PRESTIN MCHUGH WRITES — At a espresso store on a Tuesday afternoon final month, I began speaking to a younger lady named Kaitlyn, a Advertising and marketing main at Loyola Marymount College. We went out to dinner a few nights after we met. We exchanged tales, in contrast music, and mentioned our favourite meals. We stumbled throughout many mutual obsessions, however the factor that shocked her essentially the most was our shared love for soondubu, a spicy tofu stew.
A number of days later, Kaitlyn and I had been on the hunt for a late-night snack, however virtually all the pieces was closed on West LA’s Sawtelle Avenue, which is dwelling to many Asian eating places and markets. She known as her mother for suggestions, who advised us about BCD Tofu Home, which has places in Southern California, Texas, and throughout the Tri State Space. We went to the one in Koreatown, close to central downtown Los Angeles.
Consuming at BCD with Kaitlyn, who’s Korean, was in contrast to any of my earlier eating experiences. She knew precisely what to order, find out how to eat it accurately, and the right etiquette. The meals was superb. We ordered the spicy pork and seafood soondubu. The soondubu was served with many conventional facet dishes like kimchi, pickles, salty soybeans, and an uncracked egg. We cracked our eggs into the soondubu. She knowledgeable me that for the egg to completely prepare dinner, it is best to cowl it with the stew’s elements.
In the beginning of the dinner, she advised me to keep away from consuming the rice that’s caught to the bowl-just eat from the center. I didn’t ask any questions. Quickly the one factor left was our rice bowls lined with rice. Our server, noticing that we had been executed consuming, walked as much as us with a jug of tea and exchanged phrases in Korean with Kaitlyn. Earlier than I knew it, the server was pouring tea into our rice bowls, and Kaitlyn was consuming it like I’d eat rooster noodle soup. She defined that this can be a post-meal custom in Korean households. The rice is crispy, and the tea provides off a singular taste. She additionally talked about that the soup is meant to assuage your abdomen. I appeared round to see many different prospects doing the identical. I’d have by no means identified about this custom if Kaitlyn hadn’t shared it with me.
I can be again to BCD Tofu Home, hopefully with Kaitlyn. Whereas at dinner, Kaitlyn was form sufficient to reply the next questions on Korean delicacies:
Q: In Los Angeles, what Korean scorching spot provides essentially the most genuine meals?
A: Truthfully, most eating places in Koreatown style fairly genuine. A few of my favorites are Hanbat Sullungtang, Hangari Kalguksu, and Soowon Galbi.
Q: What makes a Korean restaurant genuine to you?
A: When the menu has each Korean and English and the meals is served with a lot of facet dishes, known as banchan, that’s a great signal. It’s conventional to have a lot of facet dishes pre-meal. Kimchi is often a tell-tale signal. I’d advocate going to eating places that stand alone, as a substitute of chains which are much less genuine. I’m not making an attempt to say that non-authentic locations aren’t good; they are often, however I affiliate genuine Korean meals with nostalgia. With that stated, I at all times like making an attempt locations which are extra of a “fashionable take” as a result of it’s attention-grabbing to see new mixtures of flavors or completely different takes on conventional recipes and dishes.
Q: What’s a dish that you just want folks knew extra about?
A: I believe sulungtang, simply because it’s my favourite. It’s mainly oxtail bone soup however it’s remodeled hours and hours till the bone broth turns white, and it’s so, so good. A few of my different favorites are pan fried yellow croaker, braised oxtail, and uncooked soy marinated crab. It’s scrumptious however my grandma makes the very best ones.
Q: Are you able to determine one thing that somebody would do at a Korean restaurant that may come off as impolite?
A: Lack of cultural appreciation involves thoughts. Korean delicacies options a variety of completely different foods- for instance, intestines. These are dishes which are regular for Korean folks, however not for everybody. When folks of various cultures go to a restaurant to expertise the delicacies, it’s necessary for them to keep in mind that simply because they aren’t used to it doesn’t imply it’s gross. That’s frequent courtesy. If you happen to attempt one thing and don’t prefer it that’s completely tremendous, however don’t name one thing “gross” or say, “what sort of folks eat that?” After I was little, youngsters would at all times say my meals smelled or after I introduced a baked candy potato this lady actually yelled out, “So gross!” I perceive should you don’t prefer it, however no must make impolite feedback.
Q: How would you describe the sensation of displaying folks a bit of your tradition, like going to Korean eating places with me or talking in Korean round me? Are you able to clarify your expertise with folks teasing you for talking Korean, and the way that’s impacted you?
A: It’s a little nerve wracking as a result of I’ve had a variety of experiences with folks being both blatantly or passively impolite. There have been so many racist folks the place I grew up in Pasadena. Some issues simply rub me the flawed manner; for instance, typically after I converse Korean round folks, they mockingly attempt to imitate me, which simply makes me really feel uncomfortable. One other instance is after I meet somebody for the primary time, and so they attempt to drive me to talk Korean. I can inform they’re simply low-key making enjoyable of me. Perhaps that’s simply social nervousness? However it does make me really feel bizarre, like a monkey in a circus vibe. I believe that a few of this comes from traumatic experiences rising up. I used to be teased about issues like talking Korean or consuming Korean meals. I mainly tried to develop into as white-washed as I might. I’d eat college lunch, and keep away from talking Korean, as a result of that was a technique to keep away from being teased. Now I’m nonetheless conscious of impolite folks, however I don’t care as a lot anymore. I can arise for myself.