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Why can't Korean food become mainstream?


thdad
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Pan: I went back and looked at my dining receipts. Sure enough, I have a lot of meals for two in the $30 range. There's an $80 that I can't remember... but $126 fed six for lunch at Woo Lae Oak in Northern Virginia. It's true that meal will do more to jack up the bill, but I can't help but shake the feeling that the cost per ounce of meat at a Korean restaurant does not stack up to what you might get at a steak house. I also doubt that the meat used in Korean restaurants is dry aged, as it might be in a steakhouse. Meat dishes also seem to be purchased when entertaining guests, perhaps as a sign of generosity. Maybe the cost of the meat reflects the generosity of the host.

But you're right, not all Korean food is expensive. Come to think of it, we usually just cook our own meat at home. So, myth busted. Korean food is not all expensive if you choose wisely.

Ginger: I thought about the possible cost of ban chan but didn't mention it in my previous message because I thought, "well what if the ban chan is bought from somewhere else at a significantly reduced cost?" When and where are you serving your Korean tapas? :)

Something interesting that Nanyun points out - for anyone who thinks service may be brusque or perhaps non-existent, the diner must be more pro-active in getting attention. It's quite common in Korean restaurants to actively flag down or call out to your waiter, an activity that would no doubt be unheard of in many other restaurants.

On a side note, I have got to get to LA one of these days.

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Korean food is a lot better in LA and certainly in Seoul....

It's true that most NY korean places make you only want to go once in a while because their menus are stuck in the past and they haven't done much to really up the quality of ingredients, service, decor, etc...

It could become mainstream, and it's name is Yakiniku, just give us a little while longer and my very very good friends in Japan will have one near us soon...

read more...

http://www.ebisu-toraji.com/EN/hawai/index.html

Humorous Cartoon from Ebisu-Taraji Web Site

Edited by phaelon56 (log)
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So besides the group that just doesn't like Korean food, there's another group that says, "I like Korean food but not this old-fashioned stuff in NY."

Not having been to LA, and not having spent a long time in Korea, the question becomes, "what is the effect of new-style Korean food in areas where it exists?"

Have these places led to an accelerated acceptance of Korean food in those areas? Has this led to the decline of 'old school' Korean restaurants? Or is there enough room in the dining ecosystem for both types of cuisine?

It seems to me that parallels are being drawn between NY style Korean and deplorable 1950's casserole cooking with canned foods. And, because the cuisine hasn't updated, explains why Korean food hasn't hit mainstream. I don't see it that way. To me, NY K-town represents straightforward, hearty, comfort food. Comfort food doesn't go out of style, though you may not want it all the time.

These complants are akin to going to a French brasserie and saying "this steak frites is way too heavy. I want some nouveau steak frites. You know, with less salt and a lighter flavor." And that's why there aren't more French restaurants across the country. I'll gladly relieve you of your plate.

Here's another thought. K-town is filled not only with restaurants, but offices full of Koreans who probably represent a large portion of the client base. A restaurant will value someone who comes in several times a week far greater than the occasional tourist. Therefore, it's possible the current style of food persists because it is what the client base demands.

Raji, the Yakiniku web site is very interesting. Looks like a Korean guy striking out for a Japanese audience. I thought about that the other night, that perhaps one way to break out of the mold is to essentially abandon a traditional Korean audience base. A few places have done this. Dosirak, Mandoo Bar on University (though it closed, that space must be cursed), Temple, with apparently mixed success. That's a lot of risk to take if there's a proven successful model.

Having said that, sure, I'd love to see some nouveau Korean cuisine in New York. (And Chinese while I'm at it, but that's another thread) What about Don's Bogam BBQ? The price/portion ratio of their specialty, wine marinated pork, seemed a bit steep and perhaps the servers' English is still not so great, but I think you'd have to agree it represents a step away from "cafeteria-style" restaurants.

A final thought: if nouveau style Korean can cross the ocean to LA, then why can't it hope across the continent to NY?

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There's a new place up in Worldwide Plaza, Bann, I haven't had a chance to try it but I think it fits all that criteria. Anyone been?

What separates Yakiniku from Korean BBQ is the Japanese obsession with higher and higher quality cuts of beef, more attention to the preparatio and marinades and in general a more zen treatment of higher-quality ingredients. I'd much rather eat Yakiniku than Korean BBQ. When I lived in Japan, I'd eat it weekly. Yakiniku chefs treat the meat like a Sushi chef...

