Thursday, April 19, 2012

One Bite: three fungus tang at Cho Jung

Posted By on 04.19.12 at 03:22 PM

pot o fungus

My favorite Korean restaurant isn't in Albany Park, or anywhere in the city, but some 12 miles north in suburban Glenview. For three years, I've been remiss by not writing about Cho Jung—especially because it always seems slow and sleepy—but I took the occasion of this week's suburban eating guide to give it some long overdue love.

Cho Jung is beloved above all for its soups, and it's difficult to not order the soondubu jigae, or tofu stew, by default. But on my last visit I went into uncharted territory and got something totally new to me.

That would be beoseot tang, or mushroom soup. A tang, in the hierarchy of Korean soups, lies somewhere between the thin, clear guk (miyuk guk, tteeok guk), and the thick, stewy jigaes (kimchi jigae, soondubu jigae)

Often these distinctions seem like matters of individual perspective, but Cho Jung's mushroom soup has a rich, beefy, almost gravylike broth. And while it contains shreds of bulgogi, the depth of its umaminess is definitely fungal in nature, as it contains a triple dose of enoki, king trumpet, and shiitake mushrooms.

It doesn't have the sour, spicy, funky profile lots of people expect from Korea's most popular foods. It's lent a slight heat from ground black pepper, but it's most unusual seasoning comes from feathery chrysanthemum leaves (aka ssuk gat, kikuna), which have a parsley or celerylike note, and perilla seeds (aka shiso, wild sesame), which have a nutty, almost popcorn flavor.

ssuk gak, aka chrysanthemum

The folks at Cho Jung couldn't be sweeter, but there's a bit of a language barrier, so I can't tell you much more about beoseot tang. I've never seen it before, my cookbooks and the Googler turned up no recipes or clues to its origin, and my omma never heard of it either. But I have come across similar flavor profiles, most notably in the goat hot pot at Morton Grove's Chun Ju.

When Friend of the Food Chain Rob Lopata first took me to Cho Jung, there were only four Yelp reviews—now there are 18 (a few of them are actually useful). Perhaps that's in part due to the glow of this dedicated LTHForum thread, the most comprehensive digital documentation of the delights to be had there. LTH also recently bestowed upon it a Great Neighborhood Restaurants Award, which I hope shines a lot more light on this strip mall gem.

Cho Jung, 952 Harlem, Glenview, 847-724-1111

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