As a food editor, eating all kinds of things — both delicious and disastrous — is part of the job description. Not everything that goes into my mouth ends up in a review or article, but some things are just too good not to share.
This week I ate my way all over Phoenix, Tempe, and Mesa, getting caught up on some of the great new spots and old favorites around the Valley. Inspired by talk of chewy rice dumplings, salty kimchi, and thin strips of charred beef in our "How to Order Like a Korean" story, I made an impromptu stop into Asiana Market in Mesa.
Stepping through the sliding glass doors and into the space filled with blasting air conditioning and the sounds of cheerful K-pop is like stepping into another world. I wandered down my favorite aisles, the ones with shelves overflowing with potato chips in flavors like bulgogi and squid ink and the ones filled with unfamiliar cookware and dishes. Then, I followed the smell of sesame oil and frying to the far back corner.
The counter was stacked with plastic containers of glass noodles, lunch boxes perfectly composed with demure bites of bibimbap, steamed rice, strips of seared beef, and seaweed salad. The women preparing the food were visible in the kitchen beyond, chatting cheerfully to one another over the hiss of the steamers and the sizzle of deep fryers.
My eyes moved over the exotic bounty, coming to rest on perfect rounds of fluffy, vegetable-studded Korean mung bean pancakes. I picked up a cellophane-wrapped tray. They were still warm.
Despite the fact that I had many stops left on my gluttonous route, I couldn't resist. At the register, the checkout girl handed me some napkins and a complimentary bottle of water. I sat in the car and tore into the package, ripping off a slightly crisp corner of the bindaetteok. The nutty taste of sesame oil danced with the fermented tang of kimchi and the almost meaty savoriness of the mung beans. They were greasy, tender, and snappy in a way that made it hard to eat just one. But alas, I had more stops to make, so a bit of restraint was required.
Thankfully, they were just as good cold, maybe even better, which I found out when I revisited them later that evening. So often the most satisfying meals I have are the unplanned ones — indulgent little bites of spontaneity.