Why you should go: For exotic dishes that go way beyond bibimbap - and for your health!
How did you come to New Seoul? The restaurant is over 20 years old, but I came seven years ago because my friend Changho Lee is the owner. I met him through my church, Campus Mission International. He's like family now. When I left Korea I spent six months in Seattle, studying English. Then I moved here, and my family joined me.
In Korea I cooked for my family, but my wife, Elizabeth, who's the chef here, worked at a restaurant in Incheon. She knows how to make everything, but she has a gigantic Korean cookbook at home. She's always reading it and thinking about new dishes to try. I only have a few specialties, but our kids like my cooking better!
Of course, I don't cook at home much anymore. The restaurant is only closed on Sundays, and usually we go to another restaurant to try foreign foods. My kids like hamburgers, Taco Bell and pizza - actually, I like that, too. But their favorite Korean dish is my tuboki. It's very famous, cheap and delicious. My regular customers love it, too. It's got rice cake, fish cake and onion, in sweet and spicy sauce. My kids also really like my kimchee soup. Did you know that kimchee protected Koreans from SARS? We were the only country in Asia where SARS didn't spread. After that scare, the Chinese imported a lot of kimchee from Korea. Many Korean foods have health benefits.
What do your customers like? Americans love the rock cooker bibimbap. Any Korean restaurant in the U.S. has it on the menu, so they know it. It's very fancy - radish, bean sprouts, carrots, spinach and steamed rice, with a sunny-side-up egg and spicy sauce. You can get it with tofu, beef, chicken or pork. Kimbap - Korean sushi - is popular too. Everything is cooked, so it's very safe.
Koreans love spicy soups. The spicy cod fish soup with oyster, tofu, bean sprouts, green onion, jalapeños and radish is a favorite. Our Chinese customers especially love the tofu soup, with seafood, egg and green onion - it's pretty spicy, too.
We have a regular Korean customer who always orders beef tendon soup. We don't know his name, so we call him "Uncle." Whenever we see him, we rush to get Uncle's bowl ready. And our Korean customers are waiting patiently these days for our cold summer broths, like nang myun - buckwheat noodles with sliced beef, hard-boiled egg, cucumber and Korean pear.
What's your favorite story about New Seoul? We have lots of funny stories. One time four French ladies came in - I think they were staying at the hotel across the street. They didn't know anything about Korean food. They thought the ginseng chicken soup looked good. When Koreans are sick we eat that. It's very health restoring. But the French ladies were very surprised to see a whole chicken in it, with everything except the head! Even though it's very expensive, they didn't touch it. They paid and ran away.
One day a tall, beautiful American lady came in alone and ordered the seafood bean paste soup. It's also very good for health, but we think it looks ugly, and it's kind of stinky. Americans usually don't like it, so were very surprised when she ate the whole thing.