By New Times
By Robrt L. Pela
By Lauren Saria and Heather Hoch
By Deborah Sussman
By Robrt L. Pela and Amy Silverman
By Kathleen Vanesian
By Eric Schaefer
By Heather Hoch
For stir-fry fans, there's jap chae. Literally meaning "a mixture of vegetables," this version, served warm, features a tasty nest of lightly cooked, clear housemade noodles stir-fried in sesame oil with beef, thinly sliced carrots, onions, mushrooms, and peppers, and flavored with soy sauce and a bit of sugar. With this slightly sweet and veggie-heavy sensation, wrapping as much as you can get around your chopsticks pays off in full.
On the spicier side are Café Ga Hyang's bibim bap dishes. The popular Korean entrees are served in large bowls filled with luscious sautéed seasoned vegetables and sliced meat (beef, in my case) and topped with a fried egg. You can add rice and squirts of a spicy sauce made from gochujang (a Korean hot pepper paste) to taste. Use your spoon to mix or "bibim" it until the many flavorful ingredients are found in each spicy bite.
As far as soups and stews, Café Ga Hyang has several top-notch selections. Skip the sul long tang, a soup featuring boiled beef bones (which provide its milky color), beef slices, and chopped spring onions. Sadly, it lacked the big beefy flavor I'd hoped for. Instead, opt for the spicy and peppery bright red seafood stew cham pong, served up hearty-like in a helmet-size bowl and loaded with giant shrimp, clams, squid, fresh veggies, green onions, and housemade soba noodles, or the deeply flavored haemul soon du bu, a hot and spicy Korean stew made with seafood, vegetables, and silky pieces of tofu. It will arrive at the table boiling angrily, cooking the jiggling raw egg cracked on top of it and possibly giving you a glimpse of another set of eyes — those of a giant prawn floating in the broth. When cooled, add rice and mix for a spicy seafood-laden dish in which the stew's overall flavor is absorbed in the pieces of the soft tofu.
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For adventurous diners, there's the Korean cold noodle dish (one of my favorites), naeng myun, served in a steel bowl with ice floating in a tangy broth of thin buckwheat noodles, slices of cucumber, crunchy Asian pear, pickled daikon, beef, and a hard-boiled egg. Scissors are used to cut the lengthy noodles (a symbol of good health and a long life) before eating. And the accompanying spicy mustard and vinegar can (and should) be added for a unique and refreshing taste with equally interesting textures.
"Chinese food is popular, sushi is popular — people might think Korean food is strange, but that's just because they haven't tried a lot of it," Rocha tells me.
Consider yourself invited.