For the longest time Korean and many other cuisines were all about fire for me. Creamy curds of tofu in bubbling angry bowl of red soondubu was my go-to lunch order at K-Town’s Seoul Garden.
Lately I’ve been embracing the mellower side of Korean cuisine; and there’s nothing more comforting than a steaming bowl of seollongtang, a long-simmered ox bone soup. I’ve been told that’s it’s good to eat when feeling sick. Recently I’ve had the good fortune to be sick enough begun to appreciate just how good.
A month ago I found myself in Tang out on Northern Boulevard. Dehydrated and spent after having a chemotherapy port in my chest checked out I slumped into a seat and gasped, “Seollontang.”
“It’s good with the kimchi,” the waitress said as I seasoned the broth with the holy trinity of salt, pepper, and green onion. For a moment I thought of seasoning it with my tears.
“Thanks I have a bad stomach,” I said weakly in response to the kimchi suggestion. I drew the spoon to my mouth with a shaky hand. The broth was salty, buttery and soothing, just what I needed.
Long before anyone ever uttered the words “bone broth,” Koreans were making this restorative soup. The star of the dish is really the milky white broth, even the noodles and beef can be thought of as condiments.
“Oh, they have the best seollongtang,” my friend Yen Yen Woo raved to me about Gahwa a Korean spot in Flushing last week. So last week I gave Gahwa a go. It sports a decidedly more homey dining room than the ultramodern Tang. I don’t know if Gahwa’s seollontang is better than Tang’s, nor do I care. I do know that, for the moment at least, I was better and able to enjoy the kimchi as well a plate of Korean crudités with kicky ssamjang. And sometimes that’s all that matters.
Gahwa, 29-32 Union St., Flushing, 718-886-3223
Tang, 196-50 Northern Blvd, Flushing, 718-279-7080