Many Japanese cuisines have drawn upon Korean staples with a great measure of success...

And I think that's just it, Korean food either falls into your BBQ places or places that cook it for you that non-Koreans don't really venture into - not many Americans are really jonesing for a chigae. But I agree with you, it's not like it's inauthentic!

I think what LA has is that critical mass humongoid Koreatown, huge population and more 2nd and 3rd generations of Koreans.... whereas the NY Korean population tends to be a bit more fresh-off-the-boat....

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As someone else mentioned, most Korean restaurants still depend on a Korean clientele for a large portion of business, and they risk alienating them if their restaurant is too 'watered down' for their taste. If there isn't tons of banchan, huge portions, and salty/spicy flavor, some Koreans start to grumble. Conversely, straight up Korean joints do tend to alienate westerners for the same reasons. It's true that hard core Korean food is an acquired taste for most westerners (even myself, a Korean-American didn't care for most of it growing up although I love it now) because of its non-sweet/non-fatty flavor palate. I do think though that Korean BBQ like kalbi and bulgogi would appeal to most Western palates immediately.

It's hard for a Korean place to strike the right balance between the two palates/styles. Some modern Korean joints (i.e. Dok Suni's, etc.) tend to do ok in the east/west village because there are enough young trendy non Koreans who are willing to try it anyway. It's interesting to see which places water down what and how (I found Temple's jigae awful because it hardly bore resemblance to the original deal, but I like Dok Suni's because it gives you just enough portions of what still tastes fairly real, if simplified). Conversely, a place can risk alienating both parties if it's in the wrong neighborhood or serving a less adventurous populace. I adored a place called Emo's on the Upper East Side a few years ago because for me it was the perfect balance of a lovely, modern decor, user-friendly menu with dishes that were clean, well prepared yet still authentic tasting (great multi-grain rice), and moderate prices. It died after about a year because unfortunately the Upper East Side is a bastion of culinary conservatism (i.e. red sauce joints, diners, and greasy Chinese takeout) and it wasn't able to draw Koreans to the area (they figured they should just go for the standbys in K-town and Flushing) or UES non-Koreans who are still too freaked by food that actually tasted like anything, and there weren't enough neighborhood Koreans for sure.

A similar situation happened in Washington DC, there was a really fancy BBQ joint near Foggy Bottom called Jinga, with fancy decor, fancy grills that actually sucked the smoke downward so you didn't reek of odor afterwards, and pretty dishes and presentation. The portions were smaller (and better prepared IMO), but regular Koreans avoided the place like the plague because they thought the portions were too tiny, and back in the mid 1990s, relatively conservative Western DC diners didn't really try the place either. It died shortly thereafter too.

So it's hard for the general American market to sustain mainstreamed Korean food so far.

Edited by jeanki (log)
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we go out to eat korean once a week or once every two weeks.

we don't go out to eat kalbi. we LOVES our kalbi, but we can't afford it. same with steak. we LOVES our steak, but we cant afford that either. we have kalbi and steak just about once a year. truly.

okay. ill think back and list the places weve gone out to in ktown the last several months.<blockquote><ul><li><a href="http://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=%22yu+chun%22+los+angeles&ie=UTF8&ll=34.075412,-118.250313&spn=0.12939,0.234146&om=1">Yu Chun Chic Naeng Myun</a> (cold buckwheat+"chilk/chic" noodles)

<li><a href="http://www.google.com/maps?hl=en&lr=&q=seoul+soondae&near=Los+Angeles,+CA&radius=0.0&cid=34052222,-118242778,9486343620786783618&li=lmd&ie=UTF8&om=1">Seoul Soondae House One</a> (blood sausage)

<li><a href="http://www.google.com/maps?hl=en&f=l&q=jinju+korean+restaurant&near=Los+Angeles&ie=UTF8&om=1">Jinju Korean Restaurant</a> (oxtail stew)

<li><a href="http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&q=%22la+omogari%22+Los+Angeles,+ca&ie=UTF8&om=1">L.A. Omogari</a> (<a href="http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=70871&st=0&p=1177069entry1177069">kimchi jjigae - kimchi stew</a>)

