Kunjip ~ Orderinny

Sunday, May 21, 2006


For better or for worse, koreanfever has swept into the rest of Asia since the earlier part of the century and remains extremely strong. I unabashedly proclaim myself a k-drama fan and devour every single dvd set I can get my hands on, happily forgoing sleep and human interaction for the sake of finishing up an episode or five. The most memorable one I've seen so far, and the one that has ruoying wasting away on the couch watching 15 hours non-stop has been Dae Jang Geum. The best part about the show for me, besides the exhibition of office politics in its finest and the epic love story that spans 65 episodes, must be the food. platters and platters of food, from the identifiable congee and bibimbap to the exotic, all fit for a king on celluloid...
so from the land of

May i present to you (cue Dae Jang Geum theme song) dinner, K-style! (aka commoner style, we obviously do not live on the emperor's budget and don't have the great fortune of eating special golden roosters and bear paws and what not...

Yanru's friends are on their grand graduation trip, are spending some time in new york, and would like to try food not easily found in Singapore. It is difficult to find a good korean restaurant in Singapore even though there are more popping out now, with the recent interest in everything that starts with a K. The couple I've been to when I was home left me with a bad taste in my mouth and were too expensive given what they had served up. Y's friends were therefore game to have dinner in manhattan's ktown, and so we made plans to meet up at Kunjip at 7pm.

I love korean food because I'm a big fan of spicy stews, and kunjip does a great job with its spicy chigaes. Well besides being spicy, I guess Korean food can be characterized as a little on the sweet side, and very vege-centric, although we do identify Korean food with BBQ. Kunjip, with its huge menu spanning from vegetarian bibimbaps to spam casserole is a great place to try the full spectrum of basic Korean food. Lastly, walk past kunjip at dinnertime on any day, and you will see a line. There was a line at 6:45 when I got there, and a even longer one at 9 pm, when we left... What instills more confidence than seeing a crowd outside your restaurant of choice? Well, a crowd of native diners, and there were plenty of Koreans waiting in line with us as well, so we were in good hands.

A korean meal always starts off with some side dishes (ban chan), and if you're not too careful, you end up snacking too much and becoming full even before your entree gets here. Kunjip serves up a mean bubbly pot of steamed egg custard, somewhat akin to chawanmushi but without the peripherals and not quite as smooth. Still it's silky and goes down well with kimchi and other preserved veges. The secret must be the hotpot in which it is cooked and served in. Be careful not to be overzealous and burn your tongue while you're at it (which I of course did)

Other stuff we ate:

Seafood pa jeon, the pancake , while a little soggy in the middle, was well-received, and was our only in-your-face deep fried and therefore unhealthy dish.

Sundubu chigae and deon jang chigae: Spicy tofu and spicy miso stews, Sundubu is my all-time favorite korean dish. I also love the fact that tofu = dubu and ma po tofu = mabodubu in korean =)

Nakji Bokum (fried squid in red sauce).. yum yum yum yum yum. The udon that comes with it sops up the go chu jang sauce so well...

A large saba simply broiled with salt... very healthy and tasty but not very photogenic. I think the saba dish was not as popular that night because it was the most tasteless dish, not in a bad way, but because everything else was heavily flavored. It might also be the fact that its just fish and not some unidentifiable korean dish, which would have been more fun to try =)

Last but not least, the piece de resistance, a spicy variation of Gal Bi Jim... Korean beef stew, extra spicy, quite sweet with meat that falls of the bones literally and melts in your mouth. Yanru was not feeling well that day and still couldn't stop eating it. I think its a keeper. Yes there's oil glistening in the photo, but what's a good dish without some healthful beef fats?? And spot the carrots? how's that for a well-balanced meal =)

Since 2004, when I fortuitiously crashed some friends' dinner gathering at Kunjip, I've faithfully returned more than a dozen times, and its been great so far. I've recommended this place to so many people and my roommates both love it too.

So the wait is a little long and service can be brusque, and when they set the food in front of you you feel compelled to scarf everything down in 15 minutes to allow other people still in line to have their turn at ordering, but for some culture and a great meal at under $20 in ktown, where the bakery half a block away is charging $6 for tea, its still my favorite midtown pick!


9 W 32rd St (between 5th and 6th Ave)

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