The First Reader, who once traveled around the world courtesy of the Practical Joke Department (see Heinlein’s Glory Road to find out where that reference came from) told me he’d really like to find a good Korean restaurant, and he was fairly sure there would be one near Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. I went online and looked up an address of a likely-looking place, and this weekend we set off on our quest to find Yung’s Café in Fairborn Ohio. It’s about a thirty-minute drive from our house, but we found the restaurant without too much difficulty, only having a moment of consternation at seeing an empty parking lot. This is usually not a good sign at a restaurant, but it was an odd hour to eat lunch or dinner, being about three o’clock on a Saturday.
We were greeted cheerfully by what looked like a mother-daughter team, and there was another table of people eating… besides, I was starving and it smelled really good as we were walking in. How bad could it be? We opened our menus and I started trying to figure out what I was going to try. The First Reader had already announced he was having the Bulgogi rice. I asked if he thought the fried dumplings were a good idea, and we started there.
The interior of this place was a bit like some greasy-spoon Diner’s I’ve been in, or a pizza joint (family-owned, not your soulless franchise). Korean calendars hung on the wall for decor, the tables with chairs were mis-matched, and the booth we sat in was comfortable but well-used. The two women running the front chattered with one another in Korean, and our server brought us each a can of coke along with a glass half-full of ice when we ordered soda.
When the dumplings arrived they were crispy, the filling wasn’t over-processed to paste, and the dipping sauce was just as I’m used to dumpling sauce being, soy and sweet rice vinegar. Very good, and small enough to be easily handled with chopsticks. I’ve been eating with chopsticks since Dad taught me as a girl, the First Reader has been trying to re-learn to keep up with me, and when his food came, gave up on them shortly in order to eat faster.
But I’m skipping a step. I ordered a Bibimbap with seafood. I had a vague idea of what it was, having glimpsed a happy online review of this traditional cooking method being used at Yung’s Café, and I was curious about it. It came with Miso soup, and that arrived between the meal and the dumplings. The First Reader had never tried miso, and when I exclaimed over how good and smoky it was (I love miso, but have had trouble finding the good stuff) he took a spoonful, and then another… I did get my soup back, but we are going to track down some decent miso paste soon.
They came out of the kitchen with a tray full of small bowls and placed these on the table for us. I recognized the kimchee immediately, but some of the others were a puzzle, and neither of us knew what to do with them. The First Reader explained that when he learned to like bulgogi rice thirty years ago, in Louisiana near his base, they brought the bowls to the Korean patrons, but the GI’s got their beef and rice heaped unceremoniously on a big plate and slapped down in front of them. According to him, the servers would then jump back to stay out of the way of the hungry young men wolfing the food down.
As we were talking, the two women came back out of the kitchen, each bearing a tray. One was my big stone bowl, sizzling merrily. She warned me it was very hot, and to be careful. The other had his bulgogi, heaped on a cast iron serving plate, set into a wood truncheon, and a bowl of sticky rice for him. They left, and I started to poke at the various fascinating ingredients in my bowl. I discovered to my delight that the seafood in this particular bibimbap was octopus, with the little tentacles chopped up. One of the servers, correctly interpreting the tenative way I was dealing with the bowl, came over with a spoon and fork (by the way, the spoons at this restaurant arrived with little ‘sanitized for your protection’ wrappers on them, which made me giggle internally) and showed me that it was supposed to have sauce poured over it and all be mixed together. I refrained from using a lot of the red sauce in a ketchup bottle that was provided – it tasted like sriracha, which is a bit spicy for my taste in large amounts – and added a bit of soy sauce as well.
The whole meal was delicious. We ate until we were stuffed, and brought some home for lunch tomorrow. We will definitely be returning, once we’ve had a chance to digest all we ate. If you’d like to explore this little place with the yummy Korean, look for Yung’s Café in Fairborn, OH. Even the kimchee was good!
And while I was looking up how to spell what I’d eaten, I came across a really good-looking recipe for it. I don’t have the stone bowls, but I’ll bet I would be able to make this up anyway, just wouldn’t have the same sizzle.