Tag Archives: Korean

April 25, 2010 – Recipe for Korean Grilled Cheese With Braised Short Ribs

25 Apr

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Here’s my recipe for my entry from last year’s Grilled Cheese Invitational. For some reason, no one took an actual picture of the sandwich. It’s a time-consuming recipe that’ll take at least two days to make. There is no way I’m making this again unless there’s a cash prize to be won. Instead, here’s a stock photo of Abondance cheese. I found a photo of a grilled cheese I made the next day with leftover Abondance cheese and bread. This is the closest photo evidence I have of my sandwich.

For galbi jjim

4 pounds of beef short ribs

1 1/2 cup soy sauce

1/2 cup sugar (I prefer brown)

1/2 cup plum wine

2 1/2 cup water

1/2 yellow onion, sliced

1 carrot, cut into large slices

1/4 cup gingko nuts (optional)

8 cloves garlic

1 scallion diced

1 tbsp freshly grated ginger

1/2 Asian pear, peeled and grated

tbsp of toasted sesame seeds

ground pepper to taste

1. Score the short ribs cross-wise, so it’s divided into 4 pieces on the bone. Bring water to a boil in a large pot to a simmer. Parboil the ribs for 30 minutes (Parboiling for a braise is normally not the way to go. But the braising liquid in a galbi jjim is strong, and Koreans don’t like their ribs as greasy as a traditional pot roast. But if you want a more tender cut of meat, you can skip this part and add more water to the braising liquid)

2. Combine all the other ingredients and stir to taste. You can adjust the sugar depending on how sweet you like the dish. I actually use 2/3 cup brown sugar, because I like a more sweeter dish.

3. Place meat in the braising liquid. Simmer on low heat for at least 1 1/2 hours.

4. Once it’s fork tender, take ribs out and let it cool.

This galbi jjim recipe is only for the grilled cheese. I usually make a slightly more complex version if serving this as the main course. That’s for another time.

For pickled shallots (white kimchi shallots)

4 shallot bulbs, sliced into thin strips

2 cups water

1/4 cup sea salt

2 tbsp. sugar

3-4 cloves garlic, diced

1 red chile, seeded and diced

1 Asian pear, sliced into thin strips

1. Bring water, salt and sugar to a near boil to make a brine. Let cool

2. Sterilize a pickling jar in boiling water.

3. Stuff shallots, chiles, garlic and Asian pear in the jar. Top to the brim with brine.

4. Seal the jar (make sure it’s airtight by not leaving any space at the top) and cool in the refrigerator for at least a day, and up to a week.

For the grilled cheese

2 pounds galbi jjim short ribs, pulled into pieces (I used my hands, which leaves bigger morsels than pulling with a fork)

pickled shallots

8 slices sesame bread (I got mine from La Brea Bakery)

3 cups Abondance cheese, shredded

unsalted butter, softened

1 clove garlic, sliced

black sesame seed

1. Either grill the slices of bread or toast in a 500-degrees oven for 2-3 minutes.

2. Take the garlic clove and slice it in half. Rub both sides of the bread slices with the cut side of the garlic.

3. Butter one side of two slices of bread. Layer one slice with a handful of shredded cheese, some galbi jjim, another handful of cheese, a few slices of shallots and a sprinkle of black sesame seeds. Top with the other slice.

4. Grill on one side for 5 minutes on medium-high heat. Flip sandwich and grill the other side for another 3-5 minutes, until golden brown. Weigh down the sandwich with a brick wrapped in foil or a heavy pan (greased) to meld all the ingredients together.

5. Eat and/or enter in a grilled cheese competition.

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April 21, 2010 – Eating at Chego With Roy Choi

