Tag Archives: food

Dog Cafe

L.A.’s First Dog Cafe Seeks to Revolutionize Dog Adoption

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim

Cat cafes are all the rage in Asia and Europe, and their popularity seems to be increasing even more afer the first American cat cafe opened in Oakland, California last November. But what about dog cafes?

Sarah Wolfgang recently launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise funds for the Dog Cafe, the first of its kind in the U.S. The cafe will give patrons the opportunity to enjoy a cup of joe with a pooch at their side, but its larger goal is to address the overcrowding of L.A.’s animal shelters.

“The Dog Cafe is going to put a spin on the way people adopt by totally reinventing the way we connect with homeless dogs,” Wolfgang writes on her Indiegogo page. “We want to provide you with the opportunity to see these highly adoptable pooches in their true light. And even if you’re not looking to adopt, you can still enjoy all of the sloppy kisses you’ve ever wanted.”

Wolfgang assures future patrons that the cafe is, in fact, legal. Kind of. According to the city health department, the Dog Cafe will need two separate locations–a cafe and a dog zone–that are not connected in any way. A good amount of the $200,000 goal will go towards finding a large location where dogs can run and frolick, as well as hiring a staff to take care of the dogs. Meanwhile, the coffee will be fittingly provided by Grounds & Hounds Coffee Co.

Perks include pre-paid entries to visit the cafe and chill with the dogs while enjoying free drinks, as well as a pre-sale voucher to a “Pup-Up” event in Downtown Los Angeles from Jan. 22-25. Bigger perks include a private puppy party, assistance in adopting a dog and getting your own plaque on a table in the cafe.

The Dog Cafe’s Indiegogo campaign will run until Feb. 5.

Screen Shot 2015-01-16 at 12.59.38 PM

Korean ‘Fire Noodle Challenge’ Spreads Online

by REERA YOO | @reeraboo

Koreans love ramen, and they love spice. But can they handle the taste of fire?

There’s been a recent surge of people trying to eat Samyang’s Bool Dak Bokkeum Myun (translation: Flaming Chicken Fried Noodles), one of South Korea’s spiciest ramens, as quickly as possible on YouTube. Why are so many people doing this sadistic challenge? I have no idea, but watching strangers cry and writhe in food pain is surprisingly entertaining.

Here are some brave souls who accepted the “Fire Noodle Challenge.” Some dominated while others lost their tongues to the fires of ramen hell.

Americans take on the Fire Noodle Challenge

London’s Fire Noodle Challenge

Korean teens devour Fire Noodles in under 15 seconds

The spit-take near the end of the challenge is the highlight of the video.

Two Americans do the Fire Noodle Race

Korean YouTubers attempt to eat 12 Fire Noodles in 10 minutes

Mokbang star eats five packets of Fire Noodles

Fire Noodles get spicier with chili peppers and chili powder

Fire is catching, and it doesn’t look like the trend will die down anytime soon.

Roy Daniel

Roy Choi’s Fast Food Restaurant Loco’l Launches Crowdfunding Effort

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim

Fast food chains aren’t known to crowdfund, but Loco’l isn’t your normal fast food restaurant. Spearheaded by chefs Roy Choi and Daniel Patterson, Loco’l is touted as a locally sourced and affordable fast food option.

The first location is set to open in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood later this year. The funds from the Indiegogo campaign will go towards building that first restaurant. As of Jan. 14, 2015, the campaign has raised 7 percent of its $150,000 goal.

“Our vision with Loco’l is to create a fast food concept that’s delicious, but do it with the heart of a chef,” the Indiegogo campaign page says. “As chefs, we’re approaching it just like we would another restaurant … Then on the other side of it is being aware of what fast food is and what it’s become in America, and why it’s so important, popular, and powerful. Not trying to throw all of those things away.”

“We’re just trying to take it back to basics,” the page continues. “A lot of these fast food chains weren’t evil before. Somehow along the line as businesses grow, money and things start to change your decisions. Then before you know it, sometimes you don’t know which way is up anymore. Our philosophy in this is always to know which way is up. As chefs, we would never get to the point where we would be serving poison to people.”

One basic staple of fast food is the burger, and according to Choi, the cornerstone of Loco’l will be a 99 cent burger. The challenge will be not to make it a gourmet burger, but something that “feels, tastes, looks, smells, and sits in your hand just like a Quarter Pounder.”

Perks for contributors include with a social media shout-out, Loco’l sticker, signed copies of the chefs’ individual books (including Choi’s L.A. Son), and even opportunities to personally hang out with the chefs or get a private cooking class with Chef Chad Robertson from Tartine.


South Koreans Consume the Most Ramen in the World

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim

The convenience of Korean instant ramen makes the dish a favorite among college students, single folk and the lazy alike, but there may be such a thing as too convenient.

South Koreans consumed the most ramen (ramyun or ramyeon) per person in the world last year, according to a study by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and the World Instant Noodles Association (WINA). The average Korean eats 74.1 servings ramen per year, followed by Vietnamese people, who consume about 60.3 servings a year. Indonesia, China and Hong Kong round out the top five out of a total 15 countries in the study.

Japan did not make the top five list for ramen servings per person, but they do consume the third-most amount of ramen as a country. Meanwhile, Hong Kong and China come in first place, followed by Indonesia Japan, and Vietnam. South Korea came in seventh in overall consumption.

According to the study, Koreans are also the most likely to purchase ramen at a convenience store: 25.6 percent of shoppers purchase ramen. Nongshim Shin Ramyun has been the most popular brand for four years, followed by Jjapaguri, Neoguri and Samyang Ramyun. The ramenritto, the ramen grilled cheese sandwich, the ramen pizza and the infamous ramen burger still have a ways to go to catch up.

The study also provided a number of interesting tidbits about ramen in general: From 2008 to 2013, South Korean ramen exports increased 64 percent, and cup ramen production increased 67 percent compared to 26.5 percent for bagged instant ramen in the same time period.

If you’re in the mood for Korean ramen, check out blogger Hans Lienesch’s list of Top 10 South Korean Instant Noodles for a few hearty recommendations.

Photo courtesy of Soompi

Patterson Choi

Roy Choi’s Fast Food Restaurant to Open in San Francisco Next Year

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim

Not many individuals can create a fast food chain from the ground up, but not everyone is Roy Choi.

After announcing his latest venture with Chef Daniel Patterson back in the summer, Choi made the official announcement yesterday that the first location of the chain, called loco’l, will be in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood. Locals can expect the restaurant to open by late spring/early summer.


Choi and Patterson unveiled their plans for the fast food chain back in August at the MAD3 symposium. Patterson said that they planned to start a business that could grow quickly to “supplant the fast-food chains and convenience stores that separate our youth from the taste of real food.”

“I envisioned a new kind of fast-food restaurant that served real food in a nice environment, and which could contribute to the neighborhood around it in myriad ways,” he added. “My answer lay to the south, in Los Angeles, where Roy Choi was bringing people together from all over the city around Kogi—food trucks that served tasty, hard-to-categorize food.”

For Roy Choi, loco’l is his latest project in offering affordable and healthy options–a rare “food oasis–to neighborhoods that are considered “food deserts.” Last year, Choi opened 3 Worlds Cafe in South Central Los Angeles, an idea that originated from a fruit cart project Choi was running at the local Jefferson High School.

“Price point, culture, design, hospitality, relevance and most of all flavor,” Choi said to Inside Scoop SF in August. “We will be using all our sciences and knowledge and sixth sense as restaurateurs/chefs to create a concept people love and a menu they crave, but keep it all in the pocket, keep it all affordable and delicious, and speak to what the people want.”

The location was seemingly the perfect fit for the restaurant, which is part of an overall community project. The intersection of Taylor Street and Turk, where loco’l will open, will be seeing was identified as one of nine “action zones” by the Tenderloin Health Improvement Partnership (TLHIP) with the goal of rebuilding and revamping the neighborhood. Future locations for loco’l include other inner-city “food deserts,” including Oakland, Pleasanton and Watts in L.A.

Loco’l plans to offer a menu with options like tofu-and-grain-heavy burgers, veggie bowls, falafel, rice bowls, and other items in the $2-6 range, according to Eater SF. The restaurant will also feature a “multi-use commissary kitchen” for cooking classes hosted by Patterson and The Cooking Project, a San Francisco nonprofit.

