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Dukbokki: The First Thing You Should Eat in Flushing

October 15th, 2014 Written by | Comments Off on Dukbokki: The First Thing You Should Eat in Flushing

    Kimgane Restaurant: Cheap food and sanctuary from the wet weather. Photo credit: Liz Kim

Kimgane Restaurant: Cheap food and sanctuary from the wet weather. Photo credit: Liz Kim

You’ve stepped off the last stop on the 7 line and somehow survived the crush of people. Somewhere amid the incomprehensible signage, blaring car horns, and businesses stacked four high, you need to find a place to get away from the rain and satisfy your hunger. Chances are anybody you ask will be able to direct you to the massive Flushing municipal parking lot and just across the street from it is Kimgane Restaurant (3912 Union St, Flushing, NY 11354).

Pronounced Geem-ga-neh, the name roughly translates to Kim’s Place. Kimgane might be a taste of home for many Koreans, but the staff happily cater to their diverse clientele. The menus are written in both Korean and English and the walls are splashed with images of the different dishes along with their names. Often people forgo the menu and simply point at whichever plate looks most appetizing.

Gimbap is standard fare at a boonshikjip.

Gimbap is standard fare at a boonshikjip.

Once you arrive, you’re seated practically on top of the table next to you and the atmosphere is a curious mix of the standard Flushing level chaos coupled with the coziness of grandma’s kitchen. Kimganae is considered a boon-shik-jip, or snack house characterized by low prices (nothing is over $10) and generous portions. To many foreigners, boon-shik meals are the gateway drug into Korean cuisine. Some popular Kimganae dishes are marinated beef, pork, or chicken served alongside rice, gimbap (think of it as sushi’s distant cousin), and ramyeon (Korean-style instant noodles beefed up with extra toppings).

Jessica Balkissoon, 22, lives in Forest Hills and occasionally comes to Flushing with friends when she’s craving Korean. As she expertly grabbed a small square of pickled radish kimchi, she fondly recalled her first time at Kimganae’s. “I jumped right into the deep end by not getting what most people order here,” she said. “I wanted real street food so a friend suggested duk-bok-ki. The chewiness is surprising but once you get past that it’s delicious.”

Duk-bok-ki: Scary? Or scary delicious? Photo credit: Liz Kim

Duk-bok-ki: Scary? Or scary delicious? Photo credit: Liz Kim

Duk-bok-ki may not be the deep end for a country known for eating live baby octopi, but itis one of the most popular Korean street foods and at its most basic consists of soft glutinous rice cakes and fish cakes that are all simmered together in a thick spicy sauce made from Korean red pepper paste. Other versions may come with a hardboiled egg, vegetables, or noodles. Back in the motherland, carts manned by middle-aged women are usually set up near schools or busy streets. Ladles full of duk-bok-ki are served in paper cups and are eaten with toothpicks. This dish is so loved that there’s even a town devoted to it.

Kimganae also serves several varieties of duk-bok-ki and Balkissoon’s favorite comes with baby shrimp and octopus. Andrew Hyun, a waiter at Kimganae, can vouch for duk-bok-ki’s popularity. “People seem a little scared of it at first because it’s so red and steaming but once they have a taste, they love it; they suffer through the pain,” he said. (This intimidation may also come from Andrew’s tendency to give first timers an are-you-sure-about-this look when they order the dish.)

When there’s nothing but umbrella to umbrella pedestrian traffic on the sidewalks of Downtown Flushing, nothing soothes the soul quite like the prospect of cheap, quick comfort food. Kimgane Korean Restaurant is a glimmer of hope on an otherwise dreary, rainy Saturday afternoon. It’s just the tip of a delicious iceberg but for now grab a seat and have some duk-bok-ki… if you dare.

Tags: Fast Flushing · Foodie Files

Mission Statement + Editorial Plan

September 29th, 2014 Written by | Comments Off on Mission Statement + Editorial Plan

By Liz Kim

Mission Statement 

Just Off the 7 is a guide for those who want to venture out to Queens but aren’t sure where to start. It will cater to the likes of foodie Manhattanites who may want to try blood sausage in a restaurant that’s essentially a shack attached to one of the original Korean supermarkets in New York City. It will cater to the Japanese anime and manga-philes who yearn for a copy of a Miyazaki movie that not even eBay seems to have. Despite a population that’s mostly East Asian, Flushing also boasts substantial South Asian (home to one of the oldest Little Indias in North America), Irish, Greek, Russian, Italian, Sri Lankan, and Hispanic communities. Just Off the 7 will feature the restaurants and shops in these enclaves and share the unique stories of a hard working middle class.

