I was thinking about vacation: New York or Seoul? Then I surfed over to the New York Times on the Web. They'd already posted tomorrow's news yesterday -- a travel story about going Korean without leaving Manhattan.
I went to bed and dreamed about bi bim bop up the ying yang. It turned out not to be a dream. I'd never left the South Sound.
Visions of the Times' story danced in my head:
It is here that many New Yorkers and visitors first taste kimchi (spicy fermented vegetables), bulgogi (thinly sliced marinated beef) and bi bim bop (Google it), and here that Koreans and Korean-Americans gather for parties and social events.
Many will say you haven't experienced Korean New York without a trip to Flushing, Queens, but you can easily fill a weekend without leaving Manhattan. Among the culinary choices on and near West 32nd Street, Kunjip is your standard Koreatown restaurant, offering generous portions of do-it-yourself barbecue, other traditional Korean dishes and several brands of soju, the clear Korean liquor. Across the street, Woorijip is an informal, by-the-pound Korean buffet that also stocks Korean snacks like spicy shrimp crackers and sweet rice drinks, good for a quick lunch or bargain dinner; Korean-style fried chicken -- with a full bar -- is available at the largely hidden, chic gathering place Bon Chon chicken.
The New York Times might describe South Sound cities like Lakewood and Federal Way as the Queens of Seattle, boroughs with established Korean and Korean-American communities.
Do-it-yourself table-top barbecue. Korean fried chicken. Steaming bowls of tofu or goat soup. Bottomless banchan, the sweet-hot-sour smorgasbord of radishes, seaweed, fish cakes, fermented cabbage and crabs. Here are some South Sound recommendations.
Do-it-yourself, do-it-at-your-table barbecue, Korean style.
Palace in Lakewood (pictured above) and Kokiri in Federal Way. Both restaurants will grill for your, or let you grill for yourself. (Raw meat lovers will want to try Kokiri's beef sashimi. Everyone should at least consider the chili-fermented crab at Palace.)
For two barbecue treats in one, try the do-it-yourself barbecue buffet at Kum Kang San B.B.Q. Grill and Buffet in Federal Way. Not just all-you-can eat barbecue (beef, pork, chicken, shrimp) but all-you-can-eat sushi and bottomless banchan.
Korean fried chicken: The Other KFC.
They call it yang yum, but I just say yum to ethereally crispy bird in seriously spicy sauce.
Soon and banchan at Cho Dang.
Cho Dang serves spicy bowls of steaming-hot soon, Korean soups filled with creamy tofu, pungent sesame leaf, or goat. There's also a Cho Dang inside the Pal-Do World supermarket in Federal Way.
Bi bim bop? It's like Korean stir fry, with tasty things like bracken fern or bellflower root mixed in. Look for it at a Korean restaurant near you.