I hope you guys didn't forget about me because I sure didn't forget about you! Being the fatass I am, planning these meals with my friends is something I really look forward to doing. Of course I bring the ones who have never heard of or even were aware of such places; it's been really fun exposing a bit of my culture to the people I care about. Maybe sometime in the near future this will be a video series, but baby steps for now.
I've recently joined a gym with my friend Kat to balance out my current intake of food and brought her to Gamja Gol for some gamjatang after a cardio + core session. Gamja Gol is located in a little Korean strip mall on Olympic and Normandie. Just to warn you though, the parking situation can get a little crazy (but what else is new in Koreatown?). They have a small lot in front of the strip mall where you can park your car, but it's narrow and can sometimes be a live-action game of car-Tetris. The restaurant is kind of a big hit within the Korean community so it can be a little packed, especially during the night over on the weekends.
To give you a little 411 on what gamjatang is, it's a soup that's made from pork spine or pork ribs. It's deep red from the red chili base and has a variety of greens in there (sesame leaves, green onions, hot peppers) along with potatoes and wild ground sesame seeds. 'Gamjatang' translates to 'potato soup' but there are some places where they don't put that many potatoes in the damn thing (the potatoes are my favorite, to be honest). Gamjatang is often considered drinking-food*, a dish that's paired really well with soju (aka Korean vodka aka the silent creeper).
There are two ways you can get this soup: individual portions or as a jeon-gol (hot pot). Obviously, we got the jeon-gol, which also comes in two sizes as well: small and large. We ordered the small and between two small Asian girls (and my appetite), even that was a bit much!
I'm more familiar with this place because it's in the neighborhood I grew up in. My family and I used to come to this restaurant every now-and-then with guests; with its portions, it's a friendly dish that's super easy to share. As was the case with Peking Dumpling, I was very pleased to find that the taste is the same from what I remember! There's so much going on with all the flavors in the soup but a word of caution: the longer the soup boils the more savory it gets so if you're not big on salty food, I suggest you lower the heat after it comes to a full, bubbling boil!
The order of attack for this particular dish goes like this: first, you eat as much of the soup and its contents as you can (no rice, take my advice!). It seems simple enough, but you'd be surprised at how full you get just by eating the meat. And the meat! It's so tender that it falls completely off the bone. I know it seems a bit weird as well to be eating an Asian soup without pairing it with rice, but trust me, you don't want to make yourself too full before the best part of the dish...
...which is the fried rice they make with the boiled down soup/flavor in the pot! This is my favorite part of gamjatang, to be completely honest with you. Usually when I go here it's with a bigger group and I generally don't touch too much of the soup because I'm patiently biding my time for the glorious fried rice. If you leave the portable stove on for a little bit, it makes the bottom rice crunchy and adds an even tastier texture to the whole thing!
So the next time you're feeling adventurous and in the mood for some hot pot, head over to Gamja Gol and get the gamjatang jeon-gol with your friends! I especially love this dish because of the experience of sharing one pot with a number of people; dishes like these offer a certain kind of bonding experience among the friends you're eating with and I can't express enough just how much I love shit like that~
Creep it real, get your fat on,
3003 W. Olympic Boulevard, Suite 107
Los Angeles, CA 90006
*The alcohol/drinking culture of Korea is very different from America. Here, we're used to taking shots, generally knocking back our drinks really fast and it's very action-packed. In Korea, drinking is a more slow, laid-back process, best enjoyed over a meal and sipping here and there. It's partly why Koreans have a high tolerance, especially when it comes to soju, and can last a full night of drinking without ending up with their head in the toilet. Seriously, when I went drinking with my cousins in Korea, we started at 7PM and didn't get home until 6AM (that's eleven hours of drinking) and they label their "bar hops" as rounds (first round we'll go here and let's go there for the second, etc.). I also bought a pair of shoes at 3 in the morning, it was an interesting experience.
Follow Hannah RJA Song on Instagram at @hannahrjasong
Any food places to share? Let Hannah know at firstname.lastname@example.org