Jun 2010

Ahn Joo – Los Angeles

Ahn Joo - Los Angeles

July 23, 2009—that’s the exact date when I fell in love with Korean rice cakes (duk). Since that deliciously chewy day at Cham Korean Bistro in Pasadena, I’ve eaten pounds upon pounds of the stuff and even successfully prepared an authentic version at home. Recently, an unofficial duk truck rolled into town. Chef Debbie Lee’s Ahn-Joo brings modern Korean pub grub to the streets of Los Angeles, including some bold renditions of my favorite rice cylinders.

The Astronomer and I chased down the truck yesterday afternoon at the CNN building on Sunset. Chef Lee was on the scene to greet us with a smile and to tell us more about why she decided to take her culinary act on the road.

Ahn Joo - Los Angeles

Following an appearance on season five of The Next Food Network Star, Chef Lee consulted at Culver City’s Gyenari and served “SeoulTown Tapas” at Breadbar. Although both engagements allowed her to introduce her unique style of fusion cooking to the public, the price point was ultimately too high to reach the masses. With Ahn Joo, Chef Lee hopes to spread her “Seoul-to-soul” dishes across the city and to provide an alternative to fast food.

Ahn Joo - Los Angeles

The menu is divided into four parts: Small Grub ($3), Medium Grub ($5),  Large Grub ($7), and Sweet Grub ($5). We began with an order of bacon-wrapped duk with jalapeño ponzu ($3). Bacon has a way of making just about everything better, and this was no exception. The smoky bacon and the citrus-laced ponzu provided the oomph that the simple rice cakes needed to shine.

Ahn Joo - Los Angeles

Next, we moved on to Modern Mandu ($5). The pork potstickers were pan seared to order and served with a zingy housemade chili pepper sauce. Chef Lee uses a family recipe that originated in a village in North Korea. What differentiates it from southern mandu is the filler-less filling. It was  straight-up porky, and we appreciated it very much.

Ahn Joo - Los Angeles

The Seoultown Spuds ($5), twice-fried garlic potato wedges drizzled in chili sauce, were texturally pleasing but too spicy and one-note for me.

Ahn Joo - Los Angeles

The dish that I was most curious to sample were the Korean nachos ($7) made with duk, four varieties of cheese, braised pork, and kimchi salsa. The first bite was good, the second one even better, but by the third bite, the avalanche of salt and grease proved too much for this sober eater to handle. I recommend ordering one of these and sharing it with five drunken friends.

Ahn Joo - Los Angeles

Mama Lee’s Meatloaf ($7) arrived slathered in a soy-onion demi-glace and topped with crispy shitake mushrooms. The sweet and savory meatloaf patties seemed to embody Chef Lee’s Seoul-to-soul philosophy perfectly. A few scoops of white rice would’ve made this dish a complete meal.

Ahn Joo - Los Angeles

Our final savory selection was Korean fried chicken with pickled daikon ($7). The texture of the double-fried drumsticks was spot on, while the flavors were more subdued than the soy-garlic and hot-spicy specimens at Kyochon.

Ahn Joo - Los Angeles

For dessert, grilled Nutella bhang with blueberries ($5). A little fruity and a lot chocolaty, this sandwich hit the sweet spot.

Ahn Joo - Los Angeles

And lastly, freshly fried Fuji apple egg rolls ($5). The egg rolls were a cinnamon-lover’s dream, and the accompanying ginger, cream cheese, and mascarpone dipping sauce made them even better. Make sure to save room for dessert!

Follow Ahn Joo on Twitter @AhnJooLA.


India Jones Chow Truck > Dim Sum Truck > World Fare Bustaurant > Border Grill Truck > The Manila Machine > Ahn Joo > Cool Haus > Lomo Arigato > Don Chow > Kogi > Marked 5 > Dosa Truck > Phamish

Ahn  Joo on Urbanspoon

Ahn Joo in Los Angeles on Fooddigger

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19 thoughts on “Ahn Joo – Los Angeles

  1. Looks so fab for truck food. I can’t believe this is only in the middle of your power rankings! The other stuff must be sooooooooo good.

  2. I’m glad that you guys had a decent experience. I was there on the first day and didn’t think the food was well executed. It’s excusable on the first day. The order of kimchi dumplings I had were flimsy and barely filled. The fried chicken was pretty bland and not very reflective of fried chicken you’d find at a real Korean pub. What I thought was weak was the pickled cucumbers and daikon radish cubes that came with the fried chicken.

  3. Matthew – Debbie said that in traditional Korean pubs, the chicken is mostly unseasoned and a sauce is served on the side (or something like that). I immediately thought of Hite’s saucy chicken, but anyway… Agree with you on the daikon cubes. More pickling, please!

  4. We were at LA Live last night and found the truck off of Twitter. Let me tell you the fried chicken was truly bananas!!!! Loved it. It was crispy, crunchy, spicy and utterly addictive. I agree with you about the nachos. It was too decadent for just me but I had three other friends so it was perfect for a late night treat. The skewers were light and tasty and my favorite was the salmon skewer. We were too full to have anything else but I’ll track them down again soon!

  5. Duk wrapped in bacon, great idea! I must try this at home (Nashville is so behind the times with street food, and we don’t have a lot of innovative food here). I like most of the ideas this food truck has to offer! Next time I am in L.A., I gotta get on the tweet and find out where the truck is going to be and try the food.

  6. Cathy – regardless of what’s “traditional,” the chicken did not taste very good. I’ve had plenty of chicken both here and in Korea and the sauce is nowhere near as bland as the one she had. Plus, I don’t know why Debbie is trying to portray “traditional” pub fare since she seems to be taking liberty with the rest of the menu.

  7. This seriously made me drool. I want to get drunk just so I can have those nachos, except I wouldn’t share with 5 friends, that’s nacho-urs!

  8. This looks amazing! I can’t wait for food trucks to get started in Sydney! Some enterprising person needs to get onto this as a mobile restaurant is a great idea!

  9. Omggg, I need to hunt down this truck, those Fuji apple egg rolls+cream cheese sauce look totally amazing *-*

  10. I just tried Ahn Joo today for lunch and found it pretty good (probably a bit higher up in my power rankings than yours). I still think you need to pay Komodo a try when it’s in your area – I really enjoy it!

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