Korean food can spike your temperature. This you learn at the first bite of kimchee, the ubiquitous fermented cabbage that's part of the gratis assortment of small plates, or banchan, that kicks off most meals. So if that dish is too pungent for you, move your chopsticks to another, such as spiced julienned white radishes or fish cake. Tasting around, you're bound to find things that get your taste buds dancing.
Korean fare, affordably priced and served with care, is filled with variety. There's comfort to be found in such specialties as manduguk, a fragrant beef soup filled with plump dumplings. And excitement in the sizzle and crunch of beef, vegetables and rice served from a crazy-hot stone pot. A spirit of communality underlies Korean barbecue, wherein everybody cooks their food at a tabletop grill.
Finding a Korean restaurant on Long Island, though, can be a challenge. In fact, you can count on your fingers the number of restaurants serving the food of Korea, which, sometimes shows up in conjunction with a Japanese repertoire.
Mastering the menu
Knowing where to look helps. So, for your next -- or first -- taste of pajeon or bibimbap, here are some contenders. This rundown of Korean dishes will help you figure out what to order.
BANCHAN (OR PANCHAN) An assortment of gratis small side dishes served during every Korean meal
KIMCHEE (OR KIMCHI) Usually Napa cabbage seasoned with red pepper and garlic and fermented with fish sauce and salted shrimp
BIBIMBAP (OR BIBIMPAP) A rice bowl with meat and vegetables and topped with an egg. Originally designed to use up leftovers, it's served with a fermented red pepper paste on the side, to be mixed in to taste.
DOLSOT BIBIMBAP Bibimbap that's served in a sizzling stone pot, wherein the rice develops a crust.
BULGOGI (OR BULGOKI) Marinated thinly sliced beef
GALBI (OR KALBI) Thinly sliced marinated short ribs, often barbecued
PAJEON Crisp scallion- and-seafood pancakes
JAP CHAE (OR JAPCHAE) A stir-fry of glass noodles and vegetables
MANDU (OR MANDOO) Meat-stuffed dumplings
SSAM Korean-style wrap made with either lettuce leaves or rice paper