By Golly. I think I may have found it. I believe…I have finally found The Spot—the place where I would happily sit for hours writing an essay or reading 259 pages about the history of variables.
And it was within my neighborhood all along.
I’m terribly excited to share this gem of Koreatown with you. Actually, if you visited Los Angeles, I would probably be dragging you to this place because it’s just this wondrous place you have to experience for yourself.
It’s like…talking about love. You can appreciate the beauty of romance and yadee yadee yadah and pen literarily-genius lyrics about how the crook of your lover’s knees arouses you, but you just cannot really feel it without experiencing true love yourself.
That’s what my friends and brother tells me anyway, whenever I get mad they would rather cuddle with their significant other than hang out with the fabulous me. How would I know? I’ve never bothered to fall in love.
Hang on, I’m getting sidetracked. Where was I? Oh yes. My new lover that I found in Koreatown.
Unlike boyfriends, I would happily share this lover with all my friends.
Unlike boyfriends, I can always depend on this lover to feed me well.
Unlike boyfriends, it has no demands or ego to ruffle.
Unlike boyfriends, it stays silent and lets me read or write for hours without bothering me.
And unlike (most) boyfriends, however, this lover expects me to pay for myself. Hmph.
Other than that, this lover is perfect. And his name is Hwa Sun Ji (화선지). He is a traditional teahouse at the heart of Koreatown.
I am SO glad we did. Koreatown isn’t exactly known for peace and serenity. Almost every night I hear the police siren trailing across the streets, chasing the latest baddie of the night. But this place? You step in through the door situated inside a parking lot, and it’s like crossing the portal to an oasis.
A traditional, 18th century Korean oasis.
There are paper lanterns hanging on the low ceilings, which had thatches built in to cover up the bare concrete and give that old-fashioned look.
And not all lanterns were the same. I really appreciated the interior designer giving this place a motley yet incredibly organized style.
The tiny place was almost built like a quaint village. It was subtly divided into sections by straw-like curtains, so that you get your privacy without feeling too enclosed.
When the owner asked us where we would like to seat, of course I indicated to the more traditional seating:
Now you know why Asians take their shoes off at home. We do everything on the floor!
There were tables with chairs too for those who would rather sit the civilized way, but the table had calligraphy on it to remind you that this is still a Korean table.
Nothing about this place is boring. You could spend half an hour exploring each detail of this place. Amazing how much care and attention was spent on everything. For example, this little frame showcasing traditional Korean garb on the wall:
A basket with gourds and a water drawer…
Pretty ornaments and mats hung on the wall…
And the most hilarious coaster!
For those of you who can’t see it, it’s a picture of a boy peeing in front of a horrified girl trying to preserve her dignity. Tee hee.
We slid onto the mats, and flipped through the menu:
The menu comes in both Korean and English, so fret not, my long-nosed white devil friends. No, I’m not insulting you, that’s what we Koreans used to call the first Caucasian missionaries that landed on our Oriental shores.
We ended up ordering quite a lot. We got a set of Korean traditional cookies, called Han Gwa (한과):
This above is Yu Gwa (유과). Below is the same kind of cookie, but multi-colored (no difference in taste though):
What they are is rice flour mixed with honey and deep fried into a puffy, sticky pillow. Really, really good. That’s all I can say.
And you might recognize this one, which I featured before:
Hodu-gwaja (호두과자), which means walnut cookie. It’s a round walnut-choked cake stuffed with red beans. I made a bastardized version of it with sweet potato in muffin form. Mimi and Daina said that was their favorite. Guess the other cookies were too unorthodox for them.
For drinks Mimi had Misutgaru (미숫가루):
It’s a drink made from roasted mixed grains like barley and beans, ground into a powder. There is no sugar in it, but it’s still pretty sweet naturally because of the roasting.
I had boring coffee:
Which was served in a darling cup. Where did they find such pretty things? They’re absolutely precious!
The lady of the teahouse was super nice. Really chatty, too. She gabbered away in Korean to me about how she thinks the Korean food scene in America has become westernized. Korean cuisine is not just about all-you-can-eat BBQ. I heartily agreed. But sorry, Daina and Mimi, who had to just sit there patiently not understanding a word.
Question of the Day: Pretend you have a diplomat from another country visiting you. Where would you take her/him to showcase your neighborhood/city/culture?