It's odd to say, but kimchi is one of the hottest foodstuffs around the country at the moment. The Korean staple of cabbage fermented in a spicy sauce is about as unsexy and antihip as food gets. And yet, kimchi -- and Korean food in general -- is just about everywhere.
In Los Angeles, folks are lining up on street corners to eat at Roy Choi's (Food & Wine Best New Chef) Kogi BBQ trucks, where kimchi, short rib, and other Korean goodies find their way into tacos and burritos. Up a ways in San Francisco, kimchi-covered hot dogs sold from Korean markets are eclipsing the pedestrian frank at record speeds. Were you to travel around New York City, you'd find kimchi at restaurants like David Chang's and at haute wd~50, where it's paired with banana sauce and lobster. But perhaps most telling is that chain restaurants are getting in on Korean fusion. When California Pizza Kitchen jumps onto the bandwagon, you know it's gone stratospheric.
Despite the ever-growing trend, there's sadly not much in the way of
Korean fusion in South Florida. It's no secret our little burg is ages
behind the latest dining trends, so if you're waiting to find bulgoki
tacos filtering their way into these parts, you might be sitting on
that craving until late 2012. Still, there are a number of places where
you can find decent, authentic Korean food. And you can even mod your
kimchi at home. After all, the Korean staple is cheap, easy to find,
and very forgiving to cook with. So here are a few suggestions to tide
you over until the wave hits us.
is one of the best places for authentic Korean food. With an assortment
of regular tables plus ones outfitted with propane burners and charcoal
grills, you can approach your meal there as a BBQ feast or just a
casual night out. Standout dishes include soups made with miso, rich
beef or pork, and lots of vegetables including kimchi; bulgoki and
kalbi, marinated meat served sizzling hot along with lettuce and plenty
of goodies for wrapping; and huge hot pots sizzling with noodles, meat,
seafood, tofu, and just about everything else under the sun.
features mostly Japanese food, but it does have a small selection of
Korean-inspired dishes like kimchi hot pots, cold kimchi salads, and
stir fry made with spicy kimchi and pork. There's also barbecued,
marinated short rib and stir-fried beef with garlic shoots (crunchy,
almost asparagus-like spears). Most telling is that you can actually spot Gabose's owners eating there after hours.
Myung Ga Tofu and BBQ Restaurant is a Korean restaurant but not really
a Korean barbecue restaurant: no grills built into the tables, no
ventilation hoods overhead. As the name implies, the tofu's the thing.
It makes for terrific jigae, the boiling stews of spicy broth and tofu,
especially in oyster- and beef-enhanced versions. The broth is fresh
and clean, strewn with homemade tofu that puts it over the top: creamy,
rich, and sweet enough that you'll pour broth off your spoon to better
savor the tofu alone. It's not true that tofu has no flavor; packaged tofu has no flavor. The other stuff on the menu -- including homemade kimchee -- is mighty fine too.
The name has changed, but the ownership remains the same. So does the
big menu of Korean specialties, including several smokeless, high-tech
BBQ tables where the chefs will do the grilling for you. Try the goon
mandu, crisp pan-fried dumplings with shrimp and pork, and pajun, eggy
pancakes made with fresh vegetables and seafood.
Oriental Square Market (2365 N. University Drive) in
Coral Springs is a one-stop shop for just about any pan-Asian
ingredient. Kimchi comes by the jarload, and you can get enough for
under $5 to last you a good while. Some serving suggestions? Try kimchi
scrambled eggs. The eggs calm the spicy, tart qualities of the kimchi,
while the kimchi seasons the eggs really well. But you can just as soon
make a kalbi taco if you so choose.