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East asian home cooking vs restaurant style

post #1 of 33
Thread Starter 
I'm sure all you asians will be like, no shit, whitey... but holy fuck.

So I have a lot of chef friends who are still very active and I was at a restaurant opening a while ago where a friend of a formerly very hot LA spot and of former NY fame opened up a place and after service on family/friends night we were just bitching on and on about how bad korean food is in LA, despite people saying it's great. So a quiet little commis comes out of the kitchen, and one of the guys kind of rags on him because his parents run a fairly well known place in K-town that we've all eaten at and can't totally get why people think it's good. Well, he very nicely offered to have us over for dinner. The place we were referring to is known for galbi jim, and while it's better than most K-town joints, it still makes me think that korean people's palates are fucked and that their expectations are low.

This was not the first time home cooking has blown my mind, but I had similar versions of things in the restaurant and it was so much better. Basically they explain to me that korean people don't care what other people eat, and when they cook for themselves, it's much better. I've experienced this a few times and I truly believe the only good korean food is what you find in homes. I find this less often with Japanese and very very often with chinese foods. I used to hate chinese food and then I started having a lot of good meals around LA and in homes once I met a lot of chinese cooks who worked for friends of mine.

It's a very interesting food culture, because a lot of these people who go eat in restaurants are used to having so much better at home. I'm now dating a korean girl who says that you go out for certain things but almost anyone's grandma can make it better, and she thinks the koreans who say the korean food is better than in Seoul have just never really been there. Doesn't surprise me.

I'd also like to know, how do you asian people buy your noodles? Which do you buy fresh, and which do you buy in dried form? That's interesting to me. Do any of you source hand pulled noodles?
post #2 of 33
I'm Korean, but my mom--to be perfectly frank--isn't a very good cook. So eating Korean food at home is rarely (if ever) superior to eating at a Korean restaurant. I have had plenty of meals prepared by better Korean home cooks, but nothing has been a revelation in the way that you describe. My own (probably groundless) take on Korean food is that the stuff that tastes the best is the stuff with ingredients least likely to appeal to non-Korean (whitey) eaters--regardless of whether it's in a restaurant or at someone's home.
post #3 of 33
I haven't eaten that many home-cooked Korean meals - probably more than the avg whitey, but probably only a few years' worth. There was the good and the bad, it's like any amateur person who cooks. They will have their own little touches, good and bad, etc.

Korean restaurant food is relatively the same as 'homestyle' cooking, many dishes at least. The reason being, most restaurateurs in Korea were simply just normal people who were willing to open a small business and cook one or two things that they knew.
Koreans also really enjoy going out and eating the same food they could make at home - because Korean food benefits greatly from scales of economy and the effort to go from making one to one hundred portions is not as great as it would sound. Because Korean food revolves around the rice, there are actually only very small quantities of food required - one bowl of bibimbap might use like half an inch cut of a daikon and half an inch cut of a carrot, inch of a zucchini, one egg - so trying to collect these ingredients to make Korean food at home means spending $50 at a market or supermarket and a ton of effort to make a dish you can buy for $3 at a restaurant. My dad once wanted to move the family to Hong Kong in the 80's, same premise - he said we'd just never cook at home and go out to eat for everything, since meals were a dollar or two.
Koreans like banchan, are really picky about it, and judge a restaurant's quality on the banchan alone sometimes. That stuff, whether you're a restaurant or a home cook, you make in rather large quantities, and eat on for awhile. A lot of the stuff takes some time to ferment, and also you want to even it out so you're not using little fractions of everything - so you just make a fuckton of food. At home you might get two or three fresh banchan and then eat on the same kimchis for a bunch of meals on end til you finish that kimchi, and at a restaurant you're supposed to get quite a few, but that has died off in Korea in more recent years. They used to be fairly generous and give you like 5-9 plates or something, but in the past decade the food prices have soared and most common places cut banchan down to 3 or 4 things so as not to raise the menu prices too much. The reason Koreans eat kimchi at every meal - you make/buy a bunch of it, and it goes off (and some people want it to reach a certain point in fermentation as well, it's better cooked if it gets a bit sour) - so you need to keep eating at it whenever possible, and so the cycle continues.

I don't really know if people really are eating better at home. That would entail fairly large expense, and it's not really possible for that many people to be truly good cooks. Men in Korea typically never learn how to cook anything, and there women do and don't get excited about the idea of getting married and cooking. Personally, I can't imagine marrying a Korean woman and getting excited about eating her cooking day to day. I've never met a young generation Korean woman who can cook anything decently, and I've lived with a number of them. The responsibility is upon mothers to teach their daughters, so if mom can't cook well, grandma might not either. Plus, food never tastes that great when it's made by someone who begrudges you for making them perform domestic tasks. lol. Most Korean women are out at the supermarkets buying pre-made kimchi and banchan these days, and then go home and program the rice cooker and fire up a little jjigae or braise a fish, maybe make bulgogi or something (they sell that pre-marinated by the ounce in the supermarkets too) - probably the equivalent of the American mom who does Hamburger helper or feels they've done big work in the kitchen by setting up the crock pot.

