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Entries Tagged as 'Fast Flushing'

The Secret Cabbies of Flushing

December 15th, 2014 Written by | Comments Off on The Secret Cabbies of Flushing

Sam Kim’s car has no sign or marker signifying that it’s a cab. There’s no doodad inside keeping track of how far you’ve gone. And he may ask you to sit in the front depending on how many T.L.C. cops are on the streets that night. It sounds shady, but it’s a business that’s been around for decades and almost all the ethnic enclaves have their version of the undercover cab service. Dozens of Korean men like Sam choose to risk having their vehicles taken away, a day in court, and insane fines to work for these car services, most of which are based in Flushing.

A customer who needs a ride to Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut can easily bring in a couple hundred dollars. But there are also nights where you are stuck with local rides that barely bring in 6-11 dollars a trip.

“A job like this is feast or famine,” Sam says. “Still, I was most drawn to the flexible work schedule and even though I’ve been living in New York City for over 35 years and driving for most of those years, this job is giving me a view of my home that I’ve never had before.”

Business card from Sam's company.

Business card from Sam’s company.

Just the night before, two cars from Sam’s company were seized by undercover T.L.C. agents. “The crackdown is worse than ever,” he says. It’s especially tough when you’re having a slow night as is and have to prematurely head home. “When T.L.C. are out all the guys like me have to wait at the base for who knows how long until the coast is clear. Meanwhile, the few cars with licenses are making a killing because they’re getting all the rides that are coming in.”

Subways may be the lifeblood of commuting New Yorkers but sometimes you’re too cold, too tired, too drunk, or some combination of all three to walk to want to walk to a station and wait for a subway. We’re not quite at drone taxis yet but yellow cabs are as ubiquitous to New York City as pigeons and dirty water hot dog stands. And while you won’t find yellow cabs in Flushing, you’ll find guys like Sam ready to take you wherever you need to go.

Tags: Fast Flushing

Flushing’s Korean Car Services: Convenience at a Price

December 15th, 2014 Written by | Comments Off on Flushing’s Korean Car Services: Convenience at a Price

Sam Kim’s car has no sign or marker signifying that it’s a cab. There’s no doodad inside keeping track of how far you’ve gone. And he may ask you to sit in the front depending on how many T.L.C. cops are on the streets that night. It sounds shady, but it’s a business that’s been around for decades and almost all the ethnic enclaves have their version of the undercover cab service. Dozens of Korean men like Sam choose to risk having their vehicles taken away, a day in court, and insane fines to work for these car services, most of which are based in Flushing.

A customer who needs a ride to Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut can easily bring in a couple hundred dollars. But there are also nights where you are stuck with local rides that barely bring in 6-11 dollars a trip.

“A job like this is feast or famine,” Sam says. “Still, I was most drawn to the flexible work schedule and even though I’ve been living in New York City for over 35 years and driving for most of those years, this job is giving me a view of my home that I’ve never had before.”

Business card from Sam's company.

Business card from Sam’s company.

Just the night before, two cars from Sam’s company were seized by undercover T.L.C. agents. “The crackdown is worse than ever,” he said. It’s especially tough when you’re having a slow night as is and have to prematurely head home. “When T.L.C. are out all the guys like me have to wait at the base for who knows how long until the coast is clear. Meanwhile, the few cars with licenses are making a killing because they’re getting all the rides that are coming in.”

Subways may be the lifeblood of commuting New Yorkers but sometimes you’re too cold, too tired, too drunk, or some combination of all three to want to walk to a station and wait for a subway. We’re not quite at drone taxis yet but yellow cabs are as ubiquitous to New York City as pigeons and dirty water hot dog stands. And while you won’t find yellow cabs in Flushing, you’ll find guys like Sam ready to take you wherever you need to go.

Tags: Fast Flushing

Flushing’s Korean-Chinese Cuisine: Not Your Average Takeout

November 9th, 2014 Written by | Comments Off on Flushing’s Korean-Chinese Cuisine: Not Your Average Takeout

F.E.E.D. Episode 1 – Chinese House Restaurant from Liz Kim on Vimeo.

