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Piggie Porn

Fetishizing hog at Seoul Soondae

Perhaps it's appropriate that Seoul Soondae operates next to a Korean adult-video store in Garden Grove's Little Seoul district. It's not just that the décor seems lifted from the Boogie Nights set—bleak fluorescents highlighting beige Naugahyde booths and chairs that surround the type of faux-wood Formica tables favored in the 1970s. See, certain foods—like certain sexual preferences—are obsessions for the knowing few but considered insults against good taste by almost everyone else. And while I can't speak for the fetishes sold at the porno palace next door, my regular trysts at Seoul Soondae have some friends calling me the Jenna Jameson of Korean Cuisine.

You won't find the sort of pretty, colorful foods that look good in a "Welcome to Korea!" travel pamphlet here—no Korean barbecue, no short ribs, no dainty cold noodles or boiling soft tofu bowls on your table. This restaurant is all about the hog: rustic, delicious platters originating from such pig parts as trotters, blood, intestines, fat and other assorted offal that our prime-cut society ships to the hot-dog factory. Recite Seoul Soondae's menu in most restaurants, and management will likely expel you for obscenity.

One bite into Seoul Soondae's namesake soondae (steamed Korean blood sausage), though, and even the most avowed steak-and-ribs fans would chuck their steer for some pork plasma. Blood sausage is a popular snack among Koreans, and Seoul Soondae's gently spiced version is so good it could star in a Koreatown wedding. The soondae is almost pornographic in appearance: a thin intestinal casing engorged with congealed blood; green onions, rice and potato noodles added for filler; steamed to soft, billowy lusciousness, then cut into oval slices. The taste of the violet-colored sausage is light, soft and rich, with enough hemoglobin tang to suit Nosferatu.

Location Info

Map

Seoul Soondae

8757 Garden Grove Blvd.
Garden Grove, CA 92844

Category: Restaurant > Korean

Region: Garden Grove

The pig parade continues with jok bal, an entire hog's hoof. Perish the thought echoing through your mind—I'm about to nibble on a hog's hoof!—and nibble on skin that's been roasted to a burnished chestnut color, stretched tight over succulent meat and tough tendon. Eat it slightly warmed, and splatter chile-spiced brined shrimp sauce along with hot cooked rice on top. Jok bal regulars gnaw on the bone for those last bits of tender, slippery fat and tendon as if they were finishing off the last kernels from a corn on the cob. Mmmm . . . jok bal.

Seoul Soondae serves pork soup as well, long-cooked, eminently nourishing potages your Korean mother might have boiled had she not been working two jobs to pay for the house in Irvine. There's about half a dozen varieties—best is the soondae guk, the blood sausage floating with tongue, intestine bits and strings of green onion; it tastes best on a cold, rainy evening.

Seoul Soondae throws a few bones to beef-lovers. The so gogi guk bab features shredded beef floating atop a superthick broth that approximates enriched rice porridge. It's hot, filling, comforting—an ideal winter antidote. Even better is dogani tang, an unctuous vanilla-white beef-knuckle soup spiked with a sprinkling of diced tendon and chopped beef at the bottom of the bowl. It's customary to mix some coarse sea salt and red-pepper paste into the dogani tang for complementary fire, but proceed at your own risk—the aftermath will leave behind a sweat-stained T-shirt and mucus-drenched upper lip.

The only menus at Seoul Soondae are tacked to a wall and list specials in the blocky Hangul script. There is no English menu—in fact, it doesn't appear that any of the workers speak enough English to communicate an order in it. The only non-Koreans I've ever seen patronizing Seoul Soondae are Latino laborers, who gather around those tacky tables and communicate with the waiters mainly via hand gestures and a good memory. They're just like the white males who sheepishly enter the den of sin next door, looking to fill their Asian-persuasion fantasies.

Seoul Soondae, 8757 Garden Grove Blvd., Garden Grove, (714) 636-0686. Open daily, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Beer, soju and other assorted Korean spirits. Dinner for two, $20-$30, food only. Cash only.
 
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