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Comfort food to quell late-night cravings (1)

2011/08/19 | 441 views |  | Permalink | Source

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Edward Kwon, center, eats with co-workers at Yetnal Donkkaseu in Nonhyeon-dong, southern Seoul. By Kim Seong-hyong

At the end of a long day that has merged into night, sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is kick back with a refreshing beverage and a plate of your favorite comfort food. Despite the guilt of extra calories, a late night meal like this can feel like the most satisfying one of the day. When Koreans indulge these cravings they go out for yasik, or late-night meals.

The JoongAng Ilbo met up with 10 celebrities and food experts to hear about their favorite places for a comforting late night feast.

Edward Kwon, celebrity chef

Celebrity chef Edward Kwon, the host of "Yes Chef", now in its second season on QTV, said that a humble, donkkaseu (deep-fried pork cutlet) restaurant is his favorite spot for yasik.

"I have to shoot from morning to evening so I'm always really hungry late at night", Kwon said in an interview at Yetnal (Old Time) Donkkaseu in Nonhyeon-dong, southern Seoul. "This is close to my restaurant and the donkkaseu here is affordable but tasty".

Kwon's affinity for donkkaseu goes back to his post-secondary school days, though his experience would not seem to inspire positive memories about the dish.

After graduating from high school in Donghae, Gangwon, Kwon moved to Seoul and started working in a small donkkaseu restaurant. The chef remembers eating pieces of donkkaseu that accidentally broke during the deep-frying process. But when the head chef noticed the missing food, Kwon said he used to hit him on the back of the head with a frying pan.

Yetnal Dontaksu, in the middle of a ritzy part of southern Seoul, feels like a diner from a distant past. On its walls hang vintage posters that look like they are from the 1970s or 1980s. The restaurant has less than 10 tables and the donkkaseu is equally humble in appearance. It's served with steamed rice and shredded cabbage, the way the dish is commonly served in Korea.

"After a busy day, I come here for donkkaseu and find myself reminiscing about my days at that first restaurant", he said.

Kwon said that although he knows that eating yasik is not exactly good for his health, the beauty of a late-night meal lies in forgetting about the calories and eating your favorite comfort food with relish.

"I often wonder why people are more hungry late at night than at any other time of the day, and why the same plate of tteokbokki is tastier late at night than during the day", he said. "I think the people who eat yasik a lot are those who are really active during the day. One word of advice, though - try to wait two or three hours after eating before going to bed to give your body time to digest".


Park Tae-hwan / UEE

Park Tae-hwan, professional swimmer

"My favorite yasik is pasta but I don't eat just any old pasta", Park said. "I eat pasta with tomato sauce because it's low in calories and full of vitamins and calcium".

The Olympic champion says that he visits Queen's Park in Chungdam-dong, southern Seoul, whenever he feels like a bowl.

"[Queen's Park] uses organic, seasonal ingredients and lots of vegetables so I feel like the food is good for my health as well".

Queen's Park is located in Chungdam-dong, southern Seoul, and is open until 2 a.m. The Mediterranean-style pasta is 24,000 won ($22.32). Call (02) 542-4074.

Uie, member of girl group After School

"After dance practice at night, I get really hungry but I try to avoid foods like tteokbokki [spicy rice cakes] that are high in calories", Uie said. "Instead, I go to Coffeechu to get a churro".

The K-pop star said she first had churros when her managers bought a box for the group one night.

"I usually dip the churro in chocolate or ice cream but when I'm really hungry, I get the sausage churro", she said.

Coffeechu is in Hannam-dong, central Seoul, and is open until 11 p.m. on weekdays and 10 p.m. on weekends. Call (02) 790-6821.

Jang Ki-ha, musician

"[For yasik] I go to a Japanese-style bento [single-portion meal] place", Jang said. "After we released our second album, we [he and his band The Faces] moved to a recording studio in Jamsil. The engineer at the new studio is an epicure and introduced me to [Bentorang]".

Jang said he is partial to the unagi (freshwater eel) bento and that he enjoys the restaurant's cozy, homely atmosphere.

Bentorang is in Garak-dong, eastern Seoul and is open until 9:30 p.m. An unagi bento box costs 11,000 won. Call (02) 430-5242.

Kim Hyun-soo, professional baseball player

"I'm not picky when it comes to yasik, but I often go to Busan Agujjim with my teammates", Kim said, adding that he likes both the agujjim (spicy braised anglerfish) and ganjang gejang (raw crab marinated in soy sauce).

"If I'm worried about my weight, I go to Yetnalgip, a Korean restaurant", he said. "Their stir-fried chicken and side dishes are delicious".

Busan Agujjim is in Nonhyeon-dong, southern Seoul, and is open until 7 a.m. Agujjim for three costs 40,000 won. Call (02) 546-9947.

Yetnaljip is located in Chungdam-dong, southern Seoul, and is open until 10 p.m. A plate of stir-fried chicken costs 40,000 won. Call (02) 549-7888.

Yoon Do-hyeon, musician

"For late night meals, I go to a daegutang [cod soup] restaurant near my studio", the musician said.

"After singing, I get really hungry and the restaurant is close by so I can drop by anytime. I go with my band members and get the daegutang with clear broth. After one bowl, my stomach feels detoxified".

Hongdaegu is located in Hapjeong-dong, northern Seoul and is open until 2 a.m. Daegutang costs 7,000 won. Call (02) 322-9199.

By Lee Sang-eun

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