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Woosah at Yeowoosai

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Fried chicken.  Is there any other food that is more quintessentially ‘Murikan?  Actually, I’ll have to stop you right there.  Fried chicken actually has its roots in Scotland where they coated their chicken and made it so much tastier than the boiled and baked versions of the poultry dish down south in England.  They carry on the tradition even today of consuming everything fried including Mars bars and cookies.  There is also evidence that West African cuisine utilized fried chicken for ceremonial meals.  Ergo, when both European immigrants from Scotland and African slaves arrived in the American South, the culinary traditions of both groups became woven into the fabric of the multi-colored patchwork that is our country’s food history.  However, what many people wouldn’t associate with fried chicken is Korea.  In fact, during my time in the Land of the Morning Calm, I sampled some of their fried delights that were an extra-greazy reminder of home in an otherwise kimchi-laden environment.  However, Yeowoosai in Chicago’s Koreatown manages to combine both American and Korean cuisine with a sports bar atmosphere that conveniently has a noraebang (or karaoke) attached.

It’s located in a small strip mall, but little did I know that my tastebuds and my world were about to be rocked into submission.IMG_4333  It was quite empty when we went, but I’m sure it gets quite bumping on the weekend.  IMG_4334We didn’t look at the menu since Janice ordered for me since she gets the same thing every time she goes there:  the 닭디겜 (daktigem or popcorn chicken).  We also got  김치볶음밥 (kimchi bokkeumbap or kimchi fried rice).  However, they do offer plenty of Korean classics like 비빔밥 (bibimbap or a rice bowl with meat and veggies), 김치찌개 (kimchi jjigae or kimchi soup), and  갈비 and 불고기 (galbi or grilled ribs and bulgogi or marinated beef).  The entire time we were waiting, Janice was building up this food, but I didn’t believe how good it really was going to be.  It’s not like I haven’t seen popcorn chicken or fried rice before.  How severely mistaken I was.  First the popcorn chicken came out.  It was literally the size of a wash basin and my potential food baby was lying in it.  It was served with a side of “yellow sauce” and a pickled jalapeno and radish mix.  IMG_4339This was hands-down the best popcorn chicken I’ve ever tried in my life.  From the smooth, buttery, yet light breading to the juicy all white meat nuggets that were quickly filling my stomach, I couldn’t get enough.  Then when I dipped them into the yellow sauce which I figured must be some type of mayonnaise and horseradish concoction with a hint of pepper, a dash of crack, and a soupçon of meth mixed in (seriously though, no drugs were involved in the making of this delicious meal), it finally happened.  I was and still am addicted to Yeowoosai’s popcorn chicken and yellow sauce complete with meat sweats and shakes.  As for the jalapeno and radish salad, I thought it was a refreshing, cool, tangy, and slightly spicy way to cleanse your palate between mouthfuls of chicken.  Then there was the kimchi fried rice.  We just got the original with Spam and eggs.  Why put Spam in a meal when you have a choice not to?  Why not use beef, chicken, or pork?  Well, Spam in Korean cuisine is actually a carry over from the Korean War period where food was scarce, but the American military ate Spam.  So, that’s what the local populace scavenged from the GI army bases to make meals.  While South Korea has made great advances since then, Spam still is seen as a luxury gift.  This often bewilders Americans and other Westerners when Korean shoppers are clamoring to buy Spam giftsets for loved ones at Christmas and Chuseok or Thanksgiving Day.   The American armed forces has also made Spam popular in other places like the Philippines and Hawaii.  Hooray for spreading terrible quasi-meat around the world!  Anyway, the fried rice.  IMG_4340Once again, portion-wise it was gigantic like the popcorn chicken and for a great price.  It was also a quality choice.IMG_4341  Compared to the kimchi fried rice back in the Motherland, it was even better.  It was rich, spicy, but not too spicy.  The pieces of kimchi thrown in provided a texture contrast that popped up now and then between spoonfuls.  I was having multiple moments of being overwhelmed by the large amount of mind-blowingly amazing food in front of me, but eventually my wild ride came to an end as I threw in the towel..er napkin and woosahed .

Long story short, go to Yeowoosai if you want to try a Korean sports bar with plenty of dishes your average ajumma (Korean old woman) would recognize.  Plus, these huge and reasonably priced portions of food will leave both your wallet and stomach stuffed.  Not a bad deal at all.

Yeowoosai on Urbanspoon
 

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Food-Lovers of the World, Unite!

