There are some foods you’ve loved all your life, and some foods you came to appreciate as you got….ahem, older. Growing up, I always ate soondae (Korean blood sausage, 순대), but never with any relish. A bit bland and more loose than a regular German or Italian sausage, it was just one of those things I ate because it was around the house. I was always more fond of the cooked liver that usually comes with soondae. Now as an adult, for some reason, soondae appeals to me. I love the mild earthiness and the subtle richness. Perhaps I’m not only older, but wiser as well.
Soondae can be found at most Hmarts in New York and New Jersey. When I was little, we always got the soondae at the Union Street Hmart in Flushing. My mom thought it was the best there. I remember even my aunts visiting from Seoul would go crazy for the Hmart soondae. Now, it’s been years, and I’m not sure if it’s still as good as it used to be. (I think a trip may be in order.) In any case, these days, my family gets their soondae closer by in New Jersey at Hankuk Jungyuk (한국 정육). Hankuk Jungyuk not only has delicious jokbal, but they also have delicious soondae.
The portions are always pretty generous at Hankuk Jungyuk. For ten dollars, we got a huge styrofoam container full of hot soondae, sliced liver, and a salt and red pepper mix for dipping. The soondae from Hanguk Jungyuk is filled with the usual: pork blood, Korean cellophane noodles (dangmyun, 당면), rice, and chives (부추). And, as is the jokbal, the soondae there is more red in color than at most places because of the hanyak (Korean herbal medicine, 한약) they use to cook the soondae in. However, I like the soondae at Hankuk Jungyuk, not because of the hanyak, but because it always tastes really fresh. Some places where they sell soondae, the quality suffers because it’s been sitting out for god knows how long. Not at Hankuk Jungyuk. When you order the soondae, they remove the soondae from a steaming basket, and slice and package the moist soondae right in front of you. Keep that pre-sliced dry sh*t away from me.
Soondae can be eaten by itself or used to create other dishes, such as soondae guk (soondae soup, 순대국), but I like to keep it simple; dipped in salt to bring out the umami loveliness. My mom says it still doesn’t compare to the soondae from Hmart back in the day, but it sure tastes hella good to me. I’d say bloody damn good.
Hankuk Jungyuk (한국 정육)
133 Broad Ave (betw W Harwood Terrace & W Homestead Ave)
Palisades Park, NJ 07650