Mad at myself, I flung open–as much as you can virtually fling something open–Jonathan Gold’s epic article “60 Korean Dishes Every Angeleno Should Know” and said to myself, “You big jerk! You’ve been in L.A. almost a year and you’ve barely scratched the surface of Koreatown. You’ve never eaten any of this food. Eat some of it right now!”
My eyes settled on something called “Shaken Dosirak” and I decided I would go eat that thing, whatever it was, this very instant.
My journey to Koreatown started out simple: I drove down Normandie until I got to 6th street, then I made a left. That’s when things got tricky. Finding a park spot was next to impossible. I was almost ready to give up when I found a garage that charged $1.50 every 15 minutes; it was that or fail, once again, at eating Korean food. I decided to fork up the dough.
When I got to the address I was looking for, I didn’t see a restaurant. I saw an archway. I walked under the archway and suddenly I was in this secret shopping center with Korean restaurants and coffee shops, very few of them with signs in English. In fact, the place I was looking for had no sign in English, but I’d remembered that it’s owned (according to Gold) by a “wrestler-turned-movie comedian” so these signs out front made it clear I was in the right place:
Inside, tables of men and women seared assorted meats on the fire at the table’s center:
I sat by myself, and got a kick out of the wrestler-themed menu and the barley water (which I was prepared for after my last trip to Koreatown):
Even though the Korean BBQ was giving off an intoxicating smell, I stuck to my plan: I asked the waiter (who spoke great English) for the shaken dosirak. He had to check to make sure they still had that; when he came back, he said they did, but that it might not be enough for lunch. I said I’d give it a try and if it wasn’t enough, I’d let him know.
Soon after, panchan arrived–complimentary little bites that are basically a meal in themselves:
Fermented vegetables of all sorts, my favorite was the bowl of turnips at 6 o’clock. The kimchi was incredibly pungent but not too spicy; and the shiso leaf (I think that’s a shiso leaf at 9 o’clock) had a markedly pronounced intensity.
Soon arrived my Dosirak. That’s the lunch box you see at the top of my post: it came with rice, an egg, what looks like seaweed, tofu, kimchi and something unidentifiable. If you’re paying careful attention, you’ll wonder why this post is called “Shaken Dosirak.” Here’s why:
That’s the waiter shaking my dosirak. He asked me not to photograph his face, which is why he’s decapitated in the photo. He shook this thing like he was shaking for his life. And here’s the result:
All of those elements break apart and fuse together into a glorious whole, not unlike fried rice but minus all that frying business. You have the richness of the egg yolk, the heat of the kimchi, the ocean-flavor of the seaweed and the heartiness of the tofu. It’s a fantastic lunch, one that totally hits the spot supplemented, as it is, by all that panchan.
My plan is to get mad myself more often so I can have more experiences like this in L.A. Why have a sandwich when you could be eating shaken dosirak? I hang my head in shame.