Monday, June 11, 2012

One Bite: Korean goat stew makes you strong

Posted By on 06.11.12 at 02:18 PM

yumso bokkeum at Da Rae Jung

Normally, when I'm talking Korean goat stew, I send folks to Morton Grove's great Chun Ju Restaurant, specialist in tabletop jeuk suk yum so bokkeum, which is claimed to be a tonic for wrinkles, osteoporosis, poor circulation, liver and kidney troubles, and bad vision, good for pregnant women, and a stamina booster in the hot summer months too. It's less commonly stated that goat meat is a socially acceptable substitute for dog, which among other foods, like raw baby octopus, is said to make men, uh. . . "strong."

Korean Viagra, OK? Jeez.

So for a quick suburban restorative I can't recommend enough a six-or-so hour retreat to King Spa, followed by a hot pot of jeuk suk yum so bokkeum at Chun Ju. But I recognize that busy city folk don't always have the time even for that. For them I'd suggest a stop at Da Rae Jung, a tiny, no-frills storefront in the Lincoln Bend neighborhood with no English signage. For 17 years its suspender-clad owner has plied a simple menu whose highlights include naeng myun (cold buckwheat noodles ideal for hot weather), dolsot bi bim bap, and a tidy selection of individually portioned soups. But its main draw are tabletop stewy soups and sautes for two, none more invigorating than yum so bokkeum.

Here's what happens: an assortment of eight panchan arrive with rice and individual dishes of a soy-wasabi-crushed perilla seed condiment. Then comes the portable gas burner topped with a wide, shallow pan, bubbling with a spicy, brick-red broth swimming with more nutty-tasting perilla seeds—and ideally, leaves—green onions, and tender shreds of goat meat. Spoon this up. Slurp it down. Feel the blood pulsing through your veins.

Typically the rice will be dumped in the remaining broth, but if this doesn't seem like it's going to happen, request it. The grains soak up every last drop of liquid, and if you can hold off long enough, develop a crust on the bottom—nurungi, it's called—that adds a crucial textural element to the rice.

At $22.99 this is supposed to feed two, but it could satisfy four moderate eaters. Also, in English it is listed as a "soup" but it's really more of a soupy stir fry. A smaller, individually portioned bowl of goat soup is also on the menu for $11.99.

It says Da Rae Jung

Da Rae Jung, 5220 N. Lincoln, 773-907-9155 (closed Tuesdays)

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