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Meat Jun Selection Rationale

Here are the Meat Jun Mayhem competitors listed in random order and the reasons we selected them to compete.

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What is meat jun?

To be honest, I not quite sure what meat jun is and I couldn't find too much online about its origins either. So here's my best shot at describing this delicacy...

It's Korean...das right yeah? I pretty sure it's Korean. Anyways it's thinly sliced beef that seems to be marinated in some kind of sweet/salty shoyu sauce. The meat is usually ultra tender. Then the meat is dipped in some kind of egg batter then it's deep fried which transforms it in to the yellow meat jun goodness. Then they slice it up and serve it with a shoyu type dipping sauce. Sometimes you get the red Korean Koochujung sauce too for double dip action.

What I noticed over the years is that some places get a more soft eggy batter while others get a more crispy chewy batter. Both taste good, but just different.

As for the origins of this dish, I always thought it was a traditional Korean dish, but people on the mainland said the mainland Korean restaurants no serve meat jun. And if you ask the Korean servers for meat jun, they look at you funny kine. I think only recently it's popping up in Korean places on the mainland (LA, Vegas). I heard that it's a local Hawaii Korean thing. I not too sure how true that is, but check out A Passion For Food blog for her explanation of the origins of meat jun, http://apassionforfood.blogspot.com/2007/05/peppas-on-king-st.html, and some ono looking pics.  If you know more about the origins or how it's cooked, let us know so we can put this mystery to rest.

Planning the Meat Jun Mayhem

In terms of planning and coordination, the Meat Jun Mayhem proved to be one of our most challenging taste tests yet.

Challenge #1 - We had a initial list of 24 meat juns that friends and family recommended as competitors.  I never realize had that much places that had winnah meat juns.  So we took this initial list and decided that the ones that had the most number of recommendations and the most passionate recommendations would be included.  This process left us with a list of about 12 meat juns that, after heated debate, we whittled down to 9.  This left us thinking that there may need to be a Meat Jun Mayhem round 2 to give the other places a shot at the title.  We excluded meat juns from the fancier Korean restaurants (i.e. Sorabol) and stuck to the Korean take out places.

Challenge #2 - Among the people who grew up eating at Soon's Kal-bi Drive-In, their meat jun is easy to recognize. So we had to come up with a way to disguise the Soon's meat jun to throw off the judges and reduce their bias towards Soon's, if they happened to recognize it during the tasting.  After some discussion and reminiscing about meat jun, we recalled a story about J's Bbq in Kakaako that supposedly had meat jun just like Soon's.  I not one for gossip...I just pass on information...so here goes.  Rumour has it that the cook at J's has some kind of connection with Soon's (maybe he used to cook at Soon's) and replicated the Soon's meat jun recipe, then opened his own diner. I not sure if this is true or not...just something I heard. So about a month before the Meat Jun Mayhem, I went down to J's and tried the meat jun and it looked just like Soon's...and tasted pretty ono.  So we found our Soon's decoy and entered it as a competitor, but never tell the judges. 

Challenge #3 - Had to have the meat juns delivered to the tasting location as fresh as possible.  Plenty people told us plenty times, "meat jun is not the same if it's cold you know!" and all condescending tone like that. So we recruited 4 of our most talented runners to get 2 meat juns each, except for one runner who had to get 3 meat juns...he's now our elite black belt supa dupa runner.  We had high expectations of this talented group of young food runners and they came through like champs. Malos guys!

This time, we decided to taste only the meat jun and sauce and felt the rice and the Korean vegetables was not critical to the experience of eating a good meat jun. 

We did the same side by side judging style as the other challenges where all the meat juns were lined up with their random letter. Then the judges served themselves in any order and scored each one. We did weighted scoring again with taste=50%, texture=30% and presentation=20%.

Best Meat Jun - Final Results and Rankings

The Meat Jun Mayhem took place on August 23, 2008. (Mahalos to Club Queen Bee for use of their facilities.) 9 of the "best" meat juns, from some of the "best" places, faced off in a WOW Grinds blind taste test. The top 3 competitors finished neck and neck and neck, leaving the rest of the pack in the dust. Click "read more" to see the results.

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Findings & Conclusion - Best Meat Jun

The results of the Meat Jun Mayhem disappointed the die hard fans of Soon's, while it validated the Aiea folks who love the flavors of Young's Kal Bee.  In addition to the usual questions we address in our findings and conclusions, our stats guy did some interesting things with the scores which gave us little bit more insight in to how this race was won. Here's our take on the results.

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