Celebrate Black Day, Korea’s two-months-later response to Valentine’s Day (or a singles appreciation day of sorts). Traditionally, the Korean-Chinese noodle dish jjajungmyun is eaten on this day, the color of the sauce signaling the blackness of the heart as singles flock together to enjoy this treat that is seen as less than attractive to eat with a loved one. Whether you’re single or not, though, here are a few places in New York City to enjoy the wheat noodles coated with the black bean sauce.
110 Broad Avenue, 2nd floor
Palisades Park, NJ 07650
The first thing to note at Mandarin’s that they make the wheat noodles used in many of the dishes right in the back of the restaurant; you can hear the noodles being thumped on the table and practically see the noodles being pulled by hand. Actually, there used to be a live video feed from the back so you really could see the noodles being pulled by hand; though that’s long since been replaced with Korean dramas, you can definitely still hear it. The level of care put into making the noodles by hand is evident in the sauce as well: there are a few different kinds offered, including the buljjajungmyun (pictured), or fire noodles, which offers the standard black bean sauce with a twist. It’s been mixed through with many finely minced jalapeno peppers, giving it quite a kick. Maybe it’ll be just the kick to stop feeling sorry for yourself, stop celebrating silly ‘holidays’ or feeling bad about being single, and go out there and do something about it. See that person at the table next to you, shyly smiling at you while slurping his/her own bowl of black bean noodles? Go on, say hi…
Hyo Dong Gak
51 W. 35th Street
New York, NY 10001
Sitting on the stretch of Manhattan known as North Koreatown (32nd Street is known as simply Koreatown), Hyo Dong Gak boasts Korean-Chinese food – a cuisine that most Korean-Americans are extremely familiar with. A Korean take on many stereotypically Chinese dishes, Hyo Dong Gak has a firm grasp on how to deep fry bits of pork, chicken and shrimp (pictured), then toss with a sweet & sour glaze that isn’t quite as sticky sweet as many Chinese takeout places make it. Aside from that, though, Hyo Dong Gak bears the distinction of being one of only a few restaurants in the area that serve jjajungmyun. The noodles are chewy and delicious, and once you’ve mixed all the black bean sauce throughout, eat your way happily till you’re stuffed, all for $6.95. There’s also a nice lunch menu for those who don’t want jjajungmyun – about $8 will get you choice of soup, rice and a main course from the Chinese-influenced side of the restaurant.
131-01 39th Avenue
Flushing, NY 11354
While eating in a grocery store may strike you as odd, it seems only fitting to include such an odd place on Black Day. After all, some studies have shown that one of the best places to find a mate is at the grocery store; you can see immediately what kind of food a person eats, if s/he takes care of him/herself, and if it’s a man who’s holding a list, don’t bother because he already has someone who was organized enough to make that list for him. That said, at the back of Assi Plaza lies a hidden treasure: a countertop from which you can order an assortment of noodle and rice dishes, along with a healthy scattering of tables, and even some with fake tree stumps upon which to sit. Given that it’s a supermarket, the prices are incredibly low; take, for example, the dish of the day, jjajungmyun (pictured). The entire tray cost $5.50 (plus tax). It comes with a small dish of kimchi (spicy fermented cabbage), some takuan (pickled and dyed daikon radish), and the barley tea is from a communal urn on the counter from which you serve yourself. Enjoy your jjajungmyun on Black Day in a supermarket, and when you’re done, head over to the snack aisle to pick up some snacks. Who knows? Maybe you’ll reach for your favorite snack just as the person of your dreams is… your hands will brush… your eyes will lock and you will both live happily ever after, knowing you share the same taste in snacks. Or maybe you’ll just leave with a full stomach, a full wallet, and a great snack for later. Either way.
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Yvo Sin is the founder and head writer of Feisty Foodie.