Friday, December 12, 2014

Tteokbokki All Grown Up at Bbun-Shik

Tteokbokki (떠볶이) consists of thick, stubby fingers of rice cake drowned in spicy sauce. Sometimes the rice cakes, called tteok, are stuffed with cheese or mashed up sweet potato. With all those delicious, simple carbs, it's easy to see why Korean kids love it so much. 

However, there is not much in it for the more rounded palates and stricter dietary needs of adults. There are no rich sources of protein, no vitamin rich veggies, and not near enough fiber help you out in the morning. So what is a tteok-bokki loving adult to do? 

You could try out Bbun Shik (뿐식).

Yubu-jeukbokki before and after
Bbun Shik is a new restaurant in downtown Pyeongtaek by the fountain. They advertise themselves as a "Fusion Tteokbokki" restaurant. And while there are western influences in their menu, the West doesn't mix much with East there. What they do fuse together are kid's food and adult food. Think of them as dietary training wheels for high-schoolers transitioning from cheap, unsophisticated, unbalanced kid's food to moderately priced, nutritious, mature, adult food. 
The set menu is the main feature at Bbun Shik. For 16,900 to 24,900 won you can get a three course, tteokbokki centered meal large enough for two or three people. Accompanied by Eat Korea's robotic taste tester, the NetBot, we chose the A2 set. For 17,800 won we got a variety of mature twists on common kid's fare. 

To start, our tteokbokki was upgraded from the typical dixie cup of spicy rice cakes to something called yubu-dong jeukseok tteokbokki (유부동 즉석 떠볶이). At first glance, I wasn't even sure there was any tteok in yubu-dong jeukseok tteokbokki (Let's call it "yubu-jeukbokki"). Before cooking, it looked like many of the stews found in Korea: a big pile of veggies. There were these two big Japanese-looking dumpling-like things on the top, though, which I later found out were yubu-dong. Sure enough, though, there were pieces of tteok (plain and cheese filled) at the bottom of the pile. There really wasn't that much tteok, maybe fourteen pieces. But, if you're trying to be at least moderately healthy, that shouldn't matter. The cabbage, kimchi, carrots, eggs, bean sprouts and noodles make up for it. As for the spice factor, the store owner asked us if we could handle spicy food. We said yes, but by my reckoning the yubu-jeukbokki wasn't that spicy. Although, after 54 months in Korea my tastebuds have probably been burned senseless.  

Gorgonzola Pizza & Honey
On to the next part of the meal, served alongside the yubu-jeukbokki was the only evidence of the west on the menu besides cheese: pizza. This wasn't your elementary student's Pizza School pizza, though. This was one of those crispy, thin-crusted gorgonzola pizzas that have become so trendy in "western style" Korean restaurants these days. In keeping with the trend, the pizza came with a dish of honey. And kudos to Bbun-shik, not only was the crust fresh, crisp and light, but they gave us a lot of honey too. 

Cheese Bokkeum Bap
Lastly, our meal came with a choice. If you order the A2 set you can end your meal with either nalchi-al jumokbap (날치알 주먹밥), flying fish roe rice balls, or cheese bokkeum bap (치즈 볶음밥), cheese fried rice. The NetBot and I aren't very adult anyhow, so we went with the cheese bokkeum bap. A yummy choice as you can see by the photo. 

The fusion of youth and maturity doesn't stop at the food, though. The music, as described by the
NetBot, was a combination of Korean opera and house music. I missed the opera part, so I can't verify that part, but I did pick out some Daft Punk and Jamiroquai on the speakers. 

Maturity levels may be mixed throughout Bbun-shik, but they at least know where to place their priorities. As any good parent encourages good hygiene and responsibility, the place is spotlessly clean, and the service is prompt, attentive and friendly. Adult life is a bore, though. They have to mix it up somehow. The large storefront window makes a perfect outlet for childish fun. In the room is an aluminum cup filled with colorful dry-erase markers. If you ask nicely the owners will let you graffiti their front window. Yeah!

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2014.12.12 | 지도 크게 보기 ©  NAVER Corp.

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