F.E.E.D. or Flushing’s Everyday Eats, Damn! is a series that highlights different restaurants in Flushing, Queens. Today we’ll be visiting Chinese House Restaurant on Murray Hill. Known among Koreans as Joong Guk Jip, this restaurant serves Korean-Chinese cuisine.

Korean-Chinese cuisine is different from your standard Chinese takeout. It isn’t trying to fool anybody into believing that it’s authentic; instead, this cuisine is Korean-style Chinese food characterized by its rich noodle and spicy stir fry dishes.

On today’s episode we’ll be eating jajangmyeon and jjampong and ending the night with a sweet treat.

Address: 149-08 41 Ave Flushing, NY 11355

Tags: Fast Flushing · Foodie Files

Flushing’s Korean-Chinese Cuisine: Not Your Average Takeout

November 9th, 2014 Written by | Comments Off on Flushing’s Korean-Chinese Cuisine: Not Your Average Takeout

Korean-Chinese cuisine is different from your standard Chinese takeout. It isn’t trying to fool anybody into believing that it’s authentic; instead, this cuisine is Korean-style Chinese food characterized by its rich noodle and spicy stir fry dishes. Flushing, Queens is known for its diversity and fusion cuisine and its Korean-Chinese options don’t disappoint.

F.E.E.D. or Flushing’s Everyday Eats, Damn! is a series that highlights different restaurants in Flushing, Queens. Today we’ll be visiting Chinese House Restaurant on Murray Hill. Known among Koreans as Joong Guk Jip, this restaurant serves Korean-Chinese cuisine. We’ll be eating jajangmyeon and jjampong and ending the night with a sweet treat.

F.E.E.D. Episode 1 – Chinese House Restaurant from Liz Kim on Vimeo.

Chinese House also serves several different stir fry dishes like mapa dubu and crisp Korean-style fried chicken coated in a spicy sweet sauce. If you’re in the mood for something a little less aggressive, Chinese House offers a variety of milder dishes that aren’t spicy. But hey, a little pain for a lot pleasure ain’t bad.

Chinese House is on a street that is lined from end to end with restaurants. Despite the competition, it stands out among the residents of Flushing.The ambiance is casual and the staff are friendly. They’re more than happy to explain the spice level of the dishes and (pro-tip!) if you show up near closing, you may get a few extra servings of dessert. Don’t worry, you can burn it off later.

Address: 149-08 41 Ave Flushing, NY 11355

Tags: Fast Flushing · Foodie Files

Roosevelt Avenue: Flushing’s Response to Korean Cosmetics Demand

October 19th, 2014 Written by | Comments Off on Roosevelt Avenue: Flushing’s Response to Korean Cosmetics Demand

Once you step off the 7 train, be sure to exit not from the staircases in the middle of the station but from the station’s entrance and you’ll find yourself on Roosevelt Avenue. No, you haven’t been magically transported to the streets of Hong Kong or Seoul. Like its food, energy, and noise, downtown Flushing’s shopping scene also seems to be straight out of an east Asian metropolis. Businesses are stacked on top of each other and the garish signage extends into the street.

Another bonus? Purchases at Korean cosmetics stores always come with coupons and free samples. Photo Credit: Liz Kim

Another bonus? Purchases at Korean cosmetics stores always come with coupons and free samples. Photo Credit: Liz Kim

According to the Visit Korea Committee survey, the items tourists most want to purchase when traveling to South Korea are beauty products. Roosevelt Avenue delivers the South Korean shopping experience without needing a passport. “[Downtown Flushing] is the only place where you can find all these [Korean] beauty brands clustered together,” said Susan An, an employee at Skin Food. “And because Korean culture seems to be so popular today, we’re getting a lot more traffic from people outside of Flushing looking to try out things they’ve never tried before.”

Sisley/Shiseido: The oldest of the bunch, Sisley is on the corner of Roosevelt Avenue. Unlike the other Korean cosmetics stores there, they sell products from both South Korean and other Asian brands. However, their high-end brand name inventory also means steep prices. For example, products from SK-II, a Japanese skin care brand, can easily run you a couple hundred dollars. And although SK-II is now sold in mainstream department stores like Macy’s, Sisley carries a wider variety and often offers different package deals.

