Jasmine Alegria and Kendal Hubbard enjoying dinner at 37 Degrees K-Eatery, St. George, Utah, May. 18, 2022 | Photo by Becky Stein, St. George News
ST. GEORGE —Korean cuisine is adventurous. It is full of spice, uncommon vegetables and unique preparations, few of which are found in an average American diet. Trying it for the first time can be daunting. St. George now has a couple establishments serving the most traditional of options with very different settings. Before setting out to experiment here are some pointers to guide venturing into a Korean feast.
What to expect with Korean fare?
Korean menus showcase stewed beefs, pork belly, tofu, some in spicy cabbage broths, rice, pickled vegetable, noodles or rice. While beef and pork are common in the Korean diet, dishes are often altered to serve the vegetarian and more commonly the vegan.
Most main courses at sit-down Korean establishments come with an accompaniment of small side dishes, called banchan. The most familiar banchan is kimchi, a spicy fermented cabbage, which is sold in many grocery stores these days for its benefits for overall gut health.
An extremely popular and traditional dish is bibimbap, which literally translates to mixed rice. It is a rainbow wheel of vegetables such as sautéed greens, radish, carrot, sizzling slivers of beef, served in a cooking hot stone pot, topped with a sunny side up egg. The stone bowl serves the purpose to continue to cook the one-pot meal as it is served.
How to eat bibimbap
Bibimbap is a beautiful canvas and presentation, but once it has had a couple minutes to cool down, add a dab of hot chili sauce, take a spoon and chopsticks help break up parts that stick together and mix it up like mad. Mess up the canvas. The stone pot will continue to keep it warm and crisp the rice. This is intentional. A good bibimbap has a crunchy bite toward the bottom.
While bibimbap is a mainstay and a great way to venture into Korean dining, many options await at Flavor of Seoul and 37 Degrees, which offer very different environments.
Flavor of Seoul
Flavor of Seoul in Washington has been slinging the first Korean bites in Southern Utah for over five years. Owner Sung Hyun Taylor, moved here from Chicago, like many of us, being attracted to better weather. Taylor runs the casual order at the counter Flavor of Seoul entirely on her own.
She said the bibimbap is always popular; however, those wary of too much spice or adventure should try the Japchae, a sweet potato-based noodle tossed in a stir fry of beef, onions, mushrooms and broccoli.
“Japchae is the party noodle. In Korea it is served on birthdays and special occasions,” Taylor said.
Taylor also prepares her own Kimchi taking three to five days to prepare and ferment before serving.
“It is a lot of work but worth it because I have a lot of Kimchi fans.”
Covid was especially hard on Flavor of Seoul since many locals were and are still not accused to the Korean palate. Much of her business before the pandemic was a steady stream of regular tourists driving through the area.
“It is a miracle I survived,” Taylor said. Fortunately, as people are getting back out into the post-pandemic world, locals are picking up on Flavor of Seoul’s menu.
37 Degrees Eatery
Very new to St. George, 37 Degrees K-Eatery is in Phoenix Square, previously occupied by Sugars and ‘Bout Time. Owner Meeyoung Kim with a passion for clean eating as the pathway to wellness saw the opportunity with Korean cuisine.
“So many anti-inflammatory and healthy ingredients are found in Korean food,” Kim said.
37 Degrees is a spacious and contemporary dine-in space. The menu is full of traditional Korean plates and when available, prepared as much as possible with organic and grass-fed ingredients. Kim and her team do not freeze anything, so specials may be based on what is fresh and on hand for the day.
The banchan dishes are unique at 37 Degrees for they ferment their own vegetables and prepare their own soy sauces. They also offer a selection of fermented royal fern, lotus root and burdock root, which are thought to help improve digestion. Not to be overlooked is their award-winning kimchi, sourced from Korea.
Kim recommends first-timers try their bibimbap.
“We can change it up to vegan, vegetarian or to meat eaters for the same dish and performance,” Kim said.
“The second dish would probably be the meat rice, beef bulgogi, which would be the most traditional family meal,” Kim added.
37 Degree’s menu will be displayed on iPads to explain the ingredients, how it is prepared and the best way to consume it.
In addition to the unique flavors on the menu, they are hoping to secure a liquor license to offer choice beer and wine options to complement any order. 37 Degrees Korean Eatery is open for business and is scheduling a grand opening in the next few weeks. Kombei! Cheers!
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