seoul searching no. 5
These past two weeks have probably been the most korean food i’ve eaten in a given time period since who-knows-when. maybe during college, when i would eat at steve’s barbecue (#2 daejee bulgogi) once a day. it’ll probably be just as long to the next time as soon as this week is over, and hahl-muh-nee goes back home.
We’re blessed to have so many korean restaurant options in l.a. but the big bbq restaurants, the heavy hitters, don’t really reflect the way korean people eat every day, whether here or in korea. korean people don’t have dinner tables in their houses with built-in miniature charcoal pits in the center. korean families don’t put out 20 different bahn-chahn at every meal. it’s not always galbi or bulgogi. in fact, in my grandmother’s house, very rarely is beef the main dish at all. it’s kind of similar to how so many people may think that japanese people eat sushi and tempura every day for dinner because of what is served in japanese restaurants here in l.a.
How nice to do dinner at home, korean-style. it was a family feast of good, homey food the way most korean people eat, with enough flavors and options to appeal to the palates of my half-korean cousins as well as my grandmother visiting the states for the second time in her life. i wish i had taken pictures!
There weren’t any fancy bahn-chan – just things that korean people have in huge jars on the bottom shelf of the fridge. we had chong-gak (baby radish), oi (cucumber) and regular kimchis, as well ggak-doo-gi (radish kimchi). there was gim (toasted korean-style nori) and mi-yuk (kelp) marinated in vinegar and salt. my favorites are always the dooboo moochim (marinated, sauteed tofu) and jahng-jo-rim (flank steak boiled in soy sauce and sugar).
We also had boochoo (chives) mahndoo, filled with chives, tofu, and a few other veggies – didn’t quite appeal to the kids. so for my little cousins, there were deep-fried gogi mahn-doo (beef-filled dumplings) and jahp-chae, another dish that is more popular and more familiar to non-korean palates. we had a simple clear broth soup with cabbage and radish. it’s hard to explain how something that’s served hot can be very refreshing. in korean, it’s "shyeon-heh."
It’s been a very long while since i’ve had mom’s home-marinated barbecue. she doesn’t need to marinate her own meat at home because korean markets sell it marinated raw by the pound. but i’ve noticed that, along with the barbecue at most koreatown restaurants, make it too sweet or too black peppery or too soy sauce-y. and i’m usually not one to ever complain about high flavor. mom’s has always been a perfect balance of sweet, spicy, and salty, and it was great to have it again.