I have not been taking the cold weather well. I’m terribly sensitive to the cold, and it seems that no matter how many layers of clothing I wear, my body just does not seem to warm up. And even when my body is warm, my feet, fingers and kneecaps still remain so cold that you could probably freeze water on them =] It probably does not help that our house is particularly freezing and a heater is something that we never use, so I try to warm myself up with food. My parents suggested we try out Ginseng Chicken Soup at a Korean restaurant, since ginseng has a warming effect (and I’ve never had it before), which is how we end up at Mung Ga BBQ- our favourite Korean restaurant (out of the 3 that we’ve been to =])
Walking in on a cold winter’s night, we are greeted by the warmth- not only from the heating but also from the few barbecues which have started. Although the barbecues look delicious, they are quite pricey, and to me, not quite as appealing as the cooked dishes. There are a few others already dining in there, and we spy a lot of stone pots on the tables. There are plenty of ‘chairless’ tables (the ones where you sit on a cushion on the floor), but we choose the last table available, not wanting to go through pins and needles again. I notice the glossy wooden tables with the their cracked surfaces (a result of the heat from plates), match the brown, wood coloured walls. It’s the lack of decor, and these little imperfections which make this restaurant particularly comforting, just like the smell of their food. There’s nothing extravagant, just simple furniture, and the small restaraunt makes it quiet and feels rather like somone’s home.
My dad notes that it looks similar to restaurants in Korea. I wouldn’t know- I’ve never been there. I suspect, however, that the food is quite traditional, since the majority of diners are Korean and the menu does not look to be intended for one without a knowledge of Korean food (like… us). So it wasn’t much of a surprise that we could hardly gather what most of the items on the menu was. Not wanting to venture outside, into the cold to see the picture of the food on the outside window (which was what my mum did last time), we ended up picking the exact same dishes as we did last time- not that we minded.
The complimentary appetisers arrive a short while later, along with cute little bowls, a pair of disposable chopsticks each and a spoon, with it’s head wrapped in a cute little paper pouch. They are quite generous with the appetisers, which I find to be very delicious (and one of my favourite parts of Korean food) and I’m surprised to see, later, that they give the same amount per table, even if there’s only one person (eating all the appetisers would be quite filling for one person)! I suspect, however, that these appetizers are ‘refillable’ (you can ask for more).
Soaked in a sweet sauce, with a slight taste of honey, these nuts are surprisingly soft and addictive. What these nuts actually are still remain a mystery to me, but they are no doubt my favourite out of all these appetisers and I’d happily snack on these all day.
The seafood pancake arrives just as the last appetisers is offloaded, leaving us with no time to savour each of the appetisers slowly. The seafood pancake is just as we remembered it- big and yummy! The pancake is deliciously light and fluffy, with the exterior slightly crispy from the shallow frying. We start with the edges, which we find more appealing than the centre pieces as the edges are crispier. It’s loaded with spring onions, but there isn’t a lot of seafood in there, just pieces of calamari here and there. We don’t really mind notice because it tastes delicious!
The pot arrives and is so hot it makes crackling sounds. It looks awesomely colourful with the selection of vegetables and mushrooms cut into thin strips and arranged on a layer of rice. The half cooked egg sitting on top is quickly cooked as we mix it into the hot rice below, giving it a sort of soft, scrambled egg texture. I love the interesting texture of this dish, as each ingredient has a unique texture of its own- whether it’s the soft onions or the chewy shitake mushrooms. But my favourite texture is that of the crispy rice, which is created from the direct contact of the rice with the hot stone. The is the reason we order the ‘stone pot bibimbap’ over the ‘bibimbap’, eventhough it costs a dollar more =] And it looks cooler too!
The bone soup arrives, and is so hot that it’s still bubbling like a gentle spa, with
a huge puff of steam around it. We ask for both of the two (free) bowls of rice which accompany the soup, to save us having to ask again if we needed to, but we have a hard time finishing it, because we only eat a small amount of rice- and we already had rice in the bibimbap. We are also puzzled as to why we get two bowls of rice, as they clearly don’t both fit into the soup…….
The soup is deliciously flavourful, with a strong beef flavour.The strands of glass noodle within the soup along with the pieces of beef are deliciously soft and slippery, although scooping them out of the pot proved to be a difficult task.
If the bone soup looked like a gentle spa bubbling away, then the Ginseng chicken soup looked like a pot of soup, boiling away on the biggest flame on a stovetop. It was really really hot! The chicken itself looks like a simple, boiled piece of chicken (and a small one too!) swimming in a clear soup but pulling it apart reveals much more. There’s a small ball of glutinous rice, not yet soft, although soaking it in the soup for a minute or so softens it enough to eat (it has a really interesting texture!). We also find a couple of red dates, which are apparently healthy, and lastly, two small pieces of ginseng. My dad gives it the thumbs up, complimenting it for its a nice ginseng taste, which is strong enough to be tasted, yet not too strong that it’s overpowering (and apparently, it tastes like the ones he’s had in Korea). I, on the other hand, am completely lost as to what ginseng tastes like, with no memories of having it, so to me, it tastes like a simple chicken soup. I take a few bites of the ginseng, which looks rather like a knob of ginger but tastes nothing like it. The ginseng isn’t too strong, but I can taste a slight bitterness, and a unique taste which I have since forgotten. I love this soup though- both for its taste and the novelty of pulling a chicken apart, searching for the ginseng and then eating it out of a stone pot.
Myung Ga BBQ restaurant
120 Rowe St
Eastwood NSW 2122