Los Angeles, CA 90020
I’ve been craving a good budae jjigae (aka army stew aka 部隊鍋) for a while now. It’s basically a Korean hotpot of mish mash, sort of a hotpot that the army/military used to cook up, with whatever they had on hand. Typically, it’s a spicy soup base filled with kimchi, rice cake, Spam, hot dog franks, ramen, vegetables, etc. I turned to trusty Yelp for some recommendations, and lo and behold, Chunju is the highest rated budae jjigae in LA, by a landslide.
Chunju Han-il Kwan is located in a small shopping strip, just about a block from the ever popular Kang Ho-Dong Baekjeong. The center has its own parking lot (with free valet), but since the shopping strip is mostly eating places, it might be hard to find a spot once the lot is full. The alternative would be to park on the street. Be sure to read all of the street parking signs, as K-town is notorious for towing illegally parked cars.
I went on a Friday night and there was about a 20-30 minute wait for a table. The ahjummas (server ladies) will hand you a menu to peruse and order, while you wait. Budae jjigae takes about 20-30 minutes to cook, so by the time your table is ready, so will your food. Service and table turns are fast, as the ahjummas run a tight ship. Now on to the food!
Very Korean decor inside. The interior of the restaurant is medium-sized, but since tables turn fairly fast, the wait is bearable.
The side dishes – lots of choices and they were all tasty! My favorite was the chap-chae (Korean glass noodles) and the steamed egg. You can ask for refills.
The budae jjigae! Almost every table has an order. Portions are pretty generous, I’d say it’s enough for 3. It’s pretty spicy, and I’m not sure if Chunju can adjust the spiciness level. As it cooks down, it gets more condensed, which means it gets even spicier! But, oh, it was so good and just hit the spot. : ) I didn’t see it on the menu (maybe I just missed it), but just tell the ahjummas that you want to order it. $26
We also saw that many people ordered the pancakes, so asked for a recommendation. The ahjumma recommended the potato pancake. When it arrived, it was huge! It was filled with scallions and really delicious. The texture is different from the Korean-style pancakes that I’ve had before… this one was a little similar to a mochi texture, although not as sticky. I liked it without the sauce. $14
I loved the budae jjigae here. Will be back!