07 November 2008

Channelling John

I've had serious Korean food cravings lately. John was our resident Korean cook; he taught me to make respectable white rice and a few other basics, but when we wanted a real Korean meal for dinner, John was responsible. He was an insanely good cook of all kinds of food, and his Korean dishes were especially wonderful. This makes sense since he learned many of the basics from his mom, who has unbelievable talent in the kitchen.

There are no really great Korean restaurants in greater Boston. There are a few that are OK, but there are none that can compare to John's cooking, his mom's cooking, or the Korean restaurant that my in-laws frequent near Detroit. Plus none of the local joints are convenient to where we live. So when I have Korean cravings, I mostly suffer, and wait for the next time I see the in-laws.

This time, though, it was all getting to be too much. I was going out of my mind with a need for Korean food. The cravings I've had lately are all tied up with memories of John and a realization that when John died, his presence was not the only void that was created in my life. I don't really eat Korean food anymore. I've stopped reading nonfiction, a genre that, thanks to John, I read frequently when we were together. I almost never turn on the Food Network now. We can go for months without having chips in the house. I couldn't begin to tell you what's going on with football this season, college or pro.

It's not that I don't enjoy those things anymore, it's just that they were really John Things that I learned to enjoy through him and associate with his presence. I was the driver behind certain activities that we did, John was the driver of others. I've taken over ownership of some of the John Things, but there are others that have fallen by the wayside.

The Korean food issue is one, though, that I need to get under my control. Not only do I miss the food so very much, but I want Maddie and Riley to explore and hopefully appreciate Korean cuisine. Food and culture have such an incredibly strong bond. While it's an admittedly small thing, sharing a love of Korean food is one bit of John's heritage that I can give to the twins.

So last night I decided to take matters into my own hands. My Korean and Korean-o-phile readers are probably going to recoil in horror at what I ate, which is a combination of something John loved (which in and of itself is not particularly Korean, I don't think) and something you'd actually eat at a Korean restaurant.

Here's what I did. I cooked up some rice. I washed a fresh head of red-leaf lettuce and kept the leaves intact. I drained a can of tuna. I opened a new container of gochujang. And then I feasted on lettuce wraps. 

I was like some kind of crazy starved beast. Those lettuce wraps tasted so good. John's go-to dinner was tuna mixed with rice, and we often ate just rice/gochujang lettuce wraps as a side dish with our meals, so I just rolled (ha!) both concepts into one complete dinner. Maddie and Riley tried them; Maddie was approving, while Riley reserved judgment. I think I'm going to eat those for dinner every night for the next week, at least. There's something about the taste of gochujang that is so satisfying to me. It's the perfect blend of heat and flavor. MMM.

Guess what I packed for lunch today? Oh, yeah.


Lisa said...

Sounds tastey to me. I live in the Detroit area, curious as can be about what restaurant your in-laws frequent. I'd love some good Korean food.

Snickollet said...


They go to New Seoul Garden in Southfield:




ccinnkeeper said...

There's an interesting discussion on Chowhound regarding Boston-area Korean restaurants. Here's the link: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/463848

The posters there seem to agree with your assessment that there are no great Korean restaurants in the area, but perhaps there are one or two you might not have tried on the list. There used to be a good Korean place in Newton, but that was many years ago.

I was in Korea once, in 1985, for a week. Fascinating place.

amber said...

two thumbs up for making an effort to having korean food more often. i'm sure your tummy and eventually, maddie and riley, will thank you for that :)

i totally here you when you say that certain activities are lead by the other person in a relationship. while i never watched tons of sports before living with jim, i do now and quite enjoy it. i can totally see where you would miss these kinds of things when the other person is no longer there.

maybe along with eating more korean food, it's time to flip on sports center now and again. if nothing else, at least stuart scott is a cutie to look at ;)

Giovanna Diaries said...

Lettuce wraps! That's so weird...we had those last night at PF Changs....of course not the same thing but still....lettuce wraps.

Becky said...

Have you been to any places in the Porter Exchange Building or Koreana on Prospect St?

Anonymous said...

i'm korean and here are two places I love!!