Asian noodles are always better fresh rather than dried and boiled since most of them are flour based and the texture is supposed to be a little bit past al dente so that they have a chewiness to them, but things like soba - you can't really buy fresh soba and take it home to cook. Glass noodles made from potato starches and stuff - those always come dried.
post #4 of 33
Thread Starter 
I think the home cooking i've had is better because the stuff in the restaurants uses such horrific ingredients, and a lot of the stuff is bought in. Like 98% of banchan in LA comes from the same source. I think I just have such a low opinion of a great deal of korean and chinese food in restaurants because they tend to use the absolute lowest quality of ingredients possible. It's like the potential is there, but very little care is taken and the clientele isn't quality obsessed like the japanese.

It's just such a pity because a lot of my friends, including the ones there at that one opening I'm referring to, write off a great deal of asian food precisely because of this.
post #5 of 33
Part of the problem is that you are eating in cities. The best Asian restaurants are in nice suburbs where there are lots of Asian people. It tends to be that only the poorer Asians stay inside the city. Families leave for greener pastures (literally) as soon as they can. Also, urban Asian restaurants have to cater to the enormous take-out and delivery market, which expects cheap, crappy food. Combined, that means you get worse, less well-executed dishes and diluted menus. This has been true in every city I've lived in.

As for the home cooking versus restaurant cooking issue: it is real. On average, my mother's cooking is infinitely better than anything we could get at a standard Chinese restaurant. It's not even close. As you point out, most of the restaurant stuff is garbage. However, at a good Chinese restaurant--one my family might regularly go to on Sundays--it is a different story. We would tend to order multiple large dishes that are too complex or time-consuming to produce at home. Like Peking duck. Or a giant platter of sauteed crab. Or a braised pork shoulder. Or more duck stuffed in sticky rice and cooked in lotus leaves. If my mother wanted to commit a couple of hours, she could prepare any one of them, but not all of them at the same time. So, we typically reserve them for when we go out together and let her relax.
post #6 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by mafoofan View Post

Part of the problem is that you are eating in cities. The best Asian restaurants are in nice suburbs where there are lots of Asian people. It tends to be that only the poorer Asians stay inside the city. Families leave for greener pastures (literally) as soon as they can. Also, urban Asian restaurants have to cater to the enormous take-out and delivery market, which expects cheap, crappy food. Combined, that means you get worse, less well-executed dishes and diluted menus. This has been true in every city I've lived in.

This might be true in general, but my sense is that the Korean community in L.A.'s not like this at all. The Korean-Americans who live in Koreatown often do move out if they move up the social ladder, but Koreatown's still the central hub for shopping and dining. Maybe things have changed a lot since I've grown up, but the suburban Korean restaurants are worse in southern California.
post #7 of 33
meals at home for me is lots and lots of banchan, white rice, and usually a stew or pan fried fish. also i've eaten a crap ton of soon doo jji gae, but honestly my mom makes the best one prolly cuz she uses good quality dried anchovies and kombu for her stock. stock is everything for stews and most korean restaurants just have a big pot with hondashi and big chunks of daikon in it and they just ladle water in to replenish it. she also spends a big chunk of her time making banchan.


what's the lotus leaves with sticky rice and ducks and various goodies in it? eight treasure duck or something? there was a place in VA called pacifica cafe (?) that had it. you had to call 24 hours ahead, but was sooo tasty. drool.gif just thinking about it
post #8 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by mafoofan View Post

Part of the problem is that you are eating in cities. The best Asian restaurants are in nice suburbs where there are lots of Asian people. It tends to be that only the poorer Asians stay inside the city. Families leave for greener pastures (literally) as soon as they can. Also, urban Asian restaurants have to cater to the enormous take-out and delivery market, which expects cheap, crappy food. Combined, that means you get worse, less well-executed dishes and diluted menus. This has been true in every city I've lived in.
As for the home cooking versus restaurant cooking issue: it is real. On average, my mother's cooking is infinitely better than anything we could get at a standard Chinese restaurant. It's not even close. As you point out, most of the restaurant stuff is garbage. However, at a good Chinese restaurant--one my family might regularly go to on Sundays--it is a different story. We would tend to order multiple large dishes that are too complex or time-consuming to produce at home. Like Peking duck. Or a giant platter of sauteed crab. Or a braised pork shoulder. Or more duck stuffed in sticky rice and cooked in lotus leaves. If my mother wanted to commit a couple of hours, she could prepare any one of them, but not all of them at the same time. So, we typically reserve them for when we go out together and let her relax.

