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Food: Marja’s Top 5 Korean Restaurants in NY

New York is a veritable food paradise, and its Korean food scene far from disappoints. On any given night, Koreatown is bustling with eager diners of all stripes, in search of their next delicious Korean meal. There’s hardly a New Yorker who hasn’t heard of uber-popular Korean foods like Bonchon chicken, bibimbap, and of course, kalbi. However, these aside, there’s a ton of Korean food yet to be discovered, and anybody can find them, just as long as you know where to go!

As an avid Korean foodie, Marja has spent many years exploring New York’s finest Korean establishments. From where to get a satisfying late night meal to where to find the city’s best kimchi mandoo, she’s got a place for it all. She divulges her secrets here in this exclusive list of her top five Korean restaurants:

Kun Jip: 9 West 32nd Street
“A great place for a late night meal after a long night of Norebang”
This restaurant in the heart of Ktown is always busy, without fail. People line up for its authentic Korean food, from seafood bibimbap, seafood pajeon (pancake), and ox-bone stew (seolleongtang). It is open 24 hours, every day, all day, making it one of the city’s best late-night spots.
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Po Cha 32: 15 West 32nd Street
“My other late night after Norebang spot.  It reminds me of the pojangmacha’s in Korea, and they make my favorite budae jjigae with lots of cheese.  Yum!
Just a stone’s throw away from Kunjip, this dive bar is another one of Marja’s favorite late night haunts. The budae jjigae, aka an exceptionally spicy army base stew, is legendary.
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Mandoo bar: 2 West 32nd Street
“I love to go there for a quick lunch of kimchi mandoo and a side of yukgaejang!”
This little hole in the wall serves up perfect, authentic Korean dumplings, called mandoo. Delicate mandoo are made right before your very eyes, and at $11 for 10, it’s a steal. They also offer a slew of other great dishes to mix it up a bit.
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Arirang: 32 West 32nd Street
“When I’m feeling a cold coming on, I head there for kimchi sujebi.  It always makes me feel better!
This restaurant focuses on super authentic Korean food, and is especially famous for its handcut kalguksu (knifecut noodles). Equally in demand are its delicious doughy sujebi (torn noodles), and Marja loves the kimchi version.
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Muk Eun Ji: 34 West 32nd Street
“My new favorite restaurant.  They serve traditional Korean food and the chef is from Jeollado.  The ingredients are flown in every week from Korea and the food reflects that!  It’s like eating in Korea minus the airfare!”
Muk Eun Ji is all about kimchi, and here, traditional aged Korean kimchi is imported straight from Jinan, Korea. The kimchi here has been fermented for at least a year, and it’s got a unique, distinctive taste.  There’s an entire menu dedicated to kimchi, so it’s definitely one for the kimchi fans out there.

Drinks: Bacchus-D

Most people have experienced those days when energy levels are staggeringly low, and a jolt of energy is absolutely necessary for a second wind. In these dire situations, people who live in the U.S. tend to turn to popular energy drinks like Red Bull, Monster, and jumbo sizes of Starbucks’ Doubleshot. Korea’s equivalent is Bacchus-D, and this was an important source of livelihood during long hours and late nights while filming Kimchi Chronicles. It was so insanely popular with cast and crew that we began buying it in bulk by the case!

A potent combination of Korean ginseng, royal jelly, taurine, a vitamin B cocktail, and apple juice, Bacchus fans love it for its kitschy medicinal packaging and trademark hyper syrupy and citrus heavyy taste. It’s also differentiated from other energy drinks by its lack of carbonation. For those who enjoy the heady sensation of alcohol mixed with energy drinks, there is the popular “Bacchus Bomb”, an interesting take on a soju bomb that leads to serious bacchanalia. It’s also allegedly a good hangover cure, due to its super power ingredient, red ginseng. Clearly, its uses are multifaceted, and its touted for a slew of benefits, including improving physical performance, fighting fatigue, improving vision, and of course, maximizing energy! Talk about a miracle drink.

