Korean Food – A dining adventure in Los Angeles

Since the start of this year, I’ve been on a Korean food binge.  I figure that before I start teaching myself on how to cook Korean food, I ought to get more acquainted with the Korean traditional dishes so I understand what it is that I’m trying to cook. Unfortunately, my real profession does not pay enough to take a trip to Korea at the moment. Ideally, traveling would inspire anyone including a fledging Home Cook like me. The other alternative is to look in my own backyard for inspiration.  Besides the all-you-can-eat Korean Barbeque joints that is seemingly the most popular (and familiar) Korean food in Los Angeles, I found that I preferred the Korean dishes with all the sinfully “good stuff” and the most unique cuts of meats. You know the “good stuff”? The Offals i.e. liver, kidney, intestines, etc. In between eating traditional Korean stews and noodles, I found that I also liked the modern take on traditional dishes. With about six months of eating my research, I feel confident now to cook Korean food; but before I do, let me tell you (Adventurous Foodies) about a few Korean dishes that are a must try.

Kobawoo House’s Bossam: A cold dish of Napa cabbage and succulent boiled pork belly.

Kobawoo House in Koreatown is an establishment that is as crowded as a sardine in a tin. There are no reservations. Instead, you merely show up, stick your name on the list for the next available table, and wait about 30 to  40 minutes until your name is called. I didn’t mind the wait, because I was in a zombie state for being hungry all day knowing perfectly well that I was going to feast in the evening. Pork belly is the ultimate food that I waited for. We all enjoy eating it as bacon for breakfast or in a BLT sandwich. In Asian cuisine, pork belly is a common staple in many dishes. There’s a lot of pork belly in Vietnamese cuisine like, for instance, in a Banh Mi. Filipinos love their pork belly in a dish called Lechon Kawali where the pork belly is deep fried and served with a liver sauce. There are a lot of pork belly dishes in Chinese cuisine. Kobawoo House specializes in an awesome dish called Bossam; a Napa cabbage and boiled pork belly dish. I’ve had this dish at a few other Korean restaurants in the Los Angeles area, but I think Kobawoo makes the best tasting Bossam. My friends and I ordered a combo of the regular pork belly and the Black pork belly. The server explained to us that Bossam is supposed to be eaten like a chicken lettuce wrap. So I pulled a piece of the Napa cabbage, which I noticed was salted when it was blanched.  Then, I stuffed thinly sliced pieces of pork and added pickled radish and some spicy kimchi. The taste of the Bossam is far better than the measly, boring chicken lettuce wrap. Prepared in the simplest form (boiling) with a few aromatics, the meat is succulent and juicy. The true essence of pork is all that you taste and nothing more. The Black Pork was definitely more refined flavor. 

Korean Blood Sausage Soup, Sundaeguk, is just as comforting as any other soup. 

I dined on the  Boudin Noir; France’s version of Blood Sausage (or better known as Blood Pudding) for the first time when I was studying French in college. Decades later, I was in a tapas bar in Barcelona, Spain where ate the Spanish version of Blood Sausage called Morcilla. It was grilled and served with  lots of garlic and onions with lots of Spanish Olive Oil. I never knew of the Korean version of blood sausage until I tried it a year ago. The Korean Blood Sausage,
Sundae (pronounced “soondae”) is prepared the same way as the European versions except for cellophane noodles replace the rice in the sausage stuffing. I’ve eaten this blood sausage boiled, grilled, and fried. But I would have to say that I find blood sausage soup comforting, because of the few little surprises inside; yes, the “good stuff”. 

At Jang To Restaurant, I became intrigued with the Sundaeguk, a Blood Sausage soup with a milky white broth.  

Jang To Restaurant (also known as Jang Tou or Jang Toh) is another Korean Restaurant in Los Angeles that also specializes in Bossam and many traditional Korean dishes. However, my favorite dish at Jang To is their Sundaeguk; a Blood Sausage soup. It’s magical! The blood sausage takes on a strange porous, pillowy texture that transforms itself into a dumpling in the broth. Besides the blood sausage, the soup also has bits of pig offals. A good portion of cellophane noodles is also added to slurp. With plenty of banchan, Sundaeguk is a hearty meal fit for about two to three people. Any adventurous Foodie looking for a unique fix would appreciate this soup as much as I did. Like any soup in Korean cuisine, it’s under salted. So, make sure that you salt your soup to your own liking.

A-Frame’s Knuckle Sandwich is one hell of a family-style dining feast. The oxtail and tendon are what makes this dish special. 
I’ve had my share of Chef Roy Choi’s Kogi tacos since he started his Kogi BBQ Truck a few years ago. Since his success, I’ve often wondered what else can this dude cook. As it turns out, his brick and mortar restaurant, A-Frame, is where I found all the his wonderful versions of traditional Korean dishes and his new wave of Asian-American cuisine. The Clam Chowder tastes much better with lemongrass coconut milk, but anything infused with coconut milk is bound to be great. The fries tastes better with Asian yams and potatoes, because it’s more sweeter.  Hell, even the Asian inspired cocktail drinks are inventive and unique; you get to decide if you like yours sour or sweet. However, of all the dishes that I liked at A-Frame, it’s the Knuckle Sandwich that’s a TKO! The Knuckle Sandwich is actually Gori Gomtang; a traditional Korean Oxtail soup. The oxtail and tendon are stewed to a perfect tenderness that the eating it is quite effortless.


This dish has onions and potatoes like any other beef soup except for the rich and intense meaty flavors from the 10 to 12-hour stewing process to achieve the almost milky white broth made from the bone marrow sucked out of the bones. The best way to enjoy this wonderful feast is to bring a few friends with you, because The Knuckle Sandwich dish should be a joint effort dining experience.  Instead of rice, the Knuckle Sandwich is served with slices of French baguette. Some people like to dunking pieces of baguette to soak in the broth. the best approach with the Knuckle Sandwich is by eating it like an open-faced sandwich. Pile a slice of baguette with the tender oxtail meat and a piece of tendon. Then drizzle some gelatinous broth over the meat and top it all off with spicy Korean chili sauce. Last, but not least, add few sprinkles of salt and pepper to seal the deal.  Voila! Mouth-watering goodness that fills you with warm-fuzzy feelings inside. Well, at least it did for me.

Jang To Restaurant
857 S Western Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90005

(213) 387-2241

Kobawoo on Urbanspoon

A-Frame on Urbanspoon