April 26, 2010 4 Comments
If you didn’t know, I am currently trying to be an Officer in the Marine Corps. I was required to go to Officer Candidate School (OCS) prep weekend at the School of Infantry in Camp Pendleton from 4/22-4/25.
It was supposed to be a little taste of what OCS would be like. I haven’t been selected for OCS yet but I still had to go. Of the food we ate, they gave us only ten minutes to eat our Meal-Ready-to-Eat (MRE) for every meal. These MREs weren’t as bad as I was expecting. But they had that kind of cardboard-y taste and it totally sucked if you got a horrible meal. For the most part, I got some decent ones and hunger made anything taste good. But as I was eating, I couldn’t help but think to write a post about these MREs. I was thinking of how much I like to post about all the nice things I eat back home but there I was eating this military ration.
When I got back home yesterday from Camp Pendleton at around 1:00pm, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on some REAL food, not food that has a three year shelf life. Though I had to pass on lunch, I went with my parents to Hamjibahk for dinner. I couldn’t be any happier to eat some samgyupsahl (pork belly)! Hamjibahk is a fairly well known place for their pork. They started out on Pico and somewhere near Crenshaw and they initially catered to the middle-aged Korean men. And it later grew and grew more popular among a more diverse group of people. So much so that a second location was created on 6th Street, the young and vibrant part of Koreatown.
The owner is usually at the Pico location but it closes on Sundays and she’s over at the 6th Street location then. Apparently, my dad frequents the Pico location and apparently the owner knows him. Nice old lady!
We ordered the black pig pork belly from Jejudo. Jejudo is quite known for their pork but because they were from Jejudo, they were frozen. It’s strange that I don’t like bacon, but I love samgyupsahl. With samgyupsahl, you need some good kimchi to go along with it. The kimchi needs to be ripe, the riper it is the better. Also important is the grill. You do not want grills with holes in the middle, the best are the ones that are huge lids. You want all that oil to trickle down the surface of the lid so you can grease up the kimchi and cook it in the oil from the pork belly. Strategically put the kimchi below the pork and the kimchi should be cooked until it is golden brown and has some burn marks. Flip it over and do the same for the other side. Kimchi that is cooked but dry because it wasn’t cooked in the oil is no good. And for kimchi, I recommend the fatter part of the cabbage, not the leafy part. You shouldn’t just dump the kimchi on there, treat it like you do the meat.
It’s hard to find a good combination of it all. At one point, Hamjibahk did not have good kimchi. That was a downer because their pork was awesome. Saebyukjip in Chapman Plaza on 6th Street had super-ripe kimchi and pretty good pork but they closed down. Kkool Dwaeji, incorrectly referred to as “Honey Pig”, was probably the spot with the best combination of the grill, pork, and kimchi after Saebyukjip closed. But now, Hamjibahk has kimchi that’s a whole lot better for the purposes of grilling so it is now my go-to spot for samgyupsahl. They have the trifecta.
But in addition to good samgyupsahl, they have amazing “Dwaeji galbi” (pork ribs). Dwaeji galbi is probably what they are most known for actually. It’s not overly sweet. The pork is great. And the portions are definitely generous. This is probably as good as it’s going to get in Koreatown.
For the pork variant of Korean BBQ, come to Hamjibahk. You really wouldn’t need to go anywhere else.
Pictures taken a while back… the kimchi wasn’t good then. But now you don’t need to worry about that.
3407 W 6th St
Los Angeles, CA 90020