Hey everyone and welcome to another edition of Mastication Monologues! Things have been trying as of late at school with the crazy work schedules due to the Fall festival that is coming up, but that doesn’t mean that my appetite has been affected. Today I will be talking about a Korean place that I have passed on my way to Geomam station probably 1 billion times already (rough guesstimation right there). The reason why it stood out from the other Korean restaurants surrounding it was the fact that it specifically advertised spicy food. It’s called 땅초 or Ttangcho Hot Food which are all over Korea, but the one I went to is located at 인천시 서구 검암동 606-7번지 네오프라자 106호 or Seo-gu, Incheon City Plaza 106 West geomamdong 606-7. Here is their website (sorry, it’s all in Korean): http://yupdduk.com/. On the right hand side of the page, click on “매장정보” to find store locations.
Moving on from logistics, let’s talk about the food. Now, where I live is a lot less cosmopolitan than Seoul or even other parts of Incheon. Naturally, when I walked in I was greeted with a lot of curious stares. Not only because I was a foreigner, but also because I was eating alone. Group mentality runs deep in all aspects of Korean life even when it comes to eating, and I could see the server/staff become somewhat wary of serving me since I was alone. In contrast, all the other tables were filled with Korean students digging into their tteokbokki while occasionally staring or offering a giggle/wave coupled with a “Hi!”. Their most popular items like the 엽기떡복이 tteokbokki (sticky rice cakes in spicy sauce) or the 닭볶음탕 dakbokeumtang (a fried chicken stew) were in the 20,000 W price range since they were family-sized bowls. Instead, I went for the more manageable 참숯 닭날개 (14,000 W) which I found out were spicy chicken wings. When they came out, I not only got a small mound of wings, but also an egg soup ( 계란찜) that looked similar to the one I had when I ate the live octopus. I was expecting the wings to be drenched in some sort of red gochujang sauce that Koreans are so fond of, but these wings looked to be treated with a dry rub that had sesame seeds mixed in with the spices. Even though the wings looked diminutive, the bone to meat ratio was favorable, and the chicken was sufficiently succulent. As for the aforementioned seasoning, I could definitely taste some cayenne pepper working hard for its money as I took each bite. Mid-way through the plate, the guy who looked like the owner came over and said, “Too spicy?”, and I just responded with a smile and an “아니요” (“no”). He found all of it amusing either because I used Korean, and/or that I could eat food that Koreans had trouble eating. I’d probably rate the spice level between a jalapeno and a habanero. I took a couple spoonfuls of the egg soup, but it was quite bland after eating the fire-kissed wings.
On the way back to the bus stop, I passed two old ladies in an open air stall selling these curious snack treats that I had passed by all over Korea but never tried one. They are called 붕어빵 or bungeoppang which means “fish bread” (“Bungeo” is a type of carp, and “Ppang” means bread). Based off my picture, they are quite obviously named.
I saw that they were making two varieties of this baked good, the traditional red-bean filled type and a custard filled type. Never forgetting my dislike for red bean flavored products, (See Ice Cream), I went for two custard filled carp (1,000 W). I definitely made the right choice. The outside was like a freshly made waffle with a sugary peck on the lips with every nibble while the inside was gooey and infused with a very delicate vanilla pudding similar to the filling of another Korean pastry, Manjoo Hana.
It definitely supplied me with a sweet reprieve after my savory meal.
So if you’re looking for some quality spicy Korean food, check out Ttangcho Hot Food. Speaking of spicy food, I will be attempting to eat the Drop Dead Donkatsu this weekend. If I survive, expect a classic recounting of my adventure. Until then, foodies!