D Magazine intern Carol Shih prowls Dallas in search of the best Asian cuisine. Recently she tried using sign language to speak with a Korean woman. Didn’t work. People are suspicious of writers these days.
When my college buddy Hannah visited last weekend, she dragged me to Super H Mart in Carrollton to find her favorite Korean snack, bungeoppang (literal translation: carp bread), a rare treat in her home state of North Carolina. It took only a couple minutes for Hannah to spot the black appliance most street vendors in South Korea use to make this toasty fish pancake filled with red bean. Our stop: a little shop on the edge of the food court that spells out “Toreore” in red letters and sells “Chicken & Joy.”
Jump for joy.
Joy doesn’t even begin to describe the range of feelings Hannah felt as we watched a Korean lady pour batter into the waffle iron-esque pan, fill it with red bean paste, and turn the whole thing over. Two minutes passed for our fish pancakes to toast. They were agonizing for Hannah, who recounted her childhood memories in South Korea cradling hot bungeoppang with her two hands during cold seasons. She almost had me weeping with nostalgia. Her nostalgia.
When the bungeoppang was ready, we opened our brown paper bag and gingerly held a warm fish in each of our hands.
“Carol, you can’t bite it from the tail-end first!” Hannah said. Oh, brother. This is just like that time when kids ragged on me for stuffing a whole Oreo in my mouth without licking the cream. Everyone has a personal way of eating iconic foods. I had already bitten through the tail, though, and was working my way up when red bean paste oozed out of its crispy pocket, still gurgling and smelling like the bakeries of sweet, sweet Asia.
This bungeoppang is one of the best treats I’ve tasted in America for a long time. With a crunchy encasement on the outside and a spongy, moist pancake on the inside, my stomach couldn’t be happier.
When I went back to H-Mart for my second round of fish pancakes and to ask the owner of Toreore a few questions, I encountered the same Korean woman who produced our first batch. For five minutes we tried using sign language to communicate (there wasn’t a single English-speaking person within thirty feet), and even after
I enlisted two random women to help me translate, I was told to just “look up bungeoppang on a website” and that she wouldn’t “reveal her recipe because it is secret.”
What a tough crowd.
Language aside, just hand the Korean lady three dollars, point to the black waffle iron and she’ll make you three piping-hot pancakes. No English or Korean is necessary.
Toreore (inside Super H Mart)
2625 Old Denton Rd
Carrollton, Texas 75007