In my mind, Korean food is the rustic cousin to city-slicker Japanese cuisine. Sweet marinated grilled meats (bulgogi), smack-you-in-the-face kimchi (spicy fermented cabbage), and hearty rice mixed with vegetables, chili pepper paste and a fried egg (bibimbap) are staple Korean comfort foods. Nothing is better on a cold night than a spicy hot bowl of soft tofu stew (soondubu jjigae). Restaurants offering Korean barbecue, many with grills to cook the meat yourself at your table, are increasingly common in New Jersey. The full range of Korean dishes runs from savory egg pancakes to fried chicken to seafood noodle soups to French-inspired pastries. Menus can be difficult to navigate for those of us new to Korean cuisine. Be patient though, and your efforts will be rewarded.
Over 93,000 New Jersey residents claimed Korean ancestry in the 2010 Census. Sixty percent of the state’s Korean population lives in Bergen County, with large communities in and around Palisades Park and Fort Lee. Not surprisingly, those two towns are the place to find the highest concentration of Korean restaurants, from fast food Korean fried chicken to upscale Korean BBQ. The EthnicNJ map shows highly regarded Korean food spots there, as well as in Jersey City and Middlesex County, where the Korean population is growing. My favorite dish so far is the soft tofu stew served at the literally-named Soft Tofu Restaurant (So Kong Dong, 소공동 순두부) in Fort Lee.
Share your favorite Korean spots in the comments below. I’ll add the most popular to the map.