Ganda-Ganda's Guide to LA's Koreatown Eats

Hands down, my favorite area in Los Angeles is Koreatown, but is anyone really surprised? Our friends, Kara and Mike, took us to Koreatown to explore it's finest offerings, which of course involved food. The main thing I wanted to do was eat Korean bbq. It's very good in Chicago, but it's not like how it is in Korea. It's close, but not quite there. I've heard that in LA it's like eating in Korea, so I wanted to see if this was really true.

Every where I researched, the only place consistently recommended was Kang Ho Dong Baekjong. As usual, the critics were right and the bbq was just like Korea. We decided to order the Pork Combo ($39.99) that consisted of pork neck, seared pork belly, pork short rib, steamed egg, kimchi and kimchi stew. At that price, it was a steal and more than enough to feed four people. We obviously supplemented the meal with soju, beer and cider to really make it authentic! It was a delicious meal and the perfect start to our day in Koreatown. 

After stuffing our faces full of delicious barbecued meats, we decided to walk around Koreatown and see what other delights we could find. We passed by the Wiltern, which is a great vintage concert venue and theater. After picking up a few little kawaii things from Daiso, we came across Caffe Bene, one of my favorite Korean cafes. When Markus and I lived in Korea, we spent many nights at a Caffe Bene in Seomyeon brainstorming for Yehey. We have such fond memories of that place, so it was only natural for us to stop and have an iced Americano for old times sake.

After taking a lengthy coffee break, we realized that we were a bit hungry and headed over to Myung In Dumplings, a place that Anthony Bourdain recommended. We ordered the king steam dumpling pork and kimchi ($8), the spicy steam roll dumpling with pork and shrimp ($10), and fried dumpling with shrimp, pork and vegetables ($9). I could see why Bourdain recommended this place. The king steam dumplings were so fluffy and the kimchi wasn't overwhelming. The spicy steam roll dumpling was meaty, savory and just the right amount of spice. The fried dumplings were crunchy, juicy and everything you want in a fried dumpling.

Our last stop of the day was another popular spot that I kept seeing all over Instagram.  California Donuts is known for being fun and colorful, but most importantly the panda donut! When I saw them in the window, I definitely squealed in delight and each couple had to get one of their own. There was no way I was gonna share that cute panda with anyone but Markus! We sampled the Panda, Reeses, Chocolate Bacon, Fruity Pebbles and Samoa donuts ($18). They were all good, but my favorite was the Panda donut, but let's be real there was never any real competition.  

Even though Markus and I spent a whole day eating our fill in Koreatown, a few days later we returned with my cousin and visited another hot spot, Yu Chun. One of my favorite Korean dishes is naengmyeon, or cold noodles. I can seriously eat it every day in the summer, it's so delicious and refreshing. So, I made it a goal to have some before we left LA. We ordered the BBQ and Bibim Naengmyeon Combo ($17.50) and Mul Naengmyun ($8.50). I'm so glad we decided to eat at Yu Chun, because everything was perfect. Eating that food was like coming home and felt so familiar and comforting. I swear to you, I almost cried it was that close. If I lived in LA, I think I would be in Koreatown every night or at least every weekend. The food there is that good and I worth a visit if you're close by! 

Japan Cheap Eats #3: Matsuya | Kyoto

This is part of a series about eating on a budget and I've titled the series, "Japan Cheap Eats". Many people think Japan is expensive, but I'm here to prove them wrong! We found many budget options and I wanted to share them with you!

Just like most countries, Japan has many fast food restaurants. They have Mickey D's, Wendy's and my personal fave, KFC. You know me and fried chicken, we're soul mates. In addition to these places, they have even better options. They are on a completely different level when it comes to fast food, which isn't surprising, because it's Japan. Throughout the country, they have various gyudon shops. Gyudon literally means beef bowl and it's incredible. Delicious simmered beef and onions are served over white rice. The first gyudon place we visited was Matsuya in Kyoto and it was an awesome experience.

After an afternoon of hiking through Fushimi Inari Taisha, Markus and I were starved. Up to this point, we ate a lot of mart food and we wanted something a little more sophisticated. We scoped out a few places that were within our budget. We almost settled on some burger place, but then we happened to walk by Matsuya. It was like a beacon of light and we couldn't help but go in.