Finding these paces is like the holy grail
post #9 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by erictheobscure View Post

This might be true in general, but my sense is that the Korean community in L.A.'s not like this at all. The Korean-Americans who live in Koreatown often do move out if they move up the social ladder, but Koreatown's still the central hub for shopping and dining. Maybe things have changed a lot since I've grown up, but the suburban Korean restaurants are worse in southern California.

That's surprising. Upper middle class Asians tend to abhor [insert Asian country]-towns. It is often not that they have "moved up," but that they were never part of the same group.
Quote:
Originally Posted by indesertum View Post

what's the lotus leaves with sticky rice and ducks and various goodies in it? eight treasure duck or something? there was a place in VA called pacifica cafe (?) that had it. you had to call 24 hours ahead, but was sooo tasty. drool.gif just thinking about it

Cafe Pacifica is in Gaithersburg, Maryland. In fact, we are going down to Maryland this weekend to see my parents and eating there.

The duck and rice dish must be ordered a day in advance. It is like one giant zong zi (sticky rice with fatty pork wrapped in lotus leaf, in a single serving). It is a whole duck stuffed inside, instead of pork. The fat from the duck melts into the sticky rice, which entirely surrounds the duck. You really need an entire family to eat it.
post #10 of 33
that's right gaithersbourg. we had like 8 people and i dont think we finished it. we did order a lot of other stuff tho
post #11 of 33

I have been to 1 Korean home for a dinner. My buddy boiled noodles and cracked a raw egg on top of the hot broth. The portions were small.

 

I have had 2 Korean meal in a restaurant. There was a grill in the middle of the table and you cooked your own food. The meat had no flavor. The second restaurant was a noodle restaurant. It sucked worse than anything I have eaten in my life. The broth stunk and tasted like it had rotten meat in it.

 

I have not looked for Korean food since then.

post #12 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by mafoofan View Post


That's surprising. Upper middle class Asians tend to abhor [insert Asian country]-towns. It is often not that they have "moved up," but that they were never part of the same group.
Cafe Pacifica is in Gaithersburg, Maryland. In fact, we are going down to Maryland this weekend to see my parents and eating there.
The duck and rice dish must be ordered a day in advance. It is like one giant zong zi (sticky rice with fatty pork wrapped in lotus leaf, in a single serving). It is a whole duck stuffed inside, instead of pork. The fat from the duck melts into the sticky rice, which entirely surrounds the duck. You really need an entire family to eat it.

if you're going down to maryland, you might want to try the peking duck in northern va at a place called peking gourmet.  it has absolutely the best peking duck in the world, and ive tried the best in beijing.  in addition to the duck, get their salt and pepper shrimp, and garlic sprouts (they grow their own).  inside the restaurant u will see the hundreds of celebrities and politicians that have frequented this restaurant.  in fact, their main glass is bullet proof because the restaurant used to be a favorite of president george bush.

 

in nyc, the best chinese food, especially for seafood, is at oriental garden.  it's a little pricey, but it is so delicious.  i believe they have a very high zagat rating.  their dungeness (sp?) crab is to die for and the have fresh shrimp (living) that is sweet.  they carry fish from all over the world and they can cook it any way you want.  be careful with the prices though, we ordered a fish from the indonesia area that cost us $140! lol

 

as far as the restaurant food vs. home cooking, i think it varies from place to place.  in new york city where there are huge ethnic enclaves, the quality is higher and is some of the best food around.  

post #13 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by mafoofan View Post

That's surprising. Upper middle class Asians tend to abhor [insert Asian country]-towns. It is often not that they have "moved up," but that they were never part of the same group.
.

Well in LA, Koreatown also constitutes much of what was one of the original LA suburbs. So part of it is very citifed, but when I lived there that area was occupied mainly by young Koreans in their first apartments not too far from home and FOBs, as well as blacks, whites, and central americans. The older generation Koreans lived nearby in the WWI era suburbs, which, while also part of K-Town, felt very different.

Koreatown:

LA_Koreatown1.jpg

Koreatown:


4677252386_722238eb5b_o.jpg
post #14 of 33

problem with korean barbq, is that you leave the place smelling like korean barbq.  

post #15 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by JunyaYamamoto View Post

problem with korean barbq, is that you leave the place smelling like korean barbq.  

 It would be worth it if the food tasted good!

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