The real K-town in New York City is in Queens, stretching for about five miles from Northern Boulevard and Union Street in Flushing all the way out to Manhasset. This vast K-tropolis is lined with dozens of BBQ restaurants, kimbap joints, large Korean supermarkets, fried chicken spots, a store that sells Korean stone beds, and even a Korean-run Third Wave espresso bar. There are so many places it would take an entire lifetime to document them all. Today C+M’s K-tropolis takes a look at Ban Ga Ne, a black goat meat specialist.
In New York City goat is as rare on Korean menus in New York City, as kimchi is on Indian ones. And according to Joe McPherson of ZenKimchi, who has forgotten more about Korean cuisine than I shall ever hope to know, the ruminant’s flesh is pretty uncommon in Korea too. So when a Westchester-based dining group told me their next Queens meal would be a large-format Korean goat feast I immediately RSVP’d. After all, I am as much a fan of Korean cuisine as I am of goat.
It’s doubtful the folks who run Bang Ga Ne, which roughly translates to Bang’s Family Kitchen, would use the words “large format” to describe the specialty of the house, black goat meat. It leads off the menu in three iterations black goat meat casserole ($39.99), boiled black goat meat ($31.99), and seasoned black goat meat ($17.99). The restaurant has another branch in New Jersey, and also a farm where it raises the goats. The outside’s pretty generic looking. If it were my place, it would have a cartoon image of a goat on the façade just as many of K-tropolis’ pig specialists have a cheerful piggy for a spokes-animal.
Our crew of seven hungry eaters went with the boiled black goat meat, which as the proprietor explained is actually a three-course affair. As we munched on the ban chan, which included fried goat liver, the waitress brought a tray of boiled goat meat. This she picked from the bones and added to a tabletop grill filled with green onions, garlic, and other herbs. The aroma of the burbling pot of goat meat along with conversation with new friends served to kindle my appetite and lift my spirits on a gray rainy day.
Soon it was ssam time. In addition to lettuce, there were perilla leaves to bundle up the morsels of goat. And, a lovely spicy sauce with perilla seeds. A layer of lettuce, perilla leaf, goat meat, mystery sauce, raw garlic, and jalapeno made for a stupendous first time Korean goat experience. I must have eaten about five of the wraps. Had I not been forced to share with my new friends, I’d have eaten even more.
Happy and filled with goat, as well as delicious yet superfluous orders of kalbi and samgyetang, we almost forgot about the two remaining parts of the goat trifecta. Our waitress reminded us by whipping up a soup on the tabletop grill. It was rich, and deeply comforting, and even better with some mystery sauce. “This is stamina food,” the proprietor told me with a sly grin, “Maybe you get in trouble tonight.”
No sooner had we finished the consommé to Bang Ga Ne’s Korean barbacoa de chivo, and our third course—goat broth fried rice—was under way. Along with rice, scallions, dried seaweed, perilla seeds, and dried hot pepper were added to the remaining goat broth. The result was a perfect end to my first ever Korean goat feast. There was just enough room in my belly for the little shot of probiotic yogurt drink, which capped the meal.
As I sat down to write about the first of what I hope to be many Bang Ga Ne feasts I was reminded of another more traditional seasonal feast. You might call it the first large-format meal in America: Thanksgiving! So I called the restaurant. “Sure, we are open for Thanksgiving,” the voice on the other end said enthusiastically. I’ll be with family for Turkey Day, but I’m going to keep Bang Ga Ne in mind for the next big holiday. A goat feast sounds perfect for Christmas Day. Something tells me I’m going to need a lot of stamina to get through this winter.
Bang Ga Ne, 165-19 Northern Blvd., Murray Hill, 718-762-2799