Tasty discovery: Dduk Bok Kki
Destination: Crave Wings, 13633 Warwick Blvd., Newport News
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays, noon to 7 p.m. Sundays
More info: 757-872-9464 or cravewings757.com
Growing up in Korea, Andrew Lee knew Dduk Bok Kki — a combination of rice cake and fish cake in a sweet chili sauce — as a simple snack. Children would buy it from street carts during lunch break or ask their mothers to make some after school.
When he included it on his menu at Crave Wings, in the Denbigh section of Newport News, that’s the feel he wanted to keep — the Dduk Bok Kki is served in a styrofoam carry-out box, and customers have a choice of chopsticks or plastic ware.
“In Korea, it’s a common snack, not fancy,” Lee said. “Some Korean restaurants turn it into a fancy meal, with vegetables and everything and serve it on a plate or a bowl. But I really wanted it to be like buying it from a street cart.”
He does turn it into more of a meal, though, topping the cakes and sauce with mandoo (dumplings), kimmari (spring rolls) and a hard-boiled egg stir fried in the spicy gojuchang sauce.
It’s the sauce that sets the tone for the dish — a Korean chili paste mixed with ketchup, sugar, soy sauce, sesame oil and a touch of honey to add a sweet counterpoint to the heat. Lee said the sauce marinates in a refrigerator for a week to let the flavors blend.
The dumplings are stuffed with vegetables, pork and beef, and the spring rolls are Korean glass noodles, veggies and seaweed, breaded and fried.
Lee opened Crave Wings a year ago in a section of the city with a large Korean population and several Asian markets where he could buy the rice and fish cakes. His menu and his marketing emphasizes traditional American foods — chicken wings, burgers, subs — but from the start he also included some Korean favorites.
The rice bowls were popular, and he found many of the military veterans in the area had fond memories of the bulgogi pork and beef they had eaten while stationed in Korea.
It took longer for the Dduk Bok Kki to catch on, but he said those who tried it began to come back and order it again.
“I knew there were a lot of Koreans right around here who would like those dishes,” Lee said. “And I used the chicken wings to target other customers. They come in for our wings and our burgers, but we also have the chance to introduce them to the Korean foods. When they try it, they like it.”