Wednesday, May 5, 2010


205 S 13th St,
Philadelphia, PA 19107

(215) 545-8511

In my book, Korean food is some of the best, most homey and comforting of all Asian cuisines. I love all of the 'side dishes' (banchan) that arrive pre-meal. Who doesn't love seven or so little (free) dishes of delicious homemade delicacies before they even get to their meal? Pastoral has some of the best banchan and Korean food I have eaten, my Koreatown dining experiences included. It is a small place tucked away in a corner of the Gayborhood, an area of Philadelphia that you would never expect to contain an authentic Korean establishment.

The pictures are a bit grainy, as there is low lighting inside. Below are the banchan, all of them delicious, and all completely different in flavor and texture. Some include tofu, some egg, some pickled vegetables, bean sprouts, some authentic 'fish cakes' and so on and so forth.

You can also grab an OB (Oriental Brewery) beer, they claim it to be "Korean" when it's actually just a relabeled Bud Light. It DOES taste better, however, because it has an OB label on it.

Next step, as usual, is to order extra Gochujang, which is one of my favorite condiments of all time. Think spicy, smokey, and complex fermented ketchup. This is always served with Bibimbop, and I ALWAYS get extra. My dish of choice is the Dol Sot version (or Kop Dol in some places), which features the traditional rice & marinated vegetable dish in a scorching hot, stone bowl. When the steaming vessel arrives to the table, you immediately dump the Gochujang into the sizzling bowl, which is already frying the rice inside, rendering it crispy and crunchy. There is such an amazing combination of flavors in this dish - with an underlying base of smokey sesame oil, the combination of pickled, marinated & fresh vegetables, a raw egg that cooks upon contact with the bowl, and your choice of beef or tofu, the bibimbop is simply delectable.

Seriously, so good. After much experimenting, I have realized the trick is to let the bowl sit for a couple of minutes (longer than you think) after it arrives at your table. This will maximize the crispy rice potential. I know it is hard, but at least you had seven dishes to snack on already and this wait is well worth it.

Yu Kae Jang is another Korean specialty, a spicy shredded beef soup that is packed with mushrooms, green onions, cellophane noodles, egg and Korean vegetables. This is soup eats like a meal. It is served in a huge bowl with a side of white rice. It is rich, beefy, served very hot (temperature wise) and is rather spicy.

I do love this for a Korean fix, and although I do know of one spot I prefer in the Philadelphia area, it is in the great Northeast, and not readily accessible for my usual cravings. This is the best Korean I have had in center city, without a doubt.

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