<li><a href="http://www.google.com/maps?f=l&hl=en&q=guimok&near=Los+Angeles,+CA&ie=UTF8&om=1">Guimok</a> (sam gyeopsal + kimchi gui = grilled pork belly) + kimchi

<li><a href="http://maps.google.com/maps?q=3551+Wilshire+Bl,+Los+Angeles,+CA&ie=UTF8&ll=34.063041,-118.302155&spn=0.016176,0.043259&om=1">Bonjuk Korean Traditional Porridge Restaurant</a>

<li><a href="http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&q=3557+west+3rd+street+,+Los+Angeles,+CA&ie=UTF8&ll=34.070294,-118.293142&spn=0.016175,0.043259&om=1">Wah! Jokbal/Soondae</a> (<a href="http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=70871&st=0&p=1230385entry1230385">pigs foot</a> / blood sausage)

<li><a href="http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&q=el+pollo+bailador+los+angeles,+ca&ie=UTF8&om=1">El Pollo Bailador Restaurant</a> (tongdak = roast chicken)

<li>Keumsan Samgyetang (ginseng chicken soup -- i am disturbed that i could not find the link or the address. it is located on western, south of olympic on the east side of the street in a strip mall called "sejong plaza", right next to hans appliances)</ul></blockquote>at ALL of the above places we each get one dish that costs between 7-10 usd. so we usually spend $20 or less for the two of us. korean food is not "mind bogglingly expensive" for us. but it isnt something we can afford every day either.

i have lived here in la for three years. i have yet to try some of the more "famous" korean places. i never really thought about it until this thread came along, but we dont go to general korean places. we only go to specialty houses.

we are of the opinion that the general restaurants make everything mediocre. to get something worth a night out, you have to first choose exactly what you want to eat before going, and then pick your restaurants.

for the list i gave above, i can think of at least one alternative specialty place (usually two) for all the dishes except for the porridge place but i would not be surprised if there is another place that also serves only korean porridge.

maybe this is the insular attitude of which jason speaks, but i dont see a need for korean food to become mainstream. hawaiian chains are doing their part to spread the wisdom of overly salty/sweet kalbi plate lunches and kimchi. plate lunch has a place in my life, but i dont need to see korean restaurants turned into a commodity in the way low end sushi joints or the local chinese take out place are. ill have specialty places or nothing.

* * * * *

in los angeles, the one thing that i really crave for, but cannot get, is a cheap bulgogi burger.

"Bibimbap shappdy wappdy wap." - Jinmyo
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When I asked "who might not like Korean cuisine," I was envisioning someone completely ignorant of anything beyond what might be available outside of national chain restaurants and perhaps the frozen food aisle at the grocery store. I completely (and ignorantly) ignored the possibility that there might be people who eat with open minds and still don't like Korean food. To those folks, I apologize sincerely.

Todd36: I was thinking about your portion size comment earlier today.

If I go to a Chinese restaurant and order what I think are "a few dishes," I will always end up with an embarrassing mountain of food. I'm not blaming the restaurant, but I just want to point out that the notion of family style or sharing-sized portions is not restricted to Korean cuisine.

As another example, imagine my surprise when I found out how many courses the "standard" Italian meal was supposed to have. Glance at any Italian restaurant menu that lists zuppa, antipasti, primo, secondi (please pardon any errors), and then try ordering one of each for one person. You can't do it! Not unless you're sharing with three or four people. Are there any instructions or advice on the menu? No. Does the server suggest this? No. Does the restaurant offer the option of serving reduced sized portions so you can have a bona fide meal with every course? Not that I've seen. It's been a rare occasion, if ever, that I've been with a group at an Italian restaurant where it was assumed everyone would share dishes so as to have an authentic Italian-style meal.

As a final example, let's consider that "American" restaurants also have a tendency to present oversized portions in order to present the notion of value. McDonald's is an easy target, but far from the only one.

Regarding cross-over/mainstream dishes, I know from experience that bibimbap is a slam dunk (thanks for pointing that out, Pan). It's what I always use to introduce people to Korean food. Dolsot bibimbap, served in a rocket-hot stone bowl, will actually let you fry the rice a bit, and then you can enjoy the charred rice on the bottom afterward.

I don't think it's worth anyone's effort to appeal to carb-o-phobes.

