NJ Dining: Keumsan Samgyetang

Keumsan Samgyetang
131 W. Central Blvd
Palisades Park, NJ 07650 (across from the Shop Rite plaza)

Web Site: http://www.keumsan.co.kr

Palisades Park is known for its Korean food. We have so many Korean restaurants in this town that some have even specialized themselves for specific kinds of dishes. A new restaurant which recently opened up near the Shop Rite in Palisades Park is Keumsan, which is actually a chain restaurant from Korea that specializes in a dish known as Samgyetang (SAM-GI-YEH-TANG) which is a special Chicken Soup flavored with Ginseng.  They also have another soup called Goditang (GO-DEE-TANG) which is a broth with Marsh Snails in it. Yum!

Keumsan Restaurant, Palisades Park NJ by you.

Parking at Keumsan is tight, so you might need to park your vehicle across the street at Shop Rite.

Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

Maybe I haven’t been descriptive enough in explaining exactly what Samgyetang and Goditang actually are. Here’s Keumsan’s excellently written marketing material:

keumsan-marketing1 by you.

Pray for the repose of the mercifully sacrificed chicken’s souls. Thats freakin’ intense for a mission statement!

keumsan-marketing2 by you.

Everyone’s clear with that, right? Okay, onto the food.

Keumsan Restaurant, Palisades Park NJ by you.

Like many NJ restaurants, Keumsan doesn’t have a liquor license. But there’s a liquor store next door, so you can BYOB. Here’s an uh, interesting brand of Soju we found. Note the brand name, “PYONGYANG” and the “Product of the DPRK” stuff at the bottom of the label. WTF? This is the Soju of the Dear Leader! Who is evil enough to be importing this? Surely it must be illegal!

Keumsan Restaurant, Palisades Park NJ by you.

Holy crap, they bring it in from Jersey. I expected this stuff to taste like super-harsh rocket fuel (like the stuff that powers their faulty ICBMS) and to have to spit it out, but I got to hand it to Kim Jong Il, this stuff was pretty damn smooth. I wonder if your average North Korean citizen can even afford to drink this and if it is primarily just for export. I debated the ethics of supporting a dictatorial regime known for a  massive history of human rights violations with this purchase, but when you’re washing down Kalbi and getting plastered, the greater political issues tend to fade away. I’m not sure I’d buy it again since I am more of a Doosan Sahn Soju or a Andong Soju fan, but I’ll try anything once.

8-25-08 EDIT: According to independent reports, this particular brand of soju contains trace amounts of poisonous snake venom which is caught using political prisoners/slave labor. Obviously, this would be a major deviation from the stated “Corn, Rice, Wheat” ingredients on the front label. How this could pass USDA and ATF import restrictions especially being from North Korea puzzles me.

Keumsan Restaurant, Palisades Park NJ by you.

Here’s a view of the main dining room.

Keumsan Restaurant, Palisades Park NJ by you.

Poster with Keumsan’s signature dishes.

Keumsan Restaurant, Palisades Park NJ by you.

Here is the main menu page. Keumsan also specializes in Shabu Shabu, but the restaurant is so new that they don’t have Shabu Shabu or Goditang yet.

Keumsan Restaurant, Palisades Park NJ by you.

The Samgyetang description in the menu.

Keumsan Restaurant, Palisades Park NJ by you.

Metallic chopsticks. I don’t know what it is with modern Korean restaurants, I happen to hate these things because they are very difficult for Westerners to eat with, as if we don’t have enough problems with chopsticks already. The historical reasons behind them were so that the Korean emperors/empresses could tell if their food was poisoned when the metal got discolored, so eating with these exudes a certain level of Imperial classiness, I guess. They do have the wooden ones, so just ask for them.

Keumsan Restaurant, Palisades Park NJ by you.

A sampling of Banchan dishes. We also got the usual variety of Kimchi as well — both Radish and Cabbage and also bean sprouts.

Keumsan Restaurant, Palisades Park NJ by you.

Salad Banchan.

Keumsan Samgyetang, Palisades Park NJ by you.

The main event, Samgyetang soup. There are several varieties offered on the menu but we decided to go with the basic chicken one without any add-ons (mushrooms, seafood, etc). This is a small whole chicken in a very large bowl of soup, with glutinous rice. if I had to describe it, it’s somewhere between bubbie’s Jewish Penicillin (“chicken in the pot”) and a Japanese rice porridge soup. It’s very comforting and the Ginseng taste is a background flavor rather than in your face, which I like. Ginseng is known primarily for its medicinal (read as, it puts lead in your pencil) qualities and is highly prized among the Koreans and Chinese.

Keumsan Restaurant, Palisades Park NJ by you.

Kimchi Jigae Stew. This spicy tofu and kimchi stew comes with a side order of Kalbi.

Keumsan Restaurant, Palisades Park NJ by you.

Kalbi (Short Ribs). I thought these were very good even for a non-BBQ place.