As the Bay Area gets its first taste of Roy Choi, Southern California can’t get enough of him. Director Jon Favreau (Iron Man, Swingers) and Choi announced back in September that they were trying to open a restaurant in Los Angeles featuring some of the cuisine from Chef, a film that chronicled their road trip. Along with the Kogi truck, Choi’s current list of restaurants in Los Angeles includes 3 Worlds Cafe, Chego!, Sunny Spot, A-Frame and POT at the Line Hotel in Koreatown.

Don’t forget, Choi also has his own reality show on CNN coming up sometime in 2015, too.

Feature image via Grub Street

WL headshot

Move Over, Sriracha, and Make Room for Gochujang


While the piquant and tangy spice of Sriracha sauce has thrived in the culinary spotlight, finding a home even in mainstream supermarkets and restaurants in recent years, a certain peppery condiment peer has quietly remained in the background. But food writer and Korean cuisine expert Naomi Imatome-Yun thinks it’s about time gochujang gets its closeup. In Cooking with Gochujang: Asia’s Original Hot Sauce, Imatome-Yun introduces a diverse catalog of recipes that highlight the bold flavors of the Korean hot pepper paste.

But what exactly is gochujang? “It’s a chili paste with a complex spicy, sweet and deep flavor,” explains Imatome-Yun, who is of Japanese and Korean descent. “It is so full of umami flavor and depth, that it can really spice up your cooking.”

She says the rich and nuanced taste of gochujang can be blended into any type of cuisine, as the author showcases with an eclectic array of gochujang-infused dishes, from soba salads and stews to spicy pastas, quesadillas and even cookies and cocktails. Kicked-up Halibut Teriyaki, Marble Swirl Cake With a Twist and Gochujang Bloody Mary are among the offerings.

“I tried to create recipes and dishes that people would actually make and enjoy,” said Imatome-Yun. “The more traditional Korean recipes are based on things we eat often at home and some I did learn through my mother and grandmother. But since most of the recipes aren’t strictly Korean, the bulk of the recipes were created from scratch in my kitchen.”

A New York native, and now a Los Angeles resident, Imatome-Yun has worked as a food writer for over 15 years, from writing restaurant and bar reviews for AOL to working as the copy editor for the food publication Art Culinaire. She is also the Korean food expert for About.com, where she’s shared her knowledge of the cuisine for seven years and counting.

“I’m always shocked at the traffic and how many people are looking for Korean recipes,” she said. “I hear from readers who grew up in Korean homes, but couldn’t cook anything after they moved out, expats in Korea who want recipes in English, and people who aren’t experts in the cuisine and need some simple, clear instructions.”

The cookbook, released in September by Countryman Press, publisher of many James Beard Award-winning cookbooks, took about six months to make and was very much a family affair. Her husband took the photos featured in the book, and her two sons were likely among her trusted tasters. Imatome-Yun says the boys love Korean food, especially—no surprise here—the spicy dishes.


Crab Dip and Crackers

Seoulful Cheese Dip

This is an easy to whip together dip for chips, vegetables and crackers that always has people asking for the recipe. It’s creamy with a little heat, and you’ll also find a fun variation on Buffalo chicken wings on the bottom.

Prep time: 5 minutes


1 8-oz package of cream cheese

1/4 cup half and half 2 cloves garlic, minced

2 Tbsp gochujang

1 tsp fresh lemon juice

1 small sweet onion, grated

Instructions: Soften the cream cheese and stir in the half and half until it’s creamy. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix with a fork until it reaches a smooth consistency. Serve with vegetables, chips, or bread.

Buffalo Wings variation:

Add 1⁄2 cup crumbled blue cheese, 1/4 cup ranch dressing and 3 Tbsp Frank’s hot sauce to the above dip. Bake in the oven at 400 degrees until it’s hot and bubbly. Serve with celery sticks and cooked chicken cut into strips or bite-sized pieces for dipping.

lime chicken photo 3

Grilled Chicken with Lime

Prep Time: 2 hours

Cook Time: 15 minutes    Serves: 4


4 chicken thighs or breasts

4 Tbsp gochujang

2 tsp sesame oil

1 Tbsp soy sauce

2 Tbsp honey

2 Tbsp fresh lime juice

Instructions: Mix all the ingredients together except for the chicken for the marinade. Marinate the chicken for at least 2 hours. Grill for about 7 minutes per side, or until completely cooked through.