Places like Matsuya have everything down to a science and it's really efficient. The inside is set up like a diner and usually manned by one or two people. I think they wanted to limit as much human interaction as possible. You don't even order through the employees, but through a ticket machine. It's actually kind of cool. I liked that there wasn't any pressure to make an order right away, especially in a place where I don't speak the language. After we placed our orders, we sat down and gave the guy our ticket. He quickly whipped up our order and it was ready in less than 5 minutes.

The gyudon itself was really delicious and I enjoyed the flavors. The meat was both sweet and salty and was complimented by the rice. It's not going to win any awards, but it gets the job done. It's a great healthier alternative to burgers and fries. Overall, we both enjoyed Matusya and gyudon so much that we stopped at almost all the other similar shops. If you're in Japan, this is definitley a great budget eat and something that should be tried, even if it's to use the ticket machine to order your food!

Cost Breakdown:
Large Beef Gyudon Bowl: 480
Medium Beef Gyudon Bowl: 380
Miso Soup: free with beef bowl
TOTAL: 860 yen or $8.41

Chicago Thrift Store | Kyoto, Japan

One of my favorite things to do is go thrift store shopping. I've been thrifting way before Macklemore made it popular. Ever since I can remember, my mom and I would spend Saturday mornings scouring thrift stores for little treasures. It's something that I've always done and continue to do to this day. Most of the things I own are from thrift stores. I love one of a kind things and especially when they are at a low cost. When we travel abroad, I always look for secondhand shops.

Japan is one of the best countries for this. They've really embraced the culture and there are heaps of thrift stores. When we were Kyoto we randomly found Chicago Thrift Store, which also has a location in Tokyo. When I saw it, it was like destiny and we immediately went in. Everything was really awesome and there was ton to choose from. The prices were really reasonable and affordable. I wanted to buy everything, but I controlled myself. I ended up buying on really amazing dress and a super sweet shirt for Markus. Overall it was a great experience and if you're ever in Kyoto, make sure to check it out for sweet vintage finds!

Soy Milk Donuts at Nishiki Market | Kyoto, Japan

Japan had so many delicious treats and I found myself drooling every time we passed an eatery. We actually stumbled upon these tasty soy milk donuts, while we were exploring Nishiki Market. Markus is a huge fan of donuts, so we make it a personal goal to try all types and flavors. We've had them with bacon and butterscotch and even stuffed with red bean. I never heard of them made with soy milk, so it was an automatic yes, when we passed the stand.

The donuts were a steal at 250 yen (about $2.50) for six. They come three different ways either brown sugar, chocolate or caramel. I wish we had ordered all three variations, but we went with brown sugar. The donuts were so delicious. They tasted like regular donuts, but less heavy and a bit airy. The brown sugar was really subtle and didn't overpower the donuts. When Markus was eating his three, I almost stole one because they were so good. I could've chowed down on these for days. I wish that we did, but there is always next time!

Japan Cheap Eats #2 | Nagasaki

This is part of a series about eating on a budget and I've titled the series, "Japan Cheap Eats". Many people think Japan is expensive, but I'm here to prove them wrong! We found many budget options and I wanted to share them with you!

Previously, I posted about eating cheap in Japan. As most people know, Japan is one of the most expensive countries in the world. Everyone always talks about how expensive it is, but Markus and I were determined to enjoy Japan despite being on a budget. One of the best ways to control your budget is eating frugally. For most of our time in Japan, we ate really cheap, but there were times that we splurged. I mean, I couldn't travel all the way to Japan and eat at 7-11 the whole time!

Another really cheap place to eat is the grocery store. Japan, like Korea, has really great supermarkets. They are filled with ready to made meals at reasonable prices. There is so much variety and it always took us a long time to decide what to eat. The food is made fresh daily and really affordable. They have everything you could want, sushi, bento boxes, salads etc. It's a really great alternative to eating fast food, which is always the last resort for us. When Markus and I got sick of going to marts, we always trekked to the nearest grocery store. 

For our second cheap eats, we decided to go a bit healthier. We didn't want to overload on ramen and fried foods. Markus and I always split everything, so that we can have a nice variety of tastes and meals. For this meal, we chose a salad, grilled eel with rice and sashimi with udon. Everything was really good. I couldn't believe that our meal was only $10. It was also nice to eat something that felt fresher and a bit healthier. If we spent all our time eating instant ramen and fried chicken, I'm sure our bodies would've hated us!

Cost Breakdown:
Salad: 105 yen
Salad Dressing: 20 yen
Grilled Eel with Rice: 498 yen
Sashimi with Udon: 398 yen
TOTAL: 1021 yen or $10.06