Robust, spicy, and intense, Korean food has long been overlooked in favor of more familiar Chinese and Vietnamese eats. But in recent years, the unprecedented successes of Momofuku restaurants in New York City and the Kogi Korean barbecue taco trucks in Los Angeles have rocketed the cuisine to the top of the trend list. Here in the Mile-High City, the trickle-down has begun, and Denverites are discovering Aurora's burgeoning Koreatown. Here, a primer on this remarkably diverse cuisine.
If you like...
Ease in with dolsot bibimbap (above), a rice bowl with veggies, a fried egg, and beef or seafood. The dish arrives sizzling in a stone bowl with the rice toasting on the bottom. Or, try duk mandu gook, a cross between wonton and egg drop soup, with pork-and-kimchi dumplings, chewy rice cakes, and vegetables.
Dare to order yukgaejang, a brisket and scallion soup so heady with red chile that it's guaranteed to clear your sinuses. For soup that's spicy and soothing, try soondooboo jjigae, a seafood and vegetable stew with soft, creamy hunks of tofu.
Reminiscent of pad thai, jap-chae tangles stir-fried sweet potato noodles (a Korean specialty) with vegetables and strips of beef. Or try mul naeng myun (cold noodle soup), in which a mound of chewy buckwheat noodles in an ice-cold, tangy broth is topped with radish, beef, and slices of Asian pear.
With grills built right into the table, Korean cuisine is a barbecue lover's dream. Order bulgogi (sliced sirloin) and galbi (short ribs) marinated in soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, and garlic, and grill them yourself. Both come with lettuce leaves, garlic, green chile slices, and dipping sauce for making wraps.