Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

A feel-good story about a Korean restaurant

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Yesterday I finally made it to a local Korean restaurant, Thunderbird, that specializes in (Korean) fried chicken, and was able to try it. I have wanted to try it since watching the Korean 16-part TV production Crash-Landing on You on Netflix, whose story included a number of product placements for bb.q Chicken, a chain that specializes in Korean fried chicken (though that style of fried chicken is available from many other Korean restaurants). (I’ve commented before that Korean TV seems to like the 16-episode format, and I’ve watched a number of those — in fact, right now I’m watching a good one: Vagabond, on Netflix.)

The chicken was very good — tender, juicy, and flavorful, with a wonderful crust (I think they use Panka for breading) — and I was glad to check that item off my list.

I texted The Eldest to suggest she try it in some Baltimore Korean place, and she responded to say that she was familiar with it and often takes to boys to eat at a Korean restaurant there. She sent a link to this report by Cathy Free in the Washington Post:

The request came in late on a Thursday afternoon to restaurant owner Steve Chu. One of his customers had terminal cancer, and her son-in-law wondered if it would be possible to get the recipe of her favorite broccoli tempura entree so he could make it for her at her home in Vermont.

Chu, 30, specializes in Asian fusion cuisine and is the co-owner of two Ekiben locations in Baltimore. He read the email on March 11 and instantly knew that he could do better, he said.

“Thanks for reaching out,” he wrote. “We’d like to meet you in Vermont and make it fresh for you.”

Brandon Jones, 37, was stunned.

“I emailed back, saying, ‘You do know that this is Vermont we’re talking about, right?’ ” he recalled. “It’s a six-hour drive. But Steve responded, ‘No problem. You tell us the date, time and location and we’ll be there.’”

Jones and his wife, Rina Jones, were preparing to leave from their home in the Canton neighborhood for Vermont that weekend to visit Rina’s mother, who is in the final stages of lung cancer and has stopped treatment since her December diagnosis.

For the past five or six years, every time his mother-in-law visited Baltimore, the first place she wanted to go was Ekiben in Fells Point so she could order the tempura broccoli topped with fresh herbs, diced onion and fermented cucumber vinegar, said Brandon Jones.

“She loves that broccoli, and I really wanted her to have it one more time,” Jones, an engineer, said about his mother-in-law, who asked that her name not be published in a request for privacy at the end of her life.

“She had always told us, ‘When I’m on my death bed, I want to have that broccoli,’ ” recalled Rina Jones, 38, who works in the health-care industry. “In fact, when I was packing on Friday to drive up to Vermont, I called my mom to see if she wanted us to bring anything special and she jokingly said, ‘tempura broccoli!’ ”

When Chu said he’d be happy to make the dish from scratch in Vermont on Saturday afternoon, Rina Jones said she was elated.

“It’s just so above and beyond,” Jones said. “It’s an incredible act of kindness.”

The next day, March 12, Chu loaded his truck after work with a hot plate and a cooler filled with the ingredients for broccoli tempura, then headed for Vermont with his business partner, Ephrem Abebe, and employee Joe Anonuevo. The trio stayed overnight in an Airbnb rental, he said, then stopped for some additional ingredients on their way to the condo where Rina Jones’ mother lives.

. . . As soon as he and his team pulled into the parking lot of the condo building, they texted Rina Jones that they’d arrived, then got to work. They pulled down the gate of the pickup, hooked the hot plate to the truck’s power port and started cooking and deep-frying.

In addition to Ekiben’s broccoli tempura, they made a tofu dish with peanut sauce and fresh herbs and some steamed rice, said Chu. Then after neatly boxing everything up, they knocked on their customer’s front door.

“Go ahead and answer,” Rina Jones said she told her mother.

“As soon as she opened the door, she recognized the aroma immediately,” Brandon Jones said. “It smelled amazing.”

Her mother also recognized Chu and his co-workers, said Rina Jones.

“My mom kept saying, ‘I don’t understand — you drove all the way up here to cook for me?’ ” she said. “She was so happy and touched to have that broccoli. She couldn’t believe it.”

Chu said he also immediately recognized the woman he was there to cook for.

“We see a lot of people in the restaurant, but she always stood out,” he said. “She loves the food and always made sure to tell us. She’s an amazing, sweet lady.”

The Joneses invited Chu and his team to join them for dinner, but they needed to get back to Baltimore after they cleaned up, said Rina Jones. Chu also wouldn’t accept any money from the family.

. . . “She’s a lovely lady, who has showered us with love at our restaurant for years,” he said. “It was a powerful experience, and I’m happy that we could make it happen.”

Read the whole thing.

Written by Leisureguy

12 May 2021 at 11:07 am

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