Love both Chinese and Korean food? Maybe when you’re going out to eat next, try them at the same time. Korean-Chinese cuisine is a hybrid that developed at the end of the 19th century, when Korea and China had, well, closer relations than they do now. Although derived from Chinese cuisine, Koreans have adapted the dishes to match their own particular tastes and ingredients.
Chinese food is a popular to-go in Korea — delivery guys on mopeds speed along the alleys of Seoul carrying metal bins filled with steaming bowls of hot noodles, fried dumplings or sweet and sour pork. They serve it in giant plastic bowls tightly sealed in plastic wrap. You leave the dirty dishes by the door, and they’re magically gone in a couple of hours.
We’re lucky to have dozens of Korean-Chinese restaurants in Los Angeles. Though they may be lacking the delivery mopeds, all of them offer pick-up and affordable, fast and delicious meals.
The four most common dishes are jajangmyeon, a black bean noodle dish; jjamppong, a spicy seafood noodle soup; tangsuyook, fried meat (usually pork) in a sweet-and-sour sauce; and mandu, or dumplings. Instead of banchan, expect just some pickled daikon, maybe a cabbage kimchi and raw onions.
Here are five restaurants to try the next time you want great “fusion” food.
Yu Ga Ne — This unassuming shack on the corner of Irolo and 7th does a brisk lunch business from Korean office workers in Koreatown’s many high-rises — this is Korea’s version of slurp-and-go fast food. Good thing, because there are just five tables served by the older couple who have been running the joint for decades. 689 Irolo St., Los Angeles, (213) 480-1289.
Lee Mangu Kyodong Jjamppong — Although the meat and vegetables are chopped tiny, making it harder to pick up with your chopsticks, Mr. Lee’s has maybe the best flavored jjajang sauce this side of the Pacific Ocean. It’s simple, thick and satisfying. Oh, and the namesake jjamppong is no slouch either. 3500 W. 6th St., No. 225, Los Angeles, (213) 384-1716.
Cho Man Won — Sure, they have the usual jjajangmyeon and jjamppong on their menu What self-respecting Korean-Chinese joint doesn’t? But the real winners are the delicious and cheap, steamed and fried dumplings. Order a variety to share with your friends. 2881 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles, (213) 249-9900.
Shin Beijing — This sit-down restaurant used to be called Shin Peking, so you can imagine how long it’s been around. It’s a popular after-church family restaurant, and the private rooms have hosted plenty of doljanchi (baby’s 1-year birthdays) and other celebrations. The new owners have changed the menu, but you can still get bowls of samseon (three-flavored seafood) jjajangmyeon and tangsuyook. 3101 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles, (213) 381-3003, shinbeijing.com.
Zzamong — Mr. An may do a magic trick or two while you wait for your meal. The other Mr. An will be too busy filling the steady stream of to-go and delivery orders. That might explain the running cow carrying a bowl on the logo. Some of their menu items can be hit and miss, but the jjamppong is a nice brimming bowl of good spice. 4255 W 3rd St., Los Angeles, (213) 739-2747, zzamongrestaurant.com.