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Nov 27, 2007 06:03 PM

Guh Sang in Queens -- Question for Korean Cuisine Experts

As a hard core jajangmyun afficianado, I finally tried Guh Sang on Bell Blvd and 48th Avenue in Oakland Gardens.

The jajangmyun was excellent and the jjampong looked great too (although I was too full to try it.)

I'm writing because I was served a dish at the end of my meal that I have never seen before and none of my friends who have actually been to Korea have been able to identify it either.

We were offered a plate containing many small pieces of potato (I am 99% sure it was just normal potato) coated with a sauce that looked like brownish lacquer and tasted sweet. The waitress also brought a bowl of ice water. Several of the potato pieces were pre-speared with toothpicks and the waitress showed us that we were supposed to dip the potato pieces in the icewater using those toothpicks. When we did so, the sauce hardened and was almost like a candy coating on the potato. It was really delicious and totally unique in my experience -- not like any banchan I have ever had.

Anyone know what this is?

Thanks in advance!

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  1. In Northern Chinese food, which happens to be quite near Korea, there is a dessert made of fried taro root chunks and drizzled with melted sugar and immediately brought to your table. Sometimes the wait staff forgets to bring the dessert immediately, and the sugar begins to harden and it becomes quite difficult to separate the chunks of taro. As you have described, this dessert also comes with a bowl of ice-cold water to dip the taro root chunks to form the hardened sugar coating.

    If the chunks of potato had a very starchy texture, than it was probably taro root and not potato.

    The Chinese translation of this taro root dessert is roughly translated as “Pulling Strings of Taro,” which describes the strings of melted sugar as you pulled them from the plate to dip into the ice-cold water.

    Unfortunately, we are unaware of the Korean name of this dessert, but as described, it is quite similar to the Northern Chinese dessert.

    9 Replies
    1. re: lwong

      glad you enjoyed guh song.

      some other dishes to enjoy the next time around:

      garlic chicken (ggam poong ghee) - with the bones, kinda sweet and spicy, but very good.

      sweet and sour beef (tang soo yook) - this is nothing like the kind served at chinese take-out places. it comes in a gloppy, sweet sauce (not sour at all), but it's very addictive.

      fried dumplings (mandoo) - they are huge and plentiful (i think there's like 5 or 6 huge ones), so split ideally with 4+ ppl.

      beef fried rice (soh goh gee bbok gum bbap) - again, this is nothing like the chinese take-out fried rice, it's more light and buttery. a similar dish that ppl love is omu-rice, which is an egg omelette stuffed with fried rice, with ketchup on top. it's a comfort food my mom used to make for me as a child, which i would order from this lady when i didn't want jja jjang myun.

      anyway, i loved that dessert as a kid, the owner of guh song (at her former locations) would give us huge bowls of it to shut us kids up. honestly, i'm not even sure if i enjoyed the actual dessert, but i liked sticking the thing in water and sucking off the hardened sugar coat on the outside.

      anyway, i haven't had that in ages - as we got older, she stopped giving it to us, but sometimes i wonder if i should just ask for some. i will the next time i go.

      typically, you will only find this at korean-chinese restaurants. as lwong described above, it seems to have chinese roots, which is why you won't find it at the korean restaurants that serve things like kalbi and such (the traditional korean cuisine). glad you enjoyed it, that brought back a lot of childhood memories for me.

      1. re: Linda

        Is it indeed taro or Korean white sweet potato- "gougouma"?

        Excuse my rudimentary phonetic attempt. I always thought it was the latter. Yummy stuff!

        1. re: ZenFoodist

          That dish is usually made with sweet potato -- though it may be hard to tell if it's coated in syrup. I've totally forgotten about that dish. Thanks for reminding me!

      2. re: lwong

        Waterfront International (since renamed), that Manchurian (northeast Chinese) restaurant in Flushing, served that dish.

        1. re: Brian S

          Since you are a fan of northeast food, and especially with the demise of the old “Emerald Island” and now “Waterfront International” in Flushing, you might be interested to know that there is a new northeast restaurant that opened in Flushing recently and appropriately enough, is also named “Northeast Restaurant,” which is located at the southern end of Flushing Chinatown on the western side of Main Street across the street from all the Indian stores just 1 block north of the Queens Botanical Garden. The address for the “Northeast Restaurant” is 43-18A Main Street (Tel: 718-539-3061). The restaurant has very large lit up red Chinese characters at the top of the store sign with accompanying pictures of some of their dishes underneath the red characters. Adjacent to the “Northeast Restaurant,” also owned by them, is a separate restaurant specializing in Chinese northeast style hotpots.

