A primer for ordering Korean food

At Ara in New Hyde Park, banchan, the

At Ara in New Hyde Park, banchan, the gratis small plates that precede a meal, were large and lavish enough to count as a mini-meal: vegetables, noodles, even fish. (Aug. 26, 2013) (Credit: Barbara Alper)

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Korean food can spike your temperature. This you learn at the first bite of kimchee, the ubiquitous fermented cabbage that's part of the gratis assortment of small plates, or banchan, that kicks off most meals. So if that dish is too pungent for you, move your chopsticks to another, such as spiced julienned white radishes or fish cake. Tasting around, you're bound to find things that get your taste buds dancing.

Korean fare, affordably priced and served with care, is filled with variety. There's comfort to be found in such specialties as manduguk, a fragrant beef soup filled with plump dumplings. And excitement in the sizzle and crunch of beef, vegetables and rice served from a crazy-hot stone pot. A spirit of communality underlies Korean barbecue, wherein everybody cooks their food at a tabletop grill.

Finding a Korean restaurant on Long Island, though, can be a challenge. In fact, you can count on your fingers the number of restaurants serving the food of Korea, which, sometimes shows up in conjunction with a Japanese repertoire.

Mastering the menu

Knowing where to look helps. So, for your next -- or first -- taste of pajeon or bibimbap, here are some contenders. This rundown of Korean dishes will help you figure out what to order.

BANCHAN (OR PANCHAN) An assortment of gratis small side dishes served during every Korean meal

KIMCHEE (OR KIMCHI) Usually Napa cabbage seasoned with red pepper and garlic and fermented with fish sauce and salted shrimp

BIBIMBAP (OR BIBIMPAP) A rice bowl with meat and vegetables and topped with an egg. Originally designed to use up leftovers, it's served with a fermented red pepper paste on the side, to be mixed in to taste.

DOLSOT BIBIMBAP Bibimbap that's served in a sizzling stone pot, wherein the rice develops a crust.

BULGOGI (OR BULGOKI) Marinated thinly sliced beef

GALBI (OR KALBI) Thinly sliced marinated short ribs, often barbecued

PAJEON Crisp scallion- and-seafood pancakes

JAP CHAE (OR JAPCHAE) A stir-fry of glass noodles and vegetables

MANDU (OR MANDOO) Meat-stuffed dumplings

SSAM Korean-style wrap made with either lettuce leaves or rice paper

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