    Skin Food - Makeup counter or farmer's market? Photo Credit: Liz Kim

Skin Food – Makeup counter or farmer’s market? Photo Credit: Liz Kim

Skin Food: Just a few stores down from Sisley is Skin Food and as its name suggests, Skin Food aims to create products with the nutritional values of food. Their products consist only of natural ingredients. “[The employees] wear aprons because we want the consumer to feel like they are in a farmer’s market,” An said. With names like Tomato Jelly Lip Tint and Agave Cactus Cream, you feel as though you’re ordering lunch rather than looking for lipstick or lotion. Their prices range from $10 to $60.

Club Clio: Across the street from Skin Food is Club Clio and they might appeal more to the night club enthusiasts. The staff dress head to toe in flashy black clothing and killer heels and a constant stream of dance music flows out onto the street. Club Clio’s prices are slightly lower than Skin Food’s and range from about $2 to $40.

“I love that I can see these products in person rather than taking a risk on Amazon or eBay,” said Jennifer McLaughlin. She lives in Red Hook, Brooklyn and had trouble finding the cosmetics shops she came to love while teaching in South Korea. Now she comes to Flushing to stock up on all her favorite brands. “It’s just makeup at the end of the day, but I think that the experience of hearing music that’s in a foreign language and the unique signs sort of create this cultural experience that’s hard to find elsewhere.”

The stores listed above are just a few of the cosmetics stores you’ll find on Roosevelt Avenue. It may be hard to choose so pick whichever cardboard cutout of a K-Pop star (all the stores display them out front) screams to you the most and walk in. And with the holidays coming up before you know it, not only can you pick up something for yourself, but a trip to downtown Flushing will also give you plenty of ideas of gifts for friends and family.

Tags: Fast Flushing · Shop Central

Roosevelt Avenue: Flushing’s Response to Korean Cosmetics Demand

October 19th, 2014 Written by | Comments Off on Roosevelt Avenue: Flushing’s Response to Korean Cosmetics Demand

Once you step off the 7 train, be sure to exit not from the staircases in the middle of the station but from the station’s entrance and you’ll find yourself on Roosevelt Avenue. No, you haven’t been magically transported to the streets of Hong Kong or Seoul. Like its food, energy, and noise, downtown Flushing’s shopping scene also seems to be straight out of an east Asian metropolis. Businesses are stacked on top of each other and the garish signage extends into the street.

Another bonus? Purchases at Korean cosmetics stores always come with coupons and free samples. Photo Credit: Liz Kim

Another bonus? Purchases at Korean cosmetics stores always come with coupons and free samples. Photo Credit: Liz Kim

According to the Visit Korea Committee survey, the items tourists most want to purchase when traveling to South Korea are beauty products. Roosevelt Avenue delivers the South Korean shopping experience without needing a passport. “[Downtown Flushing] is the only place where you can find all these [Korean] beauty brands clustered together,” said Susan An, an employee at Skin Food. “And because Korean culture seems to be so popular today, we’re getting a lot more traffic from people outside of Flushing looking to try out things they’ve never tried before.”

Sisley/Shiseido: The oldest of the bunch, Sisley is on the corner of Roosevelt Avenue. Unlike the other Korean cosmetics stores there, they sell products from both South Korean and other Asian brands. However, their high-end brand name inventory also means steep prices. For example, products from SK-II, a Japanese skin care brand, can easily run you a couple hundred dollars. And although SK-II is now sold in mainstream department stores like Macy’s, Sisley carries a wider variety and often offers different package deals.

    Skin Food - Makeup counter or farmer's market? Photo Credit: Liz Kim

Skin Food – Makeup counter or farmer’s market? Photo Credit: Liz Kim

Skin Food: Just a few stores down from Sisley is Skin Food and as its name suggests, Skin Food aims to create products with the nutritional values of food. Their products consist only of natural ingredients. “[The employees] wear aprons because we want the consumer to feel like they are in a farmer’s market,” An said. With names like Tomato Jelly Lip Tint and Agave Cactus Cream, you feel as though you’re ordering lunch rather than looking for lipstick or lotion. Their prices range from $10 to $60.

