In my latest column for Zester Daily, I attended the second annual Korean BBQ Cook-Off in Los Angeles and interviewed contestants and judges on Korean food’s sudden rise in popularity. Chef Ludo Lefebvre (of LudoBites fame), Pulitzer Prize-winning food critic Jonathan Gold, and award-winning actress Sandra Oh were on hand to offer their thoughts on the trend and answer this burning question: Is kimchi the new sushi?
Here’s an excerpt:
Diners aren’t the only ones embracing Korean cuisine. Chefs are also hopping on the bandwagon, with Korean ingredients and flavors showing up more and more at high-profile restaurants around L.A., including LudoBites, where Lefebvre frequently uses kimchi in his dishes. “Korean food is a big influence in America,” Lefebvre said. “I am French, and I cook a lot with kimchi at my restaurant. I’ve made kimchi foie gras, kimchi with cheese, and now I’m working on a kimchi dessert.”
Korean chefs are incorporating American influences into their native cuisine as well, perhaps playing off the success of Roy Choi’s Kogi tacos. At the Korean BBQ Cook-Off, visitors waited in line for half an hour to try Kalbi Burger and Seoul Sausage Company, which sold Korean-inspired burgers and hot dogs. But it was Choonchun Dakgalbi’s signature dish of chicken, rice cakes, yams and cheese in a spicy red sauce that won the attention of the judges. Cook-off judge Oh presented the restaurant with the award for best fusion dish. “I love the fact that Korean food, especially in LA, is moving forward,” she said. “I’m totally there with you guys to expand Korean flavors.”
Read the full article at Zester Daily. And please Tweet, Like, and forward to your friends!
Posted in Media Pass, Necessary Reading
Tagged Jonathan Gold, Kalbi Burger, kimchi, Korean BBQ Cook-Off, Koreatown, LA Weekly, Los Angeles, Ludo Lefebvre, LudoBites, Sandra Oh, Seoul Sausage Company, Zester Daily
Sensory overload is really the only way to describe Honey Pig, the popular 24-hour Korean BBQ restaurant in Annandale, VA. The second you walk through the door, Korean pop and Top 40 music blasts from the speakers. Waiters rush out of the kitchen with platters of raw meat and boiling pots of kimchi soup. Busboys clean off tables and throw dirty plates into carts at lightning speed, nearly crashing into the customers waiting for the table. It’s loud, crowded, and disorganized, and there seems to be no rhyme nor reason to getting a table. (Even though there is a host who keeps a list, it seemed to me that he just chose at random who to seat–or the more savvy patrons just sat themselves while he wasn’t looking.) Through all the chaos, hungry diners can see, hear and smell the delicious sizzle of meats hitting the grill.
The main attraction at Honey Pig is the wide selection of Korean BBQ, expertly grilled at your table by one of the many adept Korean waitresses. This isn’t the refined, haute Korean-fusion cuisine you’d find at David Chang’s Momofuku Ko; it’s more the comforting, tasty food that Korean moms are so good at effortlessly whipping up. We started off with kalbi–beef spareribs marinated in soy sauce, sugar, and sesame oil. At $21.99, it was one of the most expensive dishes on the menu, but totally worth it. The meat was juicy and tender, and I found myself gnawing on the bones, trying to savor every last bite.
Next came the pork belly and pork neck ($12.99 each). Both were sparingly seasoned, but full of rich, smoky flavor. The pork belly was cooked to just the right crispiness, with a nice crunch at the outset that dissolved into luscious fat. I was a bit mortified to see just how much fat dripped into the pan (and didn’t even want to think about how much fat I had just imbibed), but hey, you have indulge once in a while, right?
Other dishes were less memorable. Dumplings ($6.99) were all right, but a tad to greasy for my taste. The meat-and-vegetable filling was also a bit bland. The scallion pancake ($6.99) didn’t stand out either. I found it starchy and just monotonous to eat. The meal also came with rice and banchan, which are traditional Korean side dishes. At some Korean restaurants, the banchan is the star, with tons of different offerings from spinach cooked in sesame oil to steamed sweet potatoes to kimchi that could constitute a meal in itself; that’s not the case at Honey Pig.
Next time I go to Honey Pig (which I hope will be very soon), I’ll stick with the meat offerings and perhaps one of the steaming bowls of kimchi jigae (kimchi stew with tofu). And of course, a couple bottles of soju (Korea’s answer to vodka) to wash it all down and get in the mood for some karaoke at the bar next door.
7220-C Annandale Pike
Annandale, VA 22003
Open 24 hours
Posted in Frugal Finds, Review
Tagged Annandale, banchan, bbq, David Chang, dumplings, Honey Pig, kalbi, karaoke, kimchi, Korean, mandu, Momofuku, pork belly, pork neck, scallion pancake, soju, spareribs, Virginia