Thursday, October 20, 2011

Kimchi on My Hot Dog

“I wanna eat something weird,” I say to SW. “Or a hot dog.” 

Miraculously, we are able to combine my two cravings and we make our way to Asiadog, in the ambiguous SoHo/NoLIta/Chinatown area on Kenmare and Mott. Asiadog’s menu is quite simple—hot dogs with Asian-inspired toppings. For those who squirm at the thought of anything but ketchup, mustard, relish, etc. on a hot dog, Asiadog will certainly test your limits. However, if you are open-minded as SW and I were, then you will without a doubt have your mind blown.

The owners, known only as Mel and Steve, say on their website that “coming from mixed Asian backgrounds, we celebrate NYC's diversity by incorporating flavors found in China, Korea, Vietnam, Japan, and more.” There’s such simplicity in this statement, but that’s what's great about Asiadog as a whole—it’s a simple concept (a hot dog) topped with delightful, delicious complexities (the toppings).

The Asiadog logo. Brilliance.
SW and I almost pass the tiny storefront on Kenmare street, which I am only able to identify because of its chopsticks-holding-hot-dog logo. It is a tiny yet smartly-outfitted space, with one long l-shaped wooden booth in front of which sit three tiny tables and stools. Asiadog also pops up at places like Brooklyn Flea, Madison Square Eats, and more. The nature of the food is fast, though it’s certainly not “fast food,” because that’s just what hot dogs are. SW and I walk up to the counter and the friendly cashier takes our order on an iPad (SW and I are both utterly bedazzled already), swiping SW’s credit card on a tiny mechanism attached to the gadget. She text messages him his receipt from the iPad because, well, she can.

As far as dogs go, there are seven different kinds—Ginny, Ito, Mel & Steve, Vinh, Mash, Wangding, and Sidney—and their toppings collectively include things like potato chips, seaweed flakes, pork pate, sesame slaw, crushed peanuts, and pork belly. You have the option of ordering a flavor of dog, too, be it chicken, pork, veggie, beef, or organic beef. The store is also known for its Korean style Barbeque Bulgogi Burger.

Taking Asiadog up on their sweet deal of two dogs for $8 (they’re $4.50 individually), I order the Ito and Vinh dogs (both beef, whole wheat buns), while SW opts for Sidney and Mash (chicken and beef, white bread buns). The Ito dog is topped with Japanese curry and homemade kimchi apples. The Vinh is a Vietnamese bahn-mi style dog, graced with aioli, pate, cilantro, jalapeno and a slaw of cucumbers, pickled carrot and daikon radish. SW’s concoctions were as follows: Sidney –“Thai-style relish with mango, cucumber, red onion, cilantro, crushed peanuts, and fish sauce” and Mash – “Spicy ketchup, jalapeno mustard, crushed salt and pepper, and potato chips.”

SW and I are excited for these hot dogs, topped with crazy wonderful weird awesome ingredients. I’ll admit, I am generally one of those people who is frightened of non-traditional hot dog toppings (the thought of a chili dog makes my face do the same thing as the sight of dog droppings on the street or Donald Trump), but I have heard of Asiadog’s legitness (The New York Times, New York Magazine, etc.) so I am not worried this time.

Our dogs come out quickly and we dive right in, sharing bites to see what each tastes like. The Vinh has a nice crunchy, clean bite to it, but the Ito is my favorite. The Japanese curry is spicy but not too spicy, packed with delicious veggies like green and red pepper, and the kimchi apple is its perfect companion, clean and cool. What was even more interesting is that while the curry tasted oh-so-yummy on its own, it was even better atop the beef dog, sandwiched by the whole wheat roll.

I realize how much thought really goes into creating such a menu—not only do the combinations have to taste good as toppings, but they have to taste good on any dog the customer might choose to order, in any bun they choose. There’s math involved in there, but I forget what kind it’s called (I’m sure there’s similar math involved in all restaurants, but I find this math particularly interesting.). Even so, it’s cool that Mel & Steve have been able to guarantee that each dog will be a bearer of deliciousness. I am delighted that on a dark and seemingly abandoned street one can find such unusual, thought-provoking delicacies.

Had decency permitted, I would have licked my fingers clean and mopped up any stray toppings with the leftover hot dog bun. Oh wait…