Still on my list of places to check out, I decided it was as good a day as any to head down to Koreatown Los Angeles, (referred to as K-Town). I’ve heard some colorful stories about this place but felt it would be perfectly safe on a Sunday afternoon, right? I had a couple of destinations lined up to visit, grabbed my pal Elliott, fired up my Waze app and off we went!
I have never actually been to Korea, but I’m thinking it may share a strong resemblance to what I witnessed on my afternoon adventure. Farmers markets swarming with people filled with all sorts of fascinating foreign food objects. Very little (if any?) English being spoken. Interestingly enough and in complete contrast to American stores and malls of any kind, no strollers whatsoever? Could it be that Koreans actually leave their tots at home for everyone’s well being? What a novel idea! Hello Kitty-esque, K-Pop (Korean Pop music is a HUGE phenomenon), clothing and jewelry stores galore and get this, even a real live Tupperware kiosk!
A small gaggle of beautiful Korean children came up to say hello to Elliott. Thankfully, he was on his very best behavior, as their adult guardian stood back and watched me like a hawk. I think Elliott knew better than to act out here. Smart dog. The malls were incredibly clean, well laid out and very uncluttered. Not a lot of hype and fanfare, like what you see as you pass an Abercrombie & Fitch or Sephora.
I was now on the hunt for Korean BB Cream, otherwise known as Beauty Balm, since the Koreans know their BB Creams! You think American women are obsessed with beauty? They don’t hold a candle to these women. And let’s face it, Korean women know their beauty products. Just look at their flawless porcelain skin! Not one wrinkle. Not one sun spot. Perfection. Asian women have skin genes from the Gods I tell you. Beauty stores filled with skin whitening potions, Bubble Hair Color and skads of facial creams. Everything written in Korean so I’m not completely sure what anything actually was. I went inside one store and was immediately tagged by the woman at the door, as she alerted her coworker in the back with something spoken in Korean. That woman followed me around the store NOT MORE THAN THREE INCHES BEHIND ME. UMMM. Okay? Can you say UNCOMFORTABLE SHOPPING EXPERIENCE? Whoa. What was that all about? Moving on now…I slowly entered the next beauty store fearing a repeat performance, but to my relief, I was greeted by a very sweet woman who was totally enamored with Elliott! She just could not get enough of him. Her two coworkers stood back and watched as if their peer was playing with some rare alien creature. She didn’t seem to share their sentiments for me or Elliott and happily showed me the 987284838751 varieties of BB and CC creams while trying her best to explain each one’s benefits to me in painfully broken English. Her coworkers seemed rather leery of the situation, watching and whispering. In addition to the dozen or so “looks” Elliott and I received throughout the day…this could give a girl a complex. Was it me specifically? The fact that I was the only Caucasian in these malls? Or perhaps because I was carrying Elliott in my arms with my “Police Line Do Not Cross” purse strapped across my chest? I have no idea, but I have to admit I didn’t feel overly welcomed with open arms by most of the people I came across. I did end up purchasing a lovely silky formula that blends to your individual skin tone and is reportedly one of the favorites in Korea. She smiled brightly as she handed me a frequent shopper card and told me to come back again soon. Too cute! Gotta love it!
Speaking of which, I went on to share a few humorous minutes with the young girl at the Bosco Bakery Cafe, as I really wanted to try a Korean “sweet”…you know how it is…when in Rome.
Poor thing knew almost no English at all. She was really trying her best to describe what all these things were. Bless her! We were both laughing simply because we saw the comedy of the language barrier over her baked goods. It was a cool reminder that we are just two people living in our own separate worlds in Los Angeles. So different, yet the same. Finally I asked something to the effect of “which is your favorite?” as I pointed to her. I think that registered and she quickly pointed to a small container of these little round bread balls? Cool! Sure! Why not? I took my purchase and sat down to try. Well I bit into one and recognized the inside…red bean paste. All right! Hey not bad at all. I was quite proud of my bravery…and it turned out to be yummy in the end!
Apparently drunk and delusional with my new found confidence in trying unknown foods, I headed to my last stop for the day. BCD Tofu House. A Korean restaurant that is said to be “one of the best” in town. It’s like a Korean upscale version of “Denny’s”. Open 24 hours with with menu of traditional Korean dishes. Not a Korean BBQ, mind you, which I have been to before in Denver and enjoyed very much. I chatted with the very friendly host and after investigating the menu, I stepped out cautiously and ordered the vegetarian combo with rice. To go, of course, since Elliott was waiting impatiently for me out front. Don’t want my small dog to piss anyone off at a Korean restaurant, if you know what I mean?
My eagerly awaited order arrived with several containers all neatly stacked into one bag. I opened them all up to see just what I was about to feast on and here is what I saw (photo was taken after I had taken a few bites of rice and then dipped my spoon in the red sauce container)
A room temperature, dead and fried whole fish, a plate of cold limp veggies topped with tofu, a container of white rice and two (one not pictured) containers of SOME SLIMY SUBSTANCE in a red sauce that tasted like cigarette butts mixed with oyster sauce. OH DEAR GOD ALMIGHTY. Even ELLIOTT sniffed at everything and TURNED AWAY. What in the HELLL was all this and why did it make me want to gag? I ate a few more bites of the rice, packaged it all back up in the bag and laughed to myself about how “BRAVE” I was to try those red bean paste bread balls and then to think I was ready to ingest something like THIS?? Omg. I’m so white. So vanilla. Clearly not the crazy adventurist I THINK I am at times. Ha! Got some good chuckles out of it as I said my goodbyes to Koreatown and headed back to the beach. As fate would have it, while I was stopped at the on-ramp for the freeway, a very scraggly homeless woman came up to my window asking if I had any money so she could get something to eat. 3,2,1….JACKPOT!! I said, “do you like Korean food?” to which she replied, “Sure, I’ll try anything.” I grabbed the bag of (insert your best guess here) and said “HERE YOU GO! ENJOY!” She looked at me and said “Oh thank you. God Bless!” I waved goodbye as I thought…hold your blessings until you open all the containers. But hopefully she was able to fill her empty belly while becoming a new fan of Korean cuisine?
Life…always something new and different around every corner. You may not love it all, but it’s always worth investigating!