discovering Korean food

banchan

I can’t quite believe how long it’s taken me to get interested in Korean food. Until recently, my exposure to it consisted of one red bean moon cake that a Korean friend gave me in college, and the pa jun recipe that I got from David Lebovitz that took over our lives for a while. Then some friends (the same ones who helped us out with our taco crawl) invited us to go with them to Blue Ginger, a Korean grill restaurant in Bellevue.

Korean grill

It was something of a life altering experience. The seafood pa jun, chock full of squid, was astonishing, the banchan (a myriad of tiny side dishes) fresh and tasty, and the hot metal shield draped in pork belly, marinated beef, kim chi, sliced garlic and jalapeños just plain fun. We ate a lot of kim chi and drank a lot of beer, and swore to continue our research at other local establishments.

Life, as it tends to, intervened, and we didn’t get out to any more Korean restaurants for awhile. I did do some research, though (as it turns out, there are a LOT of Korean restaurants between Everett and Tacoma), so when it came time to visit the city of Edmonds (to see world-class ukulele player Jake Shimabukuro – no, that isn’t a joke), we decided to pay a quick, just-the-two-of-us visit to HoSoonYi, a tofu restaurant tucked off of Highway 99. It was a little hard to find, as the street sign was only in Korean, but we made an educated guess at the address and found it.

I had read that HoSoonYi’s specialty was their soondobu, or tofu soup, so of course we ordered that. And the seafood pa jun, so as to compare it to Blue Ginger’s version. It was a very good thing that we had already been exposed to the concept of banchan, otherwise the enormous amount of food that descended upon us after placing this modest order might have sent us running out into the night.

banchan

Korean food is generally served all at once, rather than in courses, so once everything had arrived we had the following on our table:

  • 2 cups of tea
  • 2 bowls of rice
  • 1 large bowl of soup
  • 1 enormous pancake
  • dipping sauce
  • soybean sprouts
  • mung bean sprouts
  • green salad
  • soy sauce potatoes
  • tiny fried fish
  • fish cake
  • fried tofu with chili sauce
  • kim chi

seafood pancake

The pancake was, as stated, vast. Billed on the menu as an appetizer to go with “hard drinks”, I can definitely recommend it as a way to sop up alcohol – it was over an inch thick, well studded with octopus chunks, and dripping with oil. It was pretty tasty, but it was remarkably effective at making one feel as though one might never eat again.

soft tofu soup

The soup arrived boiling hot, literally. We ordered soft tofu soup with beef and kim chi, medium hot, and we got a cauldron of spicy red liquid bursting with piquancy, full of pillows of silken tofu, bits of beef, and a raw egg swiftly cooking in the hot broth.

fish salad

I liked all the banchan, most particularly the soybean sprouts in chili sauce, the tofu and fish cake, and the salad of tiny fried fish with carrot and scallion. We thought these were little fried glass noodles at first – until we saw the eyeballs.

tiny fried fish

I’m not entirely comfortable with food that stares back at me, but these were quite delicious.

Further explorations are definitely in order, and it’s quite clear to me that having at least four people is really a good idea for trying a new Korean place. Otherwise one might do oneself a mischief.

Any readers out there with suggestions of places to go, dishes to try, things to avoid? I admit we didn’t even consider getting the Soft Tofu Soup with Down Cod Intestine. Might need to work up to that.

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