Now regarding salt, the meal you describe does sound a bit salty. But good grief, I'd have trouble imagining someone who could eat that much food. I don't think I'd be eating, much less order, at least half of what you just proposed for a single meal. Besides, let's not think that Americans have been afraid of salt. The national hysteria over sodium intake didn't come about by our culture being too stingy on salt intake. And from the general scarcity of Korean restaurants we know they're not to blame, either. ;)

It is true, though, that prepared Korean food can be heavy on salt and hot pepper. When I was young, I remember my parents would occasionally have a separate bowl of water to wash off some of the pepper and perhaps to wash off some salt from store-bought ban chan. You could ask your server for a bowl of water next time. Interestingly enough, our home-made ban chan never seemed to salty or hot.

Finally, before I met my wife, I went for years without eating much Korean food. Now that I am eating it much more frequently, I don't think the food in restaurants (e.g. K-town, 32nd st) is too salty. I'd chalk that up to personal preference unless others chime in to the contrary.

It's not the family style concept that bothers me, it's the fact that in 9 out of 10 NY Korean restaurants, starter type dishes come in one size, and that's large. Dumplings and seafood pancakes come to mind, 10 inch diameter panckaes and 15 dumplings to an order. If you have two people, it makes it very hard to order either one of those and then have something else as a main and then finish it. I can't tell you how many times I've asked if it comes in a smaller size and been told no. Most Chinese restaurants have 4-6 dumplings to an order.

The sodium content in the food adds up...every dish is salty because as far as I can tell, everything used for flavor in Korean cooking is salty. And some quick research on the web indicates that your average Korean main dish seems to have over 2000 milligrams of sodium, and that's in just one serving of the main dish alone.....

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It's not the family style concept that bothers me, it's the fact that in 9 out of 10 NY Korean restaurants, starter type dishes come in one size, and that's large.  Dumplings and seafood pancakes come to mind, 10 inch diameter panckaes and 15 dumplings to an order.  If you have two people, it makes it very hard to order either one of those and then have something else as a main and then finish it.  I can't tell you how many times I've asked if it comes in a smaller size and been told no.  Most Chinese restaurants have 4-6 dumplings to an order.

The sodium content in the food adds up...every dish is salty because as far as I can tell, everything used for flavor in Korean cooking is salty.  And some quick research on the web indicates that your average Korean main dish seems to have over 2000 milligrams of sodium, and that's in just one serving of the main dish alone.....

Although valid, I don't really find these criticisms of Korean food all that cogent to its particular issues as Korean food per se.

All Asian food is salty because they are based on either soy or fish sauce. Both are basically hyperconcentrated sodium solutions. It's just the way it is. I don't think Korean is any saltier than Japanese (ever had ramen?) or Chinese or other Asian cuisines (actually fish sauce is way saltier than soy). This dependence on salty flavor partly makes up for the fact that Asian cuisines also tend to be low fat and still need to taste like something. Granted it's not great if you have hypertension, but otherwise with healthy kidneys your body will excrete the extra sodium with enough water. If you don't like salty flavor, then you're kind of outta luck with Asian food (although I agree I don't like salt overkill/there is a way to make it moderately salty and not killer salty).

Ironically though, the people I see who love to douse and soak their sushi in soy sauce are yous white folks.

The portion size doesn't really bother me either. Just take the extra home. The banchan is free anyway so you don't have to finish it. And like someone else said, Chinese food is the king of giganto portions you can't finish. (Even Italian too sometimes). I just think of it as a bargain and tomorrow's microwave heat up meal.

Edited by phaelon56 (log)
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I'm an adventurous eater. But I have to say that Korean is near the bottom of my favored cuisines. I eat it several times a year, but it's not in heavy rotation the way Chinese, French, Italian, Japanese, Mexican, Iberian, German/Austrian, Indian, Thai, and even Vietnamese are. There are even times when I'm around 32nd St. at dinner time and I opt to eat something else.

I can't say why, beyond that I find it (at least as presented here in New York) too salty and too forward-flavored in ways I don't like. These are just not my favorite flavors. And again, it's not that I dislike anything other than Middle American cooking. I just don't love this cuisine as much as some others.

I wouldn't have bothered to say this -- it's only a personal preference, after all, and therefore of no particular interest -- if this thread hadn't raised the issue. It may be that my palate isn't that different from that of other European-descended Americans, and that Korean has had a hard time here simply because it's something that people raised in this culture aren't going to like a lot.

