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Mar 29, 2008 06:10 PM

Tak kalbi

When I lived in Korea, one of my favorite meals was tak kalbi, a mess of chile-paste marinated chicken stir-fried on a griddle at your table with napa cabbage and logs of rice cakes. It’s a specialty of Chuncheon-do, a province on South Korea’s east coast.

A nice and shiny tak kalbi restaurant existed years ago for a while in a minimall on 8th Street (as did a restaurant whose Korean sign proclaimed that it sold dog soup), but after it closed there was only this kind of sketchy-looking place on Olympic, a few blocks east of the Koreatown Galleria. OK, even in Korea some of the best restaurants are deceptively crappy looking, but it still took me a long time to get around to trying it.

The menu is pretty brief. There’s tak kalbi, samgyeopsal (grilled pork belly), pork kalbi, and … actually, that might be it. I can’t remember whether they had beef. No mak kuksu, I was disappointed to find.

But the tak kalbi hits the spot. This isn’t a refined dish, so I’m not going to rave about the nuances; just know that the spicy-sweet seasoning permeates and does lovely things to the satisfyingly chewy rice cakes, which soften beautifully as they cook; the tender chicken; and the crunchy cabbage. And what sets this version apart is plenty of kkaenip, an anise-scented herb that haunts my dreams. Good on you, Mapo Galbi.

Blog post with photos:

Mapo Galbi
3090 W Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90006

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  1. Cicely, I was just about to post for candidates for the best beef kalbi. That's the only dish that the query would question. Any candidates?

    I will be checking out Mapo and ordering tak kabli in a matter of days; great post, thanks.

    3 Replies
    1. re: gadflier

      go search for korean bbq and you'll find numerous posts about korean bbq and you'll find out what the best beef kalbi (Park's is probably the consensus best)

      tak kalbi is quite a bit different than regular kalbi (its soo awesome fyi)

      Cicely - thx for finding this place, i love tak kalbi and i havent had real tak kalbi since the last time i was in seoul

      1. re: Lau

        ack, I probably should've been more descriptive in the title field re kalbi, but it's too late now. The only sad thing about this place, as opposed to the tak kalbi places in Seoul, is that they don't do mak kuksu, a version of naeng myun in broth with chile sauce and roasted sesame seeds that I love.

        1. re: Cicely

          mak kuksu is awesome although u don't really see it in restaurants very often

          my gf's mom makes an awesome mak kuksu although she pretty much makes any korean food awesome