Howard and the Jewish Mother Theory of Korean Cuisine
Near the hotel I found a little place in an alley that had pictures of their dishes outside. One of them was samgyetang, ginseng chicken soup, which I'd been meaning to try. I went in and ordered by pointing to the pictures on the wall. I ordered the samgyetang and a shake that was like a cross between a lassi and a Latin American batida. I don't know what the fruit was, or if the tartness was from the fruit or yogurt.
Samgyetang is a young chicken stuffed with rice and cooked in a broth with ginseng, herbs and some dried fruit (I found a cherry). I was thinking it was sort of like Jewish-style chicken in the pot, and probably equally good as a palliative for the common cold.
I was reminded of all the times my friend Howard has marveled at the similarities to of certain Korean dishes to traditional old-world Jewish cookery. Howard works in the West 30s, so we often meet for lunch in Manhattan's "Koreatown." Howard had a Jewish mother from the old country who could guilt you with the best of them, but she tempered the guilt with good chow. I think his first epiphany of the Korean-Jewish culinary connection was when eating dduk mandoo kuk, dumpling and rice cake soup. "These are kreplach!" he declared. Of the boiled beef in some Korean soups he said, "Flanken!" I think he has a point. There's something very haimish about many Korean dishes. Just don't try to sell your Jewish mother any pork bellies.