Edited by Sneakeater (log)
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You know this is killing me....its not like there is a Korean restaurant around the corner out here.

But I did just find some kimchee at the sushi counter in the supermarket.

Its not going great with the caesar steak salad I made for lunch but....

tracey

The great thing about barbeque is that when you get hungry 3 hours later....you can lick your fingers

Maxine

Avoid cutting yourself while slicing vegetables by getting someone else to hold them while you chop away.

"It is the government's fault, they've eaten everything."

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LA Weekly Jonathon Gold's Koreatown's top 40. I think it gives a pretty good idea of L.A.'s Koreatown is like.

Years later, home to a reputed 850 places to eat and drink, as well as scores of nightclubs, coffeehouses, billiard parlors, supermarkets and bookstores, Koreatown has matured into one of the great nightlife districts in the world, a veritable restaurant paradise shoehorned right into Los Angeles’ urban core.

Korean food is pretty mainstream around here.

I can be reached via email chefzadi AT gmail DOT com

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Ecole de Cuisine: Culinary School Los Angeles

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I think I forgot to address this side issue before:

[...]As another example, imagine my surprise when I found out how many courses the "standard" Italian meal was supposed to have. Glance at any Italian restaurant menu that lists zuppa, antipasti, primo, secondi (please pardon any errors), and then try ordering one of each for one person. You can't do it! Not unless you're sharing with three or four people. Are there any instructions or advice on the menu? No. Does the server suggest this? No. Does the restaurant offer the option of serving reduced sized portions so you can have a bona fide meal with every course? Not that I've seen. It's been a rare occasion, if ever, that I've been with a group at an Italian restaurant where it was assumed everyone would share dishes so as to have an authentic Italian-style meal.[...]

The standard Italian meal is optional antipasti, primo, secondo, contorno, dolci, accompanied by mineral water or wine. It is not traditional to have both soup and pasta in the same meal, because both are primi. In Italy, the contorno (a vegetable dish) is often a salad but is sometimes presented as a side with the secondo, and the dolce can just as easily be fresh fruit, rather than a pastry. Portions are smaller in Italy, but I've found that Italian restaurants in New York that typically serve large portions of pasta are usually happy to serve half portions for half price or divide a single portion in two for two people, if secondi are also ordered. If that's not noted on the menu, all you have to do is ask. The result is a large meal that requires a hearty appetite, but not something totally absurd. That said, I've found that many Italians do not have the full traditional meal all the time, anyway.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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Although valid, I don't really find these criticisms of Korean food all that cogent to its particular issues as Korean food per se.

All Asian food is salty because they are based on either soy or fish sauce.  Both are basically hyperconcentrated sodium solutions. It's just the way it is.  I don't think Korean is any saltier than Japanese (ever had ramen?) or Chinese or other Asian cuisines (actually fish sauce is way saltier than soy).  This dependence on salty flavor partly makes up for the fact that Asian cuisines also tend to be low fat and still need to taste like something.  Granted it's not great if you have hypertension, but otherwise with healthy kidneys your body will excrete the extra sodium with enough water. If you don't like salty flavor, then you're kind of outta luck with Asian food (although I agree I don't like salt overkill/there is a way to make it moderately salty and not killer salty).

Ironically though, the people I see who love to douse and soak their sushi in soy sauce are yous white folks.

The portion size doesn't really bother me either. Just take the extra home. The banchan is free anyway so you don't have to finish it. And like someone else said, Chinese food is the king of giganto portions you can't finish. (Even Italian too sometimes). I just think of it as a bargain and tomorrow's microwave heat up meal.

Pretty poor assumption that all of us are white folks.

Yes, I am familar with Ramen. The Japanse consider ramen to be Chinese food (it's a fairly recent import), although it sure is popular among Japanese. I had lunch today at Minca, which was a bad idea because their soup is too greasy. Matter of fact, I eat Korean food about twice a month and Japanese food twice or three times a week. Japanese food is less salty than Korean. For one thing, while Japanese cusine has pickels, you tend to get about an oz of them, as opposed to the mountain in a Korean meal. Plus Japanse cooking doesn't usually include the pickel in the food itself, it's a condement on the side. The dominant flavoring ingredent in Japanese cooking is probably dashi, which is not soy sauce or fish sauce; it's water boiled with dried kelp and dried fish flakes which is then drained. Among other things, it's the base for miso soup. It's not as salty as Southeast Asian fish sauces or soy sauce. Japanse soy sauce is also usually not as salty as its Japanese counterpart. The one really salty thing in Japanese cooking is miso. The sodium issue with Korean food is that it is very difficult to find dishes that are not either served with hot pepper paste (all BBQ and rice dishes), or a soy based dipping sauce (dumplings, pancakes and the like), or pickels (lots at every meal, and included within some dishes) or is not marnated in a salty sauce (most BBQ).

