>> Somunnan Korean Restaurant | Eat the World Los Angeles

Thursday 17 December 2020

Somunnan Korean Restaurant


EDITOR'S NOTE: This article was updated on 11 January 2021 to include an order from the second location in Buena Park. Please see the bottom for that. An updated version of this article (22 March 2024) is available as part of the Historical section of our Substack page. Check that out here:

Near the center of an east-west corridor from the 605 through Buena Park to Fullerton that keeps getting more and more Korean restaurants, the original Somunnan lives in the quiet shopping center once occupied by the now closed Good Fortune Supermarket. Along with a donut shop, a liquor store, and a Korean fried chicken joint, the center forges forward at the end of 2020 hoping for a better fate than the market.

The first of two locations and around since 2009, Somunnan like many Korean restaurants is figuring out how to package meals that are supposed to be celebrated at a table with many dishes of banchan, soup, rice, and mains. They do this as successfully as you could wish for, so bring a cooler to keep things warm and recreate the experience at home.

Takeout meals done right.

In 2021, that small main dining room will be full of humanity again, a comfortable place to get close to strangers and finish a few green bottles of soju while stirring boiling dishes like gamjatang, the pork spine stew the restaurant is known for doing well.
A hearty portion of gamjatang ($13.25, below) is right at the top of the menu and a "must try" according to the restaurant. The spine of the pig is in pieces in the bowl with delicious tender chunks of meat barely clinging to it after slow cooking. The spicy broth contains potatoes, some greenery, onions, peppers, and ground sesame.

Somunnan has always been more of a self-service type of place, but especially now at home you get to remove all that meat yourself. It is close to falling off the bones itself, so the most difficulty is just a matter of not getting the bright red soup on everything you own.
A longtime favorite Korean late night drinking food is budae jjigae ($12.50, below), which probably translates to "hot dog soup" in English. That is a lie, but hot dogs make up a good volume underneath the vibrant red broth along with Spam, kimchi, recently unpackaged dry ramen noodles, and chewy rice cakes.
For takeout, they cook the ramen just right and place it in its own container which you can plop in the soup when you get home. The history of this dish is well worth a read, but the short version of it is Koreans making US American foods more palatable with their own spices. There were plenty of hot dogs and Spam tins left behind on army bases after the Korean War, and it had to be used in such a time of hardship. 
The town of Uijeongbu, just north of Seoul and previously home to many of these military bases, is specifically well known for its budae jjigae to this day. They have even tried to get the name changed to Uijeongbu jjigae so as to take the military and war references out.

Somunnan operates a second location in Buena Park, which has much of the same menu but also specializes in naengmyun. The spicy version of this cold, arrowroot noodle soup is chick bibim naengmyun ($11.99, below), done so well here even when taken home.

Both locations do an excellent job with banchan as shown above and below.

Takeout chick bibim naengmyun with takeout banchan.

The dish is not super spicy on its own, so folks that want it to be more so can add some of the horseradish-laced mustard that accompanies the order.

Also of note, especially during winter evenings, is sul lung tang ($10.50, below), a slow-simmered broth that fills you with beefy warmth. Tender slices of the beef are ready to be joined by glass noodles, packed on the side, and green onions.

Somunnan 2

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