Thursday, April 27, 2006

Untitled, 2006: Mystery Food Stall at California Market, Koreatown

You'd think by now I would know his name.

I've paid quite a few visits to this Korean food stall located inside Koreatown's
California Market, yet I still don't know what to call it because all the signs are in Korean. Yes, my friends, this is the John Doe of Korean food stalls. Or should I call it John Kim? (Yoo-hoo readers, this is your cue to interject...if you know Korean, please tell me what the hell it's called)

Despite the language barrier, I can tell John Kim is a pretty straightforward kind of guy. There are about 20 things on his menu, all identified by a colorful picture, a number, the price and a description in Korean. There are things I can recognize like bulgogi and daeji bulgogi, kim bap and kimchi jigae. And there are a few things, mostly soup and noodle based items that I've seen before but can't remember the name of or read them for that matter. I go to John Kim everytime, though, for his bibim naeng myun, or spicy cold noodle with beef. "Number 19," I always say to the cashier, pointing to the menuboard picture above.

I wouldn't say it's eyes-roll-to-the-back-of-your-head good or anything, but it's certainly pretty damn decent. When California Market is the last stop on a long Sunday afternoon of dodging crowds and traffic while running errands and grocery shopping, a bowl of this sinus clearing stuff from John Kim is the perfect pick me up.

I always take mine to go because one, I don't want to be seen eating inside California Market and two, because well, where would I leave my cart? Of course I could shop after I eat, but you know, I'm just not that smart. So I bring the to go box home with me, having to endure the smell of red pepper paste, sesame oil and cucumbers the entire car ride.

Mr. Kim is practical--he always wraps my noodles in a plastic bag before it goes into the takeout container, helping to prevent any unfortunate spills in the car and also allowing the ingredients to marinate a little more until I get home. I wish I owned one of those cool metal bowls that these types of noodle dishes usually come in at the restaurants, but I don't, so instead, I dump the bag of noodles into the next best thing--a white Corning Ware bowl with little country prints on the side--and cut the noodles with kitchen shears to make them a little easier to pull apart. And with bowl and a bottled water in hand, I always head over to the TV to enjoy my fiery afternoon meal. I will admit that taking the noodles to go takes slightly away from the perfect chewiness these types of buckwheat noodles, but they do have a pretty good pull regardless. The spiciness is certainly appropriate though--not quite an immediate tongue numbing spiciness, but a spiciness that starts more salty at first, a wonderful blend of red pepper and sesame oil, and then slowly creeps up on you the more you eat--perfect for eating while cussing out all the stupid girls on
My Super Sweet Sixteen.

Fifteen to twenty minutes into the meal, I'm all worked up, on one hand sweating because of the noodles themselves, and on the other, shaking my fist at all the underage primadonnas on the screen in front of me. Fortunately for me, there is always a good amount fo cooling acoutrements that always come with bibim naeng myun. There are cooling, thinly sliced cucumbers, as well as julienned pickled carrots and daikon, but what is probably the most unique item in this dish are the paper thin wedges of crisp, sweet Korean pear. Slices of beef and half a boiled egg add lend some neutrality (as well as protein) to the dish.

By the time I'm done, my belly is full and my nose is running, and yet again, I let a man whose name I don't even know make me cry. Thanks alot, John Kim.

John Kim at The California Market
450 S. Western Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90020


jackt said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
jackt said...

If you go with one of Kim, Park or Lee I'd say you have a 1 in 3 chance of getting it right. =)

elmomonster said...

That picture you took of the place is worth a thousand guesses anyway. That noodle looks so concentrated with chili that it scares stomach is turning into knots and my mouth is salivating.

Daily Gluttony said...


i was going to call it "john do", but i wasn't sure how good a representation that was. either way, i still don't know what it's called.


yeah, try eating it while watching my super sweet sixteen...i guarantee your stomach will turn even more knots.

Henry said...

It's called Ga Ju Naeng Myun. Ga Ju is what they call California. California Market is called Ga Ju Market. And you know what naeng myun is.

The Survival Gourmet said...

Well I don't have a clue but it certainly looks good. I love spicy food and that looks like it would start a sweat on my forehead.

Daily Gluttony said...


You are my hero!!! Thanks for enlightening all of us with your knowledge--now I'll know what to call it from now on, though out of habit, i will still prolly call it John Kim! LOL!


I love spicy foods too! I always order stuff like this on days when I have a headache--it always helps alot!

yoony said...

ooh i love bibim nyeng myun! in fact i just had it yesterday. but unfortunately it wasn't spicy enough to give me a runny nose. transporting the noodles in a plastic bag is genius though! or else it can get dry like yesterdays. yay go korean food!

Christine D. said...

oh god, i love eating until my nose is running. It's like a high...actually it is since some of those "feel good" hormones (endorphins) are released to suppress the pain. haha.

there's a korean supermarket right across my street. i should check it out more often. I've never had what you ate, but maybe i'll try it now.

"*growling* But DAAAAD!! I want a LAMBORGHINI!!!!!" I just watched an episode of "My Super Sweet 16" (lol i accidently typed 61!!) last night. It wasn't the lamborghini one, but my sister likes to make fun of that girl.

Daily Gluttony said...


woo hoo korean food! LOL!

christine d,

hahaha, it looks like you've got that my super sweet 16 thing down! let me know what u think of bibim naeng myun!

Yasmin said...

mmmm....spicy cold noodle with beef...I'm gonna give Mr. Kim a try. Have you been up to Korean food court in the valley (I want to say it's in Studio City....) a Korean friend of mine used to take us there and just calls it "the Galleria". Same idea: market, great food stalls, and unless you're Korean, you do a lot of pointing at pictures!

rickmond said...

california market has the best kimchi you can buy! i forgot what it's called, but it's the one that's an entire half head of cabbage chillin' in a tray in the kimchi section in the corner. just take it home and cut it up yourself. has that very slight hint of sweetness without being either too sweet or too sour, at least when you first take it home.