21 Apr

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9:45 am

1 banana

1:15 pm

Literati Cafe

1/2 portabello mushroom sandwich

cup of lentil soup

2 glasses of water

3 pm

Peet’s Coffee

small caffe latte

1 reduced-fat brownie

7:30 pm


one Chubby pork belly bowl

shared order of Ooey Gooey fries

1 bottle of Jarritos orange soda

In a desperate attempt to preserve some amount of privacy for their dinner at Chego, the insanely popular new restaurant from the creator of the Kogi BBQ Korean tacos, two girls sat diagonally from each other at a table for four. This insured that no couple would try to share the table with them and they can talk in piece. It was a move that was both ingenious and in the words of Ryan, an “asshole” maneuver. Nevertheless, they could not maintain their seating arrangement. Another woman politely asked them to re-arrange themselves for herself and her husband. They had to comply. Like the Kogi trucks, Chego will test your patience before you get a chance to eat one of Roy Choi’s funky Korean-fusion concepts. The place is tiny, no bigger than an apartment living room, and there’s only enough seating for 30 people. You order from a counter, take a number, and wait for an open seat. Sometimes, the wait is so long that you actually get the food before you find a seat. Then you have a choice, eat standing up or let your meal get cold and wait.

I got relatively lucky. After I ordered my meal, a spot immediately opened up at a table with two guys. One of the guys, a broad Asian man with a backward baseball cap and tattoos on his arm, motioned for me to sit at his table. It was Roy Choi himself, the man who created the Korean tacos and kimchi quesadillas that drew hour-long lines to his Kogi trucks and inevitably launched a thousand food trucks like Helen of Troy launched Greek ships. If you’ve ever stumbled upon an armada of newfangled food trucks somewhere, Choi was the progenitor, and it’s a trend that’s making it’s way eastward. He even earned him a Food & Wine magazine award as one of the best new chefs in America for crashing Korean and Mexican cooking together in a concept that fits our increasingly multicultural zeitgest.

By chance, I now got a chance to eat my meal at Chego with Roy. As soon as I sat down, he pointed out the bottle opener against the wall for my Jarritos soda. “It’s not a twist-off,” he said. My food immediately arrived, but Ryan’s didn’t, so I waited for his meal. Roy noticed that I wasn’t eating and told me that utensils are up front. “I’m waiting on my friend’s meal,” I told him. “Don’t wait, just eat,” he replied. “You don’t need manners at Chego. It’s just about eating.” So I went up to get my utensils. I was excited that they had sporks, which I always liked because they’re both ridiculous and practical, like skorts. I also noticed that the utensils were biodegradable.

“They’re made out of corn,” Roy said.

“I know,” I replied. “We had the same ones at work. I tried eating one once. It tastes like raw pasta.”

“O… K…”

Despite my odd comment, he patiently explained that all round bowls are made out of bamboo, and the square dishes are 100% recycled paper. The environmentalism befits Chego’s spartan and bohemian spirit. The space is fairly basic except for a bright, giant mural that spells out the restaurants name. It’s also loud and conversations reverberate. Roy asked one of his employees to play some music. Sean Paul’s “Gimme the Light” starts blaring, and the hodgepodge atmosphere gets yet another ingredient added.

I got the pork belly bowl, which was essentially a Korean bibimbap (Ed note: a couple of readers never heard of bibimbap. Fair enough. Here’s a quick explanation) slightly reinterpreted in Roy Choi’s way. Each bowl is carefully arranged with a few choice ingredients, so you don’t get a heaping assortment of random meat and vegetables like in a traditional bibimbap. The only vegetable in my bowl were tiny water squashes. There was a fried egg like in a bibimbap, but the only condiment available was the decidedly un-Korean sriracha sauce. My pork belly was heavily glazed with the Korean chile paste gochuchang and grilled. Pork belly is now at almost every restaurant, but this was a good version, crispy, flavorful and a very good deal for $7. I preferred this dish slightly more than the prime rib bowl, which came with spinach, horseradish and fried shallots. It was surprisingly spicy and there was none of the sweetness one associates with galbi. It was good, but the galbi short ribs were a bit antiseptic, since Korean BBQ usually tastes best from a big, smoky grill.

We also split an order of fries that were heavily topped with a sambal/mayo mixture. The fries were cooked twice in the Belgian style and the dish plays off the European fries/mayo combo. Play as in it turns the entire concept up to 11. Of course it’s good, I mean it’s french fries and mayo, but there’s no way you can eat the whole thing without feeling sick.

