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I Tried It: The Korean Egg Cappuccino

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As a puny fourth grader, I watched Rocky Balboa down a glass of raw eggs. In the movie’s opening scene, the soon-to-be prize fighter cracks four (four!) uncooked eggs into a plastic cup. Without cooking, heating, even whisking them, he knocks them back with a few swift and deep gulps. As a child—and semi-adult—I shuddered at the scene. Now, I’m no heavyweight champion, but a recent morning saw me, like Mr. Balboa himself, engaging in a little pre-breakfast raw egg consumption. And to my surprise, I enjoyed it.

My inquiry began after watching a video of curious New Yorkers sipping cappuccinos laced with raw egg yolk. The delight comes from behind the bar of Round K, a Korean coffee chain in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Naturally, I headed out to try it.

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The drink is not without context. It’s couched in a Korean tradition from the '60s and '70s, drawing inspiration from a popular drink served at dabangs (coffee shops). Round K’s version is only an interpretation of the original drink which was made from instant coffee, a pinch of salt, a raw egg yolk, sesame oil, and pine nuts or walnuts. The loaded drink was intended to energize its drinkers as well as leave them feeling satiated.

My very own.
My very own. Photo by Valerio Farris

At Round K, baristas whisk a shot of espresso and a (slightly boiled) egg yolk, then top it with frothed cream and a dusting of cocoa powder. From above, the drink reveals no underlying secret. However, after one sip I notice the difference. The coffee is intensely creamier, robust in texture and flavor. It isn't bitter, and I don't even need to add sugar. I sip slowly, not cautiously, but methodically. It feels heavier than a normal coffee in my mouth, but nothing so different.

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I'd get it again. And I'd tell someone else to try it. It's an inventive and novel spin, for sure, and deserves the hype. I did not feel ready to run triumphantly around the city of Philly, or even around the Lower East Side, but Round K's egg yolk coffee did keep me feeling warm and full a little bit longer.

Would you give this coffee a whirl? Let us know where you stand in the comments.

Tags: coffee, egg, yolk, internet, twitter, korean coffee