Ma Po Dak Gal Bi: Mixing Up Ma Pos And Scoring Sizzling Bird

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Korean Food Los Angeles


Don’t let Ma Po Dak Gal Bi’s cracked sign and pastel green walls deter you. Instead, look past the wear to full tables and sizzling skillets, and you’ll be rewarded with satisfying Korean stir-fries.

The 10-year-old restaurant features an extremely limited menu, offering just seven items, including tempting “slices of tender pork on a unique pan.” Still, the house specialty is undoubtedly Dak Gal Bi, spicy pan-fried chicken with vegetables. The cost is $17.99 per order, with a minimum of two orders, and it’s pretty much a given that this will end up on just about every table in the restaurant. To the right thing and surrender to Dak.

Korean Food Los Angeles
The start of the meal was far from inspiring, featuring lackluster panchan: slippery seaweed, thin-shaved radish discs, soggy fish cakes, cold cucumber slices in sesame oil, crunchy bean sprouts and (no joke, best of all) iceberg lettuce doused in ranch dressing. There wasn’t a single standout, and, oddly, they didn’t even offer kimchi.

Korean Food Los Angeles
Our waitress next appeared with a big iron skillet greased with oil, which was much more promising. She tossed in marinated dark-meat chicken, sliced sweet potato and cylinder-shaped rice cakes.

Korean Food Los Angeles
Next came metal bowls filled with onion, cabbage and aromatic perilla leaves. Our waitress also sported a squeeze bottle of gritty chile sauce. This components dictates how spicy you’d like the food. The more chile sauce, the spicier it gets.

Korean Food Los Angeles
We wanted our dak galbi full-strength, so our waitress squirted the chile sauce in a flame-red, vortex-like pattern.

Heat drew moisture from the onions and cabbage into the pan, and the other ingredients cooked down. Eventually, the flavors coalesced, and the chile sauce pervaded every granule of food, which became crusty on the pan. As the rice cakes heated, they developed a fluffy, gnocchi-like consistency. The perilla leaves added spicy pungent notes. It was a very good dish.

Korean Food Los Angeles
After we cleared enough surface area in the pan, our waitress brought out a new tray of ingredients: dried seaweed strips, sesame oil and tangy kimchi made from diced carrot, onion and cabbage. She added the ingredients to the pan and created a compelling fried rice.

Korean Food Los Angeles
The fried rice soaked up residual flavor from the dak galbi and picked up rogue pieces of chicken, sweet potato and cabbage.

Korean Food Los Angeles
To help wind down the meal, we received comforting bowls of fermented soy bean soup, murky brown, flecked with soy bean and flavored with whisper thin leaves.

Even though the panchan was weak, Ma Po Dak Gal Bi has to be judged on its dak galbi, and that cleared the hurdle. This meal was further proof that Koreatown has near limitless possibilities when it comes to specialty restaurants.

Ma Po Dak Gal Bi: Mixing Up Ma Pos And Scoring Sizzling Bird

3090 W Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90006, USA
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Joshua Lurie

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

Blog Comments

Huh. I figured that my home country would do me proud.

crazy, came here with Jaime and Ramiro once. Not for this but for the pork belly and goat soup.

gotta try some Dak Gal Bi next time–

thanks!

Glutster,

Funny, I never would have thought to order the pork belly and goat soup at Ma Po Dak Gal Bi. How was it?

If you’re looking for goat soup, I like Chin-Go-Gae:

http://www.foodgps.com/chin-go-gae-–-los-angeles-ca-–-thursday-august-4-2005

If you’re looking for pork belly, I like Don Dae Gam:

http://www.foodgps.com/don-dae-gam-los-angeles

The fried rice is even better the second day.

It is kind of amazing how the flavors in fried rice meld overnight. That happened to me recently with a paella Valenciana, where the spice was amplified the following day.

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