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Dec 4, 2011 07:15 PM

Korean Fried Chicken / Somunanjib / Rockin Rice / BBGo

I wanted something unusual that I'd never had before. And standing at the corner of Rutland and Lamar, having not eaten since the 10 peanuts on Wednesday morning, I looked around 360 degrees and I saw a whole bunch of "meh". Eventually I came upon Airport and Lamar and I remembered the mention of Somunanjib for Korean Fried Chicken and pulled the Emergency Food Cord that signaled the bus to stop. It was about 3:30 on Friday PM

An order of fried chicken will run you $16, 17, or 18 for plain, sweet, or spicy fried chicken. I got a half sweet and half spicy for 18-something with tax. To go. Oops. Let me say that this is not traveling food - it does not travel well, especially if you're hungry and need to eat. This stuff defies all magnitudes of stickiness. You have too peel the pieces off your fingers. But it's not overly sweet at all. It hard to tell where the crunch stops and the bones begin. I threw a mostly spent piece to a bird and when it tried to eat it got stuck on top of it's beak and it it had to scrape it off with it's foot. I only managed to eat three or four pieces the way home while using up 20 cocktail napkins. It is seriously messy stuff. The lady did offer me the choice of chopsticks or fork and I looked at open container and said, "uh - neither" (as I grabbed a handful of useless napkins), They were oddly cleavered pieces of chicken(?) that probably come to about 3/4 of a whole chicken - about 15-16 pieces in all.

After I got home I could really dig in. They were still oddly crispy even after 2 hours and even stickier now. I starting analyzing the pieces and I was kinda joking to myself, "I wonder if this is even chicken". After cleaning a few more of bones of meat, and wondering where the skin is, I started examining the bone structure and thought maybe I'm not kidding afetr all. I've boned and spatchcocked at least 200 chickens in my years, but some of these small pieces made me question my knowledge of chicken anatomy. I started to save the pieces, but then deiced it's not something I need to pursue and kept on eating. There were two identifiable wing drumettes in there so I was happy just half-suspecting they were decoys ;-)

In the end I ended up having KFC for dinner, as a midnight snack, and as part of an 8:00am breakfast. Still crispy in some spots. I'm still undecided, the shards of bone were my biggest complaint. I may need to pick up another order, but it sure fit the bill of what I was craving at that moment.

The chicken took 15 minutes, while I went over to Han Yang to pick up a half gallon of cucumber kimchi (which I ate in 26 hours flat) and I perused the rest of the unusual menu. The Korean staple dishes here are reasonably priced, but the rest of the menu seemed to priced on availability in Austin. Beef rib bulgogi was $14.95. OK, but the chicken bulgogi is $25 and the Octopus is $30. The price should decrease for those other items, not increase. Default bibimbap is $9 IIRC, But there is another style that will run over twice as much. And then we have the most expensive soup in Austin: Kimchi jaegee is normally priced, but pork neck bone soup will cost you $25, IIRC. There were asome other expensive soup dishes as well. The menu was also heavy on "house made special sauce" with practically every non soup entree. And there were at lot of things that are "prepared at your table" that didn't make much sense. A couple of them may have been hot pots, but a stew? If anybody has more info on the way these dishes are presented and why they cost so much I'd be interested in hearing that. I grew up in Santa Clara CA which seems to be the Korean Capital of California and this menu just threw me for a loop.

Anyway - sorry if I'm too verbose.

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  1. With respect to the fried chicken question about the bones, I'll say that I've noticed this too, or at least if I'm understanding you correctly. It's a technique I've seen a bunch in Asian and Latin cuisine... a piece of chicken that is often left whole by westerners is instead hacked up with a cleaver, rendering it a bit unidentifiable. The five spice chicken at Sunflower is a perfect example... you really don't know what you're eating. "I know this is white/dark meat, but where exactly did it come from?" Or, like you said, "Is this even chicken?"

    Anyway, I like this approach... it's refreshing compared to the usual American version I'm used to. As a cooking nut, I'd love to know if anybody has any insight into how this is done. I can figure out the "hack it up" part, but I just want to know the specifics.

    As for the prices on the bulgogi, etc, that sounds like total BS. You can sit down at a BBQ table at Korea house for less than that.

    6 Replies
    1. re: popvulture

      I'm very familiar with the way Asians hack up their chickens and ducks. My problem was that if this were a jigsaw puzzle and a chicken skeleton was the final assembly. I would not be able to to fit these pieces into the final puzzle. I even showed a few pieces to somebody else and she agreed - "doesn't look like any part of a chicken I've ever seen".

