Muk Eun Ji

Matt BruckSeolbin Park and the folks at SB Groupe and EatersDrinkers invited me to a pretty cool aged kimchi tasting at Muk Eun Ji recently.

I actually DO have to write this next bit, because there were a few people at the event who had never eaten kimchi before. For various reasons I will not disclose, this was completely understandable and should not be mocked or taken as a point of negativity.

So here it is: Kimchi is Korean for “pickled” and/or “fermented” veggies. In its most typical form, kimchi consists of cabbage with various spices and herbs. Cucumbers are also common.

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Muk Eun Ji is known for its 1+ year aged kimchi. This tasting event featured their aged kimchi in every dish in various ways. Here is a shot of owners Cathy and Yongsung Kim, who were very gracious and kind, and who explained everything to us as we ate.

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Dish 1: Crunch Muk Eun Ji – washed aged kimchi seasoned with sesame oil. This was mild and really tasty.

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Dish 2: Yuk Hwe – Korean beef tartare. Okay, while this ONE DISH didn’t actually have any kimchi in it, the flavors were present, perhaps in the sauce. This was skirt steak. Super tender and incredibly delicious.

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Dish 3: Kimchi Jeon – Korean pancake with aged kimchi. This had a nice crunch on the outside with a great spicy kick from the kimchi and scallions inside. As you can see from the pics below, this joint has a fun conveyor belt in one dining room, where  you can pluck the little dishes right off and start digging in.

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Dish 4: Mandu – steamed homemade Korean dumplings with aged kimchi. These were expertly created and cooked. I loved the dipping sauce on the side actually. Wanted to drink it.

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Dish 5: Janchi Guksu – cold thin noodle with aged kimchi in spicy anchovy broth. This was one of my favorite bites of the night. It wasn’t too spicy, and the cold noodle was great for the summer.

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Dish 6: Kimchi Bokkeumbap – stir-fried rice with chopped aged kimchi and pork. Also a favorite, this rice dish packed a lot of flavor and meatiness. I could easily eat a massive bowl of this.

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Dish 7: Samhap – boiled pork belly, fermented skate fish and aged kimchi. This is an acquired taste. The fermented skate has a distinct ammonia-like quality to it that is common with fermented fish products, whether from regions like Scandinavia or Iceland, as well as parts of Asia. One thing that I didn’t expect was that the skate would have some bone connected to the meat. I popped all of it into my mouth at once and then had to work around the bones. It was a difficult eat for me.

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Dish 8: Galbi Jjim – braised beef short rib stew with aged kimchi and vegetables. This was incredible. The small bowl tasting size didn’t do the dish justice.

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I actually didn’t get to taste it on first pass, so I and a few other guys who missed out asked for some more later on. They brought out a full entree size.

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This is a $20 item. There is so much fork-tender beef that falls off the bone in that bowl, so it is an amazing deal at that price point. As you can see from the pic above, there’s tons of kimchi too. This will feed two or three people easily. The sauce is amazing. A deep, robust flavor lurks in there, so soak it up with some rice after you get tired of spooning it directly into your mouth.

Dish 9: Deungppyo Jjim – braised pork backbone with aged kimchi. Same deal as above, but with tender-ass pork instead of beef.

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Dish 10: Gyeranmari – Korean style rolled egg omelet with aged kimchi, cheese and sliced pork belly. This is like heaven at breakfast time, I bet. Absolutely delicious, and really beautiful.

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Dish 11: KBBQ – premium thick cut pork belly, thin sliced marinated beef short rib and aged kimchi on the grill. No Korean meal is complete without gorging on some delicious grilled meats.

I mean, this is what I’m all about, is it not?

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So the idea is to take the meat and add some of the nice toppings from the small plates, and then wrap it up in some lettuce. Then eat.

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Carb-free! Haha. I love this shit. It may be time for a separate page dedicated to KBBQ on this website. I’m considering it. There really is nothing quite like it. So satisfying.

I should also mention that we were washing this delicious shit down with some nice drinks throughout. We tasted an assortment of soju and makgeolli. For the uninitiated, soju is a mild distilled spirit that is similar to a flavored sake.

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Mokgeolli is more like a rice or wheat beer in that it is bubbly and looks unfiltered. It contains less alcohol (not distilled), but it tastes similar to flavored soda.

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MUK EUN JI
34 W 32nd St
New York, NY 10001

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