If you look for blogs about Flushing, the choices aren’t just slim — they’re almost nonexistent. The sites that do feature it focus solely on the restaurants. However these Flushing-based posts are so infrequent that it’s difficult to stay up to date with what Flushing has to offer. Also, anybody looking to explore Flushing for the day has a hard time finding not only where to eat but what to do afterward. Just Off the 7 will provide an insider’s look into Flushing’s many landmarks and parks. The Queens Botanical Garden, Flushing Meadows-Corona Park (home to the Unisphere), and Queens Archery are just some of the tourist attractions that might interest those living in other boroughs.

Currently there are two blogs that are Flushing-centric: Flushing Exceptionalism and My Flushing. My Flushing is visually staid and there hasn’t been a new post since April 2011. The content is generic and more of a diary of someone who just happens to live in Flushing. Flushing Exceptionalism does a better job of providing newsy content and its material is more up to date. Still, the last post was published over a month ago and some of the features of the blog, like the archives, are defunct. Flushing Exceptionalism’s content is definitely more journalistic and quite a few of the posts are about Flushing’s political figures or the latest news on issues like construction. However at the moment there is no recent and running blog from the perspective of a Queens native about what Flushing has to offer in terms of food and entertainment. Although Just Off the 7 will have a journalistic backbone, it will have a tourism slant. Unlike My Flushing and Flushing Exceptionalism, both of which have a plain appearance and lack vivid imagery, my blog will be visually appealing and the images will be as vibrant and as loud as the neighborhood it’s featuring.

Another important piece of information that is lacking in other blogs and posts about Flushing is the 7 line. The 7 is both lauded and loathed but its importance is undeniable. From time to time Just Off the 7 will base some posts around it. For example, I’ll have tips and tricks about topics like when the best time to take it is and the interesting sights you see along the way. This will be especially handy to those living in other boroughs and also continues with the tourism theme of my blog.

I grew up and still live just a short bus ride away from Flushing. Manhattan used to be limited to Times Square and the rest of the boroughs were just as elus­ive. However once I started going to school in the city, even I admit that I snubbed the very place I used to call home. For me it lacked a certain cool factor that Manhattan and Brooklyn seemed to radiate and for a while, I avoided Flushing like a dad who insists on wearing sandals with socks. But one day it hit me mid-slurp at a noodle shop on Canal — why was I commuting over an hour and a half for a bowl of noodles I knew that I could easily get just half an hour away from home? Just Off the 7 is a call to the adventurous weekender but maybe even more importantly, it will remind the residents of Flushing that excitement and adventure can be found right down the block and not three subway transfers from there.

Editorial Plan 

Types of content: Just Off the 7 will serve as a guide on how to make the best out of your Flushing, Queens experience. It is for those living in other boroughs who want to venture out to Queens but aren’t sure where to start.

Q&As: Because the blog covers Flushing as a whole, there is a lot of potential material in terms of Q&As. Just Off the 7 will mainly target:

  1. Out of town-ers: Those living outside of Flushing can be asked what, if anything, they know about Flushing, whether they’ve been, and what they usually do when they visit.
  2. The residents: For those who are already living in or near Flushing, the interviews would be more about what they like to do in their neighborhood (i.e. the hole-in-the-wall restaurant that nobody else knows about), the misconceptions people may have about Flushing, the changes they’ve seen in their communities, etc.
  3. Business owners: The business owners of Flushing will also be a fruitful source for interesting Q&As because they have to somehow make a profit in a neighborhood where shops are stacked on top of each other in threes and fours. They have also probably come across some unique characters over the years.

Coverage of events: Any events (that interest Madame Blogger) will be featured on Just Off the 7. Whether it’s a Latin American drum circle or a calligraphy workshop, the posts will highlight what the event is, the history behind it, the experience of attending the event, and perhaps how entertaining / tourist-friendly it is.

Issues related to blog: Flushing, like many other neighborhoods in New York City, can seem quite daunting to navigate. Some of the posts on Just Off the 7 will be about the frustrations of living in and visiting Flushing. For example, there is a high level of congestion, there is only one subway line, and you can forget about trying to find a parking spot on Main Street. Are people from other boroughs less likely to visit Flushing because of these factors? What are some possible solutions? These are just some of the questions that will be addressed.

