, bok and ssam where bok means good fortune and ssam means to wrap. Koreans considered pork to bring good luck and so bok+ssam and then eventually bo+ssam meant that you are wrapping good luck in leaves.
You probably could think what special property this dish possess when it looks like only the naked pork belly pieces and veggies on the side. The secret is how to cook the pork. Restaurants usually add a variety of ingredients to the boiling broth to eliminate the unique pork (gamey) smell and to flavor the meat. When I make this dish at home, my must-add ingredients are doenjjian (fermented soybean paste), onions, roots of green onions, cloves of garlic, instant coffee powder or beer. They simply enhance the natural flavor of the pork. The result is rich, but subtly flavored, deliciously moist meat!
How to Eat – It is the same way how we eat Galbi. Take a piece of cabbage or lettuce, put a piece of pork, then add the spicy kimchi radish salad and top it with either saewoojeot (Korean shrimp sauce) or ssamjang (Korean sauce specially made for ssam) or both to taste.
This dish also can be ketogenic diet friendly, since it is simply served with two food categories, protein and vegetables. Plus, great as a one dish meal but also great for parties and one of the most popular late night delivery foods in Korea.
물냉면 (Mul Naengmyeon)
The champion for Summer (and Kid-friendly) Korean cold noodle soup
Our champion dish, Korean Mul Naengmyeon, is for the scorching summer nights.
This is definitely the BEST summer food – light chewy noodles in an ice cold broth that even make you shiver some times.
Naengmyeon was originally enjoyed during the winter months of Korea but it became a popular summer noodle dish. This makes more sense to me since the noodles and broth are served very cold, icy cold, I mean icy icy, sometimes, you need to break the chunks of ice, or wait for the ice melt.
This 냉면, however, is quite special and different from the other cold noodles. It comes with 코다리 Kodari, semi-dried pollock, on the top of the toothpick-like cucumber and sliced radish pickles. The pollock is marinated with Korean seasonings, has various flavors and savors, and produces succulent juice in harmony with sweetness, tanginess, and subtle spiciness. Kodari has swooped Korea as a new food craze for a couple of years, and created innovated versions of food among young people. Its tenderness but meat like texture and the richness in flavor utterly meet the peoples’ desire for food.
Naengmyeon can be a main dish for the noodle lovers, or a partner in crime for Galbi or Bulgogi.
These are the top rated dishes at ChungJinDong, and you’ll often find the friendly and attentive owners smiling at the counter and ready to jump to assist you if the waiters are busy. This restaurant never disappoints.
Minhang: 2F, 1000 Hongquan road
Tel: (021) 6292-3699
Hours: 9am to 3pm, 5pm to 10pm