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Nov 19, 2006 03:15 AM

Korean potato/vegetable pancakes

On a recent trip to North Wales, PA, ught a huge sign in front of a large store caught my eye, titled "Assi ... International Food."

Turns out the store was a huge supermarket specializing in Korean food. I had never been in such a large supermarket featuring Korean food.

Several Korean restaurants (small mall-type shops specializing in various Korean and Asian foods) exist INSIDE the supermarket!

While walking through the aisles of the store, I sampled pan-fried patties that were being made fresh - it looked like a potato pancake, but the cook told me that no flour or potatoes were used - mung beans and other vegetables were combined to create the "pattie." No baking powder/flour or leavening agent was used either. The creation of the food from the elements used baffled me. It tasted similar to a potato
pancake. The mung bean batter looked sort of yellowish and liquidy and was filled with various vegetables. The mixture was pan fried as a potato pancake would be. It was quite tasty, rather neutral in flavor. Anyone know the name of this food? It would be useful to know what to ask for next time.

Has any Philly Chowhound member visited Assi and the restaurants inside the market? I know little about Korean food, and visiting the restaurants and aisles of food was a mysterious experience!

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  1. They are bindae duk, I believe. There are several street vendors here in Pittsburgh who sell them. They are delicious! My favorites have bok choy, onions, and red peppers in them. The "paste" that reminds you of potatoes is soaked and ground mung beans. Google "mung bean pancake" and you will find lots of recipes.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Greyhoundgrrl

      You mentioned several pittsburgh street vendors, I'd be interested in hearing where those are at? I am always looking for yummy cheap eats. Street vendors also seem to have some of the best food too.

      1. re: cgvnlife

        Just go down to the Strip. There's one in front of SamBok Asian grocery that has the best mung bean pancakes. They used to have them in Oakland but all the street vendors left when they built the new Schenley Quad.

    2. Assi opened a few years ago (two maybe?); formerly the largest Korean store (make that the only Korean, make that the only Asian store) in the northern Montgomery county area was a tiny shop next to I Got It At Gary's--both stores have now disappeared. Anyway, Assi always has fresh, varied produce for the best prices of any grocery store in the area. I don't know much about Korean food except kim chi, and Assi has a ton of different kim chi and various other pickled foods. I can say that they are well stocked with Chinese supplies. Their dried pepper and dried mushroom selection is pretty nice, and I really like the "Wu Mu" (Five Wood) noodles and Ning Chi hot soybean paste (both from Taiwan) that my dad discovered there. My whole family is addicted to the Assi brand chive dumplings in the frozen food section. So easy to prepare--just steam.

      8 Replies
      1. re: Dib

        For those of us not of Asian background, the vastness of the size of Assi and its selection is overwhelming. I'd say that I'd have little if no idea what to do with most of the food offered in the store. There were some common canned sauces and products I've seen at "non-Asian" supermarkets, but some of the fish, vegetables, and sauces, and other unrecognized foods would require a tutor for me in understanding their use and taste.

        Have you been to any of the restaurants in the market? I saw Asian/Korean baked goods/sweets as well as sushi and other Asian prepared foods. The bindae duk, assuming that's what it was, was very tasty, and amazing that there was no potato or flour in it.

        For billing itself as "International Store", it would be more accurate for it to refer itself as an "Asian store." International, among other things, means scones, felafel, chutneys, and channa masala!!

        I wonder if "I Got it at Gary's" is the same place as "Gary's World of Wellness/Health" in Eagleville.

        1. re: FelafelBoy

          Haven't been to any of the restaurants inside, can't comment on those.

          Don't worry, I don't know what to do with most of the food in Assi either. It might help to stick to the prepared foods at first, unless you have a good cookbook that outlines the different ingredients (Dunlop's Land of Plenty is very nice for Sichuan food, for one). Something that's pretty accessible are the prepared raw stirfry ingredients, near the kim chi in back of the produce section. It's raw meat and chopped vegetables in plastic trays, so you can make stirfry without any of the prep.

          I Got It At Gary's was a pharmacy/drugstore that used to be near Whites Rd & Broad St in Lansdale; I have no idea if it's related to the Gary's in Eagleville. I don't know how long it's been gone, but I was using it as a landmark for the tiny Korean store since they were in the same shopping center. I can't remember the name of the Korean store, but they had good kim chi and daifuku.