Top Tweets / Round up of what others are saying on web: At the end of each posting week, there will be a post (maybe something like Flushing Fandom or Flushing: Friend or Foe) that will link to any notable articles, tweets, outside blog posts pertaining to Flushing. Before each link there will be a brief (one to two sentences) description of what the link leads to so that readers can pick and choose what interests them.

          Along with what others are saying, there will also be a post linking to the most popular out of Just Off the 7’s content that week. Popular tweets from Just Off the 7’s Twitter feed will also be featured.

Frequency of updates / Time devoted to post creation: Just Off the 7 will post four times each week: a restaurant review, where to go after you’ve eaten, a profile on an interesting resident of Flushing, and either a “Flushing vs.,” (this will be addressed in a later section) or some sort of long-form post.” Ideally the blogger would love to spend all day crafting entertaining and thought-provoking content but realistically shorter posts will probably take up to three hours and longer stories will take much longer. A long-form story may take days depending on the topic and how deep into it the post will delve.

In between the three main posts, Just Off the 7 will also have mini-posts on things like what the blogger has noticed about Flushing, a unique find, or even a question for the reader. These mini posts will constantly change as a way of keeping the blog fresh for both the reader and content creator.  Think of the mini posts as Tweets that have taken on a life of their own.

Story ideas: Because most of the population is immigrants, Just Off the 7 will feature many posts about the immigrant experience. Flushing, like many other neighborhoods in New York City, is so heavily concentrated with immigrants that oftentimes it can feel like you’ve never left your home country. This can prove challenging in terms of learning English and assimilating into “American culture,” but can also be helpful in terms of running a business or living day to day without having to worry too much about a language barrier.

An event that will definitely be featured on Just Off the 7 is the 25th Korean Harvest & Folklore Festival on October 20 to 21 at Flushing Meadows Corona Park. The two day event celebrates Korean “Chusok,” or autumn harvest, and every year thousands of visitors come to sample Korean food, shop, and watch live performances by K-Pop stars. Other than the usual posts about the event in general, there will also be a post about the “K-Wave.” (Why does Korean pop culture appeal to so many foreigners? How do Koreans feel about the sudden popularity? Etc.)

Multimedia: Flushing is an assault to the senses. Just Off the 7 will heavily rely on vivid photography and also the use of video so that readers can get a better sense of just how vibrant and loud the neighborhood is. Just Off the 7 would also often utilize smell-o-vision but alas such technology does not exist.

Special/Reoccurring features: Each week there will be a “Flushing vs. ____” post comparing what Flushing has to offer against what other neighborhoods have to offer. For example, Just Off the 7 will compare a dim sum restaurant in Chinatown to a dim sum restaurant in Flushing. The “Flushing vs.,” posts will highlight what Flushing excels at and what it lacks in.

Another reoccurring feature will be trivia about Flushing like celebrities who were raised there or interesting moments in its history. For more reader interaction this feature could be turned into a giveaway where the first reader to correctly guess an answer wins some sort of prize.

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Just Off the 7 will be an honest, bold, and quirky look at the controlled chaos that is Flushing. It wants you to eat some damn good food, have a damn good time, and then tell all your friends about it.

Tags: Uncategorized

That Blog Though…

September 14th, 2014 Written by | 2 Comments

By Liz Kim

I have lofty blog goals. Sadly if this blog is anything like the numerous diaries and journals I’ve had,  it’s screwed. Below are two sorta kinda vague ideas one of which will hopefully blossom into an attractive, fully functioning, textually tantalizing blog.

Idea #1 

A few weeks ago, I found that wedged in between the many restaurants in my neighborhood was a tiny used book store. I’ve walked up and down that street countless times and never noticed it. What else have I been missing? My blog will chronicle my journey of discovering my own Bayside backyard. I’ll shop the mom and pop stores and dine at all the local restaurants. Sometimes it feels like Queens is the forgotten middle child and even I admit that I’ve abandoned my beloved borough more and more, especially since I started attending Baruch.

Idea #2 

Because the other boroughs weren’t easily accessible, most of my childhood hanging out was spent in Flushing. It’s just a bus ride away but it feels like you’ve taken a plane to Asia. However when a lot of the signage is in a language you can’t understand, it can be a little daunting to decide where you’d like to eat or shop. My blog would be a Lonely Planet-esque guide on how to navigate Flushing and it would also have posts about the changes that Flushing has experienced over the years.

 

Both blog ideas focus on neighborhoods that I feel don’t get enough, if any, coverage. I want my reader to know that you don’t have to commute an hour and a half just for a slice of pizza or a bowl of noodles.

 

Tags: Uncategorized

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