Bringing K-town home

Since I started working in Koreatown, I’ve had the opportunity to immerse myself in a completely unfamiliar cuisine–at least as much of it as they serve at Woorijip, the only K-town joint I can afford. But nothing’s cheaper than cooking at home. So I was happy to come across a recent article by Leslie Kaufman in the New York Times about immigrants who cook their country’s specialties at home, complete with recipes.

dscn3540The first dish I took a stab at was pa jun, Korean pancakes filled with scallions, or with anything else you feel like throwing in. The recipe is as simple as they come–just mix flour, egg, salt, and chopped scallion together with ice water, and fry it all up in oil. The result is more like a crepe than a pancake, thin and delicate and just a bit crisp on the edges. Dipped in a simple vinegar and soy sauce that’s also included in the recipe, the pancakes make a delicious appetizer that’s salty, sweet, and incredibly cheap and easy.

Check out the recipe here. And not to question the master chef, but I’d recommend adding more scallions than she calls for, and perhaps less vinegar in the dipping sauce.

An affordable Korean lesson

When I started working in Koreatown in midtown Manhattan, I was shocked to find that it was just as expensive as the rest of midtown. My hopes for cheap Korean eats were dashed, until I discovered Woorijip (12 W 32nd St., Manhattan–map).

woorijipThis a la carte, cash only joint has a huge variety of Korean favorites (most of which end in -bap) for very reasonable prices. You can load up at the hot bar for $6.50 per pound, or pick from a range of boxed options. A tupperware tub of kimchi bibimbap (a spicy vegetable fried rice) costs $3. A big order of spicy chicken and rice rings up at $4. A hefty roll of kimbap (similar to a sushi roll) goes for $3.50-$4.50–the spicy squid roll that I tried had fresh ingredients, the perfect balance of squid and vegetables, and a spicy kick.

My experience with Korean food is admittedly limited, and I salivate when I think about the education my proximity to Woorijip is going to afford me.

Beef-on-beef action

dscn3161Chicagoans like their hot dogs topped with tomatoes, peppers, relish, and a whole pickle. Koreans apparently like theirs topped with…more meat. At the inconspicuously-named New York Hot Dog & Coffee (245 Bleecker St., Manhattan–map) in the West Village you can experience this cholesterol heaven without crossing the Pacific.

For $5.99, try the Bulgogi hot dog. This isn’t your finger-sized frank from the corner Sabrett cart. It’s a fat, spicy beef sausage in a seven inch hoagie roll topped with copious marinated beef strips, sautéed onions, and pickles. It’s a challenge to fit that all in your mouth, but once you do the mixture of sweet, salty, and spicy flavors is divine. If you’re not a beef fan, get a chicken sausage with chicken, vegetable curry, or kimchi on top.

dscn3163I was tipped off to the Bulgogi sensation by an article in the New York Times that claimed the dog cost $4.99, so I was apoplectic when I saw they’d hiked the price…until I tried the dog. Then all was bliss—it’s worth the extra buck.

One word of warning: if you spring for the full meal (an extra two bucks for spicy fries, chips, or soft-serve and a drink), skip the fries. They’re reheated and soggy and will only detract from your meat gorging experience.