The Girl Who Ate Everything

Blogging about food and whatever since 2004.

Korean Food Round-Up: Stews and Noodles

There were a few weeks of my life between the end of May and the beginning of June when I kept eating Korea food and I JUST DON'T KNOW WHY, IT WOULD NOT STOP. Let's see how quickly i can sum it up. I cannot promise coherence.

I want to start by saying I know I don't update this blog frequently enough. No one is telling me this aside from the gnat that lives in the back of my brain and goes, "ROBYN, YOU DO NOT UPDATE ENOUGH," in whatever voice a gnat has. It makes me feel poopy, yet I'm not doing much to change my habits. Right now I'm perfectly aware that the time I'm spending writing about how I don't write enough I could apply to ...writing something useful. But instead I'll just divulge where some of the time has gone over the past week: spending an undocumented ("really long" if I had to estimate) amount of time reading Children of the 90s and feeling nostalgic and old; attending Nathan's International Hot Dog Eating Contest; in one afternoon, eating at two dessert shops followed by dinner; being perpetually depressed by American health care; being sporadically depressed by reminders of loneliness, but at the same time wanting to live alone (at one point even looking up one-bedroom apartment prices in Philly and feeling frustrated by how cheap it is); at some point, sleeping in my bed; sleeping on the subway (I'm quite skilled at this, not that it's anything to brag about); watching Moon (I was about to say something that would've given away the plot); watching the four-hour long Love Exposure and thinking love is funneh, Japanese movies are awesome, and Nishijima Takahiro is frighteningly adorable; working from 10 a.m to 7 p.m. on weekdays; biking around Brooklyn for one and a half hours; getting a haircut (and as you can see in that photo, eating carrot cake in Brighton Beach); eating...other stuff; procrastinating; emailing; showering.

[breathes out] That's some of it. Selected bits. Not that you have to know all that.

Another reason I don't blog as frequently as I should is because I insist on stuffing too much content into one post. This post could be four posts on another blog, but I'd rather get it all out in one massive, bloated go.

So on to the real stuff: FOOD.

Pocha 32


Pocha 32, which I assume is a shortened version of Korean street food tents called pojangmacha, is known as "that divey bar/restaurant in K-Town where you can get huge pots of street food and watermelon soju." See those bottles on the sides of the awning? You're in for a drunken treat!

Fishing nets = increase desire for alcohol?

Okay, it's not that divey. It's mostly decorated with green fishing nets, bottle caps, and happy photographs of their gazillion customers. If you have an aversion to any of these things (photos of smiling strangers, all staring at you), you should go somewhere else.

dig in
Noodles n stuff.

Unless you don't drink, like me. Accompanied by Carol and some of her friends (I'd suggest eating here with at least three other people; it's $19 for a huge pot), I tried the budae jjigae, or "army-base stew," made with hot dogs, Spam, ramyun (ramen), cheese, rice cakes, pork, cabbage, tofu chunks, carrots, watercress, and god knows what else in a spicy/sweet gochujang-flavored broth. It's a hearty pot of delicious savory things that don't really go together, but don't not go together. And then you eat it because it's there, and subsequently realize, "Hey, this is pretty good." It might be better with alcohol.

seafood, rice cakes, and..stuff

The seafood soup with rice cakes and stuff (not the real name, but that's basically it) was a little less enthralling. It's not bad, just...unexpected, perhaps. It had bean noodles instead of ramyun, and there was a bit too much cheese for my liking. But if you love seafood bits + melty shredded cheese, you're in for a treat! (This combination must please someone or else it wouldn't exist. I'm down with melted cheese on fried fish cake-like things, not so much on, say, squid chunks.)

Hyo Dong Gak

Hyo Dong Gak
It's Colin!

I met with a newly un-veganed Colin at Hyo Dong Gak, a Korean-Chinese restaurant, for their specialty...


Jja jang myun, (or jajangmyeon or jajjajjgfug whatever, you get the idea), that beloved Korean-Chinese dish that I realize now, after eating it for the third time, I don't really like.

jja jang myun sauce jja jang myun noodles
That plus that equals the other that.

I'd have to enjoy the flavor of black soybean sauce a lot more to fully appreciate how it tastes slathered over a bunch of fat wheat noodles. To me, the flavor is...bland. Aside from the sauce, there isn't much else going on in this dish—onion nubs and pork chunks? I could do with more pork.

I'm fully aware that people love jja jang myun; my voice of dissent shouldn't prevent you from trying it. You might like it! ...Or, you know, not.

cut the noodles

The noodles are so long that you have to cut them with scissors. Unless you like long, unwieldy noodles. In which case, a win for you.

