During the end of my first year in Korea, I started suffering Korean food burnout. It seemed that everything tasted the same. Little of it tasted like my ignorant Western stereotype of Asian food — those garlicky stir fries on rice with ginger.
Then Eun Jeong recommended I have Jeyuk Bokkeum, stir-fried pork, at a little diner next to my house. I was very impressed. THIS was what I had envisioned Korean food tasting like. It was spicy, garlicky, I didn’t have to wrap it in leaves, it wasn’t another bubbling soup…
And best yet, it’s good fatty pork. I have since had Jeyuk Bokkeum at a few restaurants, each is a bit different. Some are very spicy, some have lots of veggies. My favorite, so far, is the dish served at the food court at the Anyang E-Mart.
Yes, the E-Mart food court has surprisingly been better than a lot of traditional restaurants. I have not eaten anything there yet that wasn’t outstanding. Strange, huh?
The E-Mart food court doesn’t even have chain restaurants, like other food courts. It’s just booths that say (in Korean) “Japanese Food”, “Korean Food”, “Chinese Food”, “NaengMyeon” (some of the best NaengMyeon, actually), and “Western Food” (and a big stretch on that definition).
The process at this food court, as with many, is to order your food at a central counter. The lady will give you a receipt, which you give to the respective booth. The lady at the booth will give you a number. When your number comes up, you get your tray with the ladies wishing you good eating.
The E-Mart Jeyuk Bokkeum is what’s pictured at the top. It comes sizzling on an iron platter with rice toasting brown, crunchy, and aromatic on the bottom. The rice is topped with the pork, stir-fried in garlicky red pepper sauce and vegetables. Then there are the veggies: bean sprouts, fresh lettuce, and dried salty seaweed. All this is garnished with sesame seeds, and you have a satisfying, tongue-scorching, belly-burning meal.
And all for less than $5.
The only drawback of eating at these food courts is the self-serve water in the tiny stainless steel cups. I have to make many trips back to the water dispenser whenever I eat something that spicy and good.