          1. re: FelafelBoy

            The massive Assi Plaza Asian supermarket and its arcade of food shops is a fabulous resource, like a great library you penetrate gradually, astonishing to find at a North Wales shopping mall, testament to the Korean urban flight from Cheltenham into MontCo.
            I'm eating my way through the food shops, with little to suggest beyond shunning the udon joint - consistently glutinous, overcooked, and short on accompanying vegetables/shellfish.
            Undertandably hard to hazard the arcade food when the "Agape" bakery right there is so great, and the adjacent stall makes great coffee/decaf, one cup at a time. The white bread (!) at "Agape" is the best - albeit not available until noon. The baker seems to have no idea that Americans expect their white bread to taste of nothing but air, and he produces an irresistable succulent flavorful loaf, dense with milk. Warning: put it in your trunk, *not* the passenger compartment. It surpasses even the cell phone as a hazard to navigation and impediment to Interstate commerce.
            The breads filled with the usual oriental exotica are nearly as irresistable, and the Chinese pastries filled with red/white/green bean/chestnut/almond paste are worth the calories, almost. The Western-named sheet cakes ("Black Forest" etc.) are absurdly overpriced, and their souls have been lost in the translation into the Chinese pastry vernacular.
            Grasping the Assi Plaza supermarket itself is a gradual task, work that requires sucessive generations, like the Dutch reclamation of farmland from the North Sea. My daughter, 5 years old, is undertaking certain investigations at the live crab table, after mastering the art of sneaking up on clams and tapping their shells to make them shut. She is showing signs of interest in communicating with the swimming carp, through the aquarium wall; but the vigorous eels are too loathsome for rapport, and the lobsters are not to be trifled with.
            Myself, I am studying the varieties of the smaller pears (fiorelle, sickel, etc.), and the multiplicity of oriental cabbages - returning to the vegetables for consolation after learning the that their sushi-grade tuna can not survive barbecuing. And don't get me started on how impossible it is to persuade dinner guests to enjoy red bean or mango ice cream, or jackfruit...
            And we experiment with Assi's own packaged boil/fry-them-yourself meals - hot bibimbop worked out surprisingly well.
            Go there, get lost, and come back a hero with something wonderful for us to eat.

            1. re: alanalan

              Your detailed and expansive thoughts on your Assi mall experience are appreciated. Your bread comment may be considered a public service announcement. I try to stay away from "white bread." I recently tried the acclaimed "Ray's (frozen) Bagels", and was reminded of what such bread products taste like when not combined with some heavier whole grain, or even a multigrain combination. The crust was great, but the inside tasted like refined flour batter, not airy or dense to chew through.)

              Too bad about the Udon joint. I don't care so much for buckwheat taste, but I do like Udon noodles.

              When at Assi, is it common for their to be samples, like the pancakes I mentioned, to be offered to customers? The Chinese pastry description of yours was instructive. Only in Asian type markets and restaurants would you typically find those ingredients used to make sweets. Got to be healthier for you, I think!

              1. re: FelafelBoy

                I need to make a correction to a post I made on this thread dealing with "Korean Pancakes." My comment had to do with Ray's Bagels, so I have to make the reply here for continuity purposes.

                According to the instructions on "Ray's Bagels" package, the heated bagel should be allowed to cool. I did not do that. It smelled
                so good when I removed it from my toaster oven, I bit into it,
                and after going through the crusty outside, was met by a gooey-
                consistency inside, which is what I referred to in my comment
                about the refined flour.

                This time I allowed the bagel to come more to room temperature,
                and that cooling process allowed the inside to become more airy,
                and YES ... the bagel did resemble the real (boiled) thing ...
                the outside crust was crispy and did give resistance when biting
                through it, and the inside did have the texture of something with
                substance, not the gummy texture that some of the big name
                brands sold on the shelves at supermarkets produce.

                So, for a supermarket sold frozen bagel, at least for the sesame bagels, I'd give the thumbs up. Next time I'm at a store such as Whole Foods, I might investigate their selection and see if there
                are any frozen bagels that are made with sprouts and whole grain.
                I do prefer fresh, but the advertising on the package of Ray's Bagels looked so appealing, referring to the integrity they have kept with making it.
                On another thread, I might ask if anyone has used a bread machine to make these creatures. It's time intensive, but it might be fun to make a bagel using the boiling method.

                1. re: FelafelBoy

                  Thanks for the comments on my bagels.

                  Ray the Bagelman

              2. re: alanalan

                alanalan, I was just reading about assi and was reading about what you said about their own packaged boil/fry them your self meals. Do they have bibimbop in packages? I love bibimbop! Where are they located?