I have a rather large group of Japanese friends, they all thing Korean food as served in NY is salty. I also have lots of Korean friends, most of them think Korean food as served in NY is salty. I am serious, the salt level I think is a major factor in limiting Korean foods popularity.

I'm also rather less than convinced about the low fat thing, at least the versions we get in NY. I just had dinner tonight at Rockmeisha, and their BBQ chicken is served skin on with plenty of fat and their menu includes dishes such as Fried Chicken and various Katsu dishes, not to mention the general Japanese like of fried food, such as tempura and crocettes. And last time I looked, Korean cooking featured things like Pork belly and lots of beef. They can both be salty and fatty.

I actually usually don't take food home with me from restaurants, because I usually don't go staright home after dinner. Therefore, if the dumpling portion is too large, I simply will not order it. I can't imagine taking a Korean pancake home, that would get rather nasty I am afraid.

Thai food is not a fair comparasin to anything, coconut milk makes anything taste good (which is why I think Thai food is popular in the US) and I sure wouldn't describe Thai food as lowfat. Countryside Asian cooking may be low fat, meaning a bowl of rice with a bit of cabbage pickel and steamed fish. Or as some of my friends who grew up in Bejing vintage 1980 said, it was a typical winter meal. They don't serve that sort of thing in NY......

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chefzadi and melonpan: thank you very much for posting a selection of places in LA. Melonpan, What would your alternatives be for each place? (I know, we're probably tottering just on this side of straying off topic, but I think it's still relevant).

Generally speaking, I think we should steer away from broad ethnic palate preferences. There may be a grain of truth in it, but like I said before, I've seen plenty of non-Koreans digging in to a bowl of kimchi or kimchi jigae and loving every sweat-inducing second of it.

jeanki: About your soy-and-wasabi dunking comment: Koreans seem to love swabbing their sushi or sashimi in kochujang. *shudder*

Pan: Thanks for correcting me on the courses in a standard Italian meal. Your final observation, "That said, I've found that many Italians do not have the full traditional meal all the time, anyway" is particularly relevant because I brought up the standard (or perhaps "traditional") Italian meal because Todd36 called the Korean meal salty by listing what seemed to be an impossible number of dishes in succession. I would hope that there'd be quite a few diners present if that many dishes were present. And if that were the case, chances are that no one would be eating a lot of any one particular dish.

Todd36: Well, at least we agree on Minca's ramen. ;)

Japanese food is less salty than Korean. For one thing, while Japanese cusine has pickels, you tend to get about an oz of them, as opposed to the mountain in a Korean meal.

Oh, come on. Your gripes are starting to get a little silly. Just don't eat the whole bowl of pickles. Don't eat the entire plate of pajun. Korean restaurants could learn to make smaller portions, but remember the target audience. It's groups of four or more. Whereas many non-Korean restaurants will never seat two at a table for four, this is quite common in K-town because tables for two are rare. That said, I don't complain that John's Pizza won't serve by the slice. I don't ask Grand Sichuan if they can make their bone-in five spice pork shoulder in a portion for two (instead of... what was probably at least six. That was embarrassing).

I think anyone will agree that NY K-town restaurant food will be, on average, saltier than Japanese food. I believe that enhancing the inherent flavor of food is a tenet of Japanese cuisine, so it naturally follows that food will not be heavily salted, pickled, spicy, etc. It's practically the polar opposite of Korean food. Consequently, I'd say that asking Japanese folks if they think Korean food is salty is askin to an (Asian) Indian person if they think if American "spa" cuisine is underspiced.

I like Raji's point that on blending Japanese esthetics to Korean food. Actually, I think there is a yakiniku restaurant in the East Village (not Yakiniku West) that opened up this year, or maybe late last year. Does anyone know what I'm talking about? But as melonpan points out, I couldn't imagine relying on it without precisely the sort of food that's being served in K-town today.

