Food and Drink
Posted by Dan Kuseta
20. Jun, 2011
When we talk about warming winter dishes it’s often soups, casseroles and roasts that spring to mind. All fine and good options to be sure, but for me the cuisine that warms like no other is Korean.
Living through two Toronto winters afforded me an insight into how Canadians keep toasty over the icy months and, aside from beer and the odd hockey riot, their preferred way of doing this was hitting Koreatown. While Melbourne might not have an official Koreatown, the area around A’Beckett and Elizabeth streets is the best place to try this fiery cuisine in the city.
Tarng, hotpot in Korean, opened a few months ago and specialises in a mix of Japanese and Korean dishes. During the day they offer Bento boxes, but at night the Korean hotpots come into their own. Hotpots are described on the menu as ideal “for sharing with friends and family” and come in small and large sizes. Options include Spicy Beef (beef gravy with bean shoot in a beef bone base, $17.40), Seafood (mussel and fishcake with seaweed and anchovy base, $18.70) and Spicy Chicken (chicken, potato noodle and potato with spicy base, $17.40).
There’s also a range of Jjigae, or stews, on offer as well as Bulgogi, stir-fried meat served with vegetables. And it’s all damned spicy. We order the Tarng Special (pork and potato hotpot in a spicy sauce base, $17.40), Kimchi Jjigae ($15.80), Pork Bulgogi ($13.80) and some Hite Beer to wash it all down.
First to arrive is the Bulgogi, a simmering mix of pork and veggies coated in a spicy paste and served in a fish shaped dish. It reminds me a little of the thrill I used to get ordering fajitas at Taco Bill. This tastes a lot better. Spicy, meaty, oily, probably bad for you and yum.
The Kimchi Jjigae arrives next, served bubbling hot in a cauldron. Colourfully described on the menu as “fiery, hot and full of flavour, great for winter days but Koreans can eat it anytime” it pretty much ticks all the boxes, sort of like a super-spiced tomato soup filled with spring onion, pork, tofu and cabbage. I’m beginning to warm up nicely.
A bit of reshuffling is required when the Tarng Special arrives, the biggest and boldest of our meals. My favourite dish in Toronto was Pork Bone Soup, a dish I haven’t been able to find in Melbourne, but the Special is the closest I’ve come to it. Served in a huge cast iron pot, the gutsy broth sings with the flavours of pork, spice and fire. It’s a complex, comforting mix that comes alive when ladled over rice. Spicy, sour, sensational.
We stumble out of Tarng with that warm, slightly over-full feeling in our bellies, knowing we’ll return when the mercury plummets.
31 A’Beckett St
Open 7 days, 11am – 11pm
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