Tuesday, June 24, 2008
A Full Korean Meal in a Bowl
Judging by the back-to-back posts, I must be on a Korean food kick. Can't help myself. This is a quickie entry on my favorite bibimbab place in Koreatown -- Jeon Ju. It specializes in the super-hot stone-pot bowls of rice mixed with vegetables and meat, seafood, or no meat at all. You can order a non-stone-pot version that comes in a regular bowl if you don't like food that is too hot temperature-wise.
But the stone-pot functions not only as a thermos that keeps the rice and all the goodies in it warm, but it also helps to create a crunchy rice-crust at the bottom that you vigorously scrape at the end of your meal (or beginning, depending on your level of patience). If the fried egg is done sunny side up like in most establishments (not in this one -- egg comes out almost fully cooked, which takes a bit of the fun away from popping and cooking the egg), you can also use the stone-pot to cook the egg by searing it in the bottom of the pot.
What I like most about Jeon Ju is the meat topping that comes with the kalbi dolsot bibimbab. Usually, meat in bibimbab is ground meat of dubious origins. But this is marinated rib meat that's been boned, so you only get the tender slightly salty, sweet and most definitely garlicky morsels of meat. Add some bean sprouts, mushrooms, fiery kimchi, zucchini, carrots and radishes, mix it with rice and red pepper paste (pictured below), and you have yourself a healthy bowl of bibimbab that also hits your recommended daily vegetable intake.
It doesn't hurt that the banchan, or side dishes are reasonably solid. They include three kinds of kimchi -- a regular nappa cabbage, radish and water kimchi. There were stir-fried dried baby anchovies, jelly topped with a soy sauce and scallion dressing, steamed broccoli with red pepper paste and stir fried fish cakes. You also get a comfort-foody sea kelp soup that is even healthier than the bibimbab. Check out the mixed bowl below. Jeon Ju is a city in Korea's southwestern Cheolla Province from which this stone-pot dish hails. Stone-pot bibimbab is hence called Jeon Ju bibimbab.
I recently saw Mario Batali present a stone-pot bibimbab dish on Iron Chef America and recalled seeing the judges ooh-ing and ahh-ing about how creative it was. Um, hello? I hope Batali gave proper credit to where he got the idea and equipment from because I missed the first part of the show. By the way, portions are big, so one bibimbab translates into three meals.
2716 West Olympic Boulevard #101 (at Vermont)
Los Angeles, CA 90006