I'd say this thread hit a nerve. It's clear NY K-town can't please everybody today. There are folks who think that NY Korean food is over-salted, too forward flavored, too expensive, with overly large portions. Some of these are true, some of these may be the effects of personal preferences. Perhaps an aspiring restauranteur will stumble upon this thread and find an opportunity.

Okay, so who wants to have Korean for dinner this week? :)) At either K-town, or one of these other non-K-townish places?

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How big is New York's Koreatown? Maybe not a good idea to base generalizations about Korean food on NY Korean food?

Wife says she walked right past it a few dozen times and didn't realize it was supposed to be anything particular. (Spoiled Los Angeleno :rolleyes: ).

J. Gold's article gives you some idea of the variety of Korean food available here. Plus there are mini-Korean areas.

Korean food is in my top 5 of favorite cuisines. I don't like all the dishes. Just like I don't like all French food or all Algerian food, the two cuisines I grew up eating.

When I lived in Korea over time I picked the places that seasoned more to my taste. Which is more like my MIL's cooking. Ligther, cleaner, brighter flavors...

I can be reached via email chefzadi AT gmail DOT com

Dean of Culinary Arts

Ecole de Cuisine: Culinary School Los Angeles

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How big is New York's Koreatown? Maybe not a good idea to base generalizations about Korean food on NY Korean food?

As I said on the other thread where we discussed it (click) the preponderance of New York's Korean food is not located in Koreatown, which is basically just two street blocks in Manhattan. Most of it is in Flushing, Queens, which is part of the metro area as well as in Northern New Jersey, specifically Fort Lee and Palisades Park and other parts of Bergen County. Put those two areas together and you easily have as much Korean activity as you do in Los Angeles. We just don't have it all in one place.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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I like Raji's point that on blending Japanese esthetics to Korean food. Actually, I think there is a yakiniku restaurant in the East Village (not Yakiniku West) that opened up this year, or maybe late last year. Does anyone know what I'm talking about? But as melonpan points out, I couldn't imagine relying on it without precisely the sort of food that's being served in K-town today.

I'd say this thread hit a nerve. It's clear NY K-town can't please everybody today. There are folks who think that NY Korean food is over-salted, too forward flavored, too expensive, with overly large portions. Some of these are true, some of these may be the effects of personal preferences. Perhaps an aspiring restauranteur will stumble upon this thread and find an opportunity.

Okay, so who wants to have Korean for dinner this week? :)) At either K-town, or one of these other non-K-townish places?

You're talking about Gyu-kaku which is right on Cooper Square in the Village Voice building. Gyu-kaku is OK, shit, I had my birthday dinner there, but there is much much better. The funny thing is, in Japan Gyu-kaku is a chain that's all over the suburbs, hundreds of them, and is on the cheaper side, so the quality of the meat etc. is not all that. Then when they came to the US, they classed it up and raised the prices. It's the closest approximation of Yakiniku in NYC, but the portions of meat are anemic, and with such a larger kitchen cobbled together with local kids, I don't feel like they've got the equation down.

I'm pretty passionate about Yakiniku, it's my favorite food to go out and eat - note my avatar, and click on my name to see more...

Jason's right, there are several Korean centers that added up makes a pretty big population, but who here makes it deep into Flushing or Fort Lee for that matter? I think what 32nd street and that area suffers from is that those restaurants have been there for generations, so there really hasn't been a breath of fresh air. I know walking down 32nd that if I want my soluntang i'll go here and my chigae i'll go there and my BBQ probably to Woo Chon, but it is an awful many restaurants all with the same menu...

I think the people who think it's too salty or just too intense would love to eat it in Japan where it's been calmed down a bit for the palettes. That's what makes Woo Chon for me - walk in there you will notice a shrine to Hideki Matsui, one of their best customers.

Edited by raji (log)
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Korean upperclass cooking was traditionally generally less salty and less intense. More food avalable to eat and all that. So the banchan didn't have to stretch to feed as many people. My wife's consistent complaint about restaurant food is just that it is too strong and salty compared to the homecooking she was brought up on. First five years of her life in Korea I should add and then later moved back to live for a few years as an adult. Even so she stills knows how to order to avoid the heavier stuff.

Koreatown in Los Angeles extends beyond it's official city designation. Plus all the mini-Korean areas. then there is another Korean Town in Garden Grove... all this helps to mainstream it quite a bit.

