>> Jinsol Gukbap 진솔국밥 | Eat the World Los Angeles

Friday, 5 August 2022

Jinsol Gukbap 진솔국밥

SOUTH KOREA 🇰🇷
West 3rd Street facade

COVID-19 UPDATE: The restaurant is fully open for indoor dining. They also have a small back patio for outdoor dining and all staff are still wearing masks.

The Google translation of jinsol is sincerity, although "Sincere Soup With Rice" may not quite handle the thoughtfulness of this restaurant's name in Korean. Once you are inside you will feel a sincerity in everything around you though; the welcome and care from the staff, the comforting nature of the interior design, and most of all the homemade delicious food.

The light wood panels and detailing of the shop keep everything warm and comfortable even in colder weather, the perfect place to enjoy gukbap. The style of gukbap (soup with rice) perfected here is the famous dwaeji gukbap from Busan, South Korea's second largest city. Koreans throughout the peninsula enjoy this long simmered pork soup during cold winter months, but in Busan restaurants serving the dish are open and patronized all year long even when temperatures are over 30°C in the city during summer months.

Dwaeji gukbap | 돼지국밥

Surprisingly for such a diverse Koreatown, dwaeji gukbap ($15.95, above) is kind of hard to find and the city is lucky to have this specialist. The air conditioner works well enough that coming here even in August is not a bad idea because they make it so well and provide all the right add-ons to make the dish exactly as you wish.

That starts by adding at least a spoonful of saeu-jeot (새우젓), tiny salted and fermented shrimp that are provided on every table. The pork bone broth of the soup is otherwise intentionally a bit bland, but all of its rich flavors hidden underneath are waiting to come out with the addition of this jeotgal. Like magic, the soup is instantly transformed as you stir this and the chili paste into the bowl.

Homemade salted shrimp

Make sure to dump in the entire plate of garlicky leeks that come with the dish, which are also coated with chili and give the soup a nice red-orange color. If it is your first time, the very friendly staff might even take your spoon and put everything in the soup the right way and make sure you mix very well. One or two stirs is definitely not enough, and they will make sure you do it right.

As mentioned gukbap is soup with rice, so you are of course served a nice round lump of purple rice to use as desired with the soup. On the banchan assortment, there are big chunks of raw onion and fermented soy bean paste called doenjang (된장) which can all be combined with slices of pork to create strong tastes. The soup can be eaten on its own or upgraded with blood sausage (soondae) or a combination of pork ear, tongue, and stomach.

Dwaeji gukbap | 돼지국밥 mixed with all sides and salted shrimp
Dwaeji gukbap with everything added and stirred well.

Having good cold noodle options is tremendously important during summer months, so one of the two on offer at Jinsol Gukbap needed to be sampled. You can get them alone or as a combo with a plate of galbi as standard. Despite looking fresh and being on plenty of other tables, the bibim naengmyeon ($16.95, below) just was not full of amazing fiery and fresh tastes as desired.

The noodles themselves are also a bit sad and nothing like the fresh ones made at nearby Ham Hung, still the favorite location to eat the North Korean specialty. Make things a little better by squirting in plenty of the hot mustard provided with the cold noodle dishes, and combine it with bites of the superbly crisp kimchi and other vegetable banchan.

Bibim naengmyun 냉면

Stick to some of their large format shareable dishes on second visits instead of the cold noodles, beginning of course with the awe inspiring jjimdak ($43, below). Be prepared for a thirty minute wait for this pot to arrive at the table, as it takes much longer to prepare than most of the other foods popular here. Originally from the central city of Andong, this stew of braised chicken and vegetables is probably meant for two people but will fill more like four.

There is definitely garlic, onions, and ginger found in the tastes, but the first and strongest thing you enjoy on your tongue is soy sauce. This is sweetened by what is almost a glaze by the long-cooked onions and a sprinkling of sesame seeds over the top. You can complement these by the crisp and sour banchan or white rice, but honestly it is almost perfect despite the sweetness.

Jjimdak 안동찜닭

The big pot is deep and comes out almost still boiling, so stir it all up to let some steam out and dig into the dish for noodles. They use exclusively dark meat still on the bones, chopped up into interesting cuts and delectably juicy. A few prunes are added to make everything even more sweet, but do not pass on these delicious fruits as you dig in.

You can also enjoy your dwaeji gukbap with a gigantic plate of pork belly if you come with a group, or order kimchi stew, spicy pigs feet, or naengchae jokbal, a large format plate of pigs feet in mustard sauce and cold jellyfish salad. The most popular shareable dish might be the plate of marinated spicy pork ribs, especially at lunch when they are offered at a deep discount on weekdays. Next time, for sure.

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