First launched in 1961, the name refers to Bacchus, the Greek god of wine and revelry. It was originally called Bacchus-F, with the F standing for Forte. In the 90′s, Bacchus-D was launched.  The D refers to the amount of taurine in the new and improved version. With 2000 mg of taurine, Bacchus-D has double the amount of Bacchus-F, and the added bonus of less calories. It comes in an 100 mL bottle and 250 mL cans, and it packs a strong punch for its petite size. The smallest size has the same amount of taurine as a standard energy five times as large, at a fraction of the price.

5 Questions or Less: Sam Shinn

(Left to right): Brandon Ziegenfuss, Marja Vongerichten, Sam Shinn

Sam Shinn is an award winning photography director and producer  for documentaries and independent projects, and founder of Iron Eye Productions. His work has been broadcast globally on stations such as ABC, CBS, CNN, and PBS, and he is also the recipient of an Emmy Award. He brought his extensive skills over to Kimchi Chronicles, where he was the director of photography. From hard-hitting documentary pieces to food programs, he has truly done it all, and his body of work is intimidatingly impressive.

 

You’re an award winning photography director for documentaries and independent projects. Other than Kimchi Chronicles, what else have you worked on?

I’ve been lucky to have worked on a wide range of projects as both a producer and director of photography, from political and social documentaries, to feature films and music videos.  Some of my most recent films, Dorothy Day: Don’t Call Me A Saint, and Paper Covers Rock have premiered at Tribeca Film Festival and South by Southwest Film Festival. In terms of food shows, aside from Kimchi Chronicles, I’ve worked on the Cooking Channel’s Unique Sweets, and PBS series Spain…On the Road Again and How to Cook Everything.

Why did you decide to start working on food programs?

Food and cooking shows are a happy coincidence of combining the work I do with my favorite hobby.  It wasn’t a conscious decision, but I’m really happy to have gotten on the foodie wave.  This doesn’t mean I know how to cook, though.  I’m still a novice on that front.

You were born in South Korea, moving to the US at the age of six. What does it feel like when you return to visit?

I left Korea a long time ago, and I’m shocked at how much the country has changed.  It was a smaller, less industrialized country when I left.  The modern, sleek and crowded Korea that has evolved since I left is a little unrecognizable.  But what hasn’t changed are the people and our culture.  Warm, emotional, funny and beautiful, Korean people still make me proud to be Korean.  And there is no better food in the world.  If I could only eat Korean food for the rest of my life, I’d be happy.

What was the absolute best meal that you ate while in Korea?

Asking me to pick out a favorite meal is like asking a father to pick his favorite child.  They were all good.  From the rest stops on the highway to the fanciest multi-course meal.  I love Korean food and no matter the dish, Korean food just tastes better in Korea.  The best Korean meal in NYC just doesn’t taste the same.

What advice do you have for aspiring cameramen and directors of photography?

I’ve been very fortunate and can’t quite point to the turning point that got me started.  But it’s definitely a lot of luck and meeting the right people.  Keep working hard, because no matter what your job title or description is, everyone recognizes a hard worker and will remember your name.  That’s half the battle.

Social Media and Website Updates

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s been an exciting month for the Kimchi Chronicles on the technology front! From new blog features to a detailed travel resource, there are a few changes we’d like to share with you. Here’s a short update!

WEBSITE

1. Comments: We now have commenting features on the blog. We’d love to hear your feedback!
2. Visit Korea: The travel section on our website is up to date, full of Kimchi Chronicles-tailored suggestions of where to eat, stay, and go all over Korea.

TWITTER

1. Marja’s Twitter: Marja has a new Twitter page, which you can check out here.
2. Kimchi Chronicles Twitter: Check out the Kimchi Chronicles Twitter here for updates!

FACEBOOK
1. Marja’s Facebook Fan Page: Marja now has a Facebook fan page, where she’ll post updates and photos regularly.
2. Kimchi Chronicles Page: Stay tuned for more exciting photos, exclusives, and all things Kimchi Chronicles-related here.

CONTEST
The Kimchi Chronicles Video contest has officially launched, and there are some great prizes at stake. See the official contest announcement on Youtube, and for more information, check out the blog.

Kimchi Chronicles Video Contest!