As we were eating, Roy magically pulled out a giant box of produce from under the table to show his friend that day’s vegetables. He then mentioned a new restaurant concept he’s been kicking around, one that will serve all finger foods with no utensils (not even sporks!). It was then that his egalitarian sense of cooking became obvious. Roy likes to cook Korean food, but he will steal good ideas from any culture as well. More importantly, food and cooking must be as accessible as possible. When he told me that there are no manners at Chego, that’s the point. He just wants people to eat. Finger foods, $7 rice bowls, $2 tacos from a truck, they all fit that mindset. And all his dishes are prepared more carefully and more planned out than at other casual restaurants or taco trucks. The thing is, so many people buy into his concepts that his eateries are tough to brave sometimes. By making good, creative cooking accessible, it’s also daunting. By the time our meal was winding down, there were several people hovering over tables, and some were eating their meals standing up. As soon as Roy left, another couple replaced him. The woman was Beth Kellerhals, the pastry chef who designed the “Rock Yer Road” dessert for Chego and the tres leches chocolate cake for Kogi. She was apologetic for having to share our personal space. But that’s the point. Chego forces everyone and everything together, sometimes against our instincts, for the sake of a good meal.

9 pm

Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf

1 cup of green tea

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April 8, 2010 – Recipe for a Korean BBQ Marinade, and Coolhaus Ice Cream Sandwiches

8 Apr

2 pm


foot-long Subway Club on wheat

bag of sour cream Baked Lays

medium Diet Coke

8 pm

1 rib-eye steak with Korean marinade

fusilli col boco salad with baby asparagus

caesar salad

2 cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon

I was actually supposed to make steaks for four people on Tuesday, but two dropped out at the last second. So, my friend Lucy was the beneficiary of the other two pieces. “So how are you going to marinate the steaks,” she asked and I didn’t really have an answer. I like my steak simple, with just salt and pepper and cooked rare. At first, I was just going to cook it unadorned, since I was the chef. But I became intrigued by the idea and decided on a Korean BBQ marinade. Lucy likes Korean food, I’m Korean, so why not. It’s an extremely simple concept: two parts soy sauce, 1 part sugar, a good dose of sesame oil and two of the base Asian Aromatics (garlic and scallions. Ginger is optional). That’s the basic component, and other ingredients can be added to that as well.

1 1/2 cup soy sauce

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 sesame oil

5 cloves of garlic, minced

3 green onions, chopped thinly

1/2 yellow onion, sliced into thin strips

teaspoon of chili flakes

small handful of sesame seeds

I like my marinade on the sweeter side, so I’ll often add half an Asian pear or Fuji apple, grated, and a couple of shots of plum wine, if I have that around. Both are optional ingredients though and not necessary. I like the extra caramelization from the added sugar, so I tend to make my marinade sweeter than most. A lot of recipes call for meats to be marinaded overnight. I only do 8-10 hours at most, so it won’t get too overwhelming. And you can use this on other types of meat as well. Flank steak, chicken, pork, shrimp, mushrooms, old Chuck Taylors, adopted babies, it’ll work on almost anything.

So there you go. You can now replicate the stink of having your clothes smell like a Korean BBQ restaurant at home. It did at Lucy’s apartment. Glad her smoke detectors didn’t actually work!

10 pm


ice cream sandwich with brown butter-bacon ice cream and snickerdoodle cookies

This is what happens when I skip breakfast. After a giant steak dinner, I craved a Coolhaus ice cream sandwich for some reason. Of all the food trucks that fan out over LA, I’ve never actually been to Coolhaus before. But, I did sign up for their Twitter feed for some reason, and I saw that they had a “foie gras honey gastrique” ice cream sandwich.  “That sounds terrible,” Lucy said. “It does,” I agreed. “I think we should go and try it out though.” (ED NOTE: Lucy is good friends with the owners of Coolhaus) So I dragged her to their location in downtown LA and completely forgot that it was Art Walk. On the first Thursday of every month, all the various downtown LA art galleries open their doors and encourage people to gallery hop, and it’s an absolute clusterfuck. Thousands of people storm the sidewalks, ducking in and out of galleries and trying to find booze where they can. But as fate would have it, we found free parking. The foie gras ice cream sandwich ended up being twice as much as their regular fare, so I cheaped out. When I asked for a sample, the girl at the truck quickly shot me down. Ah well. The brown-butter and bacon ice cream was appropriately decadent and hit the spot.

