Note: This is a guest post from a member of Nanoomi.net, a community of writers, translators and Korea-enthusiasts who represent part of the diverse ecology of the Korean blogosphere. You can read more from Tammy at www.koreaforniancooking.com.
“MacArthur Station is a major BART transfer point near the commercial heart of Temescal, one of north Oakland’s oldest neighborhoods,” so says the official website of Bay Area Rapid Transit, or BART. Named for Gen. Douglas MacArthur, who stormed the shores of Incheon in the Korean War, the station is a hub for three light-rail lines to San Francisco and its Peninsula as well as the East Bay and South Bay.
The rail system around the San Francisco Bay region isn’t as extensive as the Seoul rail network, which connects Incheon to the west and Chuncheon to the east. After all, the Bay Area has less than 10% of Seoul’s population to move around.
BART is bicycle-friendly. Riders can lock their bicycles in designated areas at stations or bring their bicycles onto the rail cars.
The best reason to check out the MacArthur Station on a visit to the San Francisco Bay area is YuYu Za Zang Restaurant, also known as Chef Yu’s. It is an easy block-long walk from the train.
Once you exit the confines of the MacArthur Station building, you will see across the parking lot a yellow church steeple with a cross atop it. Walk toward that building and you will find YuYu Za Zang.
On my review of ZaZang Korean Noodle restaurant in San Francisco, reader “Kimchikraut” wrote, “You should [visit] YuYu in Oakland.”
“I do have a few Oakland restaurants in my sights, but they’ll have to wait until 2011,” I replied.
This was the first time I have ever embarked on BART, likely because it’s an hour-long drive to the nearest station, located in the East Bay city of Richmond.
Since Oakland is only an additional 12 miles, it seemed illogical to take BART at all. However, there’s ample free parking at the station, which makes the ride worth the hassle. This trip cost $4.80 per person round-trip and took about 20 minutes one way.
Before making the trek, I called the restaurant the day before to make sure it would be open. A woman answered in Korean, “Yoboseyo?” That was a good sign of authentic cuisine to come.
At YuYu Za Zang, I chose chicken wool myun (울면, $6.45), and my husband jumped at the chance to chow down on gan za zang (myun) (간짜장면, $6.95). Wool myun is an egg drop–style flour noodle stew with hand-pulled noodles. It comes with a choice of seafood, beef or chicken.
As the restaurant name suggests, za zang myun is the signature dish. But because of our religious beliefs, my husband opted for an untraditional pork-less preparation with chicken.
He fell in love with the savory tastiness of the tar-thick and -colored sauce 14 years ago via a reconstituted approximation from a Chuncheon corner market. How surprised he was to taste the genuine sauce in takeout from ZaZang Korean Noodle and rediscover it fresh from the YuYu Za Zang kitchen.
The banchan bounty at the Oakland restaurant were raw onion, pickled yellow radish and a few tablespoons of black bean sauce but no kimchi. Za zang myun and similar dishes are actually Chinese-Korean food, developed by Chinese restaurateurs in Incheon, Korea five decades ago.
My wool myun arrived within a couple minutes of ordering. It included nappa cabbage, green onions, shredded carrot, sliced cucumber, spinach and sliced white onions. The broth had substantial mouth feel, with almost as much body as a chicken bone broth. The thickness was similar to beef bone broth I’ve made before.
My husband’s gan za zang arrived a few minutes thereafter. The black bean sauce was mixed with finely diced chicken, mushroom and diced white onions. Hand-pulled flour noodles were in a separate bowl. Onions and other veggies were still a little crunchy.
The kitchen shears brought to the table were to snip the very long noodles into manageable segments. The noodles in both dishes were al dente – not overcooked.
The walk back to BART is not long enough to work off all the carbs and calories in those noodles. You’ll have to come up with alternate aerobics.
YuYu ZaZang Restaurant is located at 3919 Telegraph Ave. (between 39th and 40th streets), Oakland, Calif., north of the city’s Koreatown. The restaurant is open from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Phone: (510) 653-2288.