Szechuan Style Tofu

Colin and I were much more into the Szechuan-style tofu made of soft tofu cubes slathered in a spicy mapo dofu-esque sauce that also had a hint of Korean red chili spiciness. (If I were more knowledgeable about spices and whatnot I could be more specific. But I'm not.) I'm putting it on the "WOULD EAT AGAIN" list.

BCD Tofu House

Bi Bim Neng Myun
Uh..yeah that looks weird.

I've already had the tofu stew from BCD Tofu House, so on my last visit I tried something else: bi bim naeng myun, a mound of angel hair-thin buckwheat/kudzu/other starch-based noodles served cold in a pool of gochujang with some sesame oil and topped with sliced beef, kimchi, hard boiled egg, cucumber, and sliced radish. You get a bottle of vinegar on the side to squeeze in to your liking. Like jja jang myun, the noodles are so long that they require some snippage for ease of eating. Aside from the hindrance of length, they're also mega chewy—at least, if they're cooked correctly they should be. The chewiness is one of the best parts.

Bi Bim Neng Myun

Although it was refreshing on a hot day, I couldn't eat the whole bowl without getting tired of it. The sauce tasted too sweet; I'm not sure if it's supposed to be like that. The noodles also seemed to lose some of their coveted sproinginess towards the end. I had this dish when I was in Seoul and loved it, but I would classify this version as "not bad." Next time I'll go back to good ol' tofu stew and try bi bim naeng myun somewhere else.

Gahm Mi Oak

kim chi

Gahm Mi Oak is known for their seolleongtang, but the dish I remember best is their radish kimchi. I had never before felt so compelled to repeatedly dip my chopsticks into a pile of fermented vegetables. Serious Eats members informed me that the deliciousness was in the sweetness, and Roboseyo in particular said that seolleongtang-centric restaurants are known for having very good kimchi to compliment the bland broth.

Sul Long Tang SALT scallions
Soup of beefiness.

This was my first time eating seolleongtang, ox bone-based broth filled with thin slices of beef brisket, noodles, and rice. The broth comes unseasoned; that's what the pot of salt (and chopped scallions) on the table is for. If I hadn't been eating with Alice and Greg I probably wouldn't have known what to do, or at least, wouldn't have known how much salt I had to put in. That is, roughly "a lot"—start with a few spoonfuls and taste from there so you don't overdo it. The salt brings out the minerally goodness of the milky bone-infused soup. While I wouldn't call it one of my favorite Korean dishes (I'd rather have the rice on the side so it doesn't become congee-like), I would eat it again, preferably in the winter.


Pocha 32
15 W 32nd St
New York, NY 10001

Hyo Dong Gak
51 W 35th St
New York, NY 10001

BCD Tofu House
17 W 32 St
New York, NY 10079

Gahm Mi Oak
43 W 32nd St
New York, NY 10001-3805


Su-Lin / July 9, 2009 6:35 AM

Woah...that's a lot of Korean food. I agree with you a bit about the jja jang myun but I find that what it needs is lots of onion for sweetness.

Dave / July 9, 2009 8:10 AM

It's comforting that someone else knows what it's like to go through Korean food withdrawal when you leave Seoul =P. (Though this post was also a reminder that Boston has really sucky Korean food compared to NY). I really need to get my ass up there more. btw, I LOVE children of the 90s (have you seen

I guess jjajangmyun has always been more about perfect chewy hand pulled noodles than the sauce for me. Plus korean style sweet sour pork/beef (tang soo yook) at the same time - dipped in soy sauce. Can't have one without the other. Have to get it every time I'm in Chicago visiting the rents (the stuff here is gross).

olia / July 9, 2009 8:56 AM

yay Roboppy update!
I wanted to see Love Exposure but procrastinated w/tickets ::wail:: glad it was good! (altho I'd need pee breaks) and Moon was awesome! (inadvertently I found out and passed along a spoiler ::fail::)
I haven't been getting enough Korean food in the past month wtf!? need to catch up on that, thanks for giving yummy ideas (at 9am o_O)

SuperChomp / July 9, 2009 9:29 AM

The ox bone broth thing definitely looks like it would be well suited to a colder season. And hey, I like congee, so it'd be a-okay for me.

Hey yeah, no one here is complaining about the frequency of your posts. Just chill and take it easy. (However, the link to the American health system thing shocked me. I had no idea it was like that over your side of the pond). I think the idea would be to live alone, but close enough to all your friends so you're not lonely, right? And it'd be hell trying to get to work in the morning from Philly :P
Take care Robyn x

roboppy / July 9, 2009 9:43 AM

Su-Lin: I feel like there was a good amount of onions in my jja jang myun, but just..sparse porky bits. Granted, that might just be how it's supposed to be. BUT I LIKE MAH PORKY BITS!

Dave: I haven't read fupenguin in a while but AHHHhh thanks for the reminder, cos it's awesome. :)

The noodles I got weren't bad. I'd probably like em more if they were in that szechuan tofu sauce though, haha.

