Delicious Crunchy Korean Style Chunky Potato Corn Dogs with Batter and Fried Potatoes. Isolated on Orange Background with Copy Space for Text

Korean Food for the Soul

Words by Su Ertekin-Taner

 

When I search for spaces to occupy, I search for untrodden spaces. That is not to say I don’t traverse or find myself in well-trafficked places, I just prefer those less-trafficked. Spaces uncharted or else well-charted but hidden. Places not at the center or the crossroads but in the peripheries. I search for the somewhat inconvenient places because there is little reward in the convenient.

 

I approach my restaurant search process in this way, trying to find a recess from large food outlets and plazas that become congested with patrons. This Monday my search for a culinary nook led me to K-Bop Korean Kitchen off of Southside Boulevard, the 2022-established restaurant version of the eponymous food truck. In contrast to the populated Southside outlet across the street with its sizable Tinseltown and chain restaurants, the outlet that houses K-Bop Korean Kitchen is smaller, tree-encircled and hiddenso much so that I miss the outlet’s entrance on my first try. 

 

When I eventually arrive in this alcove of sorts, my eyes immediately find K-Bop Korean Kitchen. The Korean kitchen is the largest establishment in this strip mall, and I recognize the same identifying symbol — a smiling, animated bowl of rice — on the exterior that appeared on the website. I walk in, my taste buds already primed by this image. On the right wall, I notice a fitting picture of a teeming Korean street at night, saturated with the colorful lights of signs. On the left, a neon light-up sign of a maneki-neko (or Japanese “beckoning cat”) is framed by a wall of fake greenery. Directly across from the door is a podium and host who reminds me I am here not only to pore over my environment but also my impending food.

 

I have walked in at 2:02 p.m., past lunch special time (11 a.m.-2 p.m.). I ramble some incoherent series of sentences about my said lateness to the host as if justifying my tardiness to an employer. I caught a wave of traffic. I missed the exit. I was trying to park well. The host assures me I can still have the lunch special. I’ve decided on the katsu bop, a meal served with panko fried chicken, rice, glass noodles, mandu (Korean dumplings), vegetables and kimchi. I choose the katsu bop because it is a comprehensive dish, incorporating items that appear elsewhere on the menu — the mandu and kimchi appear in the bites section along with japchae, a dish of sweet potato starch glass noodles, for example. I take a number and sit at a booth. It will be a table for one today. 

 

Even so, I hardly feel alone. I am in the presence of other patrons who have chosen K-Bop Korean Kitchen for their lunch break meal. And I keep company with other items on the menu; they are in the process of wooing me now: 

 

The bites section of the menu, rife with authentic Korean dishes like kimbap, a beef and veggie roll, japchae, kimchi fries and the Korean fried chicken appetizer, all charm me thoroughly. The kimchi ramen dishes of various proteins — chicken, shrimp, and pork chashu — also attempt to win me over. Finally, the restaurant’s signature Korean corn dog, a dog of fried cheese that can be coated with various goodies like hot Cheetos, sweet and spicy Gochujang paste, and even ramen, enthralls me. 

 

I had lost myself in this one-sided conversation — the foods spoke and I listened — when my meal arrived. The bowl that was placed in front of me was the comprehensive meal it claimed to be: strips of katsu chicken coated with chipotle mayo sauce, sesame seeds and scallions lying on a bed of rice and glass noodles. The broccoli, carrots, cauliflower and kimchi intermingled with the chicken strips, and the mandu adorned the top of the dish. Though deceivingly small-looking, the bowl was deep. The meal, I knew, would be filling. 

 

The meal was more than filling: It was full-flavored, imbued with delicious taste. I tackled the dish according to its presentation — top to bottom. First, the katsu chicken. I bit through the crunchy panko fried crust and into the tender chicken, appropriately moistened and permeated with spice by the chipotle mayo zig zagged onto the plate. The colorful veggies, tangy-spicy kimchi, and pork and veggie-filled mandu provided some respite from the protein-heavy top of the dish. Then, I approached the carbs. By this point, I had abandoned the top to bottom approach, mining the rice and slippery noodles from the bottom at times to accompany a mouthful of protein.

 

A lover of salt, I coated the rice in soy sauce. The noodles needed no such flavoring, however. The perfectly stir-fried noodles were coated in a salty-savory sesame oil and soy sauce mixture. I accepted them dutifully and gratefully into my mouth. Though I became full at the halfway point of finishing the meal, I did not cease eating until I found the bottom of the bowl. 

 

I finally finished. Having completed a lunch of protein, veggies and carbs, I felt balanced. In this sublime state, I didn’t want to leave my booth of one. I wanted to stay with my empty plate, to sit in the tastes I had experienced for longer, to not muddle the experience I had just undergone with the separate sensory experience of the outside. So I sat a little in my sphere of silence, in my nook. 

 

I left a little while after that, thanking the host on my way out. I was again surrounded by trees and small establishments, the untrodden land. Yet today, I had made the untrodden trodden and thankfully so; I would not forget about the balance of the meal, the comprehensiveness of it. I would not forget about my table of one. Though, I thought as I drove out of the small outlet, K-Bop Korean Kitchen is at the periphery of a populated area, the restaurant and its rich cuisine felt absolutely central now. 

 

Other notes (do not include):

 

I wanted to sit in the taste for longer 

Eventually though, i left 

 

Attain a lunch

Slippery 

I felt balanced in this meal. 

I felt balanced in the meal. Proteins, veggies, carbs

Notes of 

Full-flavored

Engaging

The bowl was colorful, glass noodles, muddling the tones

  • Colorful meal; chicken placed on top and garnished with scallions, sesame eeds, and chipotle mayo sauce, noodles were super pflavorful 
  • Filling 

 

  • if you want a meal on the go 
  • Snacks
  • Boba teas (fruitea or milky)

 

illuminated only by the saturated 

 

A su space is a space that isn’t well-trafficked 

 

  • Foodtruck is still active 
  • Good pricing 

About Su Ertekin-Taner

Jacksonville native Su Ertekin-Taner is a student at Columbia University with a passion for everything arts. While she writes creatively, satirically, journalistically, and enthusiastically (of course), she also loves to sing, dance, and do impressions; her favorites are Toddlers and Tiaras Mom and Shakira. Find Su critiquing the quality of reality TV that she willingly spends several hours a day watching, petting her cat even though she recently discovered her cat allergy, and probably watching paint dry because it's fun.