Club Clio: Across the street from Skin Food is Club Clio and they might appeal more to the night club enthusiasts. The staff dress head to toe in flashy black clothing and killer heels and a constant stream of dance music flows out onto the street. Club Clio’s prices are slightly lower than Skin Food’s and range from about $2 to $40.

“I love that I can see these products in person rather than taking a risk on Amazon or eBay,” said Jennifer McLaughlin. She lives in Red Hook, Brooklyn and had trouble finding the cosmetics shops she came to love while teaching in South Korea. Now she comes to Flushing to stock up on all her favorite brands. “It’s just makeup at the end of the day, but I think that the experience of hearing music that’s in a foreign language and the unique signs sort of create this cultural experience that’s hard to find elsewhere.”

The stores listed above are just a few of the cosmetics stores you’ll find on Roosevelt Avenue. It may be hard to choose so pick whichever cardboard cutout of a K-Pop star (all the stores display them out front) screams to you the most and walk in. And with the holidays coming up before you know it, not only can you pick up something for yourself, but a trip to downtown Flushing will also give you plenty of ideas of gifts for friends and family.

Tags: Fast Flushing · Shop Central

Roosevelt Avenue: Flushing’s Response to Korean Cosmetics Demand

October 19th, 2014 Written by | Comments Off on Roosevelt Avenue: Flushing’s Response to Korean Cosmetics Demand

Once you step off the 7 train, be sure to exit not from the staircases in the middle of the station but from the station’s entrance and you’ll find yourself on Roosevelt Avenue. No, you haven’t been magically transported to the streets of Hong Kong or Seoul. Like its food, energy, and noise, downtown Flushing’s shopping scene also seems to be straight out of an east Asian metropolis. Businesses are stacked on top of each other and the garish signage extends into the street.

Another bonus? Purchases at Korean cosmetics stores always come with coupons and free samples. Photo Credit: Liz Kim

Another bonus? Purchases at Korean cosmetics stores always come with coupons and free samples. Photo Credit: Liz Kim

According to the Visit Korea Committee survey, the items tourists most want to purchase when traveling to South Korea are beauty products. Roosevelt Avenue delivers the South Korean shopping experience without needing a passport. “[Downtown Flushing] is the only place where you can find all these [Korean] beauty brands clustered together,” said Susan An, an employee at Skin Food. “And because Korean culture seems to be so popular today, we’re getting a lot more traffic from people outside of Flushing looking to try out things they’ve never tried before.”

Sisley/Shiseido: The oldest of the bunch, Sisley is on the corner of Roosevelt Avenue. Unlike the other Korean cosmetics stores there, they sell products from both South Korean and other Asian brands. However, their high-end brand name inventory also means steep prices. For example, products from SK-II, a Japanese skin care brand, can easily run you a couple hundred dollars. And although SK-II is now sold in mainstream department stores like Macy’s, Sisley carries a wider variety and often offers different package deals.

    Skin Food - Makeup counter or farmer's market? Photo Credit: Liz Kim

Skin Food – Makeup counter or farmer’s market? Photo Credit: Liz Kim

Skin Food: Just a few stores down from Sisley is Skin Food and as its name suggests, Skin Food aims to create products with the nutritional values of food. Their products consist only of natural ingredients. “[The employees] wear aprons because we want the consumer to feel like they are in a farmer’s market,” An said. With names like Tomato Jelly Lip Tint and Agave Cactus Cream, you feel as though you’re ordering lunch rather than looking for lipstick or lotion. Their prices range from $10 to $60.

Club Clio: Across the street from Skin Food is Club Clio and they might appeal more to the night club enthusiasts. The staff dress head to toe in flashy black clothing and killer heels and a constant stream of dance music flows out onto the street. Club Clio’s prices are slightly lower than Skin Food’s and range from about $2 to $40.

“I love that I can see these products in person rather than taking a risk on Amazon or eBay,” said Jennifer McLaughlin. She lives in Red Hook, Brooklyn and had trouble finding the cosmetics shops she came to love while teaching in South Korea. Now she comes to Flushing to stock up on all her favorite brands. “It’s just makeup at the end of the day, but I think that the experience of hearing music that’s in a foreign language and the unique signs sort of create this cultural experience that’s hard to find elsewhere.”

