Dukbokki at Joong Boo Market’s Cafe

 

Since I just returned from Korea yesterday, and saw dukbokki at every night market and street corner, I couldn’t resist re-running this favorite from last year. It’s one of those images you’ve seen countless times driving down the Kennedy Expressway in Chicago. No, not the Wrigley’s digital sign or that building on Ashland that’s always getting painted over with a new billboard. I’m talking about the white lettered, green sign that used to say “Chicago Food Corp.”, and now just says “Joong Boo Market.” Most people think it’s an Asian wholesale market, but those in-the-know realize it’s a fantastic Korean grocery store with a grandma-led kitchen in the back, serving home-cooked food to both novice and more seasoned Korean food fans.

 

It’s easy to get to, especially if you’re headed west (technically, north) on 94, toward O’Hare/Milwaukee. The Kimball exit takes you directly to the front parking lot. Walk inside, past the registers and down the aisle, and you’ll spot the shoebox-sized cafe in the back. The helpful, backlit menu board has pictures, which really helps first-timers, and I have to admit, the first few times I came I would just order something familiar, like the bibimbop. But over the years, I’ve been returning for the dukbokki, a sweet chili-laced stew jammed full of long, Korean rice cakes (more like stubby, soft cylinders), as well as tofu and scallions. The gojujang – or Korean chili paste – is thinned out and sweetened a bit, resulting in a spicy-sweet, chewy bowl of comfort. A shower of sesame seeds gives it the proper Korean accent. You can’t beat the price tag either: just $5 for a seriously satisfying meal.

Dukbokki at a street market in Seoul.

Dukbokki at a street market in Seoul.

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