Bold Flavors at Bow’l

I don’t think she reads this, but I will be so sad when M moves back to Italy. Then who will go out on weekdays and stay up late and revel in unemployed bliss with me? With any luck one of the 20 jobs I applied to yesterday will contact me soon. Okay no more blathering–on to the food we enjoyed at Bowl’d, the fairly new Korean restaurant. (I didn’t even have to think of my own cheesy pun with this one.)

Thank goodness we didn't have to walk far for spicy comfort food on this aberrant rainy day in the bay.

Korean food means lots of banchan! I need to figure out how I can just order a bowl of rice and have all those little side dishes because they are the best part. Bowl'd caters to many non-Koreans in the area, and doesn't have the huge variety that I've seen in other places. But with so many diners, you can bet that their food is always fresh and high quality. The pieces of fried tofu swimming in chili sauce on the right was probably my favorite.

I ordered the fried tofu pancakes in egg batter and made it a meal with a bowl of rice and soup (8). They turned out to be less cakey (I doubt there was any flour involved) and more like soft pillows of tofu dipped in egg. It gave me a much-needed protein boost and paired wonderfully with the dipping sauce and kimchi. I'm excited to go back and try some of their other pancakes, like seafood or mung bean. (For those keeping track of my goofy eating habits, my stomach can't handle dairy but I'm trying to eat seafood once in a while if I want to splurge at a restaurant.)

I had a few bites of M's dukboki, or spicy rice cakes with ramen, fish cakes and hardboiled egg. This is one of my favorite things to eat on a cold day but I didn't want to order it because it never fails to put me in a coma afterwards. I'm glad I went with the tofu on this night because the sauce was far too sweet and rich. I mean, is this dinner or dessert? Make up your mind!

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Sahn Maru

translation: top of the mountain

translation: top of the mountain

My parents came to Berkeley today to remind me why I love them and prove that absence makes the heart grow fonder. I’m feeling warm and fuzzy and nauseous already, but that’s due more to the fact that it’s 100 degrees in my room and I ate another feast. After running some errands, we headed to Temescal again, where all the Korean food is. My mom always wants it when she comes to Berkeley, even though she is allergic to anything spicy, which is the cause of much dining woe. This was the case at poor Sahn Maru, which had no idea what it was in for when Mama Beans set foot inside. It didn’t help that none of the employees knew much English. I usually love that it’s a sign of the food’s authenticity and have nothing but patience for language barriers, but eating with a starving/picky/increasingly upset mother made it less charming.

I love their chair mats. From my seat, I had a nice view of everything but behind me, there was a wall with sculptures of human butts.

I love their chair mats. From my seat, I had a nice view of everything but behind me, there was a wall with sculptures of human butts.

Decent number of banchan, but nothing memorable. The medley of rice was bomb though, it had 3 different types of beans in it and various grains and everything was cooked to this sticky but chewy consistency

Decent number of banchan, but nothing memorable. The medley of rice was bomb though, it had 3 different types of beans in it and various grains and everything was cooked to this sticky but chewy consistency

My dad's familiar-looking dish. I can't remember the name but it had vegetables, bulgogi, and glass? noodles. I am guessing that's what they were because I like the over-literal name. I tried a bit and felt it too salty and a bit mushy for me. It lacked...je ne sais quoi.

My dad's familiar-looking dish. I can't remember the name but it had vegetables, bulgogi, and glass? noodles (10). I am going to say that's what they were because I like the over-literal name. I tried a bit and felt it too salty and a bit mushy for me. It lacked...je ne sais quoi.

This is my mom's mild tofu soup (10) when I lean over it with my glasses on. Notice my new habit of writing everything in these captions. Just when I thought it was impossible to get any lazier

This is my mom's mild tofu soup (10) when I lean over it with my glasses on. It had tofu, beef, potatoes, onions, enoki, and an egg, which my mom asked for but they gave for free. Notice my new habit of writing everything in these captions. Just when I thought it was impossible to get any lazier. But look, I took a video to capture the bubbling

My mom always makes it very clear that she can’t eat anything spicy, but on this occasion, this one was definitely full of white pepper (Worst one ever – she should never touch the stuff. Go through strep throat five times and then ask me if I’m exaggerating.) They probably figured that she meant nothing with chili. Still, we had to go through the painful ordeal of asking them to make a new one. Then we realized that my dad never got the rice he ordered. So he sat and waited cause his dish was practically a salt lick, while my mom ate some of our food because neither of us had breakfast, as I inhaled my delicious bibimbap. Finally, the new soup got here and it tasted almost exactly like the first one. She was so looking forward to it, but couldn’t really drink any 😥

It was easier to pretend it was fine but they kept sending various employees to ask us how it was, so I told them it might be the pepper in some pre-made paste they use for the soup base. But none of them knew enough English so finally I just said “I don’t know if you understand anything I’m saying” while smiling and nodding. That seemed to placate them. Well, I thought the soup was pretty tasty.