          We have eaten at the “Northeast Restaurant” several times now, and there are quite a number of interesting dishes. Northeast cuisine, we notice, is quite inventive with vegetable dishes. There is a vegetable dish that we have tried that is quite interesting and tasty. It is just a simple Chinese eggplant dish, but they have peeled away the skin and then deep fried the eggplant lightly and then glazed it with a light sauce to give it a slight crust on the outside and much more texture than one would normally expect from eating Chinese eggplant that typically has a mushy interior, since in order to have the eggplant skin soft, the interior is cooked to death. However, the dish is misnamed as “Braised Eggplant,” whereas the Chinese characters for the dish is roughly translated as “Fire Burned Eggplant.” There are other English mistranslations on the menu, hence one might be eating dishes that one did not expect if one cannot read the Chinese characters, but one can also be pleasantly surprised in finding interesting dishes like the boringly named “Braised Eggplant” dish. Even when one can read Chinese, one can still be mislead by the menu, as on one occasion when our party ordered “Sliced Pork with Sour Cabbage,” where we were expecting a dry stir fry dish, but it turned out to be a soup with lots of broth and very fatty bacon pork, but the soup was still very tasty from the fatty pork bacon. We also tried a cold salad dish of cucumbers, shredded pork, and other items that was flavored with mashed garlic that is listed near the top of the menu on the first page that was fairly good. Another dish that we tried was “Mutton/Lamb with Cumin” which was also good where the mutton was fully covered with the cumin spices. Not all dishes that we tried were good, but there were a sufficient number of good dishes to make another trip there worthwhile to try out more of their dishes. The prices are Chinatown reasonable with quite a lot of dishes under $10. The more expensive dishes would be the seafood dishes, but even these were under $20. Most dishes have the option to order the large size or the small size with a reduced price for the smaller dishes.

          The “Northeast Restaurant” also serves the “Fried Taro with Melted Sugar” dessert described in our earlier reply posting in this thread.

          1. re: lwong

            Appreciate the tip! How does this place compare to Waterfront? And what were some of those less successful dishes?

            Northeast Taste
            43-18 Main St, Queens, NY 11355

            1. re: squid kun

              It has been quite a while since we dined at the Waterfront International, but we would say that at both restaurants there were a number of good dishes, although we remember that we enjoyed the lamb dishes at the “Waterfront International.” The “Fried Taro with melted sugar” dish that we ordered one time at each restaurant, was better at the “Waterfront” than at “Northeast.” The sugar appeared to stay soft for a longer period of time and we could continue to make the long strings of sugar when pulling the taro from the plate to the ice-cold water. Not sure if this was due to just the tardiness in bringing the dessert to our table at “Northeast” or there was some technique in melting the sugar. In eating the “Taro Melted Sugar” dessert, it was almost like one is involved in a science experiment with results similar to glass blowing in making those long strings of glass like sugar.

              One dish that was not to our liking at “Northeast” was the “Sliced Fillet Fish in Sweet and Sour Sauce.” The fish fillets appeared to have been previously frozen and not fresh, and while they were tender, they did not have much flavor and the sauce was a little too thick for our tastes. We might have had better luck if we had ordered the whole fish rather than the fillets of fish, since if the restaurant misjudges the number of orders for the fish fillets, than the fillets will be leftover and served to customers the next day, while a leftover whole fish would probably not lose as much flavor and texture since it is still whole. There were several other dishes that were not bad, but were ordinary, and probably for this reason, we do not quite remember the details now.

              Sorry that we cannot remember more information.

              1. re: lwong

                You remembered plenty - thank you.

            2. re: lwong

              Thanks! I'll definitely have to go there. I had the pork and cabbage soup at Emerald Island and liked it.

        2. I really appreciate everyone's replies and I will definitely return to Guh Song.

          1 Reply
          1. re: mashpee

            So weird. One of my SAT kids just came in with a tray of ma tang! Her mom had scattered some black sesame seeds on top and they went well with the sweet exterior. For what it's worth, she said they were made with sweet potato. Yummy. Now maybe if I start thinking about mandoo, one of other kids will come with some :)

          2. Wow, I've eaten at Guh Song many times but never gotten the grand dessert treatment! I've never seen or had that and it sounds awesome. I will say, though, stay away from the orange peel chicken. Its totally unremarkable.
            I've had raw gogoma at Pocha Pocha, but it just came in strips with beer.

            1. they also have this at the korean-chinese joint on manhattan's west 35th street, and absolutely delicious. they did it with an extremely starchy sweet potato and a huge bowl of water with ice in it. so good. I guess it must be a northeast chinese / chinese-korean thing.

              was it served complimentary at guh song? cuz that's pretty generous of them if so.

              5 Replies
              1. re: bigjeff

                That dish should be a sweet potatoe. Usually in chinese I beleive we call it a Japanese sweet potatoe.

                1. re: bigjeff

                  i can't recall a single time i've ever had to pay for that potato dessert in all my years of existence. again, i think it helps that my siblings and i were a rowdy bunch as children, as the free dessert always shut us up quite quickly. :-)

                  1. re: Linda

                    a funny related story (that may get modded); a waitress serving that dessert at the korean-chinese joint on west 35th (forget the name) decided to grab a chunk off the dish, still hot and not dunked in ice water, before bringing it out to the customer and of course, she burned her mouth and it also stuck to her, and you could see (and hear) her howling in pain. you'd think she would have expected that, right? pretty funny.

                    1. re: bigjeff

                      Ha - wish I'd seen that!

                      You're talking about Hyo Dong Gak?

                      1. re: squid kun

                        yep, that's the spot! and not that it's connected, but, it used to be my go-to spot for that sorta food but the last few meals I had, I think I'm just getting bored of the genre (their mandoogui still kicks ass though). shanghai mong is actually bad, and so is beijing, so it might just be the cuisine getting to me. unless you have recs for a phenomenal place (all-city) ??