Friday, April 15, 2011

Sad About Bapcha

When I get a Korean food craving at lunch, the closest reliable place has always been the Bapcha cart. It's a few blocks from me, they're really quick and not too expensive, and the dak galbi box (spicy chicken) has always been really good. They also have a sister noodle cart which sits next to the original cart and serves all sorts of Korean noodle soup.

My go-to dish has always been the dak galbi. Usually it's chicken served with vegetables over white rice, with a small side salad and some jap chae (although you can't see it here). The spice is primarily from a gochujang sauce (that red chili pepper paste)

Dak galbi box the last time I went to Bapcha

I haven't been to Bapcha in a bit (a few months, actually) but found myself wanting some dak galbi today. I headed over to the cart and was all excited to open my styrofoam box but I found this:

Today's lunch

It looks pretty different from the version I got the last time I went there (and every other time I've been there - it always looked like the first picture). But it wasn't just the look; it was also the food which was disappointing. Maybe the chefs or owners changed (but I didn't think they did)? Maybe it was just a bad day? I've been there quite a few times for the dak galbi and it's been great, but today it just ... wasn't.

First, the salad was gone. Although a mixed green salad isn't exactly essential Korean food, it provided a light refreshing contrast to the rice and meat. I was disappointed to see that it was gone, but if that were the only difference, it wouldn't be much cause for complaint.

Second, the jap chae had broccoli! I realize this isn't an issue for most people, but I can't eat broccoli. Normally I would ask before trying a new dish if I thought there was a possibility of broccoli but (a) I have never had jap chae with broccoli and (b) I have had the jap chae from Bapcha before and it never had broccoli. I didn't want to just skip and throw out the jap chae uneaten because I like jap chae a lot. But it took forever going through it to pull out all of those little green pieces. I know I missed the tiny ones, but it was nearly impossible to catch them all.

Third, not only did the jap chae have broccoli, but it was super watery. (This also made some of the broccoli float in all the extra water under the rice, but that's still the broccoli problem.) I don't think I've ever had jap chae this watery and slippery before, and it made it very difficult to eat.

Fourth, the dak galbi itself just wasn't as flavorful or good. The cuts of meat weren't as good as I remembered, the vegetables (mostly green peppers and red onions) were sharper and the spicy flavor wasn't very strong. You can even see in the picture that it is significantly less red. In general, it just tasted better last time in every way. Even the rice here wasn't as good, but maybe that's because it was affected by the watery jap chae.

This lunch made three less than satisfying meals in a row (the salad from yesterday, the Chinese food dinner I ordered with flavorless chow fun and this one). I was happy that dinner brought homemade shrimp and peas that A made, because I really needed to eat something good. Hopefully tomorrow's lunch is good and makes up for all the recent disappointment!

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