Ramen knowledge has become one of the most celebrated of food connoisseurships, the best shops prompting legions of advocates into maddeningly long drives into the South Bay. Pho has proliferated even further. Lost in the mix is their cousin sul lung tang.
While many Koreans have enjoyed its restorative broth since childhood — and long into adulthood as a proven hangover cure — the rest of us have been lost in a sul lung tang-less existence until recently. Now, though? The milky white broth at the base of sul lung tang, infused with beefy depth and intensity, has consumed us as passionately as any romantic affair.
Han Bat offers only two dishes, sul lang tang and boiled beef. You sit at bare wooden tables, staring at blank white walls and a wall of mirrors. Motherly figures ask immediately if you know what you want because, well, shouldn't you?
Sul lung tang comes with a choice of meats. We eschew the spleen and intestines, choosing tongue or brisket depending on our mood. Tongue here has the texture of a meat custard, if in some kitchen laboratory such a custard could be cut into slices a fraction of an inch thick while remaining delicate. Brisket is also tender but has a bit more bite, meat and fat running its length in ropy strands.
For the uninitiated, the soup will taste bland on first sip. It's supposed to. But after a heavy dose of salt and green onion, along with dips of the accompanying radish and cabbage kimchi, you end up with a soup equal measures irresistible and, as Jonathan Gold describes, flamingo pink.
Unlike ramen or pho, the noodles here — transparent and made from potatoes — are rather sparse, meant mostly for textural contrast. One instead eats sul lung tang with a bowl of rice, transporting spoonfuls of it into the soup or unloading it in huge batches and letting it saturate.
Either way, we consume each grain and spoonful until not a drop remains. When the craving for sul lung tang hits, we've discovered that we need every bit.