March 6, 2012
ign: center;”>The other night we decided to check out a new restaurant that just popped up in Southie called Moko Japanese Restaurant. When we heard that they delivered sushi we ordered from them on Valentine’s Day, not realizing that it was their opening night. Needless to say, we were less than impressed but we gave them the benefit of the doubt since it was their debut and they were slammed.
Until Moko acquires a liquor license, which they explained they were having some major setbacks with, they will remain B.Y.O.B. I actually hope that they don’t get a license because it made the experience that much better, drinking what we prefer at a measly $5 corkage fee.
When we opened the menu, I was surprised to see that there was an entire section dedicated to traditional Korean fare.
Since I wasn’t entirely in the mood for sushi and I do love experimenting with dishes that are foreign to me, I “Eenie Meenie Miney Mo’d” the list of hard to pronounce Korean dishes. My finger landed on something called Yuk-gae-jahng which was described as a beef and green onion dish served with glass noodles, egg, and a spicy broth.
Fair enough. Sounded pretty good. One thing that I find when ordering menu items labeled “spicy” is that the chefs tend to play it rather safe as to not offend the diner even if the traditional dish is in fact really intense.
I didn’t know what to expect but I was eagerly awaiting one of my first, truly traditional Korean meals. When the dish arrived my body went into sensory overload. The aroma coming from the deep bowl was so extreme and the fiery red color had me googly-eyed.
I grabbed the porcelain spoon and raised a sip to my mouth to blow on it and immediately felt the burn of heat in my nostrils. As soon as it touched my lips, I realized how serious this dish was. It was a whirlwind of flavor and a perfect balance of spicy chilies with rich, beef stock and pungent green onion.
The fine strands of shredded beef brisket melted in your mouth and the onions still had a slight crunch to them. Once you dig deep enough, you hit the glass noodles which are so slippery, you don’t even know when they’re sliding down the hatch.
The noodles combined with the raw egg that gets stirred in before service creates a silky smooth texture to the broth. I literally couldn’t stop eating it. It was rich, comforting, fiery, and insanely addictive.
This past weekend, I was craving Yuk-gae-jahng again so I decided to re-create the dish at home. After perusing several different online recipes, I thought that I had a firm enough grasp on the basic concept of the dish.
I headed to the Super88, the Asian foods market, to grab some rather unconventional ingredients, which is always a difficult task.
I was on the hunt for a particular Korean chili powder, paste, dried glass noodles, and fernbrake otherwise known as gosari, which I thought was a long bean at first but it appears it is like some type of royal fern. I have no idea, I couldn’t find it anyway.
Not one person in the store knew what gosari or fernbrake was so I eliminated it from the recipe. Another misstep is the fact that I underestimated the power of Korean chili powder. Holy cow it packs a punch.
I brought everything home and started on my homemade beef broth. I boiled a few slices of beef chuck steaks in water with onion, garlic cloves, and some peppercorns for hours until the meat was ugly and gray, but extremely tender.
I strained the liquid which would become the base to my soup and returned it to the pot. In a separate sauce pot, I added the Korean chili powder, chili paste, sesame oil, soup soy, minced garlic and black pepper. I stirred this around over low heat to bring it into a thick paste consistency and to warm the essential oils.
Once it was burning my nose hairs, I added it into a bowl with sliced green onions, bean sprouts, and shredded beef to hang out and marinate. After about twenty minutes I tossed the “salad” into the simmering broth. The liquid immediately transformed from crystal clear to bright orange before my eyes and the reminiscent smells of Moko restaurant that night started to fill my kitchen.
After about an hour longer of simmering, I ladled my soup over some rehydrated glass noodles and broke a fresh egg into the steaming broth which quickly cooked after a few swirls of my spoon. The Yuk-gae-jahng looked identical, smelled identical, and almost tasted identical except for the fact that again, I underestimated the heat inside Korean chili powder.
This Sunday dinner turned into a night at East Coast Grill’s “Hell Night” rather quickly. In fact, it only took a few slurps before we
were both crying, sweating, and laughing at how hot this bowl of fire actually was. Soon, the laughter turned into straight panic as excessive drooling and tearing ensued. The problem was, it still tasted great. We kept punishing ourselves, trying to cool it down with a bowl of sticky rice but the burning continued.
We were forced to serve the dish with cold milk to help calm our taste buds. I’d say that overall it was a valid attempt to recreate a classic Korean dish, but now I know to go easy on the chili. I encourage everyone to go to Moko and try their version which actually has a pleasant amount of heat to it. If you’re tongue is rather sensitive to heat, bring a bottle of milk with you and they’ll gladly pour it into a glass for you.