Thin Wheat Line is a weekly survey of Seattle area noodles.

Noodle: TTeokbokgi with cheese

Source: Bogul Bogul Cafe, 33320 Pacific Hwy S., Federal Way,


Thin Wheat Line: Strange, Possibly Alarming Federal Way Noodles

Thin Wheat Line is a weekly survey of Seattle area noodles.

Noodle: TTeokbokgi with cheese

Source: Bogul Bogul Cafe, 33320 Pacific Hwy S., Federal Way, 253-838-3988.

What you are looking at in this photo is not a delicious vanilla pudding. It is not a frothy cream soup, nor a rice-flour pancake. It is a lake of molten mozzarella.

And yes, that is a hard-boiled egg rising up in the back of the plate, a shark fin of sorts, warning diners that underneath this placid surface lurks pounds of fat rice-noodle tubes and slices of fish cake waiting to install themselves in your arteries. Tteokbokgi (duck-boh-kee) with cheese is the Korean equivalent of Puyallup fair nachos.

The path which I took to find myself photographing this starch mass was circuitous. As this week's review chronicles, I asked Kye Soon Hong and Eric Vigesaa, two foodies of the best sort, to help me translate ads for Federal Way restaurants in the Korean-language business directory. Not only did we find Garden, we discovered that Sik Kaek, which markets itself in English as a Japanese crab shack, touts its grilled pork large intestine and boneless steamed chicken feet to Korean diners. Another ad convinced us to try Bogul Bogul Cafe's special bo ssam.

Bo ssam's a familiar dish to anyone who's paid attention to the rise of David Chang, owner of New York's Momofuku Ssam Bar. Bogul Bogul caught our eye because it claimed to serve two unique types: "virgin" bo ssam and "grandmother" bo ssam. The difference, the waitress explained, is that in the virgin bo ssam (pictured at right), the shredded daikon isn't inserted between the leaves of pickled cabbage, while in the grandmother bo ssam, the folds of the kimchi have been penetrated by the radish. Bogul Bogul's virginal bo ssam doesn't include raw oysters or lettuce and herb leaves for you to roll up in a packet around the pork, kimchi, and daikon threads, leaving its flavor fairly one note, which is why the restaurant didn't make it into the review.

The cheese tteokbokgi, however, was a remarkable dish. Pictured at left is what tteokbokgi looks like when you buy it from one of the tens of thousands of street tents set up in Seoul, where women of a certain age stir and restir vats of pillowy rice noodles, occasionally recalibrating the sugar and heat in the chile sauce. Like nachos and cream cheese hot dogs, tteokbokgi is best enjoyed after several bottles of soju. And in fact, Bogul Bogul serves lots of the rice-based spirit, as well as flasks of milky, nutty, sweet-tart homemade makgeolli, an unfiltered rice wine.

The tteokbokgi with cheese was one of many anju, or drinking snacks, listed on the cafe's menu. Eating it involved plunging your chopsticks deep into the cheese lake, spearing or pinching the first solid thing they touched, pulling your chopsticks above your head as high as you could lift your arm, using the other hand to gather up the two-foot-long cheese strands stretching from chopsticks to plate, twirling them around until you finally managed to sever the link, wrapping the cheesy strings around the dredged object while you finally figured out what you'd gotten (hey, fish cake!), and finally bringing everything to your mouth to chew.

Was it good? Well, do you return from the state fair bragging to your friends about the tub of nachos you downed there? Let's just say that driving 25 miles to eat cheese tteokbokgi seems like an undue amount of effort. But by the time we left the restaurant, the cheese lake looked it had been through a prolonged drought.

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