5 Reasons to Pick Young Dong Over Han Bat For Sul Lung Tang
A few weeks ago I was pretty excited to be turned onto Yang Ban, a sul lung tang specialist in Downtown L.A. Not only was it exciting to find such a great Korean place in such an unlikely place, but flu season is in full effect. And sitting in that warm little restaurant, slurping down ox bone soup, actually had me considering giving up chicken soup with matzoh balls as my go to penicillin. No joke, Yang Ban makes a damn good bowl of soup. But I had to stop short of declaring it the best in L.A. because (and I’m a little embarrassed to admit this) I hadn’t actually been to any other sul lung tang places in L.A.
So on Monday, with the weather cold and rainy (aka sul lung tang weather), I decided to head to K-Town for a double dose of soup… hitting up two places recommended in the comments by my buddy Matt.
If you’re on the hunt for sul lung tang and heading to Koreatown most people will point your towards Han Bat, a small little storefront on 5th Street just west of Western.
Unlike Yang Ban, which has a number of different soup and stew options, Han Bat keeps it simple. Sul Lung Tang is what they have, Sul Lung Tang is what you’re ordering. You do get to choose what kind of beef parts you want, but that should also be a fairly easy decision as well. Brisket is the standard, order the mixed if you like it all (and by “it all” I mean tripe and assholes).
You’re expected to season the soup yourself, and Han Bat gives you all the requisite extras. There is sea salt and chopped scallions, in addition to better than average versions of kimchi and ggakdugi (the cubes of daikon kimchi) along with a bowl of white rice- which can be eaten between bites of soup and kimchi, or dipped into the soup itself.
You would expect a place that only makes one dish to do that dish well, and Han Bat doesn’t disappoint. The cloudy soup tastes as beefy as the restaurant smells, and once you season the soup to your liking it’s hearty and satisfying. Looking for the prototypical bowl of sul lung tang? Han Bat is where you want to be.
But let’s say you’re looking for something a bit different. Young Dong is a bit of a controversial choice for sul lung tang, since their broth is clear (likely because they don’t boil the bones to make their broth?) But as much as some people will write it off, there are some reasons why you would choose Young Dong over Han Bat.
#1. Noodles. If you like noodles, Young Dong’s noodles are not only better but you get way more of them.
#2. Fatless meat. This seems like a particularly L.A. option, but if you can’t stand hunks of fat attached to your slices of brisket, Young Dong offers a fat-less version of the soup. (Seriously though, why would anybody order this!?)
#3. Kimchi you cut yourself. Sul lung tang is already a season yourself proposition, but Young Dong takes it one step farther by extending that DIY mentality to your kimchi- which arrives in a big metal bowl, topped with tongs and scissors. It’s then up to you to cut your own, and then parcel it into little white plates on the table. Fun!
#4. More stuff. Young Dong gives you a few more options to add to your soup, including chopped up garlic and pickled jalapenos in soy sauce. Plus my favorite… the little tea pots filled with their special kimchi juice/hot sauce. If you mistaken this for tea, you will be very sad.
#5. The clear broth. Controversy aside, Young Dong might be a better introductory bowl of sul lung tang. Especially for those people who are scared off by the rich murky broth at Han Bat. And if you’re looking for something a bit less rich, Young Dong is your spot.
Is Young Dong better? Well, I wouldn’t go that far. Han Bat is still the industry standard, and the (ironically enough) clear winner if you’re craving that rich milky broth. But Young Dong is nice for a bit of a change, and their add ons and heavy hand with the noodles will have me heading back for more.
Most importantly I now feel confident in saying that I’d put Yang Ban’s sul lung tang up against either of the best places in K-Town. Their soup is excellent, their kimchi is my favorite of the 3, and they give you purple rice.
There is one thing I’m sad to report, though. The day after eating 2 (!?) bowls of sul lung tang, I came down with a pretty horrible case of the flu. So, while it is undeniable that sul lung tang is the perfect lunch when you’re feeling sick, I wouldn’t go replacing your Airborne just yet. It is clearly not effective in staving off a cold.
Han Bat Sul Lung Tang, 4163 W 5th St, 213-383-9499
Young Dong, 3828 Wilshire Blvd, 213-386-3729