Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Visit To Koreana Plaza

I spent my formative years in northern Orange County where there was a sizeable Korean population. To this day, I carry a strange relationship to Korean food. It was the stuff all the cool kids ate, at least in elementary school. By the fifth grade, I insisted that I bring a bowl of instant kimchi noodles with a thermos of hot water, even though it fogged up my glasses and the spiciness made me drink two cartons of lukewarm milk. When my mom was too tired to cook and not desperate enough to pick up a pizza, my family would go to a nearby supermarket and eat in their food court: jajang myun, bimbimbap, a spicy chirashi, and korean sushi with bright yellow daikon. For birthdays, Tea would request a dinner at a tofu soup restaurant where'd we order a tofu soup, a sizzling platter of kalbi (beef short ribs), and stone pot rice. It was a wonderful compromise: it wasn't Chinese food, but it was still Asian enough for the parents.
We went to Koreana Plaza today. There is something magical about other Asian markets. They carry a lot of the same foods as Ranch 99, but at lower prices (though they have their markups, too). Quail eggs. Straw mushrooms. A dozen eggs for 99 cents. Salmon fish heads at an unprecedented 39 cents a pound. At 99, they cost around $2. And Berkeley Bowl sometimes have bagged heads on ice for about $1 a pound.
Fish heads might sound disgusting, but Anthony Bourdain says that they are often the most delicious part. And you'd figure that heads are pretty important and a lot of nutrients should be allocated to it. And besides, once you cut it up and pan fry it, you just have luscious chunks of orange flesh that comes off in big flakes and bits of crispy skin.
We also bought the makings of Tteokbokki! A spicy dish of red chili past, rice logs, fish cake, and cabbage. For years, we went to a local korean restaurant and chorused, "TA-pooki." Somehow the waitress always understood.

In other news, we also soft boiled quail eggs. I love runny yolks. I love my eggs sunny side up on toast, fried on the outside and gooey on the inside on rice, and lightly poached over ramen.
Our youngest sister eats quail eggs like a monster. She nips the tips off, sucks up the yolk, and then pops the empty whites into her mouth. It’s slightly disturbing to watch.

They were super easy to make.
First, bring the eggs to room temperature in a bowl of cold water. Then, bring a pot of salted water into a rolling boil. Gently, lower the eggs into the water, cover and cook for a minute. Turn off the burner, let it sit covered for another minute, before returning it to the bowl of cold water. Peel, eat, and enjoy.

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