You won’t find tabletop grills or all-you-can-eat Korean barbecue here—instead, you’ll find unapologetically homestyle dishes, hearty stews, and profound master sauces and condiments.
Samgeoli Korean Restaurant is nestled in a tiny shopping center on Fullerton’s long stretch of Euclid. The dining room fills up quickly at lunchtime, when customers sit down to an assortment of banchan that’s spicy, fermented and pickled. These tasty side dishes can be refilled, so don’t be shy about asking for more kimchi. A great starter is the steamed mandu, little dumplings stuffed with pork, cabbage, green onions and transparent glass noodles. Also great for sharing is the haemul pajeon, a crispy seafood scallion pancake.
Move next to a rustic soup: meaty brisket-based suk uh gom tang; milky seolleongtang (ox knee soup), which simmers for several hours until the broth becomes rich and creamy; or the nutritious samgyetang, for which a whole young chicken was stuffed with rice, ginseng root, aromatic herbs and lots of garlic. Typically enjoyed in the summer, this starchy, salty broth gets a touch of sweetness thanks to dried red dates. There are also steaming goat meat stews, a silky doenjang-jjigae (soybean paste stew) and yukgaejang (spicy beef stew).
For layers of umami, order the bossam. Take a piece of the sweet pork belly from the large, circular, cast-iron plate and place it in the middle of a napa cabbage leaf. Top it with briny raw oyster and a light smear of doenjang (fermented soybean paste) or a dab of saeujeot (salted, fermented tiny shrimp sauce) for a pungent kick. The dish, which can easily feed two or three people, is served with slivers of daikon kimchi, a natural probiotic that will help you break down everything you’ve eaten.
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The restaurant also offers various soju, including South Korean Chamisul, Saan (a distillation of sweet potatoes, rice and barley) and Kloud beer (a Korean lager from Lotte).
Thanks to the wonders of kimchi, you’ll leave feeling better than when you arrived.
Samgeoli Korean Restaurant, 2051 N. Euclid St., Fullerton, (714) 773-1168.