Making the Ordinary, Extraordinary
You all may remember that I`m a huge fan of Asian food. I`ve Tweeted reviews on a Thai restaurant, made a strawberry balsamic twist on Summer rolls, and in general been a huge fan of Asian-ness. I mean, I even take Japanese as my language, though it takes a lot of studying and I`m still not very good at it!
To finish off a week spent fitting bits of fandom in between my finals studying, (and finding these fascinating Lolita style resources), all for the sake of studying for that Japanese class of course, I had a party today. We all got together with tents and cookies and a little firepit to do some relationship building with a group of impoverished children from the elementary school down the road. We corded off the end of our court and gave some apology cookies to the poor delivery men from Fedex, UPS, and Amazon! I felt so bad about being a bother, but everyone ended the night in high spirits.
When the fire was extinguished and the last of the tents was collapsed, the last stragglers waved and bade us goodbye. They did not know there was more to come. Some of the helpers, huddled and chilled by the rain but full of cheery good spirit, felt that the night need not be over. They felt the strong longing for Korean food. And if you have ever been to Northern Virginia, you know the only place to go to for anything Korean is in Annandale. I think about half of the store signs neglect to put an English subtitle, and the few residents who aren`t Korean are South American of some variety and are simply spillouts from the area of Springfield surrounding Backlick Plaza.
And here, in America`s capital of Korean culture, to have a Korean friend recommend a restaurant as a standout is rare. These are not just good restaurants that ignorant Americans who know nothing else readily give raving reviews for sickly sweet sauces and randomly fried sides. No, these are people who know the food. Their grandmas have cooked this way, and their grandmas, and on back onto the beginning of time. Or at least for quite a while. So I`m willing to take on a recommendation like that in a heartbeat!
Choong Hwa Won is the name, and yummy is its game. Or at least I thought so. As far as menus and being gluten free goes, it was a pretty decent place to find food that I can actually eat as well. On the starter menu I grabbed a bowl of Jjam-bbong seafood soup for two bucks. It was a tiny bit spicy by itself, so I added a handful of some marvelous kimchi to add a little something extra. Like I said, the day was cold, and those kind of days call for some spice to heat you up! I followed that with even more soup for my main dish, Woo-dong, a yummy rice noodle concoction. I enjoyed pulling up one or two noodles and then slurping them up. It`s actually good manners in many Asian cultures, so no one could scold me for it! And on the side there were some vibrant yellow radish pickles. I think they were radishes. They were amazing either way.
And there you have. Something warm and yummy to fill all the nooks and crannies within myself. And it was gluten free to boot. And did I mention there was a lot of it? There really was. I know that people always say that American restaurants usually serve two servings or more on an individual plate (I`m absolutely positive this is accurate as well, especially at family restaurants.) But this was a little crazy. I think my soup bowl was the size of my home`s medium or even big mixing bowl, and I think there were four normal serving bowls in that monster.
Of course, there were other meals to be had, and plenty of nonsoup items, despite what my meal may have made you think. My Dad`s order was two tonkatsu cutlets (very gluten-ful breaded pork, like German schnitzel or country fried
chicken pork.) I`ve never seen that much meat in my life, and I think that plate could have held three of my own. But, to be fair, what I call a dinner plate is similar to what my friends call a lunch plate. Maybe they don`t know restaurant plates are oversized? But, regardless (never irregardless), I thought it was amazing.And the bibambap, that staple of Korean yumminess? My friend got that. It was beautiful. Came in a proper hotpot, with crispy rice on the bottom and fresh veggies and a delectable egg fried on top of all of the yumminess. Don`t believe it tastes that good. The bulgogi, Korean barbecued beef strips, looked amazing as well. If you want to skip out on all of the awesome available veggies, that is. Speaking of, Ma-pa Tofu looked like a really great dish for all of my vegetarian friends, though I do not know if the sauce is vegetarian or not. It says its a spicy sauce, and it looked like it was just a bunch of ground red pepper sauce or sri racha, but I make no guarantees. I was too busy eating to ask too many questions!
And if you can`t handle something as exotic (Is this still considered exotic in the rest of the country? It seems so commonplace to me…) as Korean food, they had a Chinese section of the menu with all of the safe Americanized foods you`ve come to love. Apparently the beef lomein was amazing. Huzzah. Seriously, though, I encourage you to try new foods. Explore new possibilities. And eat a bibimbap. If just trying to say that word doesn`t make you smile, I don`t know what will.
Is Korean food exotic? Am I really just a full out nerd with my interest in Asian culture? Will I pass my finals if I am busy typing here on WordPress? All this and more will be revealed in our next episode!
But please feel free to chime into the conversation below irregardless. (All the Grammer Nazis are crying at the latter :D )