Gom Tang E, Annandale, VA

It was a 1 AM run to Annandale’s Gom Tang E, currently my favorite Seol Leong Tang house in the metropolitan area.

You know you’re in for something special when you walk in, and behind a glass partition, there is a huge (and I mean huge) metal vat with so much steam pouring out of it that you feel like you’re at a rock concert. This is the long-cooked seol leong tang, burbling and bubbling for all to see. It is a sight to behold, and everyone should see it at least once in their lives.

When I called, the gentleman said I should just come in, and the (carryout) order will be ready in five minutes (it is, after all, already cooked, and it’s just a matter of adding the ingredients). I arrived and ordered the Dogani Seol Leong Tang ($8.99, unlimited refills on broth (!)) which is ox knee-bone hot stew with ox stomach. The young Korean man looked at this white boy like I was crazy, or more accurately, like I didn’t know what I was getting myself in for. “No,” he said, laughing. “You’re not going to eat this.”

“Yeah, I really am,” I said.

He looked at me dismissively and laughed, and said, “No, you’re not.” The entire thing was very friendly, not at all condescending, and I was loving every minute of it.

And the stomach (a form of tripe) was honeycomb delicious – nice and thick, with a spongy, sea-cucumber-ish texture that soaked up the broth beautifully. I dumped the rice in the bottom of my bowl (a sin, I know, but I do it anyway), ground some fleur de sel crystals rather than the large (suspected) MSG crystals that came with the order (the gentleman assured me that there was no MSG in the broth itself which is mild to the point of being bland), and passed on both tubs of kimchee which came gratis on the side (I just didn’t want chili sauce at 2 AM). I ate every bite, and went right to sleep. It was the perfect soporific.

I love this place, and although I’ve been to the Centreville location, I haven’t yet tried the Seol Leong Tang there; I got the Ox Blood Soup instead, which, in theory, is even weirder. Yet another example that you cannot fully appreciate the diversity of DC-area cuisine until you plumb the depths of the burbs and their ethnic pockets.

One other thing: when I mention the ethnicity, or suspected ethnicity, of a restaurant, a restaurateur, or a restaurant worker in these posts, it is purely in the spirit of exploration and curiosity. I am endlessly curious, and wish to experience all the glories that our world and its fascinating heritages and traditions have to offer.

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