Korean cuisine with heart
by Rob McKeown
Half the times I've been to Seoul Food in Porter Square, chef/owner Clara Byun
has taken my squid stir-fry ($11.50 for a sassy toss of squid with crisp
vegetables) or bi bim bap ($7.50 to $11.95 for a Korean classic mixing rice,
kim chee, veggies, meat, and chili sauce) out of a pan, plated it up, and
walked it into the five-table dining room. She then served me and -- this is
important in Asian cooking -- demonstrated how to eat everything. It's a habit
that brings smiles -- it's like Mom serving tableside.
Korean food is indeed one of Asia's most motherly cuisines. Leafy greens,
grains, beef, and cod figure prominently. Soups and stews are beloved. And fish
is often fashioned into cake-like patties. This should ring a bell for people
in New England, whose rocky coastline and cold waters are not unlike those of
It may be small, but the Seoul Food menu is deceptively wide-ranging. It
hopscotches from home cooking to street food to restaurant staples. Stir-fried
rice cake (ttokpokki, $7.95) is manna for street-treat seekers: doughy sticks
of rice, thick as Crayola markers, are tossed in a furiously flavored pepper
sauce with copious and crunchy veggies. Dwenjang chigae ($9.50) is one of
Korea's beloved stews, fortified with beef, vegetables, bean curd, and an
intriguing soybean sauce.
Want to impress your Korean host/owners? Order a discus-shaped vegetable
pancake ($7.50) fashioned from scallions, zucchini, and carrots or any of the
fabulous side dishes that make a Korean meal a flavor orgy. Spicy bean-sprout
salad, kim chee made from broccoli, radish, or cabbage -- all are $3.50. Even
better, I'd suggest doing a little detective work: look for a printed piece of
paper near the door. That's where Clara lists the specials drawn from recipes
she used to cook at home.
Seoul Food, located at 1759 Mass Ave, in Cambridge, is open Monday through
Sunday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Call (617) 864-6299.
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