Since my last visit to Dha Rae Oak in Los Angeles, which involved delectable smoked duck, Chef Chung Mi Rae and husband Kim Gil Rae have further bolstered their quacktastic line-up. The couple already served charcoal-grilled duck skewers and a whole bird baked in a clay oven that requires four hours notice and comes bursting with glutinous purple five-grain rice, ginkgo nuts, assorted seeds, sweet potato, chestnuts and walnuts. Any one of those dishes should make this family-run Koreatown spot a sensation. Still, it took until my fifth visit to unlock Pandora’s box. Or perhaps Pandora’s duck would be more appropriate?
Their latest surprise came at the end of a recent dinner with my parents, when my server made us an offer I couldn’t refuse. “Would you like spicy duck soup?” Of course. The result was a bubbling pot of chile-stained soup scattered with cabbage leaves and perilla seeds. Sweep aside the soup’s orange froth and find a cache of wonderfully chewy cords of house-made noodles. You’ll also find duck necks, which must be in long supply given all the birds they serve. Meat pulls easily from tiny bones in pink shreds and flavor builds with every bite.