While I try to be fairly adventurous when it comes to dinner and weekend meals, my lunch routine is, well, just that - routine. On any given day, the probability that I will be having some sort of soup for my midday meal hovers right around 80%. Back in D.C., this often meant a quick afternoon jaunt to Whole Foods, or the cafe downstairs for traditional offerings of minestrone, chicken noodle, beef vegetable, tomato bisque...you get the idea. However, now that I spend the majority of my time in Koreatown, my soup preferences have turned to the slightly more exotic. Currently, I am having a very committed relationship with Bonjuk, an establishment close to my office on Wilshire Boulevard which offers several different types of juk, or Korean rice porridge.
Rice porridge makes appearances in many different Asian cuisines, going by the names chao (Vietnamese), chok (Thai), and the one I'm most familiar with, congee. At Bonjuk, each order of porridge comes wtih a little selection of ban chan. I do love me that pickled daikon, and the chili paste and kimchee are crucial for stirring into the juk. The BBQ shredded meat I could give or take - it tends to be overly sweet for my liking.
I almost always order the kimchee and octopus porridge (below). It's wonderful. I've ordered a couple of the other selections, namely the beef and mushroom and the chicken porridges, but I find them to be pretty bland. The kimchee and octopus juk, though, suffers no such flaw - it's briny, tart, and just the tiniest little bit spicy, and I love all the fantastic textures you get in one bowl. At $13 a pop, it's a little spendy, but for that price you get a hefty portion and a warm, contented stomach. And as Bonjuk is part of a very successful Korean chain of restaurants, I can pretty much always count on the taste and quality of ingredients to remain consistent.
I could easily eat juk all the time, but it's particulary appealing when I'm feeling a little under the weather (like now - I've been completely heathly a total of three days in 2011 so far). As it is, I probably get it at least once a week. While I'm hoping to shake off my sickness soon, while this cold and flu season rolls on, I cling to Bonjuk as the food equivalent of a warm, toasty blanket.