Yu Chun: Turning the Table on Invasive Vine (and Bibimbap)
3185 West Olympic Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90006
213 382 3815
Date of Visit: April 24 & May 16, 2012
We can learn a lot from The Simpsons. More than one episode has involved invasive species, including one when stowaway frogs wreak havoc on Australia, and a second where flying lizards necessitate the use of even more fierce predators to counterbalance their reptilian behavior. Which brings us to kudzu, a runaway vine that a USDA branch initially promoted to prevent soil erosion, and now blankets large swaths of The South. Thankfully, chefs from its Asian birthplace know how to harness the vine’s starches for cooking. For instance, Yu Chun resides in the same Koreatown strip mall as bygone Sa Rit Gol and incorporates kudzu into noodles that anchor naeng myun, a Gold fave and the restaurant’s top seller.
The vermicelli-like noodles appear dark grey. It’s almost as if they captured the insidious essence of the kudzu, though the flavor wasn’t very strong, and their starch supposedly has health benefits like battling diabetes, migraines and menopause symptoms. Not that I need to worry about any of those. For Chic Bibim Naeng Myun ($8.50), Yu Chun bathes cool noodles with liberal amounts of spicy chile sauce, tops with crunchy julienne vegetables like cucumber, and crowns with hard-boiled egg, thin-sliced brisket and a thatch of funky kimchi.
Even more refreshing was Chic Mul Naeng Myun ($8.50), which involved many of the same elements, and crunchy radish strands, all submerged them in a cool beef broth. The idea is to season with mustard and vinegar to enliven the slurp-worthy bowl.
Kimchi Wang Mandu ($7.50) were steamed dumplings with thin, sticky skins and a savory filling of pungent kimchi and minced pork. As we learned from our meal and menu, Yu Chun has more going on than just naeng myun, so we had to return.
Yu Chun also has one of the better bibimbaps in town, which they serve in a sizzling stone bowl. Their version with Dolpan kimchi & pork bulgogi ($11.50) also incorporated piles of white rice, bean sprouts, lettuce, and nori strands. The gochujang slathered pork seared nicely on the bowl, along with onion and green bell pepper, the kimchi added some fun funk, and the whole plate got even better when mixed and spooned with salty, pungent chile soy sauce.
If none of those options inspire you, Yuchun also serves BBQ kalbi on a sizzling turtle, but other dishes arrive faster.