Spicy, savory Korean food’s gone mainstream — right up there with bubble tea, hot pots, and soup dumplings.
And no wonder. The Korean style of cuisine is deeply flavorful, rib-sticking hearty, yet fresh, healthy, and light, utilizing seasonal vegetables and age-old fermentation and preserving practices, with an umami base of strong, savory, spicy, and sweet flavors. The cold sourness of long-fermented kim chi blends harmoniously with the succulent savoriness of tenderized meats, quick-braised greens, garlic, sesame, and lots and lots of simmering time.
It’s the hottest ethnic craze to trend up and down social media, and available at mom ‘n pop restaurants up and down Hwy. 99 in Edmonds’ very own International District.
There, you can grill your own Korean BBQ, while loading up on saucy, double-fried chicken, jjigae, kalbi, gimbap, fried pancakes, mandoo, and so much more — all served with banchan, namul, an assortment of side dishes (kim chee, soy potatoes, sesame spinach, bean sprouts) to enhance the communal experience.
Koreans love variety — and plenty of it. They’re known for buffet, family-style eating, where you grab a little of this and a little of that, and waddle away feeling completely satisfied, stuffed even. Nobody goes hungry.
As is tradition in Asian cultures, food equals love. Instead of saying, “Hello, how are you doing?” Koreans feed you. Moms will ask if their children have eaten. (They'll go ahead and feed you themselves, no matter how old their children get.) Friends will check on each other, with huge amounts of home-cooked food in hand. No party is complete without a boatload of spicy, greasy Korean bar food and soju to wash it all down.
Locals go to Edmonds’ International District to load up on platters of marinated kalbi short ribs, marbled beef brisket, chicken, gochujang-spiced pork, sliced onions, zucchini, and scallions — ready for grilling — alongside bowls of bulgogi (with a raw egg on top), soft tofu, kim chee, crab jjigae. Maybe, if you’re lucky, they’ll have crispy fried Corvina fish — a Korean delicacy — and tteokguk mochi cake/seaweed soup, a staple for those under the weather or nursing awful morning sickness.
Most Korean menus are vast and all-encompassing, with everything you could possibly want in one place.
You don’t have to go anywhere else, if you’re eating at Hosoonyi Korean Restaurant, 23830 Hwy. 99, Unit 114, E.C. Plaza, (425-775-8196). They serve every Korean dish you can think of, and then some, including the prized Corvina, pan fried, and even a few exotic dishes you’ve probably never heard of (Kal Guk Su flour noodles with clams, Naeng Myeon cold buckwheat noodles in the summer), but should definitely try.
Same with Traditional Korean Beef Soup — that's the name of the restaurant on 22929 Hwy. 99, serving delicious ox knee and short rib soups, 425-977-2929, and Gilson (braised spicy chicken hot pot, stir fried squid and octopus), 22716 Hwy. 99, 425-673-5334.
The new kid on the block — Korean fried chicken — is everywhere. American soldiers craved fried chicken during the Korean War. They created a demand that’s hugely popular with young hipsters today.
Stars In The Sky, 23830 Hwy. 99, Suite 121, (425-582-8802), rivals some of the best fried chicken chains you see on K-dramas.
They offer whole and half fried chicken, sauced or naked (get the sauced), in original or Korean style, and also with sweet and spicy, Asian garlic, extra spicy, and honey butter garlic seasonings. Boneless and wings, too.
The sign is tricky to find. Look for "Sis" calligraphy on a graphic of a black chicken next to a giant mug of beer, then "Korean Fried Chicken since 2012."
Stick around for karaoke!
Before heading out, check with restaurants directly for hours and COVID-19 restrictions.
Photo of Korean spread — kalbi ribs, jigae, bi bim bap — by Sarah Herrin.