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.