What can I say about Koreatown? In fact, what good things can I say about Koreatown? I can’t really think of anything, sadly. It’s dirty, over populated, and it’s pretty much the “New Jersey” of Los Angeles. As a Korean American, I grew up eating and breathing Koreatown. My parents, like almost all Koreans, do business here have some sort of connection to Koreatown. One great thing about Koreatown is the Korean food. With Korean BBQ joints on every corner and every other Korean food you can think of, its available. One of my favorite places to get bossam is Kobawoo House on the corner of 7th and Vermont. The food is great, and every single patron gets the bossam. Bossam is steamed or boiled pork that is wrapped in leaf vegetables. It is often topped with a fermented bean paste or marinated tiny shrimp or kimchi. Sometimes (most times) I get a craving for bossam, and this is the place to get your fix.
Before we got our bossam, we were given some side dishes (banchan). We had some stir fried sweet potato noodles (japchae), 2 kinds of kimchi, and fishcake. I never know if the side dishes are supposed to be eaten with the meal, but I always treated it as an appetizer. I always go for the kimchi. The noodles were perfect, but never as good as my mom’s japchae.
The bossam came in thin slices, stacked on top of each other. The pork taste was mild and the skin was gelatinous and soft. Wrapping it in their perfectly picked Napa cabbage, the morsel of food is perfect in itself. The toppings of the salty shrimp and the dried and marinated radishes gave it a nice spicy flavor. The salty shrimp and pork made a good combination, and the dried marinated radish gave it a nice crunch. To top it all off, I added their soy sauce marinated jalapeno peppers to give the bite some needed heat. Wrapping the whole thing together was a huge amount of food, but I managed to fit the whole thing in my mouth. I would try biting it in half, but the Napa cabbage doesn’t break off too easily. Plus, fitting the whole thing in your mouth and eating it is the Korean way. There is no shame in that. A bite of their pink pickled radish to cleanse the palate, and I was ready for another.
Another item I ordered was their seafood pancake (Haemul Panjun). The sizzling seafood pancake had a mixture of scallops, shrimp, oyster, squid, clams, and green onion. The whole thing was mixed with flour and cooked on a skillet. It was sliced like pizza into 6, and served. After one, I was tired of it. The pancake was thick and dense. The mixture of the seafood was good, especially dipped in the vinegar, green onion, and soy sauce mixture. If it weren’t for this, this wouldn’t have been even considered. I should have ordered the cheaper and smaller kimchi pancake. It would have suited the bossam a little better. In hind sight, I would have foregone the seafood pancake.
Kobawoo House is a popular spot in Koreatown — there’s usually a wait during lunch and dinner. I remember seeing them at the LA Weekly Pancake Breakfast and trying their Korean style pancakes. It was really good, and knew their pancakes were not even specialty. Honestly, Kobawoo House is the place to get bossam. Maybe you can get the Korean style pancakes, but really, its all about the bossam. Other places are good, but the pork at Kobawoo is sublime and the small details in flavor are unmatched. I can go for some right now.