The stores listed above are just a few of the cosmetics stores you’ll find on Roosevelt Avenue. It may be hard to choose so pick whichever cardboard cutout of a K-Pop star (all the stores display them out front) screams to you the most and walk in. And with the holidays coming up before you know it, not only can you pick up something for yourself, but a trip to downtown Flushing will also give you plenty of ideas of gifts for friends and family.

Tags: Fast Flushing · Shop Central

Shopping in Downtown Flushing – Cosmetics

October 19th, 2014 Written by | Comments Off on Shopping in Downtown Flushing – Cosmetics

Once you step off the 7 train, be sure to exit not from the staircases in the middle of the station but from the station’s entrance and you’ll find yourself on Roosevelt Avenue. No, you haven’t been magically transported to the streets of Hong Kong or Seoul. Like its food, energy, and noise, downtown Flushing’s shopping scene also seems to be straight out of an east Asian metropolis. Businesses are stacked on top of each other and the garish signage extends into the street.

The Korean cosmetics stores entice customers with coupons and free samples.

Another bonus? Purchases at Korean cosmetics stores always come with coupons and free samples. Photo Credit: Liz Kim

According to the Visit Korea Committee survey, the items tourists most want to purchase when traveling to South Korea are beauty products. Roosevelt Avenue delivers the South Korean shopping experience without needing a passport. “[Downtown Flushing] is the only place where you can find all these [Korean] beauty brands clustered together,” said Susan An, an employee at Skin Food. “And because Korean culture seems to be so popular today, we’re getting a lot more traffic from people outside of Flushing looking to try out things they’ve never tried before.”

Sisley/Shiseido: The oldest of the bunch, Sisley is on the corner of Roosevelt Avenue. Unlike the other Korean cosmetics stores there, they sell products from both South Korean and other Asian brands. However, their high-end brand name inventory also means steep prices. For example, products from SK-II, a Japanese skin care brand, can easily run you a couple hundred dollars. And although SK-II is now sold in mainstream department stores like Macy’s, Sisley carries a wider variety and often offers different package deals.

Skin Food - Makeup counter or farmer's market? Photo courtesy of

Skin Food – Makeup counter or farmer’s market? Photo Credit: Liz Kim

Skin Food: Just a few stores down from Sisley is Skin Food and as its name suggests, Skin Food aims to create products with the nutritional values of food. Their products consist only of natural ingredients. “[The employees] wear aprons because we want the consumer to feel like they are in a farmer’s market,” An said. With names like Tomato Jelly Lip Tint and Agave Cactus Cream, you feel as though you’re ordering lunch rather than looking for lipstick or lotion. Their prices range from $10 to $60.

Club Clio: Across the street from Skin Food is Club Clio and they might appeal more to the night club enthusiasts. The staff dress head to toe in flashy black clothing and killer heels and a constant stream of dance music flows out onto the street. Club Clio’s prices are slightly lower than Skin Food’s and range from about $2 to $40.

“I love that I can see these products in person rather than taking a risk on Amazon or eBay,” said Jennifer McLaughlin. She lives in Red Hook, Brooklyn and had trouble finding the cosmetics shops she came to love while teaching in South Korea. Now she comes to Flushing to stock up on all her favorite brands. “It’s just makeup at the end of the day, but I think that the experience of hearing music that’s in a foreign language and the unique signs sort of create this cultural experience that’s hard to find elsewhere.”

The stores listed above are just a few of the cosmetics stores you’ll find on Roosevelt Avenue. It may be hard to choose so pick whichever cardboard cutout of a K-Pop star (all the stores display them out front) screams to you the most and walk in. And with the holidays coming up before you know it, not only can you pick up something for yourself, but a trip to downtown Flushing will also give you plenty of ideas of gifts for friends and family.

Tags: Fast Flushing · Shop Central

The First Thing You Should Eat in Flushing – Dukbokki!

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

Cheap food and sanctuary from the wet weather.

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.

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.”

Scary? Or scary delicious?

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 it is 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

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