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To Bim is To Bop

September 2, 2008

Who eats Korean food at 10:30 am?  That’s right.  I do.  I had a brief window of time in which I could feed my Asian (food) monster within, so I hopped off the bus just as the doors opened at Cho Sun Ok restaurant in Chicago’s trendy Oldtown district.  Had I been even more determined, I could have spent 4am downing kim chi and chap chae at another joint across town, but I read on a few blogs and surveys that Cho Sun’s menu was superior to the all-night Korean kitchen.  Probably not a revelation, but still, I had to do a little research.

I poked my head in at 10:30 on the dot and greeted the staff, who collectively groaned.  They were all seated together, eating brunch and watching women’s beach volleyball, commenting heatedly on the match.  I guess not many people show up for Bim Bim Bop before 11am.  Embarrassed though I was at my obvious intrusion, I just had to get in and worship in the church of gastronomic diversity.   

My favorite thing about Korean food is this:  alongside your behemoth entree, they present you with a variety of wonderfully small and sundry dishes.  These small plates are healthy and beautiful snacks to help you digest.  One can choose between tossing them in one’s main course, or eating them nearby.  I did a little of both.  There was kim chee, slivered potatoes, fermented black beans, pickled cucumbers, some kind of fermented hard tofu that tasted exquisite, seaweed, and I think I’m only scratching the surface here.  The delectable foods piled on endlessly, much to my delight.  I was craving the classic Bim Bim Bop, a football helmet-sized bowl filled with rice, beef, various pickled and fermented veggies, a fried egg, sunny-side up, and hot sauce.  All of this comes chilled.   The waitress stood over me and commenced preparing and then stirring my cavernous bowl of joy to her personal liking, before stepping carefully away as I moved to attack with my chopsticks.  My partner-in-dine had his own demon to deal with: a spicy cod soup with lotus root that just wouldn’t go away. 

Three olympic sports later, we had only gotten halfway through our oversized dishes.  Like any great athlete, we decided to do some stretching.  The trip to the bathroom afforded me a happily voyeuristic walk through the kitchen.  I realized then it takes a village to make Korean food happen.  There must have been 10 people crammed into the tiny space.  Two choppers, a peeler, a pickler, a steamer, two sauteers, a deep-fryer, a broiler and a baker were each their own functional cog in the brilliant machine of perfectionism that can be found at Cho Sun Ok on North Lincoln.   Two hours later we licked our plates clean, feeling so accomplished we beamed brightly at the wary waitstaff, who sipped tea and ate endlessly alongside us, waiting for us to finally leave so they could spend their Saturday safely shouting obscenities at all the opposing teams of the world.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. harryhood permalink
    October 13, 2008 11:48 pm

    Is there any place to get Bi Bim Bop in Asheville? I used to eat it once a week or more before moving to Asheville. Is there any Korean food here?

  2. October 14, 2008 11:49 am

    Harry!! So glad to hear from you! Christmas Day 2007 The Noodle Shop offered Bim Bim Bop as a special, and they did a decent job of it. I haven’t seen it on their specials board since, but we could certainly begin a new Bim Bim Bop request and pester campaign.
    But no, the closest Korean restaurant I know of is located in Knoxville TN, in West Knoxville. Korea House was pretty good, as I recall, and it can be googled.

    Oh, also Doc Chey’s offers Chop Chae, a korean stir fry dish with beef, mung bean noodles, and scrambled egg. But it’s a special dish, and they won’t put it on their regular menu, no matter how many times I bother them about it. They get it on their specials board about every 5 or 6 weeks.

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