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Satisfy that Korean snack craving in Flushing

A kimbab at Flushing's Rolly Kimbab, 163-16 Northern Blvd. Photo by Suzanne Parker
TimesLedger Newspapers

One of our guilty pleasures is watching food-themed Korean melodramas. Their plots combine cheesy, but chaste romance with food porn.

Our all time fave is a TV series called “Gourmet,” which can be found with English subtitles on Hulu.com. It chronicles the travails of the progeny of the heir to the title of Imperial Chef of Korea, lavishing detailed attention on all sorts of cooking and eating exploits. Recent indulgences in this pastime produced powerful cravings for Korean fare. We have previously reviewed some of what could be classified as Flushing’s Korean fine dining establishments, so this time we set off in search of more casual fare — what Koreans might eat for a casual meal or grab on the run.

Wangmandoo was the reward we sought on the first stop of our pilgrimage. Although the name may sound like a made up bit of double entendre from a blues song, they are in fact a type of dumpling. They are one of the two specialties at Da Myun, the other being several varieties of noodles. It is a cute, attractively decorated place, inviting enough to linger.

The wangmandoo are overinflated crescents filled with pork, vegetable and kimchee. An order of six sizable dumplings is served on a Korean metal version of the bamboo steamer. Koreans also tend to eat with stainless steel chopsticks rather than bamboo. Either bamboo isn’t plentiful in Korea, or recycling caught on centuries ago there. We don’t know which.

The filling of the dumplings is unexpectedly smooth — more pâté than meat ball-like and mildly spicy. They are served with a seriously spicy dipping sauce and few miscellaneous ban chan (pickled side dishes).

Our next stop on the kimchee trail was for kimbab. Kimbab is the slightly homier version of sushi rolls which occupies the same place in the Korean diet that the sandwich does for Westerners. By that we mean if you think of the rice and seaweed roll as the bread, you need only be limited by your imagination for what you can stuff it with.

Just check out the menu at Rolly Kimbab on Northern Boulevard and you’ll find such delicacies as hotdog, spam and even pastrami kimbab. We tried the “Rolly” which was filled with ham, pickled daikon, carrot, fried tofu, a few strands of cellophane noodles, and spinach. Dagwood would be favorably impressed. We also tried the ssam roll which featured barbecued beef and greens, also with this and that.

Both rolls were tasty and satisfying while being admirably low in fat. They come with a selection of ban chan, without which no Korean meal is complete. The circumference of the roll is heftier than sushi. Kimbab also differs from sushi rolls in that the main flavoring in the rice is a hint of sesame oil instead of sushi vinegar.

In addition to Kimbab, Rolly also specializes in rice balls, which are exactly what they sound like. If you happen not to like seaweed, try your filling in a ball of rice. Rice balls come with an assortment of fillings from the tame (tuna) to the dangerous (the bomb — chili pepper).

Our final destination was for KFC — Korean fried chicken. For that we ventured into Mad For Chicken, a Korean chain featuring — you guessed it — chicken. This place has a TGI Fridays feel to it. Flashily decorated. Slick menu with lots of pictures. Gimmicks like transparent light up kegs of beer you order for your table. Television monitors at every table tuned to the game of the moment.

This place is popular both with young singles and families with children. They tout the healthfulness of their chicken both by claiming that it is organic (although a Bell & Evans logo appears on their menu, which is not an organic chicken) and that they remove the skin before they fry it. They offer two kinds of sauce, which are incorporated into the coating — soy sauce and garlic or hot and spicy. We didn’t detect a dramatic difference between the two sauces, but in both cases the chicken was lacquered crisp on the outside, succulent within, and savory. They also make outstanding fries, seasoned with Parmesan and oregano.

Unfortunately, they brought our fries immediately, and our chicken about 25 minutes later. If you want both together, you need to tell them. We also tried Kim-Mary described as deep fried kimbab. We thought we were on a roll, but it arrived cold, soggy, greasy, and filled only with cellophane noodles.

The Bottom Line

Northeastern Flushing is so rich with Korean culture. At any of these places, you can add a little gastronomic excitement to your life on a very modest budget. Explore and indulge!

Suzanne Parker is the TimesLedger’s restaurant critic and author of “Eating Like Queens: A Guide to Ethnic Dining in America’s Melting Pot, Queens, N.Y.” She can be reached by e-mail at qnsfoodie@aol.com.

Da Myun

41-10 162 Street

Flushing, NY 11358

347-368-6557

Open seven days

Wangmandoo $8.95 per order of six

Rolly Kimbab

163-16 Northern Blvd.

Flushing, NY 11358

718-661-1544

Open seven days

Kimbab $3.00—6.00

Mad For Chicken

157-18 Northern Blvd.

Flushing, NY 11358

718-321-3818

madforchicken.com

Open seven days

Single order of chicken $7.95 (choices of chicken parts, sides extra)

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Reader Feedback

Rob from Astoria says:
Bell & Evans does sell organic chicken. check out their web site- www.bellandevans.com It's right on the home page. Never ate at Mad for Chicken, but at least their claim is accurate.
March 26, 2012, 9:13 am

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