Namu Gaji's Gamja Fries: Another way to top your potato

“French fries were actually invented in Belgium,” a friend of mine says from the other side of the table. “American soldiers didn't realize which country they were in when they were eating them, so they called them French fries, but really they're Belgian.”

The origin of “French-fried' potatoes has long been a point of conflict between the French and the Belgians. Regardless of how you slice, dice, or fry them, though, potatoes in all forms are an ideal vehicle for delivering delicious toppings. A fan of sauces, spreads and dips of all sorts, I'm always looking for a new way to try them.

This past week I discovered Namu Gaji's gamja fries. Sturdy strips of fried potatoes piled on a plate and doused in spicy sauces and hearty toppings, they were made to be paired with pints of Asahi or soju shots, which is likely why they feature on Namu Gaji's happy hour menu (available Tuesday-Sunday, 5-6:30 p.m.). A bit novel, perhaps, but tasty all the same.

[jump] Here's a breakdown of this Korean equivalent to American chili cheese fries (or Canadian poutine as the case may be)

1. Start with the fries: They're thin enough to lattice, but thick enough to absorb dripping sauces and support the weight of hefty toppings. No wimpy, flimsy fry will do.

2. Next, the sauces: Bright red gochujang — a spicy, pungent fermented Korean condiment made from red chili, glutinous rice, fermented soybeans, and salt — is squirted over the fries along with an equal dose of creamy cooling Kewpie mayonnaise — a Japanese fan favorite made with rice vinegar rather than distilled vinegar (and other ingredients we don't want or need to think about).

3. Bulgoji beef: Literally “fire meat,” this Korean barbecue specialty is thinly sliced, marinated in sweet and savory spices, and drenched in Teriyaki sauce (a blend of soy sauce, sake, sugar and ginger that no savory pile of fried food would be complete without).

4. Kimchee relish: Developed as a means of preserving vegetables, this Korean equivalent of a spicy Asian sauerkraut is blended into a fine pile of fiery relish, scoop out onto the savory mound of meat and fries, and sprinkled with green onions.

Chopsticks are optional, but highly recommended.

Namu Gaji: 499 Dolores, 415-431-6268.

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