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Korean market and restaurant set to expand |

Korean market and restaurant set to expand

  • An order of spicy pan-broiled squid, fried dumplings and kimbap with rice and assortment of banchan at Seoul Asian Market  Cafe. Photo: Paul Stephen, San Antonio Express-News



There’s a controlled ballet around the dozen or so burners packed into the cramped kitchen at Seoul Asian Market Cafe. A recent lunch rush finds four cooks pirouetting past one another as skillets and pots sputter and steam under an obviously overtaxed ventilation hood.

“We don’t have enough hands,” said Alice Cheng, whose family opened the store, now located at 1027 Rittiman Road, in the 1980s. “We’re going to need more workers.”

The close quarters don’t prevent a masterful execution of choreography. Spicy pan-broiled squid is served in a sauce worthy of plate licking. Fiery beef noodle soup bubbles angrily in a screaming hot stone pot. Banchan — potent sides of fermented vegetables, pickles and other flavor-packed nibbles — are abundant and delicious.

And customers have taken note. About two dozen seats are wedged into a corner of the store, one bank of tables hemmed in by cleaning supplies, another backed by a retail floor shelf loaded with kitchen equipment, and those chairs are seldom empty. The store added the cafe about seven years ago, Cheng said. Demand for the roughly 50 traditional Korean dishes has far exceeded initial expectations.

Fortunately for cooks and diners alike, the business will soon reopen in a significantly larger space. Cheng said she’s several weeks from unveiling new digs just around the corner from her current address in the Sam Huston Center shopping plaza. The new space at 1005 Rittiman Road Suites 101 and 102 should be done by mid-July and accommodate more diners, merchandise and elbow room for the legion of cooks — all relatives of Cheng.

“We keep growing more and more,” she said. “We’re getting a little bit bigger this time, too.”

Seoul Asian Market Cafe is open 9 a.m.-9 pm. Monday-Saturday and 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday. The kitchen operates 10:30 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Saturday.

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