Saturday, December 12, 2009

Han Bat Sul Lung Tang (한밭 설렁탕), Koreatown

There is a food that I love, love more than most other foods. I can eat it for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and any other time in between, though it's traditionally a breakfast food. It's so good, in fact, that I crave it and must have it at least once every couple months, or I become ornery and whiny (okay, whinier than usual).

I had seollongtang (설렁탕, also spelled sul lung tang) for lunch today, and am so happy now. Mmm, mmm, good has never been as good as this!

(picture taken from Yelp)

I texted my sister this morning, having found out today that I will be out of town for work on Monday and Tuesday. We were supposed to pick up my cousin (flying in from Korea!) from LAX on Monday evening and take him to the parents' house, but I obviously will not be able to make it.

She called me and we chatted for a while, and she mentions seollongtang (설렁탕), the perfect dreary-day fare. I've been at work for a couple hours by this time, and haven't had much to eat, since I'm weaning myself off the master cleanse right now. Though seollongtang largely subsists of a broth made of ox bones, and meat is a bad idea right now, the idea of steaming hot, perfectly seasoned soup with specks of green onions floating on top was too good to resist.

Along with a couple boys, we trekked down to Koreatown to Han Bat, which is ghetto. It's in a strip mall that doesn't even have a parking lot. It's across the street from a Carl's Jr. It's on 5th and Western. But it is also delectable.

Han Bat Sul Lung Tang (한밭 설렁탕)
4163 W. 5th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90020

Telephone: 213.388.9499

Open daily:
7:00 am - 10:00 pm

(I have a quibble with spelling it 'sul lung tang.' I want to say that it's Han Bat Seollongtang, but the actual restaurant spells it Hat Bat Sul Lung Tang. Sigh.)

It's a tiny restaurant, with two rows of tables that extends from the front door all the way to the back of the place, with the kitchen off to the side. The dining area is long and narrow and you can't help but mock the people around you because you're practically sitting on them. Community fun, perhaps?

The Hat Bat Sul Lung Tang menu is sparse- you can get seollongtang, and you can choose what kind of meat goes in it. That's it. I think there are four choices:

Mixed (everything)
Brisket (lean, thin slices of beef)
Flank (flank steak, obviously)
Innards (they don't call it innards, but that's what it is! Tripe, intestine, tongue, and liver, I think. Shudder.)

You receive a bowl of rice, two types of kimchi (cabbage and radish), a giant vat of finely sliced scallion with an accompanying ladle, a small container of fluffy fine sea salt with a small spoon, black pepper, and a little jar of chili sauce. Very simple fare.

Seollongtang is usually served in stone or clay bowls, which retain heat very well and keep the soup scorching, just as it's meant to be. You taste the soup, which has your choice of meat and a handful of boiled cellophane noodles (the same noodles used for japchae). Add as much salt as you think you need. Add pepper. Scallions, if you like them. You can add chili sauce or the dregs of the two types of kimchi if you like it spicy, which I don't. I enjoy my seollontang with salt, pepper, a little scoop of scallion, and take my rice and kimchi on the side.

My sister and I had a legend that we've created between us- if you put a bowl of rice into a bowl of seollongtang, the rice mysteriously disappears! That's not true, of course, but the rice separates into individual grains in the hot soup and you don't get the same mouthfeel. A spoonful of sticky rice dipped into the soup and eaten is very different than a spoonful of soup with rice floating around in it. We both prefer the scoop and spoon method- scoop some rice onto the spoon, then dip the spoon into the soup. I generally like to fish a couple strands of noodles onto the rice, as well.

Today, since I'm trying not to binge, I didn't eat any meat and I ate maybe three or four spoonfuls of rice. I also limited myself to just a few pieces of kimchi, since my stomach probably isn't ready for anything fermented. I did have a couple scoops of scallions and the noodles, because really, I love noodles.

It was perfect for this rainy Saturday, though now I'm back at work and wishing I was still in Koreatown.


william December 17, 2009 at 7:03 PM  

i love seolleongtang. when i was little, we'd go to this one seolleongtang restaurant every weekend (it was near our house). the restaurant gave little kids these paper, yellow dunce caps.

i love dumping the entire bowl of rice in the soup, though (because i really like rice in soup for some reason). and i like it super salty.

so happy to know you like the same food.

jeanny December 17, 2009 at 9:36 PM  

You know a lot about a person by what they eat. I've decided that I like you 28% better now- someone that doesn't like seollongtang would absolutely horrify me.

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