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Привет comrades!  Welcome to a special bday edition of Mastication Monologues!  Today I will be talking about a restaurant that I had walked past about a million times, but I vowed to one day dine there.  Thankfully, my 25th birthday provided a perfect excuse to finally try out the Russian Tea Time Restaurant located at 77 East Adams Street  Chicago, IL 60603.  It is located in a very convenient part of the city and is well-connected with subways and buses.

Now I am a sucker for Russian history since it is filled with so many characters like Peter the Great who was 6’8″ and somehow disguised himself as a common laborer while traveling through different Western European countries to learn new skills, like shipbuilding, in order to modernize Russia.  However, I am not here to give a history lesson, so time to move onto the food.  Upon sitting down, we were greeted by our waiter who was quite pushy in regard to ordering appetizers and drinks.  Not only was the decor fitting for a Russian tea room, but the service was up to Soviet standards.  The waiter’s brusque behavior aside, we did enjoy the complimentary dark rye bread and small salad.  The bread was as dark as ebony and possessed a bold, savory flavor thanks to the caraway and spices in the dough.   As for the salad, the greens were fresh, and the dressing was a very sweet vinaigrette that enhanced the lettuce, chard, cabbage, and tomatoes.  Naturally, our waiter was back and quadruple checking to see if we were ready to order, so I got down to business and ordered the Shashlik with chicken.IMG_0953

Now, most people would be intimidated by the sound of something as foreign as Shashlik, but it is quite a simple dish.  All it consists of is large, boneless chunks of chicken skewered and roasted over a fire while being rubbed down with a simple marinade that can vary from chef to chef.  With my dish, the chicken was served on a fluffy white bed of rice pilaf and accompanied with a miniature mound of carrot salad and tomato sauce.  Even though I was a bit bummed out that the chicken was not served to me on the skewers (lawsuits can take the fun out of certain things), I was still blown away at how tasty it was.  The chicken pieces had a homemade flavor to them because each bite had a bit of a charred aftertaste, and my favorite part was the occasional citrus note that would sneak onto my palate like some sort of KGB operative making a dead drop of deliciousness.  Plus, there were grilled onion sprigs on top of the chicken like small, flavorful, wispy clouds hanging about the Ural  mountain peaks. As for the rice pilaf, I was indifferent to it, but it was enhanced by the tomato sauce that was slightly spicy and chock full o’ Uzbek goodness.  When I saw the carrot salad, I wasn’t sure what to expect since it just looked like an orange mini-haystack hanging out next to the gigantic serving of meat and starch on my plate.  However, it was the most interesting part of the meal because although the carrots were soaked in a semi-sweet dressing, they still managed to maintain their crunchiness.  This switch in textures only enhanced my meal, and surprisingly the typical overpowering taste of the carrots was not overwhelming thanks to the sugary dressing.  Once I finished all of this food, I braced myself for an after dinner treat that would only seem normal in a Russian restaurant:  a vodka flight.

A Russian liquid blanket for those cold nights

A Russian liquid blanket for those cold nights

Since we were in a Russian restaurant, I naturally would not waste my money on a mixed drink or a beer, so I was happy to see that Russian Tea Time embraced and promoted probably the most important and celebrated drink in Russian and  Slavic history.  They have three different types of flights which consist of three 1 ounce shots, and they are all themed.  I ordered the Molotov Cocktail flight which contained honey-pepper, Absolut pepper, and horseradish vodka.  My friend got the house flight which had lime, caraway, and black currant vodka.  The waiter also brought some black rye and pickles to chase the vodka and drink in the traditional Russian fashion that includes smelling the bread, offering a toast, and pounding the shot.  Out of my shots, the worst one was the horseradish one because it combined two quite potent flavors in one shot.  The horseradish burned my sinuses and the vodka burned on the way down…definitely a shot reserved for the only the staunchest of revolutionaries.  Thankfully they gave us plenty of bread and pickles to combat the alcohol equivalent of a Kalashnikov round to my mouth.  As for the house flight, I enjoyed the lime vodka the most while the caraway just tasted terrible.  I think that they should keep the caraway just in the bread and not the liquor.  Funny enough at the end of meal, my waiter asked me if I was Russian or Ukrainian, and I told him I was Polish.  Immediately, he went from being a semi-jerk to quite friendly, and after a couple of Polish phrases, he bid us goodnight.  I still don’t think it made up for his service where he was trying to hustle us all night.

So if you’re looking to try some new food or just want to warm up with some tea or vodka, come on down to Russian Tea Time. You’ll see that Russian food has more to offer than just potatoes, fish, and vodka, and it’s actually so filling and tasty that it can make you dance better than the  late, “great” former Russian president Boris Yeltsin (R.I.P.). Na zdorovye!

Russian Tea Time on Urbanspoon

Russian Tea Time on Foodio54

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