                1. re: wench31

                  Safe to guess that you're in love with hot bibimbop prepared in a dolsot (heavy stew crock), not the room-temperature variety.

                  Assi does have bibimbop in packages for the do-it-yourselfer - back near the meat counters. It's pretty good - even cooked-up in a standard pan. If you want to invest in a dolsot, they have those too, in their pots'n-pans section - of course the $25 granite ones are far better than the earthenware, and they develop this great ponderous brooding presence after they are seasoned by a few meals, as long as you are careful not to drop them. Assi Plaza is in North Wales on route 63, 1/2 mile west of route 202 (and 1/2 mile east of North Wales Road).

                  and it's pretty good.

          2. The Stonewell on Ridge Ave in Conshohocken used to serve up a pancake exactly as you describe. It was phenomenal, but they have since decided to remove the Korean offerings from their menu and they now serve only Japanese. If you ever make it to this place, implore them to add that pancake and the other Korean food back to the menu!

            3 Replies
            1. re: rabidog

              When you say "only Japanese" do you mean only sushi or does Japanese include other things (i.e. soba, etc.)?

              1. re: jcmods

                good question... and in all fairness, i can't answer completely accurately as it's been so long since i've been there. i believe i saw udon noodles on the menu, but last time we went we just ordered a bunch of sushi.

              2. re: rabidog

                I have to contest with you Rabidog. Stonewell happens to be one of my favourite restaurants due to the fact that they serve excellent Korean food. True, they have removed the pancake, but may i suggest the Dol Sot Bimbab. It is a combination of rice, vegtables and beef served in a heated stone pot to keep it warm and presented with an amazing spicy sauce. Although simple, it satifies. May I also suggest their Korean squid sauteed and served with rice. I come from a food background (my father being a culinary instructor at The Restaurant School) and I think that this family owned BYOB is a gem.

              3. Assi is great. We're there at least once a week. They have a wonderful produce section, some good prepared foods and a vast array of ingredients for all kinds of Asian and Hispanic cooking.

                We usually have lunch in the food court, but though I eat there once a week I cannot say that any of the stands are really terrific. My five year old son likes the udon and I usually get sushi. If you haven't had Korean food before you can try dishes from one of the two stands but I don't usually order from them because I like other restaurants better. The first stand on your right as you enter, serves kimchi chigae and also an omlette filled with kimchi fried rice which are both great dishes - but some other restaurants make them much better. At any rate, for a quick, inexpensive meal that food court is a great choice and the vendors are all very kind and gracious. The beverage stand makes bubble tea - which is a treat that most kids really like!

                You can get pretty good fish at Assi but it's not as fresh as my fishmonger - still it's WAY better than the supermarket and worth a try. On Fridays and Saturdays they have a large table featuring Korean marinated meats in the area where you found the pancakes. Now that I've perfected my recipes I don't buy their marinated meats, but they are good quality and I would recommend them. However, if you're going to buy marinated Kalbi for a party or something Sae Han market in Blue Bell at 202 & Townshipline Road makes far better kalbi - but you have to order it in advance! I also buy all my kimchi at Sae Han because I like her's a lot better - but that is a matter of taste. I tend to think that the first kimchi you become accustomed to will always be your favorite!

                Oh look for kimbap and chap jae in the same general area where you got the pancakes, they're often on a little table as you walk toward the fish section. Kim bap is a Korean sushi roll that is filled with crabstick, Korean veg, and omlette - it makes a wonderful lunch and children love it! Chap jae is a noodle dish served at room temp, that everyone loves. I've never offered it to a single person who didn't adore it. It had a little bit of meat, cloud ear mushroom, Korean vegetables and sesame oil and it is a hit at every party. It is also great for lunches.

                There are people at Assi who speak English and can help you find a specific item, but you do need to go in with a game plan. Also, a lot of the people who stock the shelves speak Spanish, so if you're conversant they can often help you. One of my favorite things to buy at Assi is Persian cucumbers (of all things)! A man who supervises the produce department recommended them to me last summer and though I did not use them for a Korean dish, I agreed with him that they are particularly sweet and juicy. I just use them for a cucumber salad with green onion, lemon and dill (great fresh herbs at Assi for low prices) and they make an ordinary dish into a real treat.

                1. One more thing... (sorry to go on so!) if they have their Spicy Seafood and Tofu Soup in the prepared section buy some - it is really great. They also make decent Kimchi Chigae in the prepared section (better than the food court) - I think the label usually says Hot Kimchi Soup.