Jan. 29, 2010

29 Jan

10 am

1 bowl of Reese’s Puffs cereal

12 pm

Boho

1/2  bianca verde pizza (leftovers)

1 bottle of Allegash white beer

5 pm

1 banana

8 pm

Mountain Cafe

1 bowl of jeonbokjuk (rice porridge with abalone)

1 cup of barley tea

various banchan

Congee, the catch-all word for Asian rice porridges, has to rank very low in terms of flavor. While most food tries to impart some type of taste sensation on the tongue, congee aims for the exact opposite effect. As Gertrude Stein once said about Oakland, “there is no there there,” and congee is the Oakland of the food world. Juk, the Korean version is especially bland. Even the jeonbokjuk, which is studded with expensive abalone, is bland. You can add sesame oil, black pepper or dried seaweed, but it only emphasizes it’s lack of flavor. But that’s where one find comforts with juk. It’s warm, soothing and just the type of food to ease upset stomachs and hangovers. There’s a reason why congees are considered good breakfast food in Asia, and why Koreans eat juk in the morning and after a rough night of drinking.

Mountain Cafe, one of the oldest Korean eateries in LA, is the juk place in Los Angeles most Koreans will point you to first. It’s a tiny shack in a mini-mall with just enough tables for 10 people or so. They have a sizable menu, and this is one of the few Korean restaurants that serve jangjorim, a braised beef and hot pepper dish, as a banchan. But almost everyone here is eating jeonbokjuk, which at $7 and change, is pretty cheap. You do get the amount of abalone you pay for, which is scant. There are chopped up bits of abalone floating around somewhere, just enough for you to notice it’s presence, but nothing more. The porridge itself is creamy, hearty and has a raw egg yolk floating on top that you mix in that makes it pleasingly rich. We ate juk at night, which is the equivalent of scrambled eggs and bacon for dinner, and this meal had the same comforting effect. Mountain is also open 24/7, which makes it an effective post-drinking destination.

Starbucks

1 tall nonfat latte

10 pm

HMS Bounty

2 bottles of Blue Moon beer

I used to go to HMS Bounty a lot right out of college because they had $3 well drinks and one could get drunk for cheap. That was really the only reason to go there. Prices has gone up moderately since then, but it’s still sensible enough. I haven’t been here in years, so it brought back memories to step into this old-fashioned dive bar. It wasn’t crowded except for a smattering of hipsters, Koreans and grizzled old people who probably lived in that area before it was Koreatown. My friend lives right down the street from the Bounty and she’s never heard of it. I expect her to make this her neighborhood bar, even though she doesn’t drink.

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