Love the cooking segments on the show? Imagine yourself as an aspiring food star? You’re in
luck because Kimchi Chronicles is launching a video contest this month with exciting giveaways.

Here’s the skinny:

What?
Post a video of yourself cooking one of Marja’s recipes (or something inspired from one!) from the Kimchi Chronicles cookbook. The video should be under 5 minutes, and the segment should feature the cookbook, if possible.

How?
Subscribe to the Kimchi Chronicles Youtube Channel, and post your video response to the official contest video announcement. The contest runs from Wednesday, October 19 through Saturday, December 31, so be sure to upload your video within this time frame. Please also leave your email along with your video. The judging panel will consist of members of the teams at DramaFever, Hmart.com, Rasa Malaysia, CJ Foods, and Kimchi Chronicles, including Marja!

Why?
Your chance at fame, the title of Kimchi Chronicles Chef, and an amazing prize. The winning videos will also be posted on the Kimchi Chronicles blog, and Facebook and Youtube pages. DramaFever will also feature the top 3 videos on their website.

First prize:
A year’s supply of Hmart kimchi, a year’s subscription of DramaFever Premium, a year’s supply of CJ Bibigo Korean Pantry Set, and $100 gift certificate at Hmart.com.

Second prize:
Cuisinart appliance, a year’s subscription of DramaFever Premium, and a $75 gift certificate at Hmart.com.

Third prize:
Cuisinart appliance, a year’s subscription of DramaFever Premium, $50 gift certificate at Hmart.com.

Honorable Mentions:
Up to 5 individuals awarded a month’s subscription of DramaFever Premium, $50 gift certificate at Hmart.com.

Official Rules
1. The contest runs from Oct. 19- Dec. 31, and all videos must be posted by Dec. 31 at 11:59 p.m. EST. Winners will be chosen and notified within two weeks, via email.
2. US residents eligible only.
3. Prize will be mailed to the winner’s mailing address. Please allow 2-4 weeks for delivery.
4. By entering or accepting the prize in this contest, winners agree to these official rules, terms, and conditions.
5. All video entries will be reviewed by members of the Kimchi Chronicles team, including Marja. Keep it clean, light, and fun.

 

Thanks to our partners


 

 



Food: Korean School Food

In the U.S., snacktime generally consists of juice boxes and the occasional peanut butter and jelly sandwich. In Korea, snacktime is a whole other affair, and upon visiting the Chodang Elementary School, Marja and Diana snacked upon deep-fried rolls made of noodles and carrots wrapped in seaweed. All washed down with some nutty barley tea, it made for a healthy and satisfying mini-meal.

Overall, school food in Korea looks very different from your typical American lunch tray. Aside from being far from the packaged foods we associate with our childhood cafeteria lunches, Korean school food resembles a more balanced meal. There’s rice, vegetables, soup, and a protein, often fish. And of course, kimchi, for no Korean meal is truly complete without this spicy condiment. True to form, school lunches are very Korean, comprised of a plethora of banchan and rice.

Obviously, quality is variable, but Korean school food is so highly acclaimed that there’s even a restaurant chain in Korea, aptly named School Food,  that serves up cafeteria favorites. From gimbap to ramen, it’s a nostalgic foodie’s ultimate eatery. Keeping with the balanced lunch diet, there are a variety of different kinds of soups, noodles, gimbap, and tteokbokki. The concept is definitely unique, and somehow manages to make school lunch seem appealing in a way we never thought possible.

Drinks: Coffee Culture

Over the past few years, coffeehouses have been popping up like crazy all over Korea, and the trend has only been fueled by the uber-popular MBC drama, The 1st Shop of Coffee Prince. Akin to the US’ Starbucks culture, Korea is developing a coffee culture all its own. In Korea, coffee is the new tea.

Instant coffee is readily available, and automatic coffee makers are ubiquitous, found near the exit of just about every Korean restaurant. A dime will buy you a small paper cup of instant coffee that you can knock back just like a shot. In Korea, coffee is treated with efficiency, but it’s also rapidly becoming a place for coffee connoisseurs.