Since we had free parking, we decided to check out a few galleries and inevitably ended up breezing through bars, restaurants, random apartments and a fire escape with weed-tokin’ hippies. And with that, I’m going to mention Martin Scorsese movie “After Hours,” since that captures the absurdity of the night best.

UPDATE: Lucy also wrote about this night. So many blogs!

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Feb. 23, 2010

23 Feb

10:30 am

2 eggs, scrambled

1 biscuit

1 pm


1 bowl of mul naeng myun

plate of galbi

various banchan

glass of water (with multiple refills)

I’d rank Joanna Newsom’s Have One On Me as the second or third greatest triple-album in rock history. It’d rank behind the Magnetic Field’s 69 Love Songs and I haven’t decided if it’s better than George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass. Considering that the Clash’s messy Sandinista! is really the only other competition, this list is all dubious. Let’s face it, the length of double albums are rarely justified. Even the great ones, The Songs In the Key of Life, White Albums or Exile On Main Street, have fillers and can be a chore to get through. Triple albums though, those take cojones considering there’s no way the length will be justified. I thought Newsom’s previous album, Y’s, was massive enough, with 10-minute songs full of elaborately dense orchestration, musical left turns and a Byzantine narrative with talking bears. Have One On Me is obviously bigger, it’s two hours long, and again has a long rambling narrative that may or may not involve talking animals (birds in this case). But musically, it’s simpler, less orchestral and more pared down. Her fans might think of Have One On Me Joanna Newsom-light and while I do think Y’s is more interesting, there’s virtue in the more direct approach. When the songs work, they’re her most memorable numbers. In fact, the jazzy and Joni Mitchell-like “Good Intentions Paving Company” is easily her best song ever and the best single I’ve heard all year. When the songs don’t work though, it all blends together. And at two-hours, there will be fillers, particularly on the second album.

Here’s a free mp3 for “Good Intentions Paving Company,” my favorite song of the year so far. Don’t say I didn’t give you anything! Have One On Me is out now, on Drag City.

Eating at Gen-wa, in a way, is like listening to Have One On Me. Look at all those plates of banchan. There’s 21 in all, and they’re all refilled whenever you want. Half of it’s pretty good, though with so many, there are obvious fillers. You can instantly tell how good and generous a Korean restaurant will be by their banchan. If they’re skimpy, the other dishes might be as well. And if the quality sucks, then the food will be the same. With 21 banchans, Gen-wa tries to blow you away on first impression. I’ve driven by Gen-wa everyday on my commute to and from work and never gave it a second thought. It’s at the bottom of a new, soulless apartment complex in an awkward locale away from most Korean businesses, and the restaurant is just a black cube thanks to heavily-tinted windows. The entire apartment complex, restaurant and all, looks empty and foreboding. But inside, it was surprisingly busy at lunchtime. There were a couple of groups of Korean women and quite a bit of non-Koreans, including one E! reporter. The interior is even more black than the exterior. The tables, walls, waiter’s uniforms, they’re all black and sleek. Darth Vader was the obvious design influence.

Most LA locale’s will take Korean neophytes to Chosun Galbi for their first meal. It’s both safe and authentic enough to make a good introduction. Prices are also a bit higher, the food a bit better sourced and the setting is a bit grander. Gen-wa fits into this niche, in terms of food, price and decor.  The galbi uses better quality beef than most places and has a relatively sweet marinade with a pronounced ginger flavor, but you don’t get a lot of it. My friend Robyn’s dolsot bibimbap was massive, big enough for two and easily the best deal of this meal. It’s served in a very wide stone vessel as opposed to a smaller bowl, and that allows for a lot of rice to toast up, but only if the waiter doesn’t scoop it up prematurely. Surprisingly, the majority of the 21 banchans were pretty good. The flavors are tempered somewhat, you won’t get any of the more exotic dishes like jellyfish, and I wish the kochujang, or hot pepper paste, was spicier and not so watery. But the ingredients are of good quality and that made going through all 21 fun. That alone was good enough reason to stop at a place I looked past many times.

2:30 pm


1/2 tall nonfat latte

I couldn’t finish my coffee drink after such a huge meal.