SuperChomp: I CANNOT CHILL ARGAHRA (rips our hair)

Anyhoo, yes, our healthy system is messed up, but so many people here are against having a national health care system. :( My mom seems to be one of them and she doesn't even have health insurance. We're not invincible! Gah. Thankfully I do have insurance. I only have one prescription and...well, I guess I might fill it more often if it didn't cost $100-ish a pop (advair) but I wait until I need it. I don't have a regular doctor. :\

I don't think I was shocked by our health care system until I got a root canal in France and didn't have to pay anything for it. THAT was, really?

Oh yeah, commuting from Philly would be ridiculous (although I'm sure some people do that regularly), but at least I have some friends there! Ahhhhwell.

Chris H / July 9, 2009 12:16 PM

Love the pictures and the write-up! I think you hit every single one of my favorite restaurants in K-town (with the exception of Seoul Garden).

Christina / July 9, 2009 12:33 PM

I don't think I've ever seen tofu look better than in that pic.

Robyn, don't feel bad about not blogging enough (although I've never thought you didn't post enough), in fact, I think it's something every blogger feels on more than once occasion. Part of my problem was my slower-than-slug laptop taking forever to edit pictures, so I cut back my "epic" posts for short succinct ones easier to put up and less likely to make me claw my eyeballs out. When I have a giant post I now edit the pictures one day and post in the next few days. (I don't care if none of my posts are posted on the actual day of occurring anymore.)

roboppy / July 10, 2009 11:19 AM

Chris: I haven't been to Seoul Garden yet, but lots of people have recommended it to me. ;_; OKAY, NEXT TIME I AM GOIN THAAR!!

Christina: I need to learn to cut back the epic, hehe. Last night I was up for hours editing photos...that is one of the biggest time sucks. (Admittedly, I passed the time by also watching stuff on hulu. FAIL.)

Ulla: No prob! I hope you get some Korean food soon!

anna / July 10, 2009 3:02 PM

Ooh, noodly things! I need to get to know more noodly dishes. I love noodles. And I like that they are so long you have to use scissors. That's my kind of noodle! I'm sure there's some kind of long noodle-long post metaphor that could be found here, but I think I exhausted my grammar/word wittiness earlier today replying to an overly-pregnant friend's requests for contraction-y thoughts (can't! won't! he'll! isn't! etc.)

I also like to think that maybe I had a little hand in Colin's unveganization. I was telling him about macarons and what I could and could not veganize as far as pastry went. He asked if I could make a macaron vegan and I told him that's completely impossible and that he was missing out on lots of wonderful egg-based concoctions. Sooo...yeah. Maybe.

Danny / July 10, 2009 3:57 PM

yea it's crazy how much salt you gotta add to make that white broth taste good... and a lot of Jja jang myun needs more salt too. For some reason, I feel like many Asian places do not salt the water that they use to cook the noodles. Could just be speculation though.

Jason / July 10, 2009 10:20 PM

Jja jang myun always tastes really bland to me for some reason. The BCD Tofu House noodles do look fairly tasty. Alas...

Phyllis (me HUNGRY!) / July 11, 2009 12:09 AM

No need to explain...I'm also guilty of the mega-posts and falling behind!

If I lived in NYC I would be in Koreatown every day (I have slight obsession with soondubu chigae, and now after reading this post will probably become obsessed with budae chigae- spam & hot dogs together - me likey!). Bookmarking this post for the next time I'm in the city.

Healthcare in the US is still really frustrating for me, having grown up in Canada where we had universal healthcare and didn't have to worry about not having insurance, co-pays or your claim being denied everytime you go to the doctor (it's always fun opening up a $1200 bill for routine bloodwork). But Canadians do pay for their healthcare system another way - through crazy high income taxes.

Kasseopeia / July 11, 2009 2:23 AM

Wow, I recognize the symptoms of Seoul-food withdrawal. I went through that early this year, and t'was way too embarrassing to post! Harhar... Manila has pretty ok Korean food places - mostly owned by Korean nationals. =D

This has inspired me to blog about my own bout with withdrawal. Harharhar...

roboppy / July 11, 2009 6:41 PM

anna: gasp, YOU UNVEGANIZED!

...I mean, yay! Hehehe. Yeah. The world of vegan pastries just isn't as good (not to say I've never had a good vegan pastry, because I have). As long as you're not allergic, ye gotta have your eggs and your dairy when it comes to French desserts. :)

Danny: Maybe Hyo Dong Gak should put salt bowls on the tables too. Mmmm sodium.

Jason: We can go to BCD next time you're here!

Phyllis: I'd rather pay those taxes than feel hesitant about seeing a doctor about...well anything. :[ (Granted, a big chunk of Americans don't want this.) I think I'd also just feel better knowing that everyone has access to health care without going bankrupt or something. GAHRHRGFUFHUohwell. I look forward to seeing the US's health care system change during my lifetime...