My bibimbap (10) was nothing short of gorgey. It was listed on this extra page that was all vegetarian, what a treat. It included tofu, shitake, spinach, carrots, cucumber, seaweed, zuchinni, and a perfectly fried egg with a golden, runny yolk. The veggies were lightly blanched and seasoned with sesame oil. I slathered on some of the veg sweet bean chili sauce (gochujang), mixed it up, and ate it with the bowl of rice. It was another standard version and I don't know if I'll ever find one to rave about. But though it didn't exactly delight me with surprises , it satisfied. So perfect for a hot day. This is art, people. Eat it.

My bibimbap (10) was nothing short of gorgey. It was listed on this extra page that was all vegetarian, what a treat. It included tofu, shitake, spinach, carrots, cucumber, seaweed, zuchinni, and a perfectly fried egg with a golden, runny yolk. The veggies were lightly blanched and seasoned with sesame oil. I slathered on some of the veg sweet bean chili sauce (gochujang), mixed it up, and ate it with the bowl of rice. It was another standard version and I don't know if I'll ever find one to rave about. But though it didn't exactly delight me with surprises , it satisfied. So perfect for a hot day. This is art, people. Eat it.

It makes sense to compare Sahn Maru with Sura, where the three of us got almost identical items. At Sura, my dad’s dish was a lot tastier, my mom’s was..edible, and mine was basically the same but had much better mushrooms. And oh, their banchan…

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Berkel²

Berkel Berkel, I came to to trying to satisfy a craving for Korean but now just feel sick and jilted instead. A couple days helping a friend move house, sleep deprivation, and six hours of work in a freezing room called for spicy, bubbling, theraputic kimchi stew.

But my stomach ache’s gotten progressively worse since I starting typing this post.

Anyway, we went into the empty restaurant and I wanted to, should have, ordered one of my favorites – bibimbap or dukboki – but the cold weather tricked me into thinking I would feel complete with a bowl of boiling chili soup inside my belly. False.

what i <i>should</i> have gotten. bibimbap (6)

what i should have gotten. tofu bibimbap (6)

 C’s bibimbap looked cute and meticulously prepared and scruptuous, as usual. I’m always into the variety, so with the five different veggie toppings and fried egg on top of a bed of rice, in addition to 3 dishes of banchan (sweet soybeans, marinated cucumbers, and kimchi), this totally delivered on the nutrition and taste/texture front. Also, I love bibimbap as a vehicle for the awesome gochujang sauce, which I don’t think they serve on anything else.

kimchi stew (6) with rice and banchan behind

kimchi stew (6) with rice and banchan behind

I can’t really blame Korean food for being too spicy or hot (temp) to enjoy but that’s why I didn’t. This was my first kimchi stew so I didn’t know what to expect, but there was no depth of flavor at all, compared to other Korean stews I’ve had. Halfway through, I knew it was missing something and stupidly decided it was salt so I used some soy sauce which did NOT improve things. Eating any more felt like a chore. Excluding the enoki mushrooms on top, eighty percent of the stew composed of simple, boring cabbage kimchi and twenty percent of tofu. Tofu at a slow restaurant is iffy but thankfully, theirs was very fresh. But substituting it for pork must have really hurt the dish’s flavor profile, and Korean food always tends to be too salty for me, with all the marinated/pickled sides. As usual, it’ll be another few months before this Korean/kimchi craving strikes again and I’ll probably come back for dukboki.

So despite feeling really full – you know that feeling when you’ve eaten a pound of lettuce and you’re too uncomfortable to move, but you also need sustenance? – I ate a graduation cupcake that I found waiting for me at home. And some caramel corn. And I’m going to lie on my bed until I stop feeling like a washed-up whale.

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