Hamkyungdo Abaii Soondae (Ham Kyung Do Restaurant)

Alright alright, when the Boodae Jjigae crew strikes, it’s gon’ be big.  This time it wasn’t Boodae Jjigae.  We went out for some Kimchi Jjigae; and like last time, we went to a place for Korean middle-aged men.  That’s usually where good Korean food will be served.  To add on top of that, Kimchi Jjigae wasn’t even on the menu.  And more?  You need to order it at least an hour ahead of time.  It’s overshadowed by Park’s BBQ as it is in the same strip mall.

H, CK, Dae, and goshjosh from UCLA, Juboy from Valencia, and myself were the culprits of the day.  The Kimchi Jjigae experience started off with me being in the hot seat.  While we were waiting for everyone to show up, we were waiting outside and apparently we were too loud.  An old lady from the restaurant comes out and tells us that we’re loud and we should go to the PC Game Room upstairs.  I tell her that we’re going to eat at the restaurant.  Then she starts asking all these questions, “what could you possibly eat here? how do you know we have kimchi jjigae? etc. etc.”  It seemed more like an interrogation, but my Korean held up surprisingly without a flaw and I managed to do it while keeping a smile on my face.

Maybe the old lady felt bad along with the other old ladies in there because what came next was a great time and great hospitality.  It was the six of us and I phoned in three hours earlier to order 3 servings of Kimchi Jjigae.  We ordered Soondae and also an order of Bossam.  Soondae is Korean blood sausage and that wasn’t real popular within our group.  CK and I like soondae, but I don’t think the others shared the same opinion.  Maybe it has something to do with soondae being made out of blood, but whatever.  CK also cleaned out the tongue, liver, and some other thing that was there.  I think he really likes this stuff.

I thought maybe the ladies would like the Bossam.  I don’t think that worked out either.  With Bossam, you get usually boiled pork belly or raw oysters as the meat, some fermented radish that’s marinated to be somewhat spicy, and wrap it in a huge white cabbage leaf.  I don’t too crazy over it but if it’s within reach, I wouldn’t mind wrapping myself a few.

So it seemed like the soondae and bossam wasn’t cutting it.  Then came the timely appearance of what we came for, the Kimchi Jjigae.  That Kimchi Jjigae that’s not on the menu.  That Kimchi Jjigae that you have to order ahead of time.  That Kimchi Jjigae where you need to bring your Korean A game, or at least bring someone who can speak Korean.  That Kimchi Jjigae that the old ladies put their time in to make.  Aside from the Kimchi Jjigae your mother makes, this jjigae goes somewhere up there.  They give you so much kimchi.  The pork belly that’s in there is cooked ’til it’s so tender.  The soup part of the jjigae was so hearty.  I mean, with jjigaes in most places, it feels a bit watery, but here, the jjigae was just… this is how jjigaes ought to be.

One thing is for certain, we had an atypical experience here.  I don’t think people would be greeted with “there’s a PC game room upstairs.”  The friendly service is probably typical though, not that sometimes annoying friendly service you find at the fanciest of restaurants but more of that genuine kind coming from old Korean ladies.  Maybe it was that awkward encounter in the beginning but the service turned into something you would expect from a family friend.  We got free Gyeran-mari (Korean omelette), not one but two.  And though our final bill came out to $80, the old lady told us to pay $50 because we’re students and students don’t have any money.  Where else would you be able to find such sincerity like that?

How to order: You MUST order ahead of time if you want Kimchi Jjigae.  I think it was an hour ahead of time but to be safe, do it a couple hours ahead of time.  If you can’t speak Korean, find a friend that can when placing the order.  I doubt any English is spoken here.  It’s going to cost you $11-12 per serving of Kimchi Jjigae.