      I should note that I didn't notice any BBQ tables here. That doesn't mean they didn't have portable equipment, and fans I didn't really check for.

      1. re: sqwertz

        Yeah I could be wrong, but I thought Korea House was the only place in town with BBQ tables? I've only been once, but I found the food pretty good. Not the best Korean BBQ I've ever had, but the meats were tasty and all of the sides were great. Most importantly, I'm pretty sure the chicken bulgogi wasn't anywhere near $25.

        WIth all of that said, I still really wanna go try the chicken at this place.

        1. re: popvulture

          Ah after a little poking around on the net, it looks like there are a couple of other BBQ places in town. While we're on the topic of Korean food, what are people's preferences for dine-in places (esp BBQ)?

          1. re: popvulture

            Not to derail the thread, but this is what Austin is missing, as far as I know. Let me know if you have a good Austin option:

            1. re: popvulture

              There's a place called Shilla Restauraunt at Lincoln Village near Highland Mall. I went there years ago when it was a former incarnation.


              1. re: popvulture

                Cho-sun Korean BBQ in the old Outback Steakhouse building by Highland Mall has them, but I've only eaten there off the regular menu, as the BBQ tables require some kind of minimum party size. For what it's worth, everything I've tried their (galbi, bulgogi) has been good and their banchan is varied and fresh, so I'd expect their bbq would be a good experience if you find yourself with a craving with several similarly-minded friends.

        2. I've had Rockin Rice chicken a few times and always enjoyed it and don't remember the bones being a burden. I've only had gringo items but the pork bulgogi was great and certainly was priced in the single digits. Clay pot bibimbap (upgrade of $1 from regular pot) was excellent.

          The more important part of this post is the the implication that 183/Lamar has a whole bunch of "meh". Three of my favorite restaurants are within 15 minute hikes of there: Tam's, Mi Kfecto (admittedly a sketchy walk up 183 from the transit center), and Southern Hospitality (which might be closed by 3:30)

          1 Reply
          1. re: Carter B.

            Take a look at the rest of the menu. There is an additional menu besides what is posted on the wall. You can't miss the $30 entrees and $25 soups..

            And who said 183 and Lamar? Not me. And I certainly wouldn't t be up for hiking 15 minutes in the rain.


          2. sqwertz, I really like this place and go every few weeks.

            The pork neck bone soup is really good; I prefer it to nearby Misung's variant, which is also delicious. It is ridiculously expensive, but the leftovers hold up well for making awesome rice dishes at home.

            I like their fried chicken, dolsot bibimbap, barbecued beef, the pork soup, almost everything here, really. Their prices can be high and the service is erratic (sometimes extremely friendly, other times indifferent), but the food keeps me coming back. The place is byob, and you can even buy soju next door.

            1. The $25 and $30 soups are meant for like 3 to 4 people. They come out on the large portable butane burners with the large pot on top.

              I strongly suspect the portion size for the octopus bulgolgi and the chicken bulgogi to be different than the beef.

              1 Reply
              1. Has anyone else noticed a drop off in the quality of the fried chicken over the last couple months? Love this place, sad to see that happen if I'm right, and will happily ignore my anecdotal evidence if I'm wrong per the Chow forum.

                Love this place, love the owners, love the BYOB, but I need amazing Korean fried chicken. Is any other place in town doing anything similar?

                2 Replies
                1. re: tom in austin

                  We went about 2 weeks ago and while I didn't have the fried chicken, I did get the dolsot bi bim bap and was slightly disappointed. The egg was overcooked and the rice on the bottom of the bowl wasn't at all crispy. The flavors were all great, and the ban chan had some real standouts, but I was really looking forward to some crispy.

                  1. re: tom in austin

                    I haven't been there in a while but I need know how to get that super crispy crust. I need to know how to make the batter. It's not just that they may fry it twice. That doesn't explain how it gets that crispy. Even when it sits in the fridge overnight, it's still crispy - No normal fried chicken holds up to that. I'm thinking it may be glucose, maltose, or corn syrup. My thinking is that it caramelize to the hard crack stage (with flour/starch embedded in it), but isn't as sweet. At least that's my theory from researching this in the McGee book.

                    I looked all over at the grocery store next door, but I didn't see any mixes that looked like it would do the job. But then again, I didn't quite know what I was looking for , other than something labelled "That Stuff they use next door at Rocking Rice for fire chicken".

                    Maybe I'll take a trip up to Hana World Market today for the first time and see if there's anybody up there that can help me out.