North Korean dishes - where can you find each of these and which American city has the best?
I find southern Korean food much more spicy, salty and fishy. There is a whole lot of overlap now, of course, but I find the northern Korean food distinctly bland and comforting.
Popular in Seoul (probably not as popular as garlic mozzarella pizza sans tomato paste), North Korean food is sought after:
Shinsunlo ("hermit-wizard hearth")
Saengchae (raw vegetable salad)
Soongojim (steamed mullet)
Kwonggui (roasted pheasant)
Hamgyung soondae (northern sausage)
Hobak gyungdan (pumpkin sweet rice balls)
Osaek gyungdan (five-colored sweet rice balls)
Nokdu bindaedduk (mung bean pancake)
Dongchimi (white radish kimchi)
Yangbaechoojim (steamed cabbage leaf & rice rolls)
Gujolpan (nine "namool" marinated herbs and vegetables)
Kongnamoolgook (bean sprouts soup)
Kong beejee stew
Kalbitang (beef rib soup)
Samgyetang (chicken soup with ginseng)
Popular enough in America to be good?
I think LA has the best Korean food in the world. Yongsusan specializes in north Korean food including the special whole cabbage kimchi, can't remember what it is called. Most of the other things you list are pretty common. But I am not really sure I understand your question: 'popular enough in America to be good?',
I agree about LA.
Here's an excellent article (a little old, but still good) about food in LA Koreatown, the center of LA action. I was in LA briefly last year, but didn't get to visit Koreatown. I hear it's glowing like Roppongi, and businesses are open until 3-4 am. (I used to live in LA in the 90's)
"Korean cooking, at least as it is presented in Los Angeles, is not an especially refined cuisine. Korean restaurants here tend to be either homey or raffish, Mom’s cooking or sophisticated bar snacks. Nobody seems especially concerned with royal delicacies from the Koryo empire: Korean restaurants, even the expensive ones, serve people’s food. The Kaesong-style restaurant Yongsusan may be in a class by itself, an elegant warren of discreet, private dining rooms, a redoubt of what seems very much like Korean haute cuisine. I have never tasted anything like the bo sam kimchi here, a green, round cabbage that has been hollowed out and stuffed, then wrapped up again and left to ferment whole. Roast pork is almost Italian in its voluptuousness, noodles are light as air, and the oyster porridge is divine."
As for my hurriedly phrased "popular enough to be good" question, LA is the perfect answer since it has the critical mass to support that kind of cuisine initially, so I think my question was fair. I just hope that it will happen to other cities as well, most notably San Francisco.
As for cities with almost no Korean population, it would be interesting to see if popular demand is not necessarily the only criterion for excellence.
I third the suggestion of LA, because most of your dishes sound familiar even though I'm far from being fluent in Korean cuisine talk. Northern Korean dishes, unsurprisingly, tend to remind me of Northern Chinese dishes. Lots of hot soup, noodles, and bland (but in a good way) flavors.
LA is probably your best bet for North Korean food -- another option would be in northern New Jersey or the east 30s of Manhattan.
I know for sure that they have dongchimi noodles at The Corner Place in LA, on James Wood and Vermont, but you can't get them to go, because they're afraid someone will steal the recipe.
Kalbitang is very, very common in LA.
re: Das Ubergeek
I love the feel of the 32nd street. Not familiar with northern New Jersey Korean scene.
Steal the recipe? That must be one good dongchimi. Never had it as a noodle dish. Could you describe it?
Yes, I think there are lots of common sounding dishes, but regional styles would be different.
It would be really neat to classify and catalogue each style, be it bibimbop or kalbitang.
I honestly don't know what the big deal is about the Corner Place dongchimi
Noodles--very very good. Great bouncy texture, very thin, but I'm sure there are other people out there who know the secret to great noodle making.
Broth--tangy (vinegar?), clear, and a little effervescent. People suspect it's 7Up. There's a slight whiff of something funky in it as well. Probably fermented something or other, but juts barely enough that's there's an aftertaste of funk.
It's really annoying that the only option there is an enormous bowl. If you're not going to let people take food to go, you should at least offer two sizes.
A couple of traditional North Korean dishes, now novelties in the south.
1) Chogyetang, originally a court cuisine summer dish.
Finely shredded chicken in cold broth, sort of like naengmyon with chicken instead of the noodles.
2) Gajami shikhae, pickled sole, popular in Hamhung, Hamgyungdo
I have never seen these. Have you seen any?
I also recommend LA's Yongsusan. My dad's side of the family is originally from Kaesong (moved south early in the 20th century) so I grew up with a lot of these traditional Kaesong dishes that would flummox our next-door neighbors in Yesan. I guess with the rise of the foodie scene there's a lot more awareness of intra-Korean cuisines, even among non-Koreans.
I would say Yongsusan's renditions of Kaesong-style cuisine is dependable and quite good, but not amazing. It is however a unique place in LA, and I don't know of a similar place in town. I think the overall quality of food has gone down half a notch in the last couple years, but it's still a great place for a formal gathering.