New Jangsu BBQ on 3A/Cambridge Street in Burlington


Buk Kyung II in Allston.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you that most of the Korean restaurants in the Boston area is so-so. But there are couple I do like. Yasu on Beacon St. in Brookline is my family's favorite and Koreana near Central Sq. is decent. There is also a new one that opened up in Harvard Ave that I haven't tried yet. I personally would skip any of the Buk Kyung I and II places .. the meat is always over cooked there and I found a piece of plastic in one of my soups!

eba said...

Come to Maynard! It's probably 1/2 an hour from your town and we have a restaurant called Little Pusan here. I'm not Korean, so I can't vouch for the authenticity, but I do see a lot of Korean people there. And I love the food. Yum. Oh, and they even have a web site -- http://www.littlepusan.com/

Anonymous said...

1) Now that the twins are older and probably really enjoy field trips with Mom, maybe you could set out on a mission to find the best Korean place in town. Each week, venture out to a new one and then the three of you can review what you liked about it. Well, maybe you can judge by their expressions too. In the end you have found your family's new favorite place to go when you guys get the craving.

2) Sounds like you should plan a special day in Detroit with the In laws.

3)Tennessee Titans are undefeated and top NFL team right now, Alabama tops for the College boys.

Karen said...

I don't think I have ever had Korean food. We certainly do not have many Korean restaurants in my area. But that should simple and tasty.

Snickollet said...

Boston-area commenters:

Koreana was the place John and I ate Korean when we went out; it's fine, but I don't find it to be anything special. I've not tried Yasu; will have to give it a go.


I have heard very good things about the Korean place in Maynard. And I even have good friends who live in Maynard! Thanks for the reminder that the restaurant is there. Perhaps I can combine a visit with friends with a dinner out.


I like the "try 'em all and pick a favorite" idea. Why not?


Susan said...

Ha, Snick, since I'm from the Detroit area as well I know of the restaurant New Seoul Gardens but have never tried. Now I will :) I LOVE lettuce wraps.


Mama Nabi said...

Okay, sis. Tell you what. If you and the twins do end up in my parts, you give me a Korean dish assignment and I WILL make sure I cook it for you. (This is no small promise as I am not a big fan of cooking... but, for some reason, if I do cook, food comes out fairly delicious. Hmmm)

And yes, what you had sounds like something my mom would do - and she's Korean. So I think what you had IS bona fide. :-)

Crash Course Widow said...

Thai food, U of Oregon football and basketball, vicarious political and financial opinions and insights, family games of pinochle or Mexican train with my in-laws or my sister & her husband, family walks through old historic (and horridly expensive) neighborhoods that we drooled over: All the Charley Things that fell by the wayside for me too. And it probably goes without saying that cycling obviously disappeared too...but that's largely by choice; it just got too hard to be around it when it killed him, and it was 100% a Charley Thing.

I'm right there with you, Snick.

GJM said...

Too funny! I live in Maynard and was going to recommend Little Pusan as well. We're a little town, but we have a surprising number of good restaurants. If you wanted, you could also visit the Discovery Museum in Acton while you're out this way. I'm sure the twins would enjoy it.

mary said...

oh yeah sister. that is da best! sound so good my mouth is watering. i must try sometime very very soon.

kim said...

I'll toss almost any meat in lettuce when I have a big craving like that! Mmm...

I love the "try 'em all" approach to restaurants too. I went to Koreana years ago (maybe 1997?) but that's all I've tried up there. Hope you find something that suits your fancy!

Anonymous said...

sounds like your soul was starving for something, you fed it, you know that you won't be satisfied for a while, and you're going to do something about it -- for yourself, John and the kids. Bravo!

What A Card said...

Hmm, I went to a small place in Cambridge with my Korean cousin a few years ago. Nothing was written in English, including the sign outside or the menus, so I have no idea what I ate. It was good, though. Of course, I have nothing to compare it to, so kind of a useless piece of info to share ;) Plus, since I don't know the name or precise location. This is the most useless comment ever left in the history of comment leaving. I'm sorry. And I just keep making it worse because I keep on typing.