Nowadays, Korea is becoming increasingly saturated with coffee shops, and you can find one on virtually any street corner, offering quality fresh roasts from all over the world. The demand for better coffee is rising, and as a result, coffee franchises have exploded. Joining Starbucks are major chains like A Twosome Place, a specialty dessert and coffee shop.

There are also some unique niche coffee shops in Korea, such as the popular Giocat Cafe. At this cafe, coffee enthusiasts can drink lattes and pet cats too. There’s even a poster on the wall with all of names of the cats, accompanied by descriptions of their temperaments. Feeling sad? Pet a kind cat like Ho-ya the Siamese! Who knew cats and coffee were such a delightful combination? It’s clear that Korea’s taking its coffee trend in unique new directions.

Street Food: Gimbap

Gimbap is essentially the Korean version of sushi, but arguably even tastier. It’s a simple roll made of rice and fillings, all wrapped in dry seaweed. It’s the ultimate street food in Korea, as ubiquitous as hot dogs are in New York. It’s not difficult to see why; it’s the ultimate convenient food-cheap, tasty, and nutritious. With gimbap, you can get your rice, veggies, and protein all in one handy, individually portioned bite.

Its preparation is relatively simple, with no fancy ingredients necessary. White rice is seasoned with sesame salt and oil, and then rolled with fillings in a sheet of laver. It’s easy to incorporate a variety of different ingredients and flavors, depending on your preferences. Standard fillings include fried egg and various vegetables, usually carrot, spinach, and radish. However, you’ll find many fun variations, such as kimchi, canned tuna, cheese, and even fried chicken with mayonnaise. It’s virtually impossible for gimbap to not taste delicious.

For most Koreans, it’s a comfort food packed with nostalgia, reminding people of their childhoods and outdoor picnic fun. During production, it was one of the crew’s go-to snacks. Much like popular dishes such as bibimbap and mandu, it’s one of Korean food’s international superstars, and it’s at the top of our list for cheap, good eats.

Food: Crew Lunch at Doore

Damage at Doore

While filming Kimchi Chronicles, we visited a slew of amazing restaurants and consequently, many delicious meals were eaten. From seven minute jjigae at Sehmaeul Shikdang to piping hot street food at Korea’s many outdoor markets, eating in Korea was full of great experiences, but one takes the cake. When it comes to best restaurant in Korea, Marja and the crew all agreed that Doore was their top pick.

After a long shoot, the cast and crew were treated to a memorable lunch at Doore, a traditional Korean restaurant in Seoul’s Insadong area. It’s been serving up classic Korean fare for over half a century and located in a hanok style house, it makes for a very authentic dining experience. The menu at Doore is carefully curated, with dishes chosen daily based on seasons and availability of fresh ingredients.

The lunch eaten there is the stuff of dreams. Bowls of different kinds of kinds of kimchi, from fresh spring greens to even year-old kimchi, were served alongside a plate of chili-spiced pork wrapped in mountain herbs. Then, there was a whole cooked pumpkin filled to the brim with braised short ribs, chestnuts, walnuts, and gingko. Following this tasty dish were a selection of soups made from fermented bean paste which they make themselves, and a simple clear soup reported to be excellent for digestion.

In the words of cookbook author Julia Turshen, “it was all perfect, perfect, perfect, and incredibly beautiful. In fact, it was so good that we couldn’t be bothered to fetch a camera until after we ate.”

5 Questions or Less: Jennifer Flinn Of FatManSeoul

Jennifer and Marja at Gwangjang Market

Jennifer Flinn is a blogger for FatManSeoul, where she chronicles all things food in Seoul. She’s a major player in Korea’s food scene, and we were thrilled to feature her in Kimchi Chronicles. Dining alongside Marja and Diana, she impressed us all with her encyclopedic knowledge of Korean food. Read on for more about some of her thoughts about the show, Korean food, and more!

You appear on the show as one of Marja’s frequent dining companions. What is one of your best memories during filming?

