Ready for Koreatown 201
After 30-odd years with literally no Korean food in my life, I've spent my first year in L.A. learning the basics of Korean food. I've done bimbimbap and Kyochon and BBQ. I've developed opinions on banchan (more places should serve the tiny dried fish). I feel like I've passed Koreatown 101.
Still, I feel like I've barely scratched the surface of Korean food, and find the sheer number of joints in Koreatown to be overwhelming. So, help me out. What's next? What are some dishes and places to take my knowledge to the next level?
(I love spicy food, am adventuresome in my eating and am certainly not a vegetarian. I don't mind spending money but love holes-in-the-wall. I know absolutely no Korean.)
stews. spicy korean stews with chunks of protein.
i'd start with the most basic and order kimchi jigae. this is stew # 1 in most korean households, and consists of kimchi and bits of meat, usually pork, and is served with rice and some side dishes. pretty much every hole in the wall serves this and should be no more than $10.
if you like this, you probably will like most other korean stews, since many have a similar spice impact but with a different meat/veg combo.
Now that you've mastered the basics, try some Korean comfort food. I love the funky braised mackeral and short ribs at Seongbukdong (see this recent LA Times article by our own Thi Nguyen: http://www.latimes.com/features/food/...). There's also the excellent oxtail soup with tongue at Hanbat Shul-Lung-Tang at 5th and Western. You didn't mention soon tofu but that's another whole world of things to try.
I went to Soot Bull Jeep (BBQ) last time I was in town and I thought it was great. Apparently it is one of the few places in L.A. where they use real charcoal. If you go there I can really recommend the short ribs.
Soot Bull Jeep
3136 W 8th St, Los Angeles, CA 90005
I gotta say, right now I'm really craving the crab feast at Ondal 2. I think that's a great next step for you.
Also, soondubu (at Beverly Soon and Sokongdong, both across the street from each other) would be fun.
Bossam pork at Kobawoo House is fun, too, though they're the exception to a general rule that I have that banchan can be used as a measuring stick to how good the restaurant is: their banchan is terrible but the bossam and also the mung bean pancake is delicious.