Keumsan Restaurant, Palisades Park NJ by you.

This is a Mungbean Pancake dish. I thought this tasted kind of like a latke, different from the standard Pajun you get at many Korean restaurants.

Keumsan Restaurant, Palisades Park NJ by you.

Here’s a favorite dish of mine, cold spicy buckwheat noodles, or Naengmyun (NANG-MEE-UN). There are different varieties of Naengmyun, some in just a cold clear beef broth. I happen to like the spicy one the best.

Keumsan Samgyetang, Palisades Park NJ by you.

These are slippery as hell to eat with the metal chopsticks. But oh so good, especially on a hot summer night.

Keumsan Samgyetang, Palisades Park NJ by you.

I’m not sure what the Korean name for it is, but it was described as “Chicken Shish Kebab” on the menu. They were really good, with nice big peices of Korean mushroom on it with the grilled veggies.

11 Responses to NJ Dining: Keumsan Samgyetang

  1. Daniel says:

    You have one of the most adventurous palates of anyone I’ve encountered. Impressive, as is the photography and writing. Can’t wait to read more.

  2. Box 1581 says:

    Mmm, it all looks tasty. Except the mayonaisey banchan, which — while absolutely served these days in Korea — still totally offends me (or my palate, at least). FYI, the mung bean pancake that you ate was made, if traditionally, of mung bean puree; if not so traditionally, of a mung bean flour that might contain some wheat flour. Pajun is made with regular flour. That’s why the two pancakes taste so different.

  3. […] the fine DPRK Studies website found a blog post by American journalist Jason Perlow, who likes to eat and write about what he ate. Mr. Perlow […]

  4. Otto Silver says:

    $6 for a bottle of Soju?! It is $1 in South Korea and I am sure it will be even cheaper in the North. I have no idea what the Pyongyang will cost here, but I got a bottle when I was in the North and the price was a smidgen higher because it is sold to tourists.

    As for adventurous palate, I don’t know. Looks like pretty standard Korea stuff. Looks very authentic, I must say. It is adventurous if you don’t travel to much or never grew up eating various foods just for the new taste, but I suppose that was more up to you parent than yourself ;) I know Koreans who travel en take their own food so that they don’t have to eat the food food in the other countries. Talk about UNadventurous.

  5. Korean Grammar Police says:

    Samgyetang has three syllables, not four. Naengmyun has two syllables, not three. It would be more accurate to write “SAHM-GYEH-TANG” and “NENG-MYUN.”

    “Gyeh” has a hard “g” sound. Start with the word “guest,” drop the “st,” and insert a consonant “y” sound betwen the “g” and the “e”.

  6. Korean Grammar Police says:

    Oh, and “TANG” is pronounced with an “AH” sound, not like the orange drink.

  7. Jon says:

    Be fair, Otto Silver, Jason himself wasn’t claiming an adventurous palate, someone else made the claim for him. Although its probably an accurate claim, since Korean food is hardly the most adventurous thing he eats.

    Also, in other posts he’s specifically stated that he thinks that Korean food should be appreciated more by Americans than it is, since big parts of it (Charbroiled meat? Fried chicken? Noodles? Hot peppers?) are actually pretty in-line with American palates.

  8. slpernie says:

    wow, you are quick my friend. i just heard about this new sam gye tang place opening up in pal park last week and you’ve already got a review here. sam gye tang and sullung tang are two of my favorite korean meals. this stuff is great in the winter. its the korean equivalent of a warm bowl of mommas chicken soup.

    if you like this you might like ddak dori tang. chopped pieces of chicken in spicy stew with large chunks of potatoes and carrots. go check out kam na moo gol on broad ave near mandarin, next to the small wireless store and order the large 2 person serving. its brought out in a large stewpan and cooked on your table. let it simmer for like 10 minutes til the soup base thickens and enjoy with a side of rice.

  9. slpernie says:

    i def have to try the pyong yang soju. the newer brands of soju most younger people drink these days are cheum chu rhum (like the first time) and cham mee sol fresh both supposedly have a much lighter taste yet with a similar alcohol content. I once thought that soju was made from sweet potatoes or rice but I’ve come to find that its mostly just chemicals.

    I grew up drinking jinro soju in the clear bottle, which tasted similar to unleaded gasoline…

  10. slpernie says:

    sorry for the rant but two more comments. the only thing about sam gye tang are the chicken bones getting in the way while your eating. they usually give you a metal tin with your sam gye tang used for discarding bones. i usually spend the first 5 minutes just deboning the tang so i can eat without interruptions but this is prob due to my obessisive compulsive nature.

    the other thing is that there is a korean tradition regarding sam gye tang. most korean men (ahjushis) believe that if one eats sam gye tang the first day of summer that they will be prosperous. this is due to the ginseng contained in sam gye tang.

  11. Joey says:

    Wow, the food looks pretty crude and, to be honest, kind of non appetizing.

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