I have an indiscriminate love for Asian food. Like the infamous duo from Portlandia, I’m down for pickling anything. Did I mention I keep a bottle of hot sauce in my office drawer? With these habits in mind, it bums me out that I should have been fermenting with Korean food for some time now, like a good kimchi. If you, too, are looking to make a local connection with this vibrant cuisine, try these dining destinations for some hallmarks of Korean food, and a new vocabulary to boot.
Moko Asian Bistro Playful renditions of classic Korean fare abound at this small-plates spot. The jajangmyeon ($7-$8) features egg-white noodles covered in black bean sauce and bits of pork shoulder and root veggies. What elevates this childhood dish is the sous vide egg nestled on top that calls to be part of the luscious crew. Bring it on home with three bulgogi tacos ($9), nuggets of grilled beef tenderloin housed in a fried spring roll cup and dotted with diced pear marinated in raspberry wine, adding acidity and a whimsical touch. And be sure to slather these street-food-inspired favorites with a trio of sauces: lime, curry mustard and sweet date. 6350 W. Charleston Blvd. #120, 702-489-4995.
Ma Dang Locate this Commercial Center stalwart by its blue facade and “garden” signage, referring to the verdant courtyards in traditional Korean dwellings. Feast on mandu ($10.99), dumplings loaded with mung bean noodles, pork and cabbage, arriving gilded from an oil plunge and accompanied by a piquant soy sauce for dipping. Keep the momentum going with yangnyeom dak ($19.99), a platter of chicken wings and drumsticks submerged in a light batter, twice-fried to achieve a juicy interior and crackly outside, and finally doused in sesame seeds and a spicy-sweet glaze laced with gochujang red chili paste. Add a couple glasses of soju and you’ll swear off Buffalo wings forever. 953 E. Sahara Ave. #E28, 702-369-4123.
Manna Don’t let the food-court atmosphere invoke visions of stale, questionable food. For something that screams healthy but still includes a fried egg, choose dolsot bibimbap ($8.95). Colorful vegetables, rice and beef receive a crispy layer from a stone bowl, something like the beloved remnants on a corndog stick. Want protein with a nice char? Go for the spicy squid ($9.95) or the LA-style beef short ribs ($11.95), thin strips cut across the bone flavored with ginger, garlic and soy sauce. 6475 W. Charleston Blvd., 702-870-0150.
Woonam Jung Lee’s Korean BBQ Feel like grilling pork belly at 2 in the morning? Grab a seat and get the special ($39.99) that includes a ménage à trois of meats, soybean paste stew, steamed egg and a salad. When the sun is out, opt for lunch specials like bulgogi ($12.99) and purported energy-booster ginseng chicken soup ($14.99). Complimentary goodies known as banchan flood the table, stuff like bean sprouts, fish cakes with jalapeño and the ubiquitous pickled cabbage kimchi. 6820 Spring Mountain Road #110, 702-388-0488.