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Sundae Bloody Sundae/Jjampong All Night Long

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Hey hey, everybody!  Welcome to another masterful Mastication Monologues which is just getting better and better as my time in South Korea winds down.  Today I’ll be bringing you two Korean specialties that I had been hearing about for ages but never tried until now.  First, there is sundae (soon-day) which is not the ice cream treat everyone loves, but rather a sausage made with blood.  There is a similar type of sausage in other cuisines like black pudding in England, morcilla in Spain, or kiszka in Poland.  However, it’s not for everyone.  Naturally, I like going off the beaten path when it comes to food, so my friend Bora took me to a specialty sundae restaurant near Sillim station where we’d meet up with her other friend.  I didn’t know what exactly to expect as we walked up the stairs of a pretty dilapidated building, but I was surprised to see how big and popular the place was.IMG_1982  People seemed genuinely surprised to see me there as I walked past tables of soju drinkers inhaling the savory scents coming from the large grills in front of them.  I couldn’t get a good look at the food since the old woman server was gruffly dragging us to her table.  Once seated, we got some sweet aprons that were totally my style…I would be thankful for mine later on in the meal.

My fellow diners

My fellow diners

IMG_1976They supplied us with a complimentary bowl of grilled liver chunks doused with a sesame sauce and seeds.IMG_1979  It was a great antipasto since each piece was firm and packed with rich, meaty tones with shades of the sesame seeds mixed in.  Our brusque server proceeded to bring a large grill similar to the aforementioned ones and piled slices of burgundy sundae, chopped and oiled vegetables, and noodles on the hot surface.  After about ten minutes of waiting, it was deemed ready to eat.  IMG_1981They also provided some sort of chili sauce (center of the grill in the picture) with that seemed like chopped nuts on top which ended up tasting like spicy peanuts.  As for the melange of ingredients on the grill, they were fantastic on the whole.  The eatery’s specialty, the sundae, was slightly chewy but bursting with a slightly iron-rich tang.  My favorite part was the noodles when they fried to a crispy layer that added a welcomed crunch to a mostly chewy meal.  I started to slow down eating when my dining companions apparently ordered fried rice, but the restaurant supposedly didn’t have any more rice which was shocking.  So the server managed to get some out of her own secret stash in her bag (Why she was carrying rice in her bag in the first place is beyond me) along with some cut-up parsley.  It was nothing special.  However, what I had next was unique as being touted as the spiciest and most popular soup in Korea.

As if I thought I couldn’t eat anymore, Bora and Youngmi brought me to Shingildong Spicy Jjambbong located at 165-5 Shingil-dong, Yeongdeungpo-gu, Seoul   (신길동 매운짬뽕, 서울특별시 영등포구 신길동 165-5) for the spicy jjampong (seafood noodle soup) challenge.IMG_1983 It’s so popular in Korea that their main sign has all of the tv channels it has been featured on, and the actual name of the place is only a small name plaque hanging next to the building off a traditional Korean statue.

Black:  Singil-dong (neighborhood) Red- May Oon Jjampong or "spicy jjampong"

Black: Singil-dong (neighborhood)
Red:  May Oon Jjampong or “spicy jjampong”

For months, Bora and Youngmi had also prepped me for what to expect with the spicy jjampong including:  swollen lips, seared nostrils, and a scorched gastro-intestinal tract.  There have been cases of people passing out from the heat, and they have plastic bags in the bathroom for people throwing up.  The official policy is that you have to puke in the bag and throw it out elsewhere because the proprietors were tired of cleaning up the patrons’ stomach contents constantly.  How could I say no?  We first purchased plenty of dairy products to fight the inferno I was about to ingest and then walked in.IMG_1998  The owner was extremely gregarious and excited that a waygookin (foreigner) was going to take on the challenge.  Bora informed him I had tried the Drop Dead Donkatsu challenge before, and he said (in Korean), “The donkatsu is just spice with no flavor.  My jjampong is spicy and tasty.  In my kitchen, it’s pure science.”IMG_1987  After a couple snapshots, I sat down like a man condemned to his last meal as I looked around at all of the warning signs I was walking into a disaster.  Most of it was in Korean with warnings like “out of body experience”, “I shit fire”, or this lovely one.IMG_1994

Just slightly afraid.

Just slightly afraid.

Right before the soup came out, they gave me a mountain of pickled yellow radish slices which was another ominous omen. IMG_1985 Before I knew it, I was face to face with the infamous cauldron of doom. IMG_1988 My fear must have gotten the best of me as I was trying to find the right way to eat it and even forgot how to use chopsticks as shown in my video.  Skip ahead to 1:30 if you want to see me actually eating the noodles and skip all of my fumbling and commentary.

The fear is gripping me.

The fear is gripping me.

When the noodles finally got cool enough to eat, I slurped them up much to the horror of the spectators watching this exercise in pain.  I found the spicy kick to have an immediate effect, but it was mainly focused on my tongue as it was enveloped in a blanket of spice.

The spice has made me crazy!

The spice made me crazy!

It was like eating a mouthful of habaneros, but it wasn’t terrible.  The fumes were actually noxious and bothered my nose now and then, but Youngmi and Bora were actually coughing.  I picked out the mussels and focused on the noodles.  The owner came out to check how I was doing, and I was coping with it like a champ to his dismay.  So he then proceeded to feed me the broth on the spoon with a “here comes the airplane” baby technique which was pretty funny.  However, I realized that the broth was a million times spicier than the soaked noodles, and the vegetables were the worst part since they were like little sponges soaking up the devil’s potion.  Bora told me the radish slices are traditionally put on the tongue to alleviate the diner’s suffering, so I gave it a shot.  I think she just wanted me to look silly, but it did help a little bit.

Just playin' with my food

Just playin’ with my food

Overall, I came through with flying colors for my final spice challenge in Korea, and the owner was right; his soup was extremely flavorful with a spice that was the equivalent of a raging forest fire in my mouth.  So if you’re feeling like you’re up for a challenge or want to get a good laugh while watching your friends eat it/suffer through it, go to Spicy Jjampong.

I don't clown around when it comes to spicy food

I don’t clown around when it comes to spicy food.

Everytime a Cowbell Rings a Devil Gets His Wings

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WARNING:  If you think jalapenos are spicy or if this (see 0:40 and on)happens to you when eating dry chili flakes or do not have a stomach for spicy food in general, do not try this eating challenge!!

Hello to everyone out there in the blogosphere!  I am writing this post after a very eventful and historic day in my eating adventures.  Now for those who know me/read my (amazing) blog, they can tell you that I am not one to shy away from eating spicy foods.  In fact, I seem to revel in the challenge to see how much fire I can eat in one sitting.  One day a certain Man vs. Food host in conjunction with the Travel Channel highlighted a Chicago hot-spot for getting some of the fieriest chicken wings in the nation which I will be reviewing today.  The place in question is Jake Melnick’s located on 41 East Superior Street  Chicago, IL 60611.

I checked out their website to see what exactly these XXX wings were made of, and I found out that they used both the Ghost Chili and the Red Divina which is an extremely spicy strain of Habanero.  Now, the actual heat level of the peppers can vary depending on where they’re grown due to various factors such as rainfall, elevation, and sun exposure.  However, I did the Scoville unit math according to Wikipedia’s page, and their combined spiciness is equivalent to standard issue law enforcement pepper spray.  Somehow this didn’t stop me, so I went there to test my mettle.

The waitress was wary at my request of the XXX wings, and they even make you sign a legal waver containing fun phrases like, “you’re an adventurous spirit who eats chilis for fun” alongside the more litigious “you won’t sue us in case of bodily harm”.  However, since I ordered the wings, I got a free fireman hat that stated I tried the XXX wing challenge along with a cowbell that I could ring if the heat became unbearable.

My bell and my brew (IPA, fyi)

This action would lead to the staff bringing out a “cool off” tray which consisted of a glass of milk, a cup of sour cream, and some white bread.  Little did they know I had the eye of the tiger to finish off the wings.

Hell in a hand basket

When they were presented to me, I was intrigued by how they looked since they weren’t glowing or smouldering or looking like pure evil.  However, I did notice a particular pungent aroma when I moved my face closer to them lying upon each other like eight little red smouldering coals nestled in a little hibachi.  I also got a side of blue cheese just in case I couldn’t handle the heat, and the celery was complimentary.  So I started off with the first wing, and I was expecting to get punched in the face with a fireball of spice.  Surprisingly, I was greeted instead with a savory and slightly garlicky heatwave that just spread the proverbial gasoline on the inside of my mouth.

The first wing goes down for the count

The next four to six wings decided to have a firework party while playing in the aforementioned gasoline a la Zoolander.  At this point, the back of my throat was quite scratchy and almost numb.  My lips and the surrounding area on my face just felt like it was touched up by a flamethrower, and I had a good sweat going on the whole time.  Plus, I kept in mind a key element to eating any sort of spicy food with your hands:  don’t rub your eyes even if you have an itch anywhere around them. I did try a wing or two in the superbly made blue cheese sauce that had whole blue cheese crumbles in it which was so much better than the blue cheese sauces I’ve sampled at Hooters and Buffalo Wild Wings.  While all of this was going on, my waitress kept coming by expecting the cowbell to be ringing out for mercy, but I just kept on truckin’ (like I’d ever stop truckin’ in the first place).  By the last wing, I downed it with gusto as my nose began to run slightly.  Perspiration aside, I knew that I had done something impressive especially judging by the shocked reaction from our waitress.  So I ended up getting my picture up on the digital Wall of Flame and the knowledge knowing that I had survived one hell of a challenge.  Unfortunately, they did not let me celebrate in true Will Ferrell fashion with adding more cowbell to the victory.

So for all of those thrill seekers/chili-heads out there, definitely try the XXX wing challenge at Jake Melnicks.  If spicy food isn’t for you, they also have a great variety of  delicious burgers (including an eight pound burger challenge), barbecue dishes with in-house smoked meats, hearty soups, savory sandwiches, and satisfying salads you can chow down on.

All done and it feels like I’ve smeared lava on my face

Jake Melnick's Corner Tap on Urbanspoon

Jake Melnick's Corner Tap on Foodio54

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