Sunday, October 14, 2007

Koreans Eat Pork Too

Annan-gol
4215 Annandale Center Drive
Annandale, VA
703-914-4600

2.5 out of 5 grains of rice

Beef is the staple of Korean BBQ, and it is hard to imagine how many bovines bite the bullet weekly in Seoul alone. But Korean food and pork are naturals. The spicy red chili sauce that makes many of the beers (and soups, and noodles, and . . . you get the idea) come alive gets nicely softened by a little bit of pork fat. So, jonesing for a little Korean, we headed to Annan-gol in Annandale.

Annan-gol, like many of the Korean joints in the region, do most of the staples and has a signature dish. The specialty at Annan-gol is spicy bbq pork, so the three roving correspondents sat down for a meal of:

1) spicy bbq’d pork;
2) jjol myun – chewy noodles in spicy sauce; and
3) kalbi dolsot – beef rib meat and rice served in a red-hot stoneware bowl

The BBQ pork was the star of the meal. Served with the usual lettuce, spiced green onions and a heavily salted bean paste. The pork is marinated in a bright (almost artificial) red sauce and then bbq’d right at your table. When cooked, it has a slight char and glistens with a nice layer of fat. The pork slices are sweet, spicy and practically melt in your mouth. A very different flavor than the uncured pork belly that I love when I go to Seoul, a bit tangier and really delicious.

The chewy noodles (jjol myun) were also really tasty. I am not a huge fan of the nyung myun (cold noodles in vinegar sauce) that seem everywhere in the summer time in Korea. The cold noodles are a bit too chewy in the cold sauce for my taste. But served room temperature in a slightly spicy sauce with bean sprouts and sliced cucumber, this dish was excellent. Tangy, chewy, spicy and brightly flavored, this was very enjoyable.

The overachieving dish of the night was the kalbi dolsot – not much more than rice and rib meat that had been cooked and then mixed into the rice. The hot stoneware bowl makes the rice nice and crunchy and the slightly spicy red/bean paste sauce added before being mixed pulls the whole dish together.

The assortment of banchan were nothing to write home about (or post in detail) but had your basic Korean apps.

All in all, a quality, enjoyable, barebones Korean joint in the middle of little (and growing) Korea. We’ve been before, and we know we’ll go back. And for the low price, it is easy to understand why Annan-gol goes into the regular Korean rotation for your alltastesame crew.