Trader Joe's carries two different kinds of Korean bbq sauce for example plus they have marinated Korean bbq beef. Costco here carries Korean galbi cuts last time I checked in my area. I made Korean bbq, kimchi and rice for my very diverse group of students. They all had it before and it was all gobbled up. A general Asian place in a mainstream American mall serves two different kinds of kimchi. And pretty much every national chain grocery store I've been to here carries kimchi, so does the Whole Foods I've been to.

Generally I'll say that I really like the fact that Koreans do things on their own terms and serve their community extremely well and successfully. Good for them.

Edited by chefzadi (log)

I can be reached via email chefzadi AT gmail DOT com

Dean of Culinary Arts

Ecole de Cuisine: Culinary School Los Angeles

http://ecolecuisine.com

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[...]Okay, so who wants to have Korean for dinner this week? :)) At either K-town, or one of these other non-K-townish places?

I already did, yesterday, at a new "Korean fusion" place called Bonjoo at 107 1st Av. between 6th and 7th. I got Bulgogi or Galbi (I forget which) Dolsot Bibimbap, which was OK but the dolsot wasn't hot enough, so I got no crunchy rice, and also, there were vegetables that should have been cut smaller under those circumstances (hard to eat). The banchan was good (not great) but small, and when the waiter asked whether I wanted anything else, I asked if I could have more banchan. I tipped him extra for graciously giving me more.

The place is no threat whatsoever to Koreatown places, but it's around the corner from me. Dinner cost $20 including a $3 pot of green tea and the aforementioned generous tip, and was filling.

If you want to meet up for a Korean meal, just PM me.

Edited by Pan (log)

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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I'm half asleep as I write this, so please point it out of I'm wrong, but on the topic of Korean food being pricey...

Consider the work that goes into Korean food.  All of that banchan at your table doesn't come from nowhere.  Every little dish involves an annoyingly large number of steps to prepare.  It's hard enough getting banchan right- anyone who's eaten over or unerripe kimchi knows this - but to get 7-10 dishes of it with every meal justifies the pricetag of that plate of meat youre about to grill.

Besides Indian food, with its chutneys and relishes, I can't really think of any other Asian cuisine which gives so much damn food gratis.  And in fact, most Indian places I can think of charge for those items. 

Open a joint, call it Korean tapas and you can charge $5-9 for each plate.  I've had a menu developed for years now based on this concept except for one problem, which is this very topic.  The folks aren't ready for Korean.  Are y'all gonna come be my first guests?

dibs on first guest!!!!!!!! shotgun!!!!!!!!!

does this come in pork?

My name's Emma Feigenbaum.

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In his 1968 New York Times Guide to Eating Out, Craig Claiborne included one Korean restaurant, Ariranh House, at 30 West 56th Street. It received two stars. He clearly liked it, although he presented it as a novelty. The same book includes 19 Japanese restaurants. Clearly, Japanese places had a head start. On the other hand, the book includes zero Thai restaurants, and given that Thai food is everywhere, it clearly came from nowhere to become very popular. Korean food has clearly not resonated with the general population the way Japanese food has, with sushi sold in supermarkets and elementry schools serving chicken teriyaki, or the way Thai has, where everm fast food hamburger joints feature "Thai" salads. I suspect it's the heavy use of salt, pickels and packaging issues, it has to be something....

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Like I wrote upthread kimchi in Los Angeles is in the national chains. So is bbq sauce.

Bibimbap has made it's way into non-Korean, non-Asian places.

Korean bbq is the new Japanese teriyaki around here. The Thai place down the street even serves it as the chef's special and the owners are Thai.

I suspect it's the heavy use of salt, pickels and packaging issues, it has to be something....

Maybe it's the Korean food in New York? Or it's it is not to your taste no matter where you've had it? Which is quite allright too.

In my neck of the woods I can point to lots of examples where it has entered the mainstream, national chains don't get more mainstream. I'm not claiming that it's to everyone's taste or will become as popular as Chinese, but it's not exactly floundering in insularity in Los Angeles. Anyway, they also do very well (thriving in fact) catering to their own. If the Koreans themselves are happy, it really doesn't matter.

I can be reached via email chefzadi AT gmail DOT com

Dean of Culinary Arts

Ecole de Cuisine: Culinary School Los Angeles

http://ecolecuisine.com

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