Hooray for Yuk Hwe: Korea’s Answer to Steak Tartare
Despite my seriously adventurous tastes, there’s one area I haven’t explored much: raw meat. Until very recently the only uncooked animal flesh I’ve ever partaken in has been liver sashimi and Ethiopian kitfo. The liver was sort of slimy though not so bad when doctored up with salt, grated ginger and sesame oil. The chunks of beefy kitfo were very tasty, but their chewy texture left much to be desired; I took the remainder home and cooked it up in a cast iron skillet. Recently a friend raved about the Korean raw beef dish known as yuk hwe, and I was ashamed to admit that I’d never tried it. I immediately atoned for this sin of omnivorous omission and made a solo trip to San Soo Kap San to expand my raw meat horizons.
As I waited for my platter of raw meat I munched on a whole grilled fish, just one of the complimentary banchan. I also knocked back some soju because a Korean friend told me yuk hwe is good drinking food.
This bustling restaurant’s name translates roughly to scenic mountain water. I'm not one to gush about presentation, but the yuk hwe here is truly raw meat as scenic vista. A mountain of beefy red strands cut to the same thickness and length of udon noodles is showered with toasted pine nuts. To the east lies a cup of sunny yellow raw egg shining down on a forest of cucumber and Asian pear. Not knowing exactly what to do, a smiling waitress with a food prep glove came to my rescue. She mixed up the whole lot and added a few squirts from a red squeeze bottle.
Translated on the menu as raw beef tenderloin with vegetables, such deadpan prose doesn't do justice to this carnivore’s delight. Although I’ve eaten plenty of great beef in Korean joints, the raw yuk hwe was the most refreshing beef dish I've ever had, and absolutely perfect for a sweltering summer evening. For the record, it was also good drinking food. My one warning: a pound of raw meat is a lot for anyone to eat solo, even me.
San Soo Kap San
38-13 Union Street, Flushing NY 11354 (map )