I know that it is the general convention that dishes, food, is best tasted at the source. I think that does some disservice to the diaspora and fusion food that has evolved over the millennia. That said, here is a list of food that I often crave. Actually, for many of the dishes, I prefer in their newer form. But, then again… some I prefer at the source.
Ceviche — I like the classic old fashioned version. The Peruvians love fusion. They are a fusion and so is their food. So now one can find “warm ceviche” and ceviche not made with fish.
Danish hotdog — I prefer them in Denmark. The actual hotdog is special, the ketchup is different, the dog is served with crunchy fried onions… New York pizza — also, one of those things. Some say that the New York pizza is like a Neopolitan pizza from Naples, Italy. We shall see… Hamburger — Some of the best I’ve had are in the United States. American beef and lack of gristle in the mix. Banh mi — I’ve had good ones outside of Vietnam. Pho — Also, good in the certain parts of the United States. Very bland in other places. Korean BBQ — If one sticks to the pork belly, then it’s fairly easy to get good Korean barbecue in many countries. I think that many people think that bulgogi should be made with a high grade of beef and grilled at the table. Traditionally, bulgogi was created to use bad cuts of meat that required marinating. Usually the slices are so thin that grilling at the table dries them out. Some places use good cuts of steak and then one can dip them in sesame seed oil and salt. This is a delicious way to eat barbecue. Chicken wings — Oddly, some of the best barbecue wings I’ve had were in a pizzeria in New Mexico. Dim sum — can be good in many places outside China.
Laksa — so far the best I’ve had, and even some of the mediocre, was in Singapore and Malaysia. What can I say?
Most of all, the food of other lands transports you to them.
It has taken me over a year, but I finally made it to all the Korean restaurants in Lima (bar the instant ramen noodle place in Arenales Mall and the bingsoo dessert place downtown). Here is my review of the restaurants.
1. Dae Jang Geum, Av San Borja Sur 279, San Borja: The name of this place is named after a female palace chef and style of cooking. This place has been visited by Gaston Acurio. I like the food here including the bbq.
2. Arirang, Calle Las Orquídeas 443, San Isidro: This place is closest to Miraflores and is located in the business district. Also good food including bbq.
3. Han Kook Kwan, Av San Luis 2256, San Borja: This place doesn’t open until 2 pm on Sundays! The lady who owns the place is Korean. The food here is probably more “authentic” from the old days… all I know is that I’m not good at eating raw crab in the shell (see lower left corner in photo below). I’d say to eat here if you want a more homey style of food.
4. Nodaji, Av. Aviación 3257, San Borja: The good thing about this place is that it’s next door to Assi, the Korean store. The food was not anything special but the place was busy and had lots of tour buses parked outside.
5. Coreano Dos Hermanos, Av. Aviación 4812, Santiago de Surco: This is upstairs… the dumplings were Chinese style, had gochuchang inside, and steamed like dim sum. But, the japchae noodles were good.
6. Namu, Centro Comercial Arenales, Cuadra 17, Av. Arenales 1737, Lince: This place is located in the basement of the Arenales Mall. It’s a casual place with K pop playing and teeny boppers singing along…
7. Bingsu, Jirón Callao 161, Cercado de Lima and Av. Gral. Eugenio Garzón 1360, Jesús María. This Korean shaved ice dessert, bingsu, is served in these two locations. The branch in Jesus Maria is newer so still shiny and new. Just down the street from the new place mentioned below.
8. Seoul Chicken, Avenida General Eugenio Garzón, 1474 Jesús María, opened in July 2019, this place serves deep fried chicken, fries, ramen, and mandu (dumplings or as they are called here, “empanadas”). The wings are not the crazy addictive rice-flour-coated wings of BonChon chicken as these taste more like sweet and sour chicken. But, the owner is Korean and they play K-pop videos on the TV.
Thanks to Paloquemao market, I’m able to find “Asian vegetables” to make Asian food. This includes kimchi.
In Dhaka, I organized Korean cooking lessons and it was possible to buy Korean goods at the Korean mart in Dhaka (and I had my special Korean place in Dhaka to supply me). In Bogota there is no Korean supermarket with ready-to-eat small dishes (other than Maki Roll restaurant which has a few items for sale). Also, I haven’t found my kimchi source (Casa de Coreana‘s is the best in Bogota, in my opinion), so I decided that I would have to make it myself.
The recipe is easy to find on the Internet (Maangchi is one of favorite) and I used her easy recipe involving fish sauce. I made it and it was delicious!
“Hey, do you have a recommendation for a Korean restaurant?” Do I ever! In the service of social media=democracy=sharing information… here’s my list of Korean restaurants I like to go to when in Northern Virginia. I also mentioned Korean food in my list of iconic American eats in the Washington, DC area. All these restaurants are located in Annandale in Fairfax county about ten miles from the Lincoln Memorial. There are buses out to this area but that experience would probably ruin your experience.
