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good morning best friend

August 14, 2009

I have learnt a number of things since starting “this whole food blogging thing” (as certain of my friends are wont to dub it). I now know how to make a buttercream frosting, which knife is used for which purpose (despite not owning a set of my own) and what is meant when someone talks about umami. But all of these lessons pale in comparison to the one that was learnt just last week, namely: “A seasoned foodblogger will always pick the strangest sounding thing on any menu and order it without hesitation”. That, and “there’s no such thing as ordering a small meal”. Oh dear.

We were headed for what was originally dubbed a “quick meal before heading home yes?” and were told “It’s not far from here – don’t bother bringing the cars, we’ll walk!” So walk we did. We toddled along Macquarie Street, veered towards Wynyard (wandered all the way to George Street even) before deciding that no, we weren’t going to go to Chinatown and yes, we were going to go to the mysterious Korean place that Helen had spotted on her way in to meet us all.

“Nothing fancy” she had said “There’s heaps of Korean places. We’ll just pick one.” and slowly but surely, the group came to a halt outside a brightly lit opening. We looked at each other, nodded, and headed in – fingers crossed for a good meal.

And this is what we found there.

pupa soup

pupa soup (Dduk Bae Gi Bun Dae Gi) $15.00

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I haven’t told you yet about the tables of people we saw as we entered the restaurant, each laden with pots of hot soup, bubbling over a portable butane stove, and I probably should, seeing as they were the first thing I noticed when I walked in. That, and the posters that adorned the walls – a giant handshake, two boys on a sled, a military salute (apparently all throwbacks to a movie from which name the restaurant name was sourced).

There are dark wooden stairs that led up, up, up to a second floor, where we are led to a clean, glossy black table and golden upholstered chairs with the plastic still on the upholstery to protect against stains. We are handed golden menus, and the fun begins.

complimentary korean side dishes

complimentary korean side dishes

While the rest look eagerly through the menu (“Fried Chicken!” says one. “Cheese!” says another. “Fried Chicken with cheese!” says a third.) I am concentrating on trying to pick a piece of mung bean jelly up with the rounded metal chopsticks we are given. It’s a struggle that requires all of my concentration, and, as piece after piece slips away, I give up and start spooning it into my mouth. Slippery, spicy and a hint of sour. Mmmmm….

My reverie is broken by the sound of orders. We had decided to pick a dish each – and I’d decided to let everyone else pick a dish each so I could concentrate on the mung bean jelly challenge. And as the dishes arrive, I wonder why I didn’t pay closer attention.

pupa soup

pupa soup

The original excitement of ordering a soup made of bugs has died down somewhat by the time they land on the table. I can almost hear the table’s collective stomachs sinking. A camera frenzy, and then a silence as each waits for the other to try the dish.

I ladle a heft spoonful of the pupa onto my plate. They roll about like they are trying to set themselves upright, and then settle into a discordant pattern. A spoonful of the soup is splashed on top, and the table stares at my chopsticks. “Better now than never” I think, and down the hatch they go.

It’s funny trying something new. For me, it’s like a challenge. I figure someone, somewhere, has to like every dish that makes it onto a restaurant menu, if only the chef himself. The question then, is merely “What’s to like?”

I like the crunch. I like the grit that coats your teeth and tongue as you crush the shells between your molars. I like the earthy fragrance and the mild chilli kick. (I don’t like the way they look when they are bitten in half and their inside are prodded, or the fact that they remind me of dried shrimp that haven’t been soaked before eating).

Am I glad I tried them? Yes. Glad enough to have eaten several serves of them.

Would I have them again? Well, no.

Never you despair though, for there was food aplenty, and this was it:

hot plate with cheese and spicy chicken $27.00

hot plate with cheese and spicy chicken $27.00

We didn’t realise til later how much chicken had been ordered. How much spicy, oily, chicken we had ordered to be more precise. And whilst everyone raved about the cheesy goodness of the bul dak, I was a little confused by it, much preferring the mouth numbingly spicy sauce smothered chicken sans cheese.

fried chicken with spicy sauce

fried chicken with spicy sauce

Another deep fried chicken dish arrived, covered in a veritable puddle of oil. The oil itself wasn’t overly spicy, despite its almost fluorescent red colouring. It was sweet, and a touch spicy, and good as deep fried chicken can only be. (Though not quite as good as deep fried chicken really could be if you catch my drift).

potato starch noodle (jab chae) $19.00

potato starch noodle (jab chae) $19.00

The crunch of wood ear mushrooms was a welcome relief to my tastebuds. Plump, chewy noodles were piled onto this plate and sat in a veritable muddle with strips of capsicum, mushroom and onion.

deep fried chicken wings with spicy sauce $23.00

deep fried chicken wings with spicy sauce $23.00

And just as I thought I was almost done, another plate of chicken arrived. It was not as expected, the once-crisp skin of the chicken was soggy with layers and layers of spicy sauce. An extra bowl of spicy sauce was provided as a result of a miscommunication and went largely untouched.

Because by this time, everyone was getting full, slowing down, and picking pieces of food off the plates in a last ditch attempt to finish everything that was left on the table.

Well, everything except the pupa that is.

bestfriend01

Best Friend Chung Jin Dong Korean Restaurant
377 Pitt Street
Sydney NSW 2000
Ph: +61 (02) 9261 8326


  • #1
    August 14th, 2009

    Ahh they were quite the interesting but good to try them out but yeah I wouldn’t order them again… and yay for fried chicken! (waffles! watermelon!)

  • #2
    August 14th, 2009

    i think i can live without trying the grubs ๐Ÿ™‚

  • #3
    August 15th, 2009

    Hi Sheryl…Livia, Pastor Rocco’s daughter, here! Irina told me about your site today…I can’t believe I’ve not visited before!
    I have to admit, I’ve not tried Korean food before…I think I agree with Simon – I think I can live without trying those grubs ๐Ÿ™‚
    I’ll definitely be stopping by your site again ๐Ÿ™‚

  • #4
    August 16th, 2009

    Those bugs still haunt me, and I hadn’t even had one!

    The jab-chae was better than I expected. Tastes somewhat homemady. The deep fried chicken was a sad excuse though. Quite disappointed with how that turn out.

  • #5
    August 17th, 2009

    […] peckish group ofร‚ย  Helen, Shez, Simon, Howard, Minh and myself deciding on a place for dinner means suggestions being thrown left […]

  • #6
    August 18th, 2009

    @FFichiban: Waffles? Watermelon? Where?! Let’s do that next time instead.

    @Simon: I just can’t help myself – if it’s there, I’ll try it at least once. Mostly I’ll end up trying it twice or three times, just to make sure I wasn’t imagining how bad it was the first time…

    @Livia: Oh hello!! How fun ๐Ÿ™‚ And thanks! Glad you like it!

    @Simon: You should have! Just one… C’mon…

Shez