Kim’s Aunt Kitchen Cart is an Oldie but Goodie

Kim’s Aunt Kitchen (or Kim’s Aunt Kitche according to their sign) on 46th and 6th has been well covered by Midtown Lunch over the years. It’s one of those spots I’ve been dying to go, but I was waiting until there was ample time since the last article. Clay stopped by earlier this year, but since it has been several months and my friend really wanted to try it, I thought I would join her and write a post to remind Lunch’ers about the cart.

An interesting quirk in the history of Kim’s Aunt Kitchen is the unsolved mystery of Kim and his or her aunt. Apparently, nobody has ever been able to figure out who Kim’s Aunt is. Upon first glance at the menu, all kinds of fried fish made me think something southern or creole, maybe Kim’s Aunt is from New Orleans. But clearly Asian menu items such as Korean Bulgogi beef and Chinese Lo Mein side suggest otherwise. It has been determined (and I confirmed) that Kim is Korean. In fact, Kim is the most common Korean surname in the world. But the neat thing about Kim’s Aunt Kitchen is… they were a groundbreaking Korean fusion cart, chilling out in midtown long before Korilla, Kimchi Taco, Domo Taco, Bob & Jo, Big D’s other Korean fusion carts.

Can we say with confidence that Kim’s Aunt Kitchen is in fact Korean fusion? I think so — even if the combinatorial nature of the menu wasn’t intentional. It reminds me of Anita Lo’s quote last month when interviewed by Serious Eats,

“I don’t really believe in “authentic” and I think everything is “fusion”.

Kim’s Aunt might agree. There are items like bulgogi beef paired with Lo Mein, which has Chinese origins, or French fries, which of course started out as pommes frites in France but are now an American staple. And the fried fish and seafood seems American, but paired with rice, it has more of an Asian feel, and with the pita you have influences from the Mediterranean. So it seems Kim’s Aunt has a bit of an identity crisis, but perhaps we can think of it as the first Korean fusion cart in Midtown. Korean fusion food enthusiasts might know that the craze, specifically the Korean-Mexican combination, was attributed to Kogi Korean BBQ, an LA food truck fleet that started gaining traction in 2009 by using twitter, and never quite made it to NYC although there was much teasing. Kim’s Aunt first appeared on the ML radar in early 2007 and who knows how long it had already been around?

So my friend and I stopped by a few weeks ago and absolutely went for it with the fried fish and seafood. I had a rice platter with flounder and shrimp. I asked for hot sauce and white sauce. The flavors threw me off, pointing me again toward southern cooking because the hot sauce seemed almost Louisiana style, and the white sauce actually tasted much like a tartar sauce (a condiment with origins apparently from France, and I’m thinking about the French influence in New Orleans). The fish was tender and I liked the breading, but to me the shrimp was the star of the show because I prefer the somewhat sweeter seafood flavor and dense texture of shrimp. But if you’re a fan of flounder, it’s also very good. The only part that I would’ve tweaked a bit was the amount of tartar sauce. Personally, I thought it was too sweet and overwhelmed other flavors in the dish, and there was far too much. If you like tartar sauce, you’re in luck. If not, you might consider asking them to hold it or put it on the side.

While I was there the first time, I noticed the bulgogi on the menu, and I really wanted to go back and try it. That next week, I decided to give it a shot. I ordered it the lo mein side. The first thing I noticed is the guys in the cart cook raw beef and onions in front of your eyes on their grill. At many carts, the meat is already cooked and just gets heated up, so this cooking method is notable. The lo mein, however, was pre-cooked and heated on the grill. And the beef was delicious… it was filled with juices and had a nice, simple marinade – I could detect a light soy sauce flavor with a hint of sugar. Only one peice had a noticeable amount of fat, which I personally like but I know many folks prefer only lean meat. They dish up a big portion of onions and beef for just $6.50. I liked the greasy lo mein, but I bet it would also be awesome with either fries or rice. As usual, I could’ve done without the only healthy tidbits on the platter; the lettuce and tomato. What does it add?

The item I still really want to try is one of the sandwiches with pita bread (you can also order it with good old sliced bread). My friend ordered a flounder sandwich and really enjoyed it. She was kind enough to let me snap a photo of her grub.

What’s your favorite sandwich at Kim’s Aunt Kitchen? Inquiring minds want to know.

Kim’s Aunt Kitchen Cart, 46th btw. 5+6th.

12 Comments

  • FERSH PETER?

    ERR.

    MAH.

    GERD.

  • I’m not really sure anything served from this cart is actually KOREAN, other than using the word “bulgoki”. Fusion? maybe. KOREAN fusion? no way.

    • It’s KOREAN in that some Korean person named Kim pays the latino guys who work there sub-minimum wage to fry up frozen pieces of seafood. I think the write up way overcomplicates this with the whole “potatoes were domesticated by the Incans, so I guess French Fries are a litle Peruvian? And wheat was domesticated in Babylon” routine.

  • That’s fair. But what about the fried fish? Is there nothing Korean about that at all? Maybe someone who knows more about it could share some insight because I’m not an expert… I did have some fried fish at Pan a few weeks back, but it didn’t have quite that much breading.

    • fried fish is everywhere… japan, korea…

      if you guys want to debate, there are OG, 80′s (or earlier?) OG korean fried fish markets in queens. clients are mostly latino.

  • The hot sauce is kind of a thinner Texas Pete. I didn’t ever think to ask for two sauces at once, though.

    Since you’re just deep-frying it anyway, the whiting is good enough and a buck cheaper than the flounder. The fries are definitely hit-or-miss, and don’t really survive a long walk back to the office.

    • the last couple times i’ve gotten the whiting, i had a fair amount of bones in it. gladly pay the extra dollar for a bone-free eating experience. but i’ve generally liked the fries, since they do fry it when you order.

  • I work right by them, but I always forget about them until lent. My favorite is the flounder or whiting on white bread with tartar and hot sauce. It’s a ball of delicious goo

  • I had a small bulgogi with lomein. It was pretty good for under 5 bucks. The asian guy who takes the money and does the saucing asked me if I wanted any…I asked “On bulgogi?” I don’t know if hot or white would be good at all, though I did forget about their barbeque sauce…

    I got some sort of thousand island dressing on my lettuce and tomatoes which was OK I guess.

Leave a Reply

You must log in or register to post a comment.