I don’t really get cravings, but often times I find myself thinking about duck fat; I make my eggs with it, I store it alongside bacon fat, and I would drink it like coconut water. I think all people secretly love duck fat, they just aren’t comfortable admitting it (Vegans are like distance runners, they secretly hate themselves, but I digress). Sun Ha Jang is like a speakeasy for duck fat lovers, those in the closet and out. I’m out.
Sun Ha Jang is in a mini plaza next to some other restaurants, a mildly non descript building on the edge of Koreatown. Upon entry, an ominous duck stares down upon you foreshadowing the deep healing properties of liquified fowl fat. Extra saturated please.
I have a confession that i’ve never really been a huge fan of blood sausage. While I think it’s admirable to use every possible part of an animal I’ve just never found it that delectable (I know it’s sacrilegious, but I sort of feel the same way about uni – though it does have a much more distinctive taste). Yu Hyang, a non descript restaurant off Olympic Blvd changed my mind about blood sausage. I keep reading reports that this place is closed, but I think they just open when they want to.
Yu Hyang is one of those places you can’t really go if you don’t speak Korean; nothing is written in English anywhere. Luckily I always roll deep with a hungry Asian complement. You order from an Ajhumma (middle aged Korean housewife) that was really quick with service and very smiley.
Yu Hyang is a sundae house (also spelled Soon Dae or Soondae), a dish composed of boiling or steaming pigs or cows intestines with a heritage dating back to the 19th Century, but likely much older than that. What I really enjoyed about this sundae (other than the pronunciation reminding me of the ice cream dessert- ShUN-day) was the fact that it contained rice and soybean paste, which I felt gave it a great texture and taste.
I was really surprised at how fast we ate the entire plate that came to the table. Here was the most traditional way to enjoy sundae – steamed, with generous sides of liver, lungs, stomach, and other organ meats that I can’t recall / identify. The intestinal casing was smooth and richly flavored, with a slight chewy texture.
I’ve said it several times before and I will say it again, Koreans (and not Filipinos) are the African American’s of Asia. While I do make racially insensitive and unsubstantiated statements on this blog quite often, this one actually is rooted in some significant similarities. Nowhere is this more apparent in the love and exaltation of Fried Chicken. While my own mother’s Fried Chicken has been documented to cure cancer; I tend to prefer the Korean varieties and innovations.
I first discovered this in New York several years ago, at Momofuku’s Fried Chicken dinner. This notoriously difficult to book dining engagement highlights the seamless integration of Korean food and Southern cooking. This relationship is now being highlighted by several Chef’s around the country, most notable Edward Lee and the aforementioned David Chang with his use of southern products like Benton’s Ham and Anson Mills Grits.
Though Korea is one of the most ethnically homogeneous countries in the world, the diversity in the cuisine is pretty astonishing. Just like African Americans, Koreans tend to use every edible part of a vegetable or animal they can find and manage to turn it into something special and delicious (see posts on Jeon Ju and Gamja Gol ). Turtle Ships? The best turtle soup i’ve ever had was in Louisiana served up by one of the scariest black people i’ve ever seen. Pickles? Korean’s pickle everything, and pickled pigs feet are a southern staple. No Korean BBQ is complete without coleslaw or potato salad. There are quite a few parallels.
Kokio is a proponent of double frying and it certainly stands out – I thought their original recipe was quite delicious, and extremely well cooked. We decided to also try sweet honey laden variety of wings that was good, but didn’t satiate like the original crispy did. Delicious.
In the modern world of fry cooking – there is frying, and there is double frying. Basically if you aren’t double frying you aren’t doing something right. The utilization of a lower temperature oil followed by a higher one creates a dual layer of crispy exterior and warm greasy and gooey interior, also known as nirvana.
Korean Chinese food for me can go two ways – a restaurant trying to diversify and doing neither cuisine well or in Cho Man Won’s case, where both the cuisines both shine together in loving harmony.
Cho Man Won is located behind the upscale looking O Dae San ( same owners) on Olympic Blvd. I literally got some pre-emptive meat sweats walking in, thinking I might have mistaken a dumpling excursion for Korean BBQ. Across the street apparently was another fusion restaurant that looked both scary and intriguing at the same time.
A nice partially outdoor patio with trademark flat screen televisions displaying live tweet feeds greeted me and my partner in crime.
As I was slightly late, the banchan had already hit the table and I was impressed by it’s quality. The Kimchi was fresh and pungent; the radish had a nice crunch and the pickled golden beet was provided good contrast. I mean this was really good kimchi, which I found really surprising.
I’m beginning to notice that kimchi quality is in no way correlated with anything else about a dining experience. I’ve had not so great stuff at Kobawaoo House which was a fantastic meal overall, and i’ve had so-so stuff at Jeon Ju (which is about 5 minutes from this place) which was another fantastic meal. Gamja-Gol is a really poor selection of banchan overall, but the kimchi was fantastic. Expect a Kimchi Confidential post soon.