Yook Hwae at Mirror of Korea in St. Paul

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

There are a number of great steak tartares in town — the big-as-a-soccer ball monstrosity at 112 Eatery, HauteDish’s quirky riff on steak and eggs, even the Thai-inspired carpaccio / spicy tartare combo on offer on a recent visit to the Dakota (quality tuna tartare, in this writer’s opinion, is another story…). For a lover of all things meat, though, your raw meat tasting scorecard is incomplete without the simple Korean yook hwae served up at St. Paul’s Mirror of Korea.

Sliced, not ground, the silky ribbons of meat are heavily studded with raw garlic — enough to ward off hordes of vampires, so steer clear of this dish on date night — and enrobed in a generous sprinkling of sesame oil. The nutty, rich meat mixture, combined with cool cucumber slices and white rice, makes for a pleasantly contrasting dish. Traditionally, many people serve the meat with Asian pear, which offers a bit more sweetness than the cucumber — but regardless, the cucumber or pear offers a needed element of crunch and relative neutrality to a dish where the meat is the star of the show.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

So why can’t you get the dish at restaurants across town? We asked Kimberly Firnstahl, owner of neighboring Sole Cafe, last summer. Her answer described a classic case of supply and demand: Unless the demand is sufficiently high to warrant the inventory cost, it’s just too much of a hassle to maintain stock of enough meat adhering to Korean guidelines for yook hwae freshness. Mirror’s where the yook hwae is at — and it’s worth stopping by.

If you prefer to deal with raw meat in your own kitchen, pick up the freshest meat your butcher can offer and try making your own yook hwae at home.

Mirror of Korea

761 Snelling Ave N
St. Paul, MN 55104
CHEF / OWNER: Ki-Ok Choi
Mon, Wed-Fri 11am-9:30pm
Sat 12pm-9:30pm
Sun 12-9pm
BAR: Wine / Beer

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table