REVIEW w/ pics: Korean BBQ Duck at Sun Ja Hang
When it comes to Korean BBQ, the usual suspects include beef, pork and occasionally seafood, but after I read about Sun Ha Jang's duck offerings on the Food GPS blog, I knew I had to pay this restaurant a visit. For those of you who wish to dine at Sun Ha Jang after reading my post, keep in my mind that the restaurant signage is strictly in Korean, so pay careful attention to the street address.
After we sat down and placed our order, individual dipping sauces and chili paste were placed before us. We also took a look at the pan where our duck was going to be cooking in during the latter part of the meal. Notice how the pan isn't flat. There's a reason for that. Simply, what makes this restaurant unique is not just about the duck, but that the duck cooks in its own fat. I bet you duck lovers out there really want to book it to Sun Ha Jang about now.
However, I'm getting ahead of myself. The duck is the main headliner, but first, we ate our way through the opening acts, starting with the Black Pork Belly which were grilled with garlic. The duck pan which I mentioned earlier was temporarily on hiatus. While the Black Pork Belly was cooking up, a variety of panchan hit our table. As the Black Pork dwindled down, it was eventually joined by the Short Rib and a couple of other dishes.
So that the meal wasn't going to be a complete meat fest, an order was placed for the Fish Egg Stew. It came before us bubbling and brewing. I really enjoyed the spice level which was just spicy enough without being overwhelming and yet, it was able to cut into the ocean-y and briny flavors coming from the fish eggs.
The yin to the yang of the Fish Egg Stew was the Spicy Cold Noodle dish. I liked the slight chew and pull of the buckwheat noodles and how the cucumbers added a nice juicy bite of freshness to this dish. The Cold Noodles were a refreshing counterpoint to the hot fish egg stew.
Finally, it was duck time, which means that the duck pan made its way back to our table. At Sun Ha Jang, there are 3 different types of duck on the menu: roasted duck, fresh duck and spicy seasoned duck. We went for the roasted duck and spicy seasoned duck, you can also see a photo of the fresh duck in my blog post below.
The Roasted Duck was interesting in the sense that they were formed into flat, cylindrical shapes. Our server had mentioned that there was a special process for the formation of the roasted duck pieces, but I can't remember what it was. When it came to the cooking, our server frowned on us doing it on our own, so first she started with browning it with garlic in that special pan.
Then she tilted the pan so that the duck oil would collect on one side of the pan and then the duck and garlic were moved to where the oil was cooking; hence, a duck confit-style of preparation. The little drainage hole in the pan was also blocked with kimchi to limit the loss of the duck oil. Other than just eating the duck pieces on their own, another way is to enjoy your duck on some lettuce with the addition of pickled onions, chili paste or whatever else suits your fancy. The Fresh Duck was basically just duck cut up into pieces, but was cooked in the same way as the Roasted Duck as you can see below.
After we had devoured the Roasted Duck, it was time to take a taste of the Spicy Seasoned Duck. That spicy seasoned duck definitely had some chili lovin' because the meat was a scorching red. It barely sat a second before it was placed into the pan where there was still left over oil from the previous duck dish we just had.
This is one dish that takes a lot of patience because the tendency was to move the duck around, but again, we were scolded by our server. Apparently, it's difficult to determine the doneness of the duck due to the chili coating. Only the servers really have the experience, so it was hands-off.
Finally, the duck was ready to eat. Looking at it, I felt my arteries hardening and yet, that wasn't going to stop me. By the way, our server knew what she was doing. The duck was cooked just right and I really liked the spiciness coming from the chili it was marinated in.
We ended the meal with fried rice that came with kimchi, scallions, radish and sesame seeds and yes, the fried rice was cooked in the duck oil. However, with all that duck oil, I was worried that the fried rice was going to be too greasy. To help with that, I asked for another helping of rice to be added and they were kind enough to accommodate my request. With the extra rice and the fact they drained the rest of the oil out of the pan, that fried rice was pretty darn tasty.
To end, I enjoyed my meal at Sun Ha Jang. I was concerned that the duck would be too oily or greasy, but that wasn't the case. The caramelization of the Roasted Duck added a subtle sweetness and the combination of duck oil and chili marinade added a slight smoky crust to the surface of Spicy Seasoned Duck as it was cooking, which made it even better. So if duck is your thing, be sure to give Sun Ha Jang a try, but also know that some of their non-duck dishes are pretty good, too.
Sun Ha Jang
4032 W Olympic Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90019
To see blog post complete with photos, go to:
Sun Ha Jang
4032 W Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90019