For several years, I've asked friends about Korean food in Mexico City. We are fortunate to have a good-sized Korean community here. This is a cuisine I don't know but have wanted to experience and learn. Little did I know that my downstairs neighbor works in Zona Rosa (the pink zone), right in the middle of Pequeño Seúl (Little Seoul)--our very own Korea town--and often eats at the restaurant in the photo: Myeong Dong Guan. On a street I'd never heard of, in a neighborhood relatively unfamiliar to me, there was my goal: hiding in plain sight.
Page 1 of the four-page Myeong Dong Guan menu. Prices subject to change without notice. Click on any photo to enlarge it for a better view.
Since eating at Myeong Dong Guan, I've begun to educate myself a bit about Korean dishes. Here's what we ate--and for those who haven't tried Korean food, a short explanation of each.
Banchan might seem to be side dishes, but they are an integral and essential part of one's meal. Clockwise from the top left are soft, bland potato straws, gamja-salad (creamy potato salad), mildly spiced noodles, and spicy kimchi (fermented vegetable salad). Each of these was delicious in its own way, and each complemented the main courses we ordered.
Dolsot bibimbap, just about everyone's favorite dish from Korea. "Dolsot" is the stone pot in which the rice and vegetables are prepared.
Bibimbap simply means rice mixed with vegetables, meat, and chile. A freshly cooked runny-yolked egg usually goes on top. When your bibimbap is served, poke the egg yolk with a chopstick and mix everything together until your bowl looks like that in the photo. I'd eaten bibimbap before and after the first couple of bites, I thought it was just ho-hum. The bibimbap at Myeong Dong Guan is 180 degrees from ho-hum! I loved every delicious mouthful and so will you. I have read that for the best flavor, bimbimbap rice should be slightly crisp, toasty, and lightly stuck to the bottom of the pot. This rice was just like that.
Kimchi jjigae--in this case, stewed kimchi with firm tofu, scallions, broth, and big chunks of braised beef. The dish is spicy-hot, with a mixture of textures and flavors that dance in your mouth. Sra. Gloria told me that this is one of the most-loved jjigae (stews) in Korean cuisine. My companions, who are vegetarians, ordered it without knowing about the beef content--so guess who got to eat most of the kimchi jjigae! Next time--and there will be a next time!--I'll ask the kitchen to use more chile to make the stew even spicier.
Korean ramyeon, instant noodles very similar to Japanese ramen. At Myeong Dong Guan, the noodles are instant, but the broth and the rest of the ingredients for this soup are prepared in the restaurant. Ramyeon is traditionally prepared in a thin tin pot so that it heats up fast and stays hot. The kitchen poaches an egg in the broth, then the diner pierces it at table to mix with the noodles. Add chile sauce from the bowl on the table if you like a spicier broth.
The morning before going to Myeong Dong Guan, a friend knowledgeable about Korean food suggested that my neighbors and I try this dish: sundubu jjigae (spicy soft tofu stew with seafood). This was another big winner: the silkiness of the tofu, the spiciness of the broth, and the delicacy of the chunks of fish were all marvelous.
Sra. Gloria, the cook (and wife of the owner) at Myeong Dong Guan. She's a charming woman and as far as I can tell, a tremendously talented cook. When we had all but finished our comida (main meal of Mexico's day), she came to chat with us. The menu in her hands is not the menu from which we chose our meal! The menu she's holding includes the grilled meat categories that are offered at grill tables on the first floor of the restaurant. She took us upstairs to show us the rest of the restaurant. Even my neighbor, who has eaten countless times at Myeong Dong Guan, wasn't aware of this second menu. Another time when I dine with omnivores, we'll try the traditional grilled offerings for which Korea is famous. Raise your hand, whoever's ready for comida at Myeong Dong Guan!
Restaurante Coreano Myeong Dong Guan
Calle Oxford 28
Ciudad de México
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