For Cheap Korean Sushi, Ssing Ssing Is Your Spot

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Exploring other cultures through their cuisine is one of the most fun things about eating, and one of the most exciting things about L.A. is how many restaurants you can find who are making food from other continents without dumbing it down for the American taste buds. But not all adapted dishes are bad… and hybrids can end up being just as delicious as something that is supposedly “authentic” (after all,  if you look back far enough every dish we call “authentic” today likely has roots outside of its country of origin.)  If the Chinese didn’t try to make Chinese food for Americans, there would be no orange chicken from Panda Express (it’s horrible to even think about it.)   Japanese?   Spicy mayo *is* delicious on everything!  And Mexico?  Well, if you haven’t tried the hard shell goodness of Tito’s Tacos you haven’t lived.  Oh, and don’t get me started on New York pizza.

The best part is, we’re not the only ones that do this.  In Korea they have their own version of Chinese food that is awesome (jjanjangmyeon anybody?)  And they have their own version of sushi (kimbap) and a bibimbapped version of the chirashi bowl (hwedupbap).  Kimbap is something I’ve been eating for awhile, but I’m kind of new to the whole hwedupbap thing- raw cubes of fish served salad style over rice with veggies and red pepper sauce.  Sadly- just like sushi, the best versions of hwedupbap are going to be over $10 (like the one at Guru approved A-Won).  So when I heard that Ssing Ssing (on Vermont & 7th in K-Town) made a good version for $9, I was pretty excited.

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Ssing Ssing is an unassuming little place, nestled in a strip mall with the far more noticeable Boba Time.  There isn’t much English spoken inside (the mark of a good place?)  but the menu is easy to read to and there are photos hanging on the wall with English translations.  They have sushi (which looks more like Japanese sushi than kimbap), standard Korean stews, and snack food- like spicy rice cakes with ramen (lak bokki), but most people are there for the hwedupbap.

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$9 gets you a big bowl of rice topped with lettuce, cubes of raw fish (I think it was tuna and tilapia), seaweed and a scoop of roe.  Squeeze a ton of red pepper paste on top, mix it all up, and you’re in business.  The biggest complaint about Ssing Ssing is that sometimes the cubes of fish are still frozen, and on this day they didn’t disappoint. The tuna was fine, but some of the other cubes of fish were definitely a bit icy.  Anytime you’re paying less than $10, you can rest assured that you’re getting cheap previously frozen fish… but being reminded of it by biting down on a fishy ice cube isn’t exactly the most pleasant experience.  The fish defrosted pretty quickly once it was mixed with the warm rice, and the bowl was edible, but tilapia (at least I think it was tilapia) isn’t really my favorite fish to eat raw, and compared to what Wow Bento and Roll downtown does for $8, I was a bit disappointed.

But all was not lost, because I will forever remember Ssing Ssing as the first place I ever had al-bap!

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Oh, giant bowl of rice topped with fish eggs where have you been all my life! A cousin to hwedupbap, al-bap is basically the same thing but with fish eggs instead of raw fish.  Obviously fish eggs aren’t for everybody, but if you are a fan this is a really awesome lunch.  Once again, you’re not going to get the best of the best for $10, but for the price it was super tasty (I especially like the green wasabi roe)  and they even give you a little bite of eel on top.

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It’s far smaller than the hwedupbap, but with the banchan and the miso soup that comes with it, it’s more than filling.

Like anything in life you get what you pay for… and Ssing Ssing definitely falls into that category. Their hwedupbap has a lot of fans so I’m guessing it’s hit or miss (yesterday was a miss) but their al-bap kind of saved the day.. and will likely be the first of many fish egg topped rice bowls I plan on eating in the future.  Got a good recommendation?  I’m all ears.

THE + (What somebody who likes this place would say)

  • What do you expect from $9 hwedupbap?!  It’s good for the price
  • I love raw tilapia
  • Their $10 version is pretty great for the price

THE - (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)

  • The cubes of fish on the hwedupbap were still frozen when it came to the table!
  • Their red pepper paste is waaaay too sweet
  • Raw tilapia has the worst consistency
  • Even Wow Bento and Roll is better than this!
  • I don’t like fish eggs
  • Don’t be a cheap ass.  Just spend the extra few bucks and go to A-Won

Ssing Ssing, 709 S Vermont Ave, 213-382-6099

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