7:15 pm


1 steak burrito bowl (with guacamole added)

1 medium Diet Coke (with 1 refill)

8:30 pm

Peet’s Coffee

1/2 cup of coffee

10:30 pm


1 bottle of Anchor Steam beer

1 24 oz. can of Pabst Blue Ribbon

This band is Free Energy, a rock band from Philadelphia signed to DFA and produced by LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy. As much as I like my insipid indie rock (like Beach House’s Teen Dreams), I do miss good old-fashioned rock. Back at the turn of the century (the early 2000’s), people went nuts for the Strokes. Grunge was officially a memory, Rage Against the Machine imploded and Britney, Christina and the Backstreet Boys dominated the charts. The Strokes weren’t actually great, per se. They just sounded like “authentic” rock music, and people clung to that hope. Ten years later, Free Energy has been hyped by the blogosphere for similar reasons. They ape Thin Lizzy and T. Rex, rather glossily like “Dazed and Confused.” It’s all a bit too precious. The one thing I like about Free Energy is their fizziness. Rhythms are bright, punchy and danceable. Considering that one half of LCD Soundsystem, that’s not a surprise. And I can see why Free Energy is the first rock band on the DFA record label. It sounds like actual rock and roll in a way, but they still want you to dance.

Here’s yet another free mp3: Free Energy’s “Dream City.” Their album Stuck On Nothin’ is out March 9, on DFA.

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Feb. 14, 2010

14 Feb

12 pm

2 chocolate chip cookies

5 pm

dduk guk

various banchan

1 glass of water

Feb. 14 is Valentine’s Day but it’s also Korean New Years, which shares the same date as Chinese New Years. Hmm, maybe all Asians are alike. Actually, Korean New Years is derivative from Chinese New Year traditions, hence the shared date. Almost all Asian countries celebrate some sort of New Years around that time and can trace their roots to Chinese traditions. Unlike the Chinese, who stretch out their New Year celebration over 15 days, drag around a giant paper dragon and blow up semi-legal fireworks, Koreans celebrate a more modest affair centered on filial traditions. Children salute their parents who get rewarded with some money and advice, and parents salute grandparents, even in passing. The traditional dish is tteokguk, a soup with rice cakes and beef brisket. It’s often garnished with nori and cooked eggs. The slivers of rice cake is cut from a long tube of dough that signifies good health and long life. Tteokguk is traditionally eaten whenever a year passes, both for New Years and birthdays. It’s a relatively simple dish and somewhat bland (I like to add a lot of salt to mine). But it’s very comforting and carries quite a bit of significance to Koreans.

11 pm

2 IPA beers

You might have noticed that I’ve only been eating one meal a day. That’s because I’ve been taking some medication that lowered my appetite. I’m also not allowed to drink alcohol and was highly advised to not have sex for the time being. Just in time for Valentine’s Day! Sigh. Sorry, I won’t share my diagnosis, except to say that it’s not serious and it’s not an STD. I did drink a couple of beers tonight because I was out for Valentine’s Day and figured it is a holiday. The combination of beer and prescription medication knocked me out as soon as I got home. Since I can’t have sex, that’s probably for the best.

Feb. 9, 2010

9 Feb

10 am

1 slice pecan pie

1 cup of coffee

1 pm

BCD Tofu House

1 kimchee soon tofu

various banchan

I mentioned BCD Tofu House in a previous post last year but didn’t have a picture of what I said was a violent sight. Well, here’s one now, which my friend Robyn took. Note the violent anger in that stew. Tofu is inherently boring. Putting it in a boiling, volcanic concoction makes it a lot hell of a lot more exciting. The roof of my mouth lost several layers of skin from the scalding temperature. Considering the heavy rain and cold yesterday, that actually felt a bit comforting. As I mentioned before, BCD is the most convenient place to go for soon tofu in Los Angeles because it’s a chain. They’re pretty good, but I’ll eventually head to other Korean tofu houses in Los Angeles and write about those as well.

BTW, that’s my hand in the picture. That’s the most you’ll see of me on this site.

2:30 pm

Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf

1 small mocha latte

10 pm

1 ham and cheese sandwich on wheat

side of cole slaw

1 bottle of Corona beer

Jan. 29, 2010

29 Jan

10 am

1 bowl of Reese’s Puffs cereal

12 pm


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.


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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