Um, hi.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I so hear you. I spent two months in Korea a few years ago. The abundance of meat kind of freaked me out at first (having just come from Switzerland, I ate swiss chocolate for nearly a week until I ran out) and then I ventured into local Korean cuisine. Now I've been a few places around the world and LOVED the food but NOTHING haunts me like Korean food. I crave it more than Thai, Irish butter, or Swiss chocolates. Especially gochujang. All things will be okay when I have a plate of bimimbap thickly coated with gochujang. Actually, bimimbap is insanely easy to make at home. If you haven't tried it, maybe you should. It takes care of a lot of korean cravings for me.

Caustic Cupcake said...

Awww. This made me simultaneously sad and happy.

Sara said...

if you have gochujang, this is what i used to do when i was desperate for korean food, had no access, and needed some right away:
i'd tear up some lettuce, shred some carrots, cook down some onion slices, and throw all of it in a big bowl with rice and a fried egg on top. with some gochujang and sesame oil, voila - a poor man's bibimbap =)
mix and enjoy!

Sara said...

okay. so after reading back my instructions, i realize they were totally crappy.

i only cooked the onions.
either with just a little bit of salt, or with a little bit of soy sauce. just enough to take the bite out of the raw onion.

hope it makes sense now!

GJM said...

More on Little Pusan...I walked past there today and they are closed until November 12th. So don't plan to go before then!

jenney said...

Did you hear they are putting in an H-mart in burlington! I know all of us are super excited (they have an excellent selection of Korean food, premade and a food court!). We go to New Jang Su in Burlington but we really miss great Korean food like we had in Toronto (we really miss any great any asian food since we moved back to the boston area. What I wouldn't give to have my MIL live near us).

Anonymous said...

Are there any Korean grocery stores near you? They have so many great packaged meals in the refrigerator aisle. You can get deng-jang guk (bean curd soup), noodle dishes, etc. All you have to do is add water or boil. They even have great kimchee in small packages (get the kimchee with the red little house symbol on top). That one tastes the best.

There are also premade wontons (aka mandu) in the freezer aisle. You can either boil, steam, or fry. Don't forget when to mix soy sauce with Korean vinegar to give the sauce some tang!

I also have some easy Korean soup recipes if you'd like.

Take care,

Anonymous said...

try Seoul Food on Mass. Ave between Harvard and Porter (nearest cross street is Linnaean, but Seould food is on the other side of the street). It is owned and operated by an older Korean woman who can be a little brusque, but she is great, always makes us take our leftovers and they have really great food.It's a tiny place and easy to miss. Cheap too - no liquor license but it's worth it. YUM.

TweedleDea said...

I lived in Korea for 2 years and I find that I am often desperate for Korean food. Luckily where I live there are many, many Korean restaurants and grocery stores, but I can't always go. :( So I'll satiate the cravings with baby carrots dipped in gochujang, or I'll make kimchee stew, it's dead easy to make.

Anna said...

Snick -

I'm going to give a 'deep' response here. I think the craving was more about missing John and one of the things he loved and brought to you like than actually missing the Korean food. I'm not saying you don't really miss it and that you didn't really want it, but I think there was more to it. And, yes, I do think you should let the twins enjoy something - Korean food - that is not only a part of the heritage, but something that their father loved.

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LP said...

hey Snick, do you use yelp? if not, try it! www.yelp.com
when I'm in the mood for a certain kind of food I always check out yelp. Just click on Boston and restaurants and then you can choose a type of food...in this case, Korean, and it will give you all the Korean restaurants that members have reviewed. This might be a big help if you do decide to go on a quest to find the best Korean food in Boston!

Shinyung said...

I wish I lived near you so that I can cook you whatever Korean dish you crave. Not that I know all the recipes, but that's what mothers are for.

Jordan said...

hey snick,

what kind of gochujang do you get? i've wanted to make these lettuce wraps (with pumpkin congee!) since reading this post, and i live around the corner from Reliable Market (the Korean grocery store in Union Square) but all their gochujang seems to have a lot of MSG and junk. plus there are so many kinds... i'm a little overwhelmed. suggestions?