This week’s Neighborhood Eats had me venturing to Federal Way, a community that is second only to Tacoma’s Lakewood neighborhood in density of great Korean restaurants. There was no way I was going to Federal Way and not getting Korean food. The only problem? I’m just not ready to eat at a restaurant, inside or outside.

The wrinkle is that Federal Way is 30 miles from my house. Undeterred, I went in search of dishes that were not only good for take-away overall, but had the potential to survive the trip back to my house.

If you are actively eating in restaurants, two of the ones I went to were open for dining-in. Federal Way also has a handful of beautiful parks if you wish to procure takeout and dine al fresco. Still, I chose to order takeout AND drive home to Greenwood. I have no regrets. In fact, I would gladly drive 60 miles round trip to get any of these dishes again.

Traditional Korean Beef Soup

8:30 a.m.-10 p.m. daily, open for dining in and takeout; 31248 Pacific Highway S., Federal Way; 253-946-1101

The seolleongtang soup from Traditional Korean Beef Soup is a real choose-your-own-adventure bowl, filled with noodles and beef, customized with salt, green onion, chili paste and kimchi.  (Jackie Varriano / The Seattle Times)
The seolleongtang soup from Traditional Korean Beef Soup is a real choose-your-own-adventure bowl, filled with noodles and beef, customized with salt, green onion, chili paste and kimchi. (Jackie Varriano / The Seattle Times)

As the name of this restaurant suggests, it specializes in the homestyle Korean beef soup called seolleongtang. The broth is a milky white, rich with marrow from a long, slow simmer of oxtail bones. The soup comes with your choice of meat: brisket, tongue, tendon or a mixture that includes tripe and either wheat or clear sweet potato noodles. There’s also Korean dumpling soup, steamed pork dumplings and a seafood pancake on the abbreviated menu.

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The seolleongtang (written as Sullung Tang on Traditional Korean Beef Soup’s menu) is a collagen-rich bowl of unseasoned soup. It is served with a side of flaky sea salt, a fiery chili paste called dadegi, sliced green onions and sides of rice, cabbage kimchi and kkadugi, a radish kimchi. Because I got it to-go, the noodles were also served on the side. You are instructed to first season with salt (and black pepper if you wish), then add green onions, dadegi and even kimchi — tasting between each addition. It is a perfect bowl of soup aided by the flexibility you get to tinker, adding a bit more dadegi after each bite, stirring in bits of rice or even dipping slices of cabbage kimchi. The paper-thin sheets of brisket were incredibly tender, the kkadugi kimchi crunchy, sour and spicy.

The portion is quite large, and the next day my leftover soup was a beautiful brick of gelatin that reheated easily. I added a few more noodles, the rest of the green onions and crunched my way through the remainder of the kimchi.

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Daebak Wang Mandoo

11 a.m.-9 p.m. Wednesday-Monday, open for dining in and takeout; 33100 Pacific Highway S., Federal Way; 253-517-9548

The Korean dumplings called mandoo are massive, bready steamed dumplings filled with red bean paste, ground pork and noodles or ground pork with spicy kimchi at Daebak Wang Mandoo.  (Jackie Varriano / The Seattle Times)
The Korean dumplings called mandoo are massive, bready steamed dumplings filled with red bean paste, ground pork and noodles or ground pork with spicy kimchi at Daebak Wang Mandoo. (Jackie Varriano / The Seattle Times)

Located in a strip mall, Daebak Wang Mandoo specializes in king-size dumplings called mandoo (also spelled mandu), stuffed with a slightly sweet red bean paste, pork or pork and kimchi. Unlike the pan-fried dumplings also available at Daebak, these mandoo are more like a steamed Chinese hombow. They’re about the size of a softball and are packed with filling and flavor.

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The pork mandoo combines ground pork with sesame oil, green onion, vermicelli noodles and a good amount of black pepper. The spicy pork is all that plus kimchi. The red bean features red bean paste as well as whole beans and black rice. At $2.50 each, these are a cheap and delicious quick lunch and were still warm and soft after the drive.

I also got an order of the spicy cold noodles, made with sweet potato noodles drenched in a gochujang-heavy sauce and topped with slivers of apple, cucumber, a hard-boiled egg and a slice of beef brisket. The tower of noodles soaked up most of the sauce, but that wasn’t a bad thing. Use scissors to snip up the noodles and mix in the egg, brisket and vegetables. There was also a side of pickled radish to mix in if you wished.

The gochujang sauce is spicy and sweet, but also a little sour and completely refreshing on a hot summer day. I can imagine it being the perfect side to nicely charred beef bulgogi or freshly fried chicken, but it’s also deliciously satisfying on its own.