May is Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and NBC 5's Food Guy Steve Dolinsky is really getting into the spirit. Every Thursday this month, he is featuring a different cuisine from some of his favorite places.
First up - Korean cuisine.
Korean culture is all about the food, and Dolinsky says he has been a fan of it for years. He used to have to go to Lawrence Avenue for kalbi and kimchi, but these days, the suburbs are where it’s at.
Jeonju, one area Korean restaurant, sits along a busy stretch of Dempster Street in suburban Morton Grove. The reason nearly every customer stops by is a different type of soup.
“Spicy goat soup, or Yeomso Tang. A lot of people eat it for health reasons, to prevent colds. Every time there’s a season change we sell a lot of it,” said Ahyoung Cho, whose family owns the tiny restaurant.
Goat is cooked for eight hours with soybeans, ginger and garlic, then sliced up and added to a large tabletop wok along with aromatic perilla leaves and seeds plus a mountain of fresh scallions. Once you’ve finished most of it, they create a second course.
“Rice, sesame oil, and then butter, kimchi; gochugaru sauce and then bean sprouts and then we mix it in the hot stone bowl and then we let it sit for awhile until it gets crispy and then we mix it and you eat it at the end,” Cho said.
Vegetarian Chap chae noodles are matched by the sheer number of veggie-friendly side dishes at 92 Town Korean Barbecue, in a Schaumburg strip mall with several eating options.
“We have what’s called banchan. Think of it like what we have on Thanksgiving, like mac and cheese sides, but we have that as a daily staple with our meals every day. We could have bean sprouts one day; we’ll always have fish cake and potatoes,” said Seung Lee, whose parents still cook most dishes.
Also, wide, crispy pancakes.
“Pajeon – the translation is seafood pancake – so it’s got scallions, shrimp a bunch of seafood in there,” he said.
But 92 Town is also heaven for meat lovers. Kalbi – the marinated, thinly-sliced short ribs - show up at nearly every table.
“So it’s quick. High flames, very quick," Lee stated. "The meats are not as thick-cut as American style would be. Get a leaf of lettuce, I put the bean paste at the bottom, and put some rice on there, then I put the meat on top, then I’ll pick my favorite condiment – my banchan – wrap it up, for me I only do it in one bite. You might look funny but I think it tastes the best when you just do a big bite of it."
Watch the video above for places you should go and some recommended dishes.
Here are some places where you can taste Korean cuisine:
5707 Dempster St., Morton Grove
243 W. Golf Rd., Schaumburg
401 N. Milwaukee Ave.
3752 W. Lawrence Ave.
5744 N. California Ave.