Lighthouse Tofu (Vit Goel Tofu) – 4121 Chatelain Rd #100, Annandale, VA 22003: More than tofu, this place specializes in volcanically hot earthenware bowls of stew/soup. This place actually has seafood stew which I love. Plus, they have created a mini seafood pancake which is more like an American appetizer. Most places serve a huge seafood pancake (haemul pajeon) which can be harder to deal with.
Honey Pig – 7220 Columbia Pike, Annandale, VA 22003: Very loud music, steel decor and smoky, this place will make you feel like you are in Korea.
To Sok Jip – 7211 Columbia Pike, Annandale, VA 22003: Across the street from Honey Pig, easy to overlook, this place with the purple awning, is worth finding. It’s got three “rice” options – white, barley, or purple which is a mix of brown rice and beans. This is one of the few hole-in-the-wall places left in this area. The bok choy kimchi is fantastic. They also have a mega-pot “wartime soup” which is a hodgepodge of hot dogs, tofu, pork, kimchi, noodles, etc. thrown into a cauldron. Must not eat alone. Plus, the ladies’ has a fancy Japanese toilet.
Gom Ba Woo – 7133 Columbia Pike, Annandale, VA 22003: This place is next to Giant. I mention it because I’ve had some really delicious home made mandu (dumplings, potstickers) here, and I’ve had wonderful language barrier issues here too, one of which resulted in us receiving a cold bowl of noodles in a lard soup. The lady looked at us approvingly because clearly this was the dish to order in hot weather, but we were not so thrilled.
Nak Won – 7317 Little River Turnpike, Annandale, VA 22003: This place is where I’d take newbies to Korean food. It’s got a nice authentic feel and it’s quiet. The decor reminds me of the decor of the 80’s with wood tables and memorabilia on the walls.
Oegadgib – 7331 Little River Turnpike, Annandale, VA 22003: This place should be called “Mr. Lee’s” but instead I think it is “Gram’s place” or something like that. There is a full menu but the two things that stand out are the all-you-can-eat shabu-shabu (where you cook meat and vegetables in a broth – like hotpot) and the barbecue which includes three kinds of meat. The prices are under $20 per person so a great place to go with big eaters. This place is hard to find and hard to pronounce so look for the Jerry’s Sub sign, make absolutely sure that you do not park in Jerry’s lot, and then go behind the building on Little River Turnpike and you will often find Mr. Lee waving his light saber around to help you find parking in his lot.
Yechon – 4121 Hummer Rd, Annandale, VA 22003: This is a 24-hour standby. It’s big and they do everything well. It’s located a bit away from the other restaurants and many don’t like how generic it feels, but that’s one thing that’s good about it — you can always go there and find acceptable Korean food.
There are two other places to mention – one bakery and one chicken place:
Shilla Bakery – 7039 Little River Turnpike, Annandale, VA 22003: Forget all the weird ideas about not liking Asian desserts… you will like these! They have everything from French bread, puffy pastries, colorful cakes, bingsoo (frozen ice dessert with flavorings, fruit, etc.), Illy coffee, and yes, some of those weird Asian desserts made with beans. This place is always pumping with Korean American youth hanging out and families. The bakery is very generous with its samples so you can try four or five different breads, cookies, pastries, before buying one or none.
Bon Chon Chicken – multiple locations: Really, very few things make me NOT want to share. I have a friend who is a true foodie friend because when we shared a plate of Bon Chon’s wings, he ate the winglets (part that looks like a drumstick) so that I could enjoy the flats (the part with two bones). Sigh, now that’s true understanding. These wings are sweet, crunchy, and lightly coated.
Maybe once I get to Colombia, I’ll compile a list of the seven best Korean restaurants in Bogota.
One of the foods found almost everywhere is the instant ramen noodle. Except in India and Bangladesh. But that may be changing. I recently saw a commercial for Maggi brand noodles with the patriarch of Bollywood eating instant noodles. Ramen is a soup in Japan and Korea. To sell these in India, the instant noodle dish in the commercial was less soupy. Using the noodles for a stir fry is how the noodles are used in Malaysia (that magician at the night market made the best I’ve had) or Cambodia, and so on. Since the culture in South Asia is to eat with the hand, I would have thought that advertisers would push something handheld, but maybe that’s the next part of the ad campaign (this is not an advertisement for any brand). In the U.S., instant noodle is sold in cups making it easily handheld and easily eaten with a fork. Many other ways to eat the ramen noodle and 27 of those ways are here. One way not mentioned here is wrapped around prawns and deep fried like at Goong.
Why are instant noodles so good even if they are not good for us? It’s “umami” which is the Japanese word for that something special that makes food so delicious.