Thursday, December 11, 2008

Have a Bibimbap-y Christmas - La Korea @ Farmer's Market

Los Angeles Farmers Market
6333 W 3rd St
Los Angeles, CA

Stall # 510
(323) 936-3930

If you're like me, and you live in Hollywood, you're going to be spending a little more time at The Grove than you'd like. Schlepping from the Apple Store to Crate and Barrel, bags and shopping list akimbo. That case you got for a stocking stuffer just won't fit your mate's old iPod, you're considering a new iPod (your household's third) Your blood sugar is dropping, blood pressure rising. You look around for Grove food: all too sit-down-y. You go to the historic Farmer's Market, but you're not sure what to grab, quickly, that won't knock you on your shopping ass for the crucial next two hours.

I recommend La Korea, at the northeastern end of the market, near the Gumbo Pot and Dupar's. If you know me you know I loves the Korean food, and while this is several miles from the wonders of Koreatown, it totally satisfies the lunch jones in a way that few other cuisines can. Its menu is reassuringly small; not too many stress-inducing choices to make (which is my main complaint with Loteria... I never seem to quite get what I expected, and other people's plates look so much better), and all in the $6-8 range. The La Korea menu features grilled meat, either chicken, pork, or beef, served with steamed rice and choice of two side dishes. The side dishes are right there, so you can just point. Or, perhaps you're new to Korean food? If so, I recommend the bibimbap. Don't be scared by all those b's, it's pronounced exactly the way its spelled.

Bibimbap is literally "stirred meal" in Korean. It's a bowl of steamed rice with an array of ingredients on top; think of a fresh-Mex style "burrito bowl" but with Korean meats and veggies, instead of rice, beans, lettuce and guacamole. In a Korean home, the rice would likely be topped whatever is leftover from last night's meal. In restaurants, it's often a selection of the Korean banchan, or side dishes, and that's the case here: cucumber salad, julienned carrots, bean sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, and lettuce. It really should have a fried egg atop it all... ask, and I'm sure you shall receive. I forgot to ask, and my photo model arrived egless.

While you're waiting for your meal, it's only few steps over the EB Wine Bar, where they are always cheerfully pouring some microbrew draft beers and well-chosen wines by the glass, for 5 or 6 bucks. I suggest you treat yourself to one, you've earned it and it'll go really well with your lunch. That's a Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir...

Your bibimbap bowl is served with the veggies and meats arranged like pie slices atop the rice, along with your choice of tender, thin, freshly grilled beef (the ubiquitous, soy and sesame seed-seasoned beef bulgogi that is to Korea what carne asada is to Mexico) or chicken. They'll give ya pork if you wish (as pictured below), or, rumor has it, grill up anything you bring them from Marconda's the famous butchers next door. I'm totally doing that next time I visit!

Of course an all-veggie, or veggie and tofu, version is available, too. Be sure to take a small tub of the chili paste-sauce from the counter. At your table, drizzle sauce on your bowl (don't worry, it's quite mild) and stir it all up. You've just created a light but filling dish, fulfilled your vegetable-servings requirement for the day, and added some delicious grilled protein to boot. And you've now partaken of one of the staple dishes of Korean cuisine.

My only gripe is that the chili paste is not nearly hot enough for my taste. I get around this by borrowing from the extensive selection of bottled heat at the end of the Gumbo Pot counter. True, La Korea is not quite up to what you'll find in Koreatown, but it beats the hell out of Cheesecake Factory. And if you eat here enough, you might save enough money left over for that third iPod.


  1. Anonymous5:08 PM

    Give me some of that bibimbap, dammap! Now I'm hungry.

  2. Looks like a good place to check out. Thanks for the recommendation.