Chunju Han Il Kwan Spicy Mixed Casserole (Dose of Vitamin P)

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Korean Food Los Angeles

Chunju Han Il Kwan is best known for budae jigae, aka military stew.

When the temperature dips below 60 degrees Fahrenheit in L.A., which isn’t often, people start running toward hot comfort foods that are probably better suited to sustaining Himalayan sherpas or Antarctic explorers. In Koreatown, the best fit may be budae jigae, a hearty “military stew” that Koreans turned to after the Korean War, when fresh food was scarce, and Army rations were still available. Chunju Han Il Kwan, set back in the corner of a Koreatown strip mall since 1990, contains wood booths touting Hangul lettering and framed water colors, including a tiger smoking a long pipe with aid of two rabbits. Kooky, I know, but this restaurant may have the best version of the stew in the city, which they call Spicy Mixed Casserole w/Spam, Sausage & Noodles ($25.90).

The massive, flame red pot bubbles to a boil on a tabletop grill and contains sliced hot dog and floppy triangles of SPAM, crimped ramen noodles (packaged, of course), firm rice cakes, scallions, kimchi, mushrooms, ridged greens (which cook down) and more. Dredge the spicy broth for spice-soaked proteins, starches and vegetables, and spoon your prized finds over purple wild rice. It’s easy to see how a stew this hearty could have helped Koreans get through lean times. In L.A., the spicy mixed casserole is just an excuse for soft Angelenos to eat like starving college students while bemoaning the “cold.”

Dose of Vitamin P spotlights my favorite pork dish from the previous week.

Chunju Han Il Kwan Spicy Mixed Casserole (Dose of Vitamin P)


Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

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