Ma Po Dak Gal Bi specializes in a specific Korean chicken dish.
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.
The meal started with uninspired, lackluster banchan: 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.
Our waitress 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.
Metal bowls filled with onion, cabbage and aromatic perilla leaves arrived next. Our waitress also sported a squeeze bottle of gritty chile sauce. This component dictates how spicy you’d like the food. The more chile sauce, the spicier it gets.
We wanted our dak galbi full-strength, so our waitress squirted 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.
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.
Fried rice soaked up residual flavor from dak galbi and picked up rogue pieces of chicken, sweet potato and cabbage.
To help wind down the meal, we received comforting bowls of fermented soybean soup, murky brown, flecked with soybean and flavored with whisper thin leaves.
Even though the banchan 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.
Update: Ma Po Dak Gal Bi relocated from 3090 W. Olympic Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90006.
September 22, 2010 at 3:32 AM
Huh. I figured that my home country would do me proud.
May 10, 2010 at 5:30 PM
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–
May 10, 2010 at 5:36 PM
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:
If you’re looking for pork belly, I like Don Dae Gam:
January 19, 2010 at 4:28 PM
The fried rice is even better the second day.
January 19, 2010 at 4:32 PM
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.
Food GPS » Ma Po Dak Gal Bi – Los Angeles, CA - December 18, 2009 CA by about
December 22, 2009 at 1:58 AM
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