Seoul food 

Sizzling Chicken Bulgogi
Photo: Mark Hancock

Many of the metro’s
oldest Korean restaurants are in Midwest City. Some are enterprises
started by war brides and their families whose first glimpse of the USA
was Tinker Air Force Base. Dong-A Korean Restaurant is away from those
well-established bastions of kimchi.

As with most area Korean restaurants, Dong-A, 1262 N. Western Ave. in Moore, is a family-run operation.

“All
we serve is made from family recipes,” said Sung Hyun No, server and
University of Central Oklahoma student. “My mom, Jin Suk No, is the
chef, and she cooks everything.”

Sounds
from the kitchen indicated meals were being prepared to order. Pans
banging around and boisterous chef banter are nearly always a good
thing. Occasionally, half doors to the kitchen would swing open,
revealing a blur of Mrs. No’s elbows, a smoking-hot grill and enormous
steaming woks.

Dong-A’s
dining room is decorated with travel posters of Seoul and lots of
luscious food photos. Except for us and one United States Air Force guy
and his companion, all patrons that day were Asian. Following tradition,
the meal began with a serving of half a dozen diminutive, shallow,
white bowls with colorful contents.

“We strongly take advantage of our vegetables as side dishes,” No said. “They’re all different and may be spicy, sweet or just taste like vegetables, and we’ll bring as much as you want.”

Each bowl was an
adventure. Radish kimchi was iridescent orange with strips of marinated
squid and tasted like a house on fire. Ho-hum soba noodles and julienned
zucchini barely betrayed anything beyond their natural flavors. The
cabbage kimchi was sharply spicy along with being good and crunchy.

Dong-A’s
menu includes soups, rice dishes, noodles, stir-fried concoctions and
chef’s specialties. For the fearless, choices include braised pig’s feet
or Jokbal and Jungol beef tripe casserole.

Chicken
Bulgogi came to the table sizzling on a steel platter and threatening
to burn right through the table. Big chunks of stoutly spiced meat and
onions in a mahogany-colored sauce with plenty of white, sticky rice
couldn’t have been better.

Chicken
teriyaki is a good pick for shy Korean food virgins or those with
sensitive tummies, aka my wife. It was topped with scallions and sesame
seeds in a sweetly tame sauce.

Korean
beef barbecue bears only a passing resemblance to the brisket that’s
smoked and slathered with red sauce popular in these parts. Galbi is
beef chuck steak thin-cut across the bone that has been marinated in
sesame oil, sugar, garlic, soy sauce and onion.

Chef
No wisely steeped those flavors deeply into the meat for a long time
before taking it to the hot grill. It was a masterful presentation from a
proud culinary tradition.

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Doug Hill

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