Jang Tou Bossam is Lunchtime Gold For K-Town Bargain Hunters
If you love pork you were undoubtedly excited by Jonathan Gold’s (aka “The Guru” on this site) review of Palsaik Samgyeopsal, the Koreatown pork belly specialist whose signature dish features 8 thick slices of fatty goodness, each drenched in its own special marinade. Somewhat surprisingly, they do offer a lunch menu featuring galbi tang (beef stew), naengmyeon (cold noodles), and $9 orders of pork belly. But clearly the 8 slices of pork belly dinner is the draw of this place. For lunch you’re better off stepping a few doors down to Jang Tou Bossam, a 2 year old semi-hidden gem (it’s literally hidden behind the building that houses Ma Dang Gook Soo and BCD Tofu House) of a restaurant that specializes in that other Korean pork fat dish- bossam.
As much as I like the charred hunks of pork belly you get at Korean BBQ places, my true love (if we’re talking fatty pork) is bossam. I can’t think of many cases where steaming meat is preferable to grilling (maybe corned beef?), but the result with Korean fatty pork is surprisingly nice. The fat is far more pleasant to eat than the often leather belt’ish strips of grilled belly, and I love the act of eating bossam- wrapping each piece of meat up in steamed cabbage, along with the sweet and spicy radish kimchi. Kobawoo, who offers a $9.50 bossam lunch special, is my default spot but it doesn’t stop me from searching for less crowded alternatives. So when I saw that Jang Tou had a $8.99 bossam lunch special I was intrigued. When I saw it was just one of 15 under $10 lunch specials they served (in contrast to Kobawoo, who only has 3) I was downright excited.
But before we get to that, let’s talk bossam. Jang Tou cuts their pork a bit thick, so it doesn’t have the same melt in your mouth quality of the thinly cut slices at Kobawoo. But it has this nice, borderline fragrant, porky flavor and you get 3 possibly 4 times as much pork for just $9. It’s a massive amount of meat for the price, and don’t forget the little jar of pickled baby shrimp on the table as a condiment.
Speaking of condiments, the kimchi heavy banchan at Jang Tou was surprisingly awesome. There was standard cabbage kimchi, whole cucumber kimchi, daikon kimchi, and glazed sweet potato. But my favorite was the thing on the left that couldn’t decide if it was one of those free salads you get with Korean BBQ or kimchi. Sweet and spicy and pungent, it was totally memorable. This alone would make Jang Tou a lunchtime destination for a solitary lover of pork, but it’s the rest of the surprisingly cheap menu that makes it perfect for a big group.
Although rare, you can find a number of under $10 lunch special versions of bossam around Koreatown. Gob dong oh joorim? Not so much. I was very surprised to see that you could get braised mackerel in a sweet and spicy red sauce for just $9.99 (#16 on the wall menu). A fish dish like this will normally run at least twice as much, with most places not willing to do a smaller version for cheaper. Mackerel is pretty bony and fishy, but if you don’t mind picking through the carcass and constantly pulling bones out of your mouth, this is quite the deal for only $10.
Even better is the pan fried flat fish (#19), which is also only $9.99. You’d think that at this price it wouldn’t be good, and when they first brought it out it looked like it might end up being super dry (and maybe sometimes it is). But on this visit it ended up being a bit of salty perfection. Super crispy on the outside, but still unbelievably moist on the inside. I don’t know if I would order this alone as my lunch, but if you go to Jang Tou Bossam with 2 or 3 people this makes the perfect accompaniment to the bossam and braised fish dish.
Many bossam places will also have soondae (Korean blood sausage) and jokbal (deboned pig’s feet that’s been boiled and sliced like charcuterie) and Jang Tou Bossam didn’t disappoint on that front either. The blood sausage is served inside a soup (jook) for $4.99 (#10), or alongside the soup for $8.99 (#9) where you end up getting more sausage. Unlike french blood sausage, which is like pudding, soondae is more vermicelli noodles than blood, and Jang Tou’s version is homey and rustic but very mild. I’d definitely recommend it to anybody who is scared to eat the stuff. Just make sure you don’t forget to use the pink salt provided on the table, both on the sausage and in the soup. Without it you might be surprised at how bland the whole thing ends up being.
Sadly the jokbal was the only disappointment of the lunch. I’m a huge fan of this dish, and was super excited to discover another under $10 version (most places won’t serve a small portion as a lunch special), but this version was a bit too chewy. If you want to try this (and I recommend that anybody who likes pork try it at least once) I’d go to Jang Choong Dong Jokbal.
Not into the pork belly or pig’s feat or picking through fish bones, Jang Tou has plenty of options for the amateur Korean food eaters as well. There are a number of standard meat dishes, like bulgogi and spicy pork available, and all are under $10. And if you’re lucky, maybe your fried will order the bossam and you can snag a bite. (You won’t regret it.)
If you like traditional Korean soups and stews, it’s never hard to find a super cheap lunch special in K-Town. It’s finding all the other stuff for cheap that is the exciting surprise. And by that measure, Jang Tou Bossam is a true hidden treasure.
THE + (What somebody who likes this place would say)
- Bossam for under $10? Love it.
- I like how they cut their pork a little thicker so you can really taste the flavor of the meat
- You get waaaaaaaaay more than Kobawoo. Amazing.
- Fish dishes also for under $10? Love it.
- The pan fried fish was cooked perfectly. And it’s huge. Still can’t believe it was under $10.
- So many dishes under $10 for lunch (and for dinner it’s not too expensive either)
THE – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)
- I prefer my slices of pork to be cut thinner, like Kobawoo
- You don’t really need all that food. I’d rather get less to keep myself from eating too much.
- Can’t take all the bones in that braised mackerel dish. I also prefer places that do the same dish with cod, like Mapo.
- You get what you pay for! I’d rather pay a bit more…
- The jokbal is not good at all. Avoid!
- You don’t get oysters or daen jang jigae with your bossam
Jang Tou Bossam (aka Jang Toh), 857 S Western Ave, 213-387-2241