Rick's Reviews: Seoul Food, A Look At Korean Cuisine

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Can someone please explain to me why so many Korean restaurants are located in Lauderhill?

The city has a lower than average population of Asian residents, yet there are a couple of Korean churches in the town and no less than half a dozen Korean restaurants. Not that I’m complaining. After moving here from a city with a large Korean population, I had a serious hankering for some of the spicy fare I’ve grown to love.

Korean cuisine, like much Asian fare relies on a combination of meats, veggies and rice for most dishes. Korean fare, like that of Thailand, is also known for its liberal use of chili peppers and ground chilies. Gochujang, a fermented bean puree, that has red pepper powder, soybean powder and rice flour added to it to create a spicy paste, is as ubiquitous on tables in Korea as catsup is in America. It is used as a seasoning or dipping sauce and can be added to most dishes.

Traditional Korean meals are always served with numerous side dishes (banchan) that accompany steam-cooked short-grain rice. Kimchi, a pickled and fermented vegetable, is almost always included in the banchan, which are served in small bowls or segmented platters.

Dried or pickled fish or vegetables are also common side dishes for the meals. Jeon (or buchimgae) are savory pancakes made from various ingredients. Chopped kimchi or seafood is mixed into a wheat flour-based batter, and then pan fried. This dish tastes best when it is dipped in a mixture of soy sauce, vinegar, and gochujang.

Some of the most popular Korean dishes include bibimbap, which consists of stir-fried vegetables and a protein (meat or tofu) served atop a large bowl of rice and topped with a fried egg. As you break up the egg and stir the ingredients together, the yolk forms a sauce. Bulgogi is equally popular and is usually made from thinly sliced marinated beef sirloin or tenderloin. Another popular version of this dish, made from marinated beef short ribs, is galbi. Chadolbegi is a dish made from thinly sliced beef brisket, which is not marinated. It is so thin that it cooks nearly instantly as soon as it is dropped onto a heated pan. Samgyeopsal is made of thicker strips of unsalted pork belly.

Since much of the meat is grilled, many Korean restaurants have tables equipped with gas or charcoal grills built into the table. In these “Korean BBQ” places, servers usually bring platters of raw meat, which the customers cook as they chat and dine. Sometimes the server will also bring a collection of side dishes or will invite diners to a salad bar to assemble their own banchan platter.

Korean beer is a popular accompaniment to meals. Soju is a clear spirit which was originally made from grain, especially rice, and is now also made from sweet potatoes or barley. Soju made from grain is considered superior; it is often mixed with fruit drinks to smooth it out, but be warned, it has a high alcohol content and those drinks sneak up on you.

Izziban Sushi & BBQ

7225 W. Oakland Park Blvd., Lauderhill

954-368-6767

Izziban.com

Izziban is probably the most approachable of the Korean BBQ restaurants for those experiencing it for the first time. The staff is quite friendly and willing to take the time to explain the menu and the various options. It’s not cheap, nearly $30 a person for dinner and many side dishes are a la carte. But for that $30, you can choose from a vast array of meats, including sirloin steak, boneless short ribs and brisket. We had a vegetarian in our crowd and even though he could have made a meal of the endless supply of sushi included with the $30 meal, he was allowed to order a la carte and got kim chee fried rice that was a spicy as he hoped it would be.

Izziban is one of the places that offers a salad bar in lieu of banchan dishes. The salad bar also offers up fresh raw seafood that you can cook on your barbecue. Gas burners in the middle of the table put off very little heat or smoke. At the end of the meal we were all presented with a tiny bottle of a yogurt drink which helped to sooth our palates from the fiery cuisine. It was like having a Dreamsicle shooter for dessert.

If you develop a yen for Korean fare, I’d recommend starting at Izziban, but if you’re looking to branch out, here are some other options.

Minji’s

7151 W. Oakland Park Blvd., Lauderhill

954-572-5088

A hole in the wall popular with local Koreans, so you know the food is good.

Gabose Korean BBQ Restaurant

4991 N. University Dr., Lauderhill

954-572-4800

One of the few Korean BBQ restaurants where you cook over charcoal. You go home smelling like a fire, but the difference in flavor is worth it.

Gabose Pocha

4933 N. University Dr., Lauderhill

954-999-0603

More of an emphasis on shared plates and cocktails here (try the watermelon soju), but the food gets raves, as well.

Korean Manna

4966 N. University Dr., Lauderhill

954-748-6088

The most authentic Korean fare this side of Seoul.

R.O.K.

4954 N. University Dr., Lauderhill

954-530-1394

This place is always open until 2 a.m. (sometimes later). So, when you get that midnight craving for bibimbap, here’s where to head.


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