Hamkyungdo Abaii Soondae (Ham Kyung Do Restaurant)
955 S Vermont Ave, Ste A
Los Angeles, CA 90006
Phone: 213.388.2013

Gonjiam

How can you get Trojans and Bruins to sit together and get along?  Over some bomb Boodae Jjigae.  Okay, I exaggerate the nature of this rivalry.  I guess it’s not so relevant among friends.  And maybe taunting flares up when football games, basketball games, or the Olympic games are at stake.  But it ain’t too bad.  But among strangers… I don’t understand why they would choose to go to UCLA.  It’s a true puzzle to me.

So I met up with friends from my church to get some Boodae Jjigae.  In the mix there were some Bruins (H, CK, Dae), some Trojans (P, myself), a friend all the way from Valencia (Juboy), and a soon-to-be Bruin (goshjosh).  H had a serious craving for some Boodae Jjigae after reading my post on Hanilkwan.  And judging by how serious I perceived her cravings to be, I didn’t think the Boodae Jjigae at Hanilkwan would have been able to cut it.  It was a while since I’ve been to Gon-Ji-Am but I was hoping they would pull through.  I used to live near the place and would frequent it.  And they had bomb Boodae Jjigae back then.

And it’s still damn good.  Read the post on Hanilkwan to get a description of what Boodae Jjigae is.  For the seven of us, we had two orders of 3 servings of Boodae Jjigae.  They were more generous with the spam and sausage.  They had rice cakes in there.  It was a little spicier.  And to quote what H said, “boodaejjigae hit the SPOT.”  And you know the place is good if the clientele is for the most part middle-aged Korean men (“ahjushi” in Korean).

This place is hard to find.  The sign is in the picture above in the post.  It’s on Beverly and a couple blocks west of the Beverly and Western intersection.  It’s in a small strip mall and next to some small Korean club or bar that changes its name frequently.  Right now it’s called “자전거.”

Gon Ji Am
4653 Beverly Blvd

Los Angeles, CA 90004
Phone: 323.469.4648

Gon Ji Am on Urbanspoon

Jeonju Hanilkwan

Boodae Jjigae.  It literally means military jjigae.  If I could compare jjigae to anything, it would be a cross between a soup and a stew.  Yet, I feel that’s inaccurate.  Some people call it a casserole, but when I think of a casserole, I think of some baked pasta which jjigae really isn’t.  I don’t like having to give “jjigae” a Westernized name.  It is what it is.  Jjigae is jjigae.  Now that I got that out of the way…

From the stories I’ve heard and from what I can deduce, Boodae Jjigae is a byproduct of the US military occupation in South Korea.  As unappetizing as it may sound, it’s pretty much scrap food if you think about it.  After the Korean War, poverty was rampant and so was hunger.  Poor Koreans scrounged up whatever they could find, leftover, spoiled sausages, spam, vegetables, etc.  Koreans love spam.  I’m no exception.  So this is the humble beginning that was Boodae Jjigae.

What Hanilkwan is known for is apparently their Boodae Jjigae.  I guess that’s why I came too.  And by looking at Yelp, it turns out Hanilkwan is pretty well known.  I guess you really can’t go wrong in making this dish.  It’s simple and it’s good… unless you don’t like spam.  Then I guess that becomes a problem.  The Boodae Jjigae here isn’t the best I’ve had, but it’s still good.  I used to frequent Gonjiam on Beverly Blvd., and I remember them making it really well but it’s been a while.  Hanilkwan is good though.

I also ordered a side of Gamja-jun.  Potato pancake?  I liked the outer parts as it had a nice crisp to it.  This usually takes longer to make.  They got to shred up the potato and that takes time.  For what it is, I thought it was a bit overpriced though.

So when you’re in the mood for some Boodae Jjigae and you’re in Koreatown, you should stop by here.  And it’s in the “happening” part of Koreatown so that’s not that bad either.  And they changed they’re sign too.  There’s English on it.  I don’t ever remember there being English on the sign.  I guess English-only folk were having trouble looking for this place.

Jeonju Hanilkwan
3450 W 6th St #106

Los Angeles, CA 90020
Phone: 213.480.1799

Chunju Han-Il Kwan on Urbanspoon

%d bloggers like this: