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Freude Durch Essen (Joy Through Food)

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Hello and welcome to another chapter in Mastication Monologues!  Today I will be telling you about two very different types of food.  One is a traditional Korean dinner dish while the other is a German dessert that has been transplanted to Korea (with smashing results).  First, there is the chicken restaurant that I went to in Incheon located by Bupyeong Station.  Here is how to get there:  Go to exit 12 at the Bupyeong metro station.  Go out and head straight and take the first left at the alley on your left hand side.  Walk down to the 7-11 and then make a left and it will be on your left hand side across the street from the bar Woodstock.IMG_0557

Anyway, it seemed like a pretty popular place when we walked in since every four to five person booth was filled with people chowing down on giant bowls of chicken stewing in a dark sauce with assorted vegetables.  The bday boy, Ryan, informed me that we were going to get Andong Jjimdak (안동찜닭)  with ganjang (35,000 Won).  For those who don’t know Korean cuisine, we ordered a heaping bowl of steamed chicken that was marinated in soy sauce and stewed with glass noodles and vegetables like sweet potatoes, onions, and chili peppers.  We wisely signaled to our waitress that we wanted the chicken without bones, and she understood us.  This made eating it a whole lot easier.  Before the meal, they supplied us with typical side dishes like pickled cucumbers and kimchi, but a nice twist was a cold vinegar soup with radish.  I was the only one who finished it at our table since I really enjoyed its cool yet briny flavor profile.  When the jjimdak finally came out, it was a plate that took up probably a quarter of the table.

Needs more carbs

Needs more carbs

Then again, there were five of us there, so we were each going to get a fair share of the chicken stew.  I helped myself to a couple pieces of chicken, some fiery red chili peppers, and a few large onion slices. IMG_0556 The meat was mouth-wateringly tender and fell apart in my mouth, and the soy sauce was on the sweeter end which really let the savory elements shine.  I obviously left the tteokbokki (rice cakes) for those who enjoy them more than I, but I did try to eat a lot of the noodles and chili peppers.  Once the chicken was gone, I tucked into the of dark brown, Sargasso Sea of noodles.  I found that it was quite difficult to eat them with just metal chopsticks.  Eventually I got my fill after some struggle, but they were not anything special.  I do have doff my cap to the chili peppers though.  Even when Koreans have bragged about their food being spicy, I have been left wanting.  So I was delighted to just go right to the source and snack on some Tabasco-level spicy chiles.  I normally eat more than the average bear, probably more akin to a grizzly, so I was still hungry afterward.  However, for two or even three people, it would be plenty of quality food for the price.  I highly recommend this restaurant if you’re looking for a traditional Korean dish that comes in an American-sized portion:  gargantuan.  The second part of the post involves a dessert I tried in Bupyeong Station called Schnee Pang.

I have seen numerous food stalls in the underground market of Bupyeong Station, but right by Exit 13 there is a German inspired, confectionery stand called Schnee Pang.IMG_0527  I finally took the plunge and tried one of their bizarre looking cookie balls.  After doing a bit of research on these addicting, diabetes-inducing balls of sugar, I found that they are  called Schneeballen or “Snowballs” in German.  They are over 300 years old and hail from Rothenburg, Germany.  They’re made with strips of dough that are then wrapped around a handle, and then said handle is removed.  These dough balls are then put in a special holder called a Schneeballeneisen (hooray for compounds!) and deep fried.  What you end up with is a large cookie ball that is coated in various types of chocolate and powdered sugar like my Snow Sugar Chocolate Schneeball (2,900 W).

You You You Ball of Chocolate! (I don't know why it's in French at a German place)

You You You Ball of Chocolate! (I don’t know why it’s in French at a German place)

It’s even fun to buy as you get the option of smashing the softball sized ball with a wooden hammer for no extra charge.  I went for the gusto and smashed it like the Soviets did Berlin in 1945.

Smashee Smashee Teacha!

Smashee Smashee Teacha!

When I finally tried my German pastry, it was kind of like eating buttery, thicker fortune cookie shards smothered in milk chocolate and powdered sugar.IMG_0530  Long story short, it was amazing and interactive.  What’s not to like?IMG_0532


Smash and Grab Burg(er)lary

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The Incredible Hulk has always been part of American culture (however geeky some might deem it) for many reasons.  Whether it was his oh so natural green hue or his very chic tatters that have that pre-worn appeal that many hobos and drifters could identify with, but his severe anger problems were probably what catapulted him to the front of the superhero pantheon.  With a Neanderthalic  grammatical utterance of, “HULK SMASH!” we could all identify with him when we just wanted to rip our clothes off and go crazy when the life is getting us down (maybe less of the former than the latter, actually).  What I’m trying to get is that, I definitely went crazy for Smashburger’s food sans the searing rage of my aforementioned friend.  This small and smart establishment has locations all over the United States, but the one I visited is located at 2425 W 75th St Darien, IL 60561.

A Pretty Hip Burger Joint

Even though their sign outside looked oddly like Gamestop’s, I walked into a nicely decorated restaurant that had a very casual vibe going for it.  The staff was very attentive and even offered to explain any questions we had with the menu or the company in general.  I ended up ordering the build your own burger with the Big Smash option which is a full 1/2 pounds of black Angus beef that is freshly prepared in the kitchen.

As for the ingredients, I definitely went all out as always with my options as I managed to create a souped up burger with the following ingredients:  a spicy chipotle bun, lettuce, tomato, red onion, grilled onion, kosher pickles (Shalom, y’all!), jalapeños, ketchup, mustard, spicy chipotle mayo, bbq sauce, buffalo sauce, and blue cheese.

A Veritable Laundry List of Toppings

All of which ended up looking like a monster of a burger that the Hulk would identify with, slightly odd-looking but a good one at heart.  Upon sinking my teeth into this beefy leviathan, I knew that I had made the right choice with going with the large burger and not the other options on the menu like the various salads, chicken sandwiches, or specialty burgers.

The beef was tender, juicy, cooked to perfection, but did not overpower the rest of the ingredients.  The spicy chipotle bun was something that I had never seen before, but it certainly made an impact on the overall flavor of the burger because with every enjoyable chomp, there were subtle smoky/spicy whisps of flavor caressing my tongue.

Cheesewise, the blue cheese was surprisingly measured out to support the other players in the sandwich; all of which surprised me because most restaurants slather their blue cheese on burgers like it’s going out of style (not always a bad idea), but one can have too much of a good thing sometimes.  The one other element of the burger that definitely made me stand up and give a rousing ovation was the jalapenos.  Now, I love those “Southwest/New Mexico/Insert general burger name invoking a capsaicin nightmare” burgers, but I’ve found that the jalapeños on these burgers are soggy and just mush into the general melange of ingredients.

This Looks Good Enough to be Mayor McCheese’s Wife

This was not the case with Smashburger.  The jalapeños on my burger were a lush, verdant green like Señor Hulk, looked to be freshly hand chopped, and provided a satisfying crunch and a spicy peck on the cheek with every bite.

Tackling the Beast

As always, my appetite had not been satiated, so I decided to get a side that I’ve never tried before.  The fried pickles were beckoning me, but I decided not to go the Snooki route this time (though you must try them if you ever have the chance).  Instead, I chose the Smashfries which were french fries  tossed with garlic, rosemary, and olive oil.  These golden, finely julienned potatoes had me at garlic.  They did not disappoint because they were not too overpowering with the garlic, and thankfully the fries were fried to perfection with a light semi-crunch as I plowed my way through the mini-basket (way better than the over-salted/over-seasoned Five Guys fries, I think).  For all those who enjoy a bit of spice in their food, I’d recommend trying their Cholula hot sauce on these fries to make a new American favorite that is mixed with Mediterranean ingredients and a little Latin panache.

Les Pommes Frites Avec Un Twist

Smashburger was a worthwhile experience for those who are looking for a good burger beyond Five Guys, Meatheads, the King, the Golden Arches, or any other place for that matter.  As I left the restaurant feeling thoroughly satisfied, I wish I could have tried more items, but unfortunately like my gargantuan pal, I’ll have to wait for next time whilst I drove into the sunset.  *Cue sad Hulk theme song*

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