Above: Chelsea Market -Photo Courtesy of my travel companion – Chelsie, Thank you
Mŏkbar Chelsea Market NYC
I visited Chelsea Market is in the Meatpacking District of New York City. The building has six stories and occupies one full block; which includes retail and office space. The market is located on the corner of ninth avenue, on the first floor. The market entrance leads to a long narrow food “hall,” with signage on the brick walls, indicating the names and location of the food stalls and restaurants, within the market.
When I entered through the double doors, there were a sea of tourist, weaving in and out of every accessible opening they could possible squeeze through. This is definitely NOT the place to visit, if you prefer wide open spaces, with ample “elbow” room, to roam peacefully around, without gridlock.
However, it is worth a visit during your trip to NYC, but be up for the “challenge” of small confined spaces, endless tourists, lengthy bathroom lines and even longer food lines.
But, be smarter than me and try and plan your visit during ‘non-peak’ hours, maybe not at 11am on a Saturday, as i did, HA.
My visit to Chelsea Market was for one restaurant in particular, Mŏkbar. Mŏkbar is a Korean ramen restaurant (albeit small), by Ester Choi, chef and owner. Somewhere along my “travels” on the internet, i read about Ester Choi and “Mŏkbar.” I found a video for her dish Kimchi jjigae ramen, which got my stomach rumbling and my mouth watering.
Kimchi jjigae: “kimchi” is fermented cabbage and ‘jjigae’ is stew. Traditionally the kimchi used in this dish is “sour.” Which means is has been fermenting for a VERY long time, almost to the point of spoiling. Another very important ingredient in Kimchi jjigae is pork belly. The pork belly is braised in the stew, which adds an extra element to the overall flavor of the dish. In Korea, Kimchi jjigae is generally served with a side of rice, not ramen.
Above – My version of “Kimchi jjigae” tonkotsu broth, kimchi bacon broth, pork belly, stewed kimchi, scallions and gim (dried seaweed).
In Ester Choi’s Kimchi jjigae, she uses a pork stock for the base of the stew. I don’t know her exact recipe for the stock, as it isn’t written anywhere, but in her video she does indicate she uses a pork stock.
I’m of the opinion after visiting her restaurant and tasting her Kimchi jjigae that the pork stock is the “secret” ingredient. I have had a lot of Kimchi jjigae, which happens to be one of my top five favorite Korean dishes, but Ester Choi’s is “over the top damn delicious.” She builds her Kimchi jjigae with seven ingredients: ramen noodles, kimchi bacon broth, braised pork, stewed kimchi, scallions, poached egg and pork belly. It was what i like to say “porkalicious.”
After returning from my trip, i decided to make my own version of Ester Choi’s Kimchi jjigae (see above photo of my version). I already had all the necessary ingredients in my fridge and freezer to make my version of this dish.
Three months prior, i had made tonkotsu (pork stock) and put it in my freezer for a later use. Tonkotsu, takes about twelve hours to make and includes various pork parts. I also had Kimchi in my fridge, from a class i taught, which included learning how to make Kimchi. As a result of this class, i had extra Kimchi and as a bonus, it had been fermenting for three months in my fridge. I was set to make my version of Ester Choi’s Kimchi jjigae.
This dish is a “Labor of Love” for anyone who doesn’t work in a restaurant and doesn’t get paid to make it (trust me, i would LOVE to get paid to make this dish and many others!). It requires many hours, even days, to source the ingredients, prep the ingredients and cook the ingredients. But it is worth every hour i spent in the kitchen.
If you are not up for the many hours required to make Ester Choi’s version of Kimchi jjigae, you can visit her restaurant, Mŏkbar in NYC, you won’t be disappointed.