I was a little bummed when I saw the changes coming to the South Korea booth for 2013’s Food & Wine Festival, so I knew that my next look back at 2012 had to be at that booth, and possibly the best item at last year’s festival. We’ll miss you, Lettuce Wrap.
With the news that this years menu will include a Kimchi Dog, I’m afraid that Danny’s favorite item the last several years running, the Lettuce Wrap with Roast Pork and Kimchi Slaw, may be unceremoniously ousted from the 2013 menu. It will be our loss. Kimchi dogs sound like something South Korea would serve at a competitive eating event, not the food they would want representing their nation in a showcase of international cuisine. I may just have to start making bulgogi-style meats at home so that we can still get our lettuce wrap fix.
The South Korea booth’s menu has changed slightly every year since opening in 2010, and up until last year, has always featured two solid food items and three adult beverages ranging from iffy to totally ignored by us. The Lettuce Wrap is the staple, and the second food item, which was barbecue short rib with kimchi in 2010 and bulgogi beef with kimchi in 2011, was replaced with the mung bean pancake with shrimp and kimchi sauce in 2012. The Bohae Bokbunjajoo raspberry rice wine and Jinro Chamisul Soju returned from the 2010 menu, and a new soju fruit slush made its debut.
The interesting thing about the Mung Bean Pancake with Shrimp and Kimchi Sauce is that traditionally, the lettuce wrap has been the cheaper of Korea’s two food items, with the second dish being the pricier of the two. The meat and kimchi dishes in 2010 and 2011 were both $4.25. For 2012, however, the Mung Bean Pancake was the food offering with the lower price tag at just $3.00. I suppose you get what you pay for, because I didn’t think this pancake was very special at all. The “kimchi” sauce tasted nothing like kimchi. It was more like a watery pepper sauce. Some people compared it to Sriracha, but I think that’s generous because it implies that the sauce had a discernible flavor. It didn’t. Other than packing a moderate amount of heat, it really had nothing to offer at all. The pancake itself was equally bland, with a too-sweet, starchy flavor from the mung beans, and tiny shrimp that were a little mushy and reminded me of the dehydrated guys you would find in a Cup O Noodles. It would be really nice if this were the item replaced by the Kimchi Dog in 2013. Fingers are crossed.
The Bohae Bokbunjajoo black raspberry rice wine was pretty good, however. I enjoy some fruity reds, so it was a no-brainer for me. Danny, typically does not, but even he liked this. We agreed that if the lettuce wraps are back next year, we’ll definitely order whatever raspberry wine is on the menu as well, as they are usually a recommended pairing. You can click the photo above to see some facts about the Bohae Bokbunjajoo and the Jinro Chamisul Soju.
The Lettuce Wrap was a hit for us again, as expected. I think we had at least two of these this year, which is fewer than we’ve had during previous years’ festivals, but it’s still a favorite. The pork is cooked wonderfully, with a spice profile that has just a hint of sweetness. The kimchi isn’t the hottest around, but still has a well-spiced flavor. The lettuce is crisp and refreshing, which makes it an excellent vehicle for the other ingredients. The sauce on top is mayonnaise-based and probably isn’t completely necessary. This isn’t a dish that needs food lube, but the flavors do all work well together. It’s a bit different than the sesame mayo that was served in 2010 and 2011, as you can see in the below photos:
Despite the tweak, the lettuce wrap remains one of our top five dishes of the Festival. We sincerely hope it returns this year.
What are your favorite dishes from the South Korea booth? What would you like to see change for 2013?