Tacoma debut of Mogoso Noodles and Dumplings is this week
When the noodle and dumpling stand Mogoso debuts at the Tacoma Farmers Market Thursday (June 4), the pop-up restaurant will merge the palates of its Korean and Chinese owners. It’ll also fill a need for delicious, inexpensive and quickly prepared food for downtown Tacoma office workers.
The menu items are simple and built from scratch: Handmade noodles and handmade dumplings anchor the menu. They intend to serve every Thursday at the Broadway Market this season.
The restaurant stand is from June Yoon and Sun Lee, partners in business and life. Yoon, who is Korean, grew up in Kent. Lee, who is Chinese, grew up in Philadelphia. Lee and Yoon met when she moved here from Philadelphia on a total whim.
Lee handles the marketing and business side of the restaurant. Yoon handles the food. Their combined Korean and Chinese palates guide the flavor of their cuisine.
He’s a trained chef with stops on his resume at Seattle’s Canlis and Joule. He’s also worked in Tacoma kitchens: Wooden City in downtown Tacoma and Moshi Moshi, the ramen restaurant in Stadium.
Yoon and Lee use Moshi Moshi’s sister restaurant, Indo Asian Street Eatery, as their home base/commissary kitchen. Yoon considers Moshi Moshi/Indo co-owner Yu Nanakornphanom a friend and mentor.
Both say their mothers have greatly influenced their palates. The restaurant name is a derivative of a phrase Yoon was asked constantly by his mom growing up, “Are you hungry?”
“When your Korean mom or dad asks you if you’re hungry or if you’ve eaten that day, they say ‘Bap Mogoso,’ which is literally translated, ‘Have you eaten rice?’ I thought the word mogoso was kind of fun, and kind of playful.”
Lee said she grew up with a similar question,” In Chinese culture, it’s ‘have you eaten rice?’ It’s funny, but rice takes the place of the word food in that question.”
Said Yoon, “My mom’s specialty, she would make miso soup with gochujang in it and pork belly, zucchini and tofu.” He also grew up eating the universal dish of Spam and eggs, served in his house with rice and kimchi. “Since I was a kid, she would ask me to taste things. And I discovered in culinary school, I had no problem seasoning things because my mom always tasted her food, and I did, too.”
Yoon said his blend of cooking styles is a culmination of growing up eating his mother’s favorite Korean dishes, and techniques and tricks he learned under the watch of Rachel Yang at Joule, as well as working with Nanakornphanom.
Yoon and Lee, when they lived in Seattle, made a habit of trying a broad range of noodle restaurants. “We fell in love with those noodles and we would eat them every week,” said Yoon.
Noodles are laborious, but inexpensive for ingredients, and they thought building a menu around Yoon’s specific style of noodles would resonate with local diners.
Yoon describes his alkaline noodles as a cousin to ramen noodles “in different shapes and sizes” and knife cut, so they have more surface area to carry his handmade chili-infused oil. They come with plenty of chewy resistance and a springy texture, Yoon and Lee described.
Lee marvels at Yoon’s ability to layer flavors and his focus on balancing acid, fat and salt. Said Lee, “It’s all chewy, crunchy, acid, salt and fat. It’s a balanced texture and flavor, not a one-note thing.”
Added Yoon, “I love one-bowl meals. Definitely fine dining has its place, but something affordable that will fill you up and keep your belly warm, and you can eat off it two times, that’s my kind of eating.”
The beef noodle bowl comes with knife-cut noodles, braised beef, kale, fried shallots and herbs. Splashes of chili oil and vinegar will tie together those ingredients ($12).
A vegan-friendly version of that dish comes with tofu and pickled shallots ($10). They’ll also offer an order of six chicken and charred-chive dumplings, handmade, and topped with a vinegar dressed green onion salad ($8).
Their style of food will be quick service, with each dish taking moments to prepare. They’ll steam their dumplings in their commissary and then quick griddle to crisp them to order.
“Our noodles are fresh so the cooking time is short,” said Lee. “It’s going to be ready quickly because we have everything prepared. It’s just boiling the noodles and topping the noodles. We thought of our customers, in downtown, and their need to eat quickly, when we developed the menu.”
While they’re starting small with a pop-up stand at the Tacoma Broadway and Tacoma Proctors farmers markets, they’d someday like to expand to a tiny storefront. “The restaurant we’d want to open would be maybe 20-by-25 feet, just like really limited service but good service,” said Yoon.
Keep an eye on their social media for schedule changes or additions.
Thursdays: Tacoma Farmers Market, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
Schedule: Always double check on social media
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