|Acorn jelly, or dotorimuk|
It's easy to decide what to eat, because on the wall is a huge poster with photos of all the dishes on the menu. Mapo is known for two specialties - kkak doo gee, or pickled cubes of daikon radish sauced in mild chili, and "dough flake" noodle soup. Soojebi are noodles made by pinching off bits of dough and flattening it with the fingers - irregularly shaped bite-sized noodles.
This day, I wasn't hungry enough for noodle soup, so I ordered fried sole. Before the fish came, the nice older lady server brought a plastic cup of cold barley tea and nine little dishes of panchan. This is quite generous for a lunch time meal, and especially for a solo diner. Most dishes on the menu cost around $9, so getting this many panchan is a great value.
I can identify most of the dishes, starting in front with acorn jelly, or dotorimuk, and marinated seaweed. In the second row, from left, cabbage kim chee, steamed broccoli in soy sauce, and the signature pickled daikon. In the third row, also from left, the peculiar Korean-style macaroni salad, vegetable pancake, something I can't identify, and wilted cabbage with doenjang, or soybean paste.
I'm posting the photo I took of the fish, but I apologize for the quality. I took four shots and they all came out bad. But it gives you an idea of what you get - three whole fish, minus heads and tails, perfectly pan-fried. It couldn't have been more simply done, served with a wedge of lemon. It's tricky teasing fried fish off the bone with chopsticks and the ubiquitous Korean long-handled tablespoon, but it was worth it.
As for the panchan - I loved the broccoli, marinated seaweed and the wonderful pickled daikon. It was crunchy and sweet and the chili added flavor rather than heat. I've had acorn jelly before and wasn't excited by it, but I gamely gave this version a try. It's comically difficult to pick up with chopsticks, but I finally got it to my mouth. The sauce, a garlicky soy-sesame spiked with red pepper flakes, was good, but the jelly itself was tasteless to me.
I was intrigued by the macaroni salad, which was similar to that served with Hawaiian plate lunches. Mayonnaisey and slightly sweet, it included elbow macaroni, chunks of red cabbage, and raisins. It was odd, but I couldn't stop nibbling at it.
This is the kind of Korean food made at home by grandmothers and aunts. It's simple and delicious, and served with love.
Mapo is on West 6th Street at Normandie. Parking is tight in the lot - try to find a meter on the street.