Many thanks to a reader who sent me an email the other day whose subject line read "holy crap you are a piggie" and whose message read "OINK OINK OINK OINK OINK OINK."
"How mean!" the rest of you might be saying. Not at all. See, not only did this email make me laugh my ass off, but it also reminded me of one my favorite Flintsones episodes. Remember the one where Fred was forced to join Food Anonymous (F.A.) because of his laughable appearance as the Before guy in the Fat Off weight loss commercial? There was this little guy who followed Fred around town and everytime he tried to eat, the little bugger would somehow yank his pteradactyl drumstick or bronto-burger away from him (via a fishing pole or an arrow tied to a string or what have you) and then yell "Oink Oink Oink Oink Oink!!!!" Classic.
So to my reader, for the chuckles and the nice trip down memory lane, this one's for you!
After a rough week, four or my friends and I decided to go make pigs of ourselves the other day over at Koreatown's Kobawoo House. I was about to flake because I had given myself a sugar- and caffiene-induced headache when I slurped down a Thai Iced Coffee earlier in the afternoon, but I left work early so that I could go home and take a nap, get rid of my headache and still make it to the night's glutton fest. I felt better, so I got ready, and in an almost comatose state, made like a sloth towards K-town.
I finally arrived and the other swine were already waiting for me at our feed stall (a.k.a. table) located in the back of this crowded eatery. We caught up with each other, oinking away about our lives for a litle bit, then we put our order in for our nightly feed. Our panchan arrived shortly thereafter: baechu (napa cabbage) kimchi, some type of soft sliced radish, cold marinated cucumber, and shredded pickled daikon (sorry, don't know the names of all of them!). Though not too impressed with the sliced radish, our other panchan was tasty, the baechu kimchi being especially impressive--a good balance of spiciness, saltiness, sweetness, crunchiness and softness. But wait...only one, two, three..only FOUR plates of panchan??? What happened to the close-to-ten they give you at other places? We're pigs dammit, and we want QUANTITY.
Not enough for gluttons, but good: Kobawoo's panchan
In order to satisfy our craving for gnawing at, chewing up, and ripping through meat, we ordered a portion of kalbi, or short ribs. Although Kobawoo's not a Korean barbeque-type restaurant, there's still a good selection of grilled meats available, but the lack of quality in their barbecue item shows. Our kalbi was a bit on the dry side, perhaps from lack of tenderization from a proper marinade. We ate the whole thing regardless. Oink oink.
Not so oink-worthy kalbi
The restaurant's hae mul pa jeon, or seafood pancake, was of much better quality. Thick and fluffy, chock full of scallions and seafood like squid, oyster, krab, and shrimp, grilled to a nice golden brown, we'd take a chunk of hae mul pa jeon, dip it into the lip smacking ponzu-like dipping sauce, and then shove the sauce-laden chunk into our hungry mouths. We repeated the process over and over--tear off a piece, dip, eat, and so on and so forth--chewing and snorting away, until the 12" diameter pancake was finished.
Golden brown and oink-worthy hae mul pa jeon
Aaah, nothing beats the feeling of mixing different kinds of food up into a virtual feed, and nothing could be more perfect than the different vegetables and ingredients of a sizzling dol sot bibim bap mixed up into a flavorful medley. We squirted some gochujang, red pepper paste, onto the ingredients in the big stone bowl, or "trough" in this case, and watched as the gochujang, rice, grilled egg, shredded toasted nori, bits of grilled beef, shreds of seasoned zucchini, carrots, and bean sprouts, and garlicky spinach became a unified, heavenly mass of tasty goodness. Our snouts took in the wonderful smoky aroma of garlic, sesame and red pepper. A generous scoop of the spicy, texturally-appealing rice mixture was rationed for each one of us, and we tore through it like hogs tearing though slop at feeding time.
Perfect trough food: dol sot bibim bap
The highlight of the evening--the piece du resistance--however, was none other than a PORK dish, daeji bo sam, that the restaurant is well known for. A dish that for some reason, perhaps because of a mix up in the kitchen or because of a short staff that evening, we waited for long after getting our other three dishes. We squealed and squealed, grunting and growling, that our favorite dish had not arrived yet. One of my fellow swine resorted to squealing to the waiter in Korean and the waiter whined something back that none of the rest of us swine could understand, but next thing you know, our pork nirvana was on the table. We slobbered at the platter arranged artfully with tender slices of pork belly, crisp napa cabbage leaves, crunchy thin rounds of pickled daikon , spicy radish and a scoop of a salty shrimp paste for a second and then dug in. The napa cabbage or daikon rounds are used to wrap up the slices of pork that you can top with the spicy radish and dot with a little bit of the shrimp paste if you so desire. Biting into the porky little bundle, you get a little crunchy, a little garlicky, a little salty, and a little tender--we were eating our own kind, but it was well worth it.
Wins the trophy for oink-worthyness: daeji bosam
So this little piggy left happy and cried "Wee, wee, wee"--all the way home.
698 S. Vermont Ave., ste 109
Los Angeles, CA 90005