If you’ve had Vietnamese hot pot and liked it, you’d like the Korean hot pot better. If you haven’t had Vietnamese hot pot, try it, and then try jeongol (전골 Korean hot pot), and then you’d like jeongol better. There goes my motherland loyalty, but Vietnam has bánh cuốn and gỏi cuốn, so I’m not too worried.
Lots of beef, lots of mushroom, green onion, bean sprout, tofu, cucumber, cabbage all snuggling in a pasty sunny broth. The pot is more like a deep tray on a gas stove, and the bubbling conglomeration is like a spoiled teenager threatening to run away from home. The bulgogi junggol comes to us wild and daring. We ladle right in.
Casserole House has these big bright pictures on the wall of beef, spam, vegetables, and seafood neatly arranged in a round dish or bobbing in broth. The real stuff in action also hides some tteokbokki (떡) for chew and dangmyeon (당면) for engtanglement with the enokitake that just wait to drip the broth between the plates or fling a fortunate dot onto your shirt. I don’t know why they would call jeongol “casserole”, the word brings to mind a square glass dish with crispy-top green beans swearing hot from the oven, which, as yummy as it is at Thanksgiving, is far less exciting than a hot pot. (As a guy said in a Super Bowl ad, “it’s where the action is”.)
Like true Americans, we didn’t get jeongol the first time we ate at Casserole House. It’s not a mistake per se, because the seafood bibimbap had quite some scrumptious crust and chewy squid for kicks, and if you scan over my favorite post list, you’d know I have a soft spot for pig feet.
But the pig feet at Casserole House aren’t very soft. Jokbal (족발) is a cross between boiled and roasted, the skin is taut, hardened to nearly a crunch, the meat takes every chance to get stuck in your teeth. I like it. I wrap one or two slices in a lettuce leaf and smear on a chopstick’s tip of doenjang. I lick a taste of saeu jeotkal (새우 젓갈), but objectively speaking, Vietnamese nước chấm is better . And seriously, for $17.95 the plate has enough meat to feed five people, if they also clean out the banchan and order an extra pajeon.
Speaking of money, I haven’t seen jokbal on any other menu, so it’s a must-get here. But there are three reasons to get out of the bibimbap comfort zone and get the jeongol while you’re at Casserole House: 1. it’s in the name, 2. despite it costing a scary $29.95 each scary pot, it’s enough for 3-4 people to share, 3. it’s metal-chopstick-licking good.
And when you’re there next year on Jan 22-25, make sure you wish the ladies a happy new year. They’re sweet, like the sikhye (식혜) they give us for dessert. I drank Mudpie’s cup, too.
Address: Casserole House (right next to Sahn Maru)
4301 Telegraph Ave
(between 43rd St & 44th St)
Oakland, CA 94609