Oh, there are too many good memories to choose from!  Perhaps the most fun was the last day of filming, when we sat in a street food tent and played drinking games, but then we also had such a great time interacting with the vendors when we filmed in Gwangjang Market!  It’s just such a welcoming place, and all the people running stalls there were so enthusiastic about telling us about the food.  That warmth really just made filming there a joy.  Of course the most entertaining moment was probably when I had just given dire warning about eating galchi (beltfish) carefully so you didn’t choke on the bones and then promptly choked on a bone.  I sincerely hope that moment ended on the cutting room floor.  It was funny, but definitely not going to aid my professional reputation.

How long have you been living in Korea, and why did you decide to move there?

I’ve lived in Korea off and on for nearly a decade now.  I came several times as a student and on grants and fellowships, so I’ve been very lucky to be able to study the language and culture. My first trip was as an undergraduate when my college was invited to participate in a summer program, and although I had no real intention of studying Korea specifically, I just fell in love with the country.  After that, I just kept coming back any way I could – I’ve spent time here as a student, a researcher, and just working.

Kimchi Chronicles is all about sharing Korean food with the world. What should people absolutely know about Korean food?

It’s much, much more diverse than people realize.  Of course there are classic dishes like galbi and baechu kimchi that people are familiar with and think of as the taste of Korea, but there’s a whole other world of flavors beyond meaty and spicy! I love how Koreans use ingredients like ground wild sesame seed to flavor soups and stews, and how many different wild herbs and vegetables, some of which are only available in small parts of the country, come into play.  But I also want people to know that there’s a really sophisticated dining scene here that includes some really innovative creations and brilliant combinations of flavors and textures that incorporate influences from around the world.  There’s also lots of experimentation happening among ordinary restaurants and home cooks, who are using Korean ingredients and techniques in new ways.  It’s a fascinating time here, and the food is changing all the time.

You’ve got one of the most popular food blogs in Korea. What drew you to pursue a career in food blogging?

Oh, I wish it were a career for me!  But as a hobby, it’s a great way for me to continue to share Korean food with a wide variety of people and learn what else is going on.  I’m very interested in taking an anthropological approach to food and finding ways to understand Korea through its food culture, but the blog is a way to take that interest and share all the exciting things I see with people who don’t necessarily want to read an academic article.  Also, running the blog encourages me to keep going out there and documenting and learning about the cuisine!  If anybody would like to pay for me to do this full time, I’d be ecstatic!  In the meantime, I have a great time using the blog as a way to connect with people who are also interested in Korean food.

Jean Georges and Marja aside, who would you invite to your ideal dinner table?

Wow, that’s a tough question! How big is this table? Years ago, there was a PBS show hosted by Steve Allen called “Meeting of Minds” that was formatted like a talk show/dinner party for people like Shakespeare, Marie Antoinette, Cleopatra and other historical figures.  It was such fun, I’m going to give you my historic dinner guest list:

I always thought Samuel Pepys would be the ultimate dinner guest.  You have to appreciate a guy whose first concern during the Great Fire of London is the safety of his Parmesan cheese, and he’d make such an entertaining, gossipy guest!

Charles Darwin was a seriously adventurous eater, and I would love to hear firsthand about his travels and insights . . . and eats.  He seems to have chowed down on as many animals as he studied (or maybe that was part of the studies?) and so you know he’s not a picky eater.  Apparently he ate some delicious mystery rodents while he was in South America, and I’d love to know what they were . . . Dog soup would seem downright tame after all that.

Lady Jang (full name unknown) was a yangban woman from the Andong area who wrote the Eumsik Dimibang (also known as the Gyugon Siuibang), the oldest known female-authored cookbook in Korea way back in the 17th century.  Not only does she cover an enormous number of dishes, she’s got a huge amount of information on alcoholic beverages, so she was obviously a lady who knew how to throw a party.  I’d really love to hear what she thinks of modern Korean food.

I’ll make one exception to my historic guest list and say that more than anybody, I want to dine with Japanese food writer and critic Kishi Asako.  It’s terribly cheesy, but I cut my foodie teeth on Iron Chef, and the “East German Judge” was always the highlight of the show. In my crazy imagination, she and Lady Jang would team up to critique the dinner a la Statler and Waldorf.  I think I’d get a weird kick out having Kishi criticize my cooking, and certainly I’d learn a lot from the experience!