I work in Koreatown, which means a lot of self-restraint is required to keep me from going out to eat every single day. Even though I could probably eat at a new place every day for the rest of this fellowship, I actually almost always bring my lunch. Pretty proud of that one.
But, the other day I forgot my lunch on the kitchen counter. On accident, I swear! I had no choice but to venture out and get my Korean food fix (because, as you know, Korean people need to eat Korean food).
I was going to go to BCD Tofu House, but the Wilshire location is closed for remodeling. So sad because I’m obsessed with soon du bu. I decided to try Yu Ga Ne, a tiny little Chinese-Korean joint located not in a plaza/strip mall, but in the parking lot of a plaza/strip mall.
I was really excited to try the jja jang myun (noodles with black bean sauce) and the steamed wang mandu (king dumplings) because Yelp was saying they were good and there was a combo for $6.99.
First, a little lesson for those who aren’t familiar with this type of cuisine. Koreanized Chinese food is food that originally comes from China or at least influenced by Chinese food but has been made distinctively Korean by the Chinese-Koreans living in Korea. Think Americanized Chinese food (no, your General Tso’s Chicken is not authentic, but it’s still delicious). The most popular dishes are jja jang myun (black bean sauce noodles), jjam ppong (spicy seafood noodle soup), and tang soo yook (breaded and fried pork or beef in a sweet and tangy sauce).
I’m drooling just thinking about it. It’s 9am.
In Seoul, there is no shortage of Chinese restaurants. 99% of the time you get it delivered. You call in your order and minutes later a man on a bicycle comes to the door with a hot bowl of noodles and the typical Chinese-Korean banchan of kimchi, pickled radish, and raw onions in vinegar. After you’re done eating, you set the reusable dishes outside your door and the man on the bicycle comes and picks it up. How delightfully green.
It’s possible I’m romanticizing it in my mind, but I’ve yet to have jjajangmyun or jjamppong in the States that compares to these dime a dozen hole in the wall places in Korea. I’ve been to several places in America that make a decent one, but nothing compares to the rich deep flavors I remember. I don’t think I’m alone when I say that I’m always looking for the perfect bowl of jjajang or jjamppong that will instantly bring me back to my days living in Seoul.
Unfortunately, Yu Ga Ne isn’t “the One” either and I’m still chasing that jja jang.
The jja jang myun was okay, but not great. They got the noodles right in terms of the consistency, but there was something missing in the sauce. It just wasn’t rich enough.
At the risk of offending my fellow Koreans, I must admit that I just don’t think we do dumplings well. In my opinion, the Chinese and Taiwanese just do it a lot better. These dumplings were certainly king-sized and full of meat and tofu, but it was just too green onion-y for me and the skin was too dense. I like thick dumpling skin, but not when it’s too dense and floury. Does that make sense? (<– why I’m not actually a food blogger)
Overall, I think Yu Ga Ne is a solid lunch option for me. It’s close to work and the owners, who I’m guessing is an older couple, are awfully sweet. The jjajangmyun wasn’t the best, but for $5 it’s pretty darn good and better than the food court jjajang I’ve been getting for the same price. Next time I’ll try the jjamppong and report back.