The next day, after a late night celebrating Cambodian New Year, ES woke up feeling the aftereffects and requested nourishment in the form of something hot and brothy. "Pho?" I suggested. "Congee? Kimchi chigae?"
"Mmm…Korean food," he said, and, groaning, finally got out of bed and into the car to drive us to the H Mart in Aurora.
This branch of the national Korean supermarket chain has quickly become one of my favorites, both for its expanse and for the small shops and restaurants nestled inside the store itself. In addition to the grocery section, there is a branch of Dah Won Rice Cake, selling all variations of tteok; Honey Bakery, selling fresh Korean breads and pastries; a stand selling taiyaki; a stand selling house-made tofu; and our destination, a small and casual restaurant specializing in Korean homestyle cooking.
This restaurant is counter service only, and while it mostly serves stews and stir-fries, there is also a small refrigerated section with premade kimbap: the Korean version of sushi rolls, made with cooked ingredients and unseasoned rice. We picked up a tray to hold us over while waiting for our entrees, and it was quite good, with fresh-tasting rice and a good balance of flavors in the filling of cooked carrot, marinated cooked spinach, egg omelette, takuan, and pickled gourd.
ES settled in happily with his jjamppong, a giant bowl of veggies, seafood, and thick, chewy noodles floating in a spicy red broth. This always looks a lot spicier than it is, but the soup here still had a definite kick as well as a pronounced seafood flavor (in a good way).
I was happy, too, with my clay pot of bubbling soondubu—the combination of hot, spicy broth, soft tofu, assorted seafood, and cooked zucchini slices along with a bowl of steaming rice was perfect for my mood that afternoon. The mussels were a little overcooked, but not enough to prevent me from craving this dish again regularly ever since.
That day, our meal at H Mart was just enough to power ES through driving us back to Fort Collins—it wasn't long after we got back to my apartment that he crashed again. I suppose kimbap and a bowl of noodle soup can only do so much!