Korean Ssam and Penn Station
This is the first of a series of posts detailing my June 2010 trip to New York.
On the first day, there was not much to do. I went from Union Station in D.C. to Penn Station in New York City. The train ride was in the morning so for lunch, I ended up eating Korean dumpling soup at my mom’s apartment for lunch. Korean dumpling soup is a wonderful, light dish depending on what you put it in. I opted for just dumplings, some sesame oil, and seaweed seasoning. Since the dumplings are boiled with the soup, they are rather healthy. I prefer dumplings with meat and kimchi. Some people like shrimp or grounded vegetables, but not I. The dumplings had a slimy smooth skin, with the filling occupying all the space inside. Biting into a dumpling is quite the exciting affair because your teeth rip through the soft outer skin and then sink down into the mealy, textured interior. When eating dumpling soups, I often cut the dumpling in half, letting the fillings permeate into the soup so that the soup starts to look like stew. Personally, I find dumpling stew more appealing than dumpling soup.
Moving on, I had Korean ssam for dinner. Ssam is basically rice, meat, and some other condiments wrapped in a piece of lettuce. In a way, they resemble the aforementioned dumplings since food is wrapped around more food. While it is certainly possible to put a vareity of different meats in a ssam, my mom only bought sam gyup sal, which is thinly sliced strips of pork belly, so I had sam gyup sal ssam. By the way, sam gyup sal is popularly known as Korean bacon, and although sam gyup sal looks strikingly similar to bacon, it is not nearly as salty. Also, sam gyup sal does not feel as greasy as bacon.
With meat and lettuce in hand, I proceeded to add Korean red pepper paste, pan-fried garlic, and garlic chives into my ssam. Your average ssam will have some form of what I put in: rice, meat, and either garlic or onion (sometimes both). I love the way multiple different flavors mold into one in a ssam. As you chow down on ssam, the ingredients composing the ssam will often times strike your taste buds and surprise. For example, you could be tasting plain rice with meat at one second, but in the next second, your tongue might stumble across a big clump of Korean red pepper paste.
Eating ssam can become quite the adventure. You can get as creative as you like. I like to pretend that I’m a sushi master, creating exotic “rolls”—or ssam—that include mangos, caviar, and other exotic ingredients.
Stay tuned for my next post on New York! I promise there will be more appetizing food to marvel at.