Little Seoul in Manhattan
"Peace--that was the other name for home." - Kathleen Norris
"Born and raised in South Korea" is the typical public introduction about myself. While it gets mundane, it is correct, and naturally growing up in Korea made me appreciate its history, heritage, and cultural arts.
Occasionally I have cravings for unique blends of Korean cuisine and related spices and ingredients. Routinely I visit West 32nd Street, popularly known as Little Seoul. There I find the majority of ethnic ingredients; moreover, I find special places featuring specialty dishes--not just the famous Korean Barbeque--for my friends and I to meet and enjoy.
I wish every metropolitan city had special streets to represent every major ethnic group. Luckily, I have West 32nd Street. The area has grown out of 32nd Street up and down from 30th Street to 35th Street. I see this growth as a perfect example of Manhattan: the Korean community as one of the textures quilting the blanket of the city.
My perfect Sunday is strolling into Little Seoul for some Korean dumplings for brunch, and then, at the nearby Korean grocery store, picking up Banchan, which means "side dishes of the Korean cuisine." At times, I let friends, either familiar or unfamiliar with Korean dishes, in on my hidden favorite places for different dishes.
The street isn't the prettiest block in Manhattan. The narrow sidewalks are congested with a variety of pedestrians. The street crowd is weaved into the grimy grit of the city, along with pungent scents of nearby Korean restaurants. But it's a break from the usual, almost like being transported to another place without going too far. Upon leaving, it is customary to take with me an abundance of food odor when I have visited any of Korean restaurants: something to relish over even a night after.