Thursday, November 5, 2009

Yummy, Yummy, Yummy, I've Got Love in My Tummy

While local style Korean food may be almost unrecognizable by Koreans from the mainland or Korea, for the Koreans who grew up here (as well as everyone else who grew up here), it is a style that is unique and sorely missed with deprived of if.  I have one Korean friend in particular who, though originally from Korea, grew up here with our local Korean community.  After she spent several years on the mainland for college, the first time she came back the thing she was craving most was local Korean food.    Sure there was Korean food in the big cities on the mainland where she was, but all of it was the Korean food of more recently transplanted Koreans.  It was a reflection of the Korean food you would find in Korea today, but not the style of food of the Koreans that evolved independantly over a hundred years here.  So after she returned home after many years, and I picked her up from the airport, the first thing she wanted to do was make a bee-line for most famous of local Korean fast food, Yummy Korean BBQ.  

If Patty's Chinese Kitchen defined local Cantonese fast food here in the islands, Yummy did the same for Korean fast food.    They were among the first to open and pretty much singlehandedly established the market for Korean fast food, using modifications of their own family's recipes.   However, whereas Patty's lost the war against a large mainland corporation and closed their coveted Ala Moana corner store, Yummy has been doing fantastically well.  So well, that there have been many imitators, but no one does it nearly as well as Yummy.

Actually, when my sister was in college, one of her best friends was the scion of the Tasty Korean BBQ chain.   If the name sounds similar, it is because the families are cousins of the family that owns Yummy.   For quite some time, they were inseparable.   Yet in all that time, she was never able to get him to divulge their family secret for the really good kalbi, although he did cook it for her from time to time.    Given her culinary skills, I would've expected her to reverse engineer the recipe after a while, but I guess it's too well guarded. 

Kalbi is perhaps the quintessential Korean food around here.   I say this because while kim chee is pervasive, people still think of it as Korean, whereas kalbi has pretty much passed into the public domain realm of "local food".  This is especially true of our particular style of kalbi, the thin cross cut strip with the 3 bones at the top.  As ubiquitous as it is in Hawaii, you really don't see this particular cut of kalbi on the mainland or in Korea.   Probably the best place to get this style of kalbi, is at Yummy.   Sometimes the kalbi at other places can get really tough and dry, and while still flavorful, they can take a lot to chew them down.   The kalbi at Yummy is usually pretty moist and still packed with the flavor of the marinade.   Although I still prefer the strip steak cut of kalbi at Kim Chee No. 1, when I'm craving the 3 bone style Yummy is the place I'd go.

Yummy also has a very good meat jun.   Again, it is not the same as the juicy meat jun at Kim Chee, it is probably the best of the fast food variety.   Their version has a lot more egg taste than the batter at Kim Chee.  It is very different from the small medallion sized egg pancakes in Korea called jeon.   In Korea it's more of a small vegetable or seafood pancake, that is really more of an appetizer or side dish.   Our huge, ribbon sliced style with a large piece of beef inside is really more of a local thing.   You can imagine that the reaction from Koreans raised elsewhere would be the same as if someone else took our mac salad and turned it into a giant entree on its own.  

Meat Jun Plate at Yummy Korean BBQ
The most fun thing about going to Yummy though, is the big selection of side dishes they have (in true Korean style).   With most plate lunches, a mac or tossed salad along with your 2 scoops of rice is the most you'd be hoping to get on the side.    But at Yummy, you can expect no less than 4 selections from their extensive bar of side dishes.  They've got all of the classic vegetables, like kim chee, bean sprouts,cabbage and seaweed.  I really like to get their choi sum as well.  Between the seaweed, choi sum, and cabbage, you've got such a beautiful gradient of different shades of green.    But the side dish that I like best from Yummy, that you really can't find anywhere else, is their potato salad.  It is so totally addictive.   I have no idea what they put in it, but the mayo they use is more flavorful than anywhere else.  The potato pieces themselves are fried before adding the mayo, and leaving the potato skins on, making the dish really stand out from the plain scoop of mac salad served at other places.  If I'm only going to eat one thing at Yummy, the potato salad would be it.  

It may only be fast food, but for a the Koreans that grew up here (and to the rest of us as well), Yummy is like a taste of home.    Like losing Patty's Chinese Kitchen, losing Yummy would be a huge blow for our local heritage, but thankfully it they're still going strong.  

1 comment:

  1. actually, he'd cook their bulgogi more. but, i couldn't even get THAT recipe out of him. you have to marry into that family to get it. maybe that's why he should cook it for more of his girl friends.