Kasseopeia: Seoul Food Withdrawal sounds like a real psychological disorder now. :P I want more cheap Korean food!

yuri / July 13, 2009 2:18 AM

A post about Korean food in NYC! On my b-day no less! :)

As always, nice work!!

I love jja jang myun. Ultimate combo is when its served with a side of sweet & sour beef or chicken (Korean-style). Better than PB&J. And I do agree it's always a bit bland but what my brother and I do is ask for red pepper flakes and go to town with it. I wish Chinese-Korean restaurants carried srirachachachacha just for this purpose. That's what goes onto my Chapaghetti at home!

Can't wait to read about Brighton Beach!!

Miss Needle / July 13, 2009 6:41 PM

You may want to try gan jia jiang (which is what I always order) instead of regular jia jiang myun. With gan jia jiang, they fry the bean paste in pork fat, intensifying the flavor. I think it's a lot tastier, and can't understand why everybody orders the regular jia jiang myun, which definitely can taste bland.

bionicgrrrl / July 14, 2009 12:39 AM

Oh I love the jjajangmyun at Hyodonggak, but I have to say my Chinese friends aren't a fan because the Korean version is less salty and the sauce is more thick than the Chinese version. As for spice, I always add some red chili pepper to the noodles. That helps, and if you need even more spice, there's always kimchi. Chili oil would be nice, but that's rare at Korean places.

roboppy / July 14, 2009 12:50 AM

yuri: RED PEPPER FLAKES! That would've made it so much better! Okay, I will try again with that.

Miss Needle: Holy crap, I want that too. FRIED IN PORK FAT! Magic words, those are.

bionicgrrrl: Damn, next time I need more chili action in mah noods!

James Boo / July 14, 2009 12:16 PM

I was a bit disappointed by Hyodonggak, not only because of the jjajangmyun (I'll have go back and try the gan jja jang and douse it with some pepper), but also because the tansooyok was too delicate for my tastes - not crispy or flavorful enough to be crave-wothy. I'm hoping to try some more Korean Chinese in Queens and see how it matches up with the stuff I grew up on in LA...

sushiburger / July 14, 2009 12:43 PM

Have you tried Baden Baden NY? It's in the building next to Shanghai Mong... It's more of a bar.. but the fried chicken there is pretty good (very different from Bonchon, and not as good... but still worth a try).. Also the spicy squid with noodles (nak ji bokkeum) is also pretty good...

Bo / July 14, 2009 1:40 PM

Love the review overall. And to find non-Koreans who are willing to venture into more esoteric Korean food land.

Just a few comments:
- Most Koreans in NY would say that all the good Korean-Chinese is in Queens. I've tried all the places in K-town and none can hold a candle to the places in Flushing. If you want good Jajjangmyun try Sam Won Gak on Northern Blvd. Also try the gam pong kye (friend chicken in a spicy garlic sauce).
- I wouldn't recommend getting Bi Bim Nengmyun at a place that specializes in SonDubu (soft tofu) in tha same way that I wouldn't recommend the jigae's (stews) in a BBQ place. Try one of the more mainstream places.
- You are a brave woman for trying budae jigae. I can't stomach that stuff.

roboppy / July 14, 2009 7:59 PM

James: I have yet to investigate much Korean food in queens..cos I keep eating Chinese food there. Gah! Next time.

sushiburger: Yup! I didn't realize I never wrote about it here, but I blogged about it on Serious Eats. Only been there once, but I'd go back!

Bo: I wish...Queens were closer. :[ K-town is so much easier to get to (I can walk there from my office, yay!). But I would love to get the good Korean eats in Queens someday. I went to Sam Won Gahk once and it was great!

freddy / July 15, 2009 12:30 AM

bibim naengmyun should be a little sweet, but the spiciness should be more dominant, i think... that was probably because something was up with the gochujang -- maybe it wasn't particularly high quality. and yeah, seollongtang is more of a winter dish :).

also, if you want better jjangjangmyun, definitely try sam won gak again! there are probably some other places, but sam won gak is my mom and sister's favorite. koreans usually get jjampong along with jjangjangmyun, too.

roboppy / July 17, 2009 11:10 AM

freddy: I don't know what jjampong, but it sounds like...I WANT IT! Or. I like that it has "pong" in it.

Colin: NO U DONT!

Hazygrey / July 19, 2009 10:59 PM

jjampong is a very spicy noodle soup. It's bright orange with all the chili and is chock full of seafood and veggies. It's the second most popular dish in korean chinese restaurants, and it's always so~ hard to decide between jajjangmyun so much that some restaurants (like shanghai mong) serve a jajjangmyun - jjampong combo dish. It's really a match made in heaven.

Something random from the archives