When I first met my wife, we connected over our mutual love for ethnic foods. She had lived in Korea before and I learned about Indian food from a close friend in college. One of our first dates was to a local Korean restaurant in Portland Oregon where we lived. The restaurant was Sokongdong, on the east side of town, just off 82nd street. I loved it, and we returned many times. But one dish really peaked my interest, a soup called yukgaejang. A delightfully spicy dish featuring shredded beef. The worst thing about it is upon coming to Korea I haven’t enjoyed a yukgaejang as good as the one I had at Sokongdong. I expected glorious things from the native land, but even while the versions I’ve had here are somewhere on the spectrum of OK to good, nothing has compared. None have been as spicy, with beef as quality, or with a mouth watering layer of chili oil swimming on top of the bowl. I won’t give up my quest though. This is how I got good at Indian food. I tried my friend’s mother’s dishes and sought to recreate them until I could. Perhaps the time has come to add Korean cooking to my ethnic cuisine repertoire. My wife is already really good at many Korean dishes, but I have my favorites that I’d like to perfect, and yukgaejang tops the list.
My passion for and frustration with Yukgaejang