What’s my favorite Korean dish? Dak galbi. Dak galbi. DAK GALBI!
Yes, I might be a little over enthusiastic, but it’s seriously delicious. If you haven’t tried it, then you can’t judge. I love the occasional daeji galbi, but I consider that a once every two weeks kind of dish. Bulgogi is fantastic also, but doesn’t possess that special something that entices and excites me like dak galbi does. It’s a little more run-of-the-mill. Now dak galbi on the other hand, is just down right delicious, exciting and addictive. (If you don’t know what dak galbi is, head on over to my post about eating it in Seoul to find out).
I love this dish so much I took a two and a half hour road trip from Seoul to Chuncheon to try it in its hometown. Basically, it’s a spicy chicken dish cooked at your table. It is typically made with sweet potato, cabbage, sesame leaves, ddeok, chicken, onions, and green onions. The smell is simply intoxicating.
I have yet to try making dak galbi though. Not to make excuses, but there was no way I was going to make it in Korea; much better and cheaper to have the professionals make it for us at a restaurant. I’ve been on the road for the past few months, so I haven’t had a kitchen to experiment in until my recent return home to Los Angeles. Before making it myself, I wanted to give dak galbi a try at a restaurant here in our local Koreatown.
While I was in Seoul, I tried finding a dak galbi restaurant for a friend in San Francisco using the google machine. To my surprise, the closest restaurant seemed to be in LA. It appears as though the best place to find my delicious Korean obsession on the West Coast is in the Los Angeles Koreatown. I guess it only makes sense, since Los Angeles is home to the largest population of ethnic Koreans outside of Korea.
When I first searched for restaurants, three came up, but Mapo Galbi had the best reviews, so that’s where we went. Dave and I spontaneously decided to take my parents there to try some mouthwatering dak galbi last Saturday. I have to admit that I didn’t have very high expectations. I expected the dak galbi to be subpar; yummy, but not incredible. We knew we were in for a treat though, as soon as we pulled up to the restaurant. The sign out front wasn’t in English and we were the only non-Koreans in the place. The restaurant smelled exactly like the dak galbi we remembered from Korea. They even had OB, Hite, and soju (essential dak galbi beverages, although we usually prefer Cass).
We were served cold, pickled radish soup, which has never been a favorite, but it was neat for my parents to try. The side dishes weren’t memorable for me, but then again I usually don’t touch them at dak galbi. The more of the side dishes you eat, the less dak galbi you can feast on. That’s my reasoning at least.
We shared three orders of dalk galbi between the four of us. We tried ordering ramen to be added to the mixture, but it wasn’t an option. This was probably the only thing I found wrong with the restaurant. I love when the ramen gets all crispy and stuck to the pan. Mmmm my stomach is growling just thinking about it!
When we tried asking for extra ddeok with our order, we were also declined, but we weren’t entirely sure why. It was the usual lost in translation situation. The waitress made it seem like it was a side order, but that didn’t really make sense, so we ate our dak galbi “original style”. No extras or additions. We ordered it medium spicy, which was less spicy than what we were used to in Korea. There I required a beer with dak galbi to be able to handle the heat.
I was thrilled to find the ddeok in the dish perfectly made. It was as tender as can be, just like the ddeok we had at the dak galbi restaurant in Chuncheon. Actually, the restaurant in Chuncheon and now Mapo Galbi in LA are the only places I’ve ever had such tender and fresh ddeok.
If you are in Los Angeles and want to feast on some dak galbi, I highly recommend stopping by Mapo Galbi in Koreatown. It’s definitely a little pricier than Korea, but worth every penny. My next dak galbi post will be about me finally cooking it at home. Stay tuned.