When Mr. Wok came under new ownership in October 2016, the incoming proprietors inherited a menu full or teriyaki chicken dishes and ramen noodles. They were crowd pleasers, but management wanted the Korean restaurant to serve dishes that were more, well, Korean.
After adding classics like bibimbap and bulgogi, they cut a little deeper, putting a chef's special, jjampong, on the menu.
A regional favorite with ties to Japan and China, the Korean version is crammed with clams, shrimp, octopus, baby corn, enough pepper paste and broth to cure the common cold, sheets of cabbage and wheat noodles.
For a point of entry to Korean cuisine, follow the noodles. Soon after its introduction at Mr. Wok, jjampong became one of the restaurant's most popular dishes, with some customers returning two to three times a week for deep, hearty bowls of the stuff. Served with a grip of banchan—side dishes of hard-boiled egg soaked in soy sauce and brown sugar, more noodles, pickled radishes and kimchi—it's one of several out-of-the-park noodle dishes served up by Boise's Korean restaurants.
The jjampong isn't the hottest noodle dish in town. That honor may well belong to the kimchi jjigae at Gangnam Korean Restaurant, which, on top of containing so much pepper it looks like lava, is served at a boil with tofu, kimchi and cellophane noodles (made from sweet potato starch) roiling in the mix.
The star of this show is the kimchi, which soaks up the pepper and other flavors.
One of the most popular noodle dishes in Korea, this stew is often served family style with meats like beef, seafood and tofu. Don't forget to stir in the complimentary bowl of rice for added thickness and reduced heat.
Spicy food isn't everyone's cup of tea, and supertasters with a low tolerance for pepper can cool their buds with the japchae, served at K-Fusion Korean BBQ and Grill.
Glass noodles tossed in sesame oil, soy sauce and veggies, japchae is a traditional New Year's dish in Korea, but its easy texture and slightly sweet, earthy flavors make it a cure for long summer days in America.
Like a lot of Korean dishes found in Boise, this one is massive, and can easily satisfy two people. Chase it with hot tea and selections from the banchan bar in the back of the restaurant, and prepare to be soothed.
650 S. Vista Ave., 208-336-7771, mrwok-boise.com
Gangnam Korean Restaurant
303 N. Orchard St., 208-323-8822, facebook.com
K-Fusion Korean BBQ and Grill
1716 S. Broadway Ave., 208-336-5959, k-fusion.com