KBBQ Lasagna

Seth Rogen, James Franco and Epic Meal Time Make a Korean BBQ Lasagna

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim

Korean food is a wonderful thing. From the meats to the veggies to the seafood and every grain of rice, there is such a wide range of tastes and pleasures within every dish.

Leave it to the loud, bearded guys at Epic Meal Time to smash it all together in their own charming way. Add in Seth Rogen and James Franco, and you have the best or worst cooking segment ever filmed, depending on your mood and sobriety. In that context, the enormous Korean BBQ lasagna they threw together is either the nastiest or most delicious thing you’ve ever seen.

The actors were on hand to promote their upcoming movie, The Interview, in which their characters are tasked by the CIA to assassinate Kim Jong-un when they travel to North Korea. According to Rogen and Franco, nothing screams authentically Korean more than fries and pasta. And Koreans apparently eat everything with kimchi, gochujang and ssamjang, which might not be too far from the truth.

Pack in bulgogi (which Franco says is named for the lead prosecutor in the Manson trial, Vincent Bugliosi), kimchi pork belly and kimchi pancakes in between the kimchi pasta layers, and you have an enormous spicy lasagna with a touch of cultural ignorance. Of course, it’s James Franco and Seth Rogen, so what can you do.

Check out the video below:


Feeding the Soul in ‘Hungry for Love’

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim

Many people go to New York City to “make it there.” With the sheer number and diversity of New Yorkers, you can also find plenty of unique and delicious places to eat there, too.

The food from the city that never sleeps is central to Hungry for Love, a film looking to gain financial backing via Kickstarter. The story centers around two individuals struggling to make a living: Giovanni works as a pastry delivery driver who dreams of traveling America in a transnational food crawl, and Priscilla is an aspiring writer struggling to publish her first book while saddled in student loan debt.

When the two strangers meet for the first time, they discover a mutual passion for food, which takes them on an epic all-night dining adventure through NYC’s five boroughs. They decide to drop everything for a while as they enjoy and explore cultural neighborhoods, meet unique individuals and eat delicious food. The experience not only brings them closer together, but empowers them when facing their problems head-on.


Hungry for Love is the first feature film collaboration for writer/director Justin Ambrosino and producer Soojin Chung, both graduates of the American Film Institute (AFI). Ambrosino’s short The 8th Samurai won several awards and qualified for an Academy Award, while Chung has worked on multiple films in South Korea, including Sympathy for Lady Vengeance. She also produced the surreal Escape from Tomorrow, which premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival to acclaim.

Ambrosino and Chung spoke to KoreAm via email about their crowdfunding effort for Hungry for Love, as well as how food has shaped their own lives and careers. You can view their Kickstarter page here.

How did the idea for the film and story come about? What drew both of you to the story?

Soojin Chung: I came to America from South Korea in 2006 and gained about 20 pounds while living in LA. Two years ago, I went back to South Korea for the post-production of my previous film Escape From Tomorrow and reconnected with my old friends and colleagues. But shortly after the happy reunion, over Korean BBQ, they started to recommend diets, blind dates and dying my gray hair. Suddenly, I was looked at differently. Korean people were shocked and genuinely concerned about my weight, age and my single status.

Altogether, I became an un-ideal woman, and that’s when I realized how I am categorized in Korean society and what that feels like. Even when I went to the Dongdaemoon market to buy some clothes, people gave me a quick, cold look and yelled, “We don’t carry your size!” even though I am a size “medium” in America.

When I came back, I told Justin about how miserable I was feeling. He related it to his own family and their stories. In fact, had Justin always wanted to make a heartwarming love story with non-traditional romantic leads. I thought that was a story worth telling so we can understand the opposite side of the issue, especially with the overwhelming amount of beauty and fitness advertisements.


Justin Ambrosino: I remember being a child and holding my mother’s hand while we walked and some older kids would make fun of her, calling her a derogatory name because of her weight. She didn’t say anything, only held my hand tighter as we quickly walked away. I was young and confused but I could sense that she was hurt by it.

As I grew older, I began to feel her feelings, especially when we’d watch movies together, and the issue of weight would come up in some scene. When it was handled in a comedic way that made fun of it she would feel bad or uncomfortable, but when done in a more empathetic way, she might smile or even laugh herself! I knew I’d like to see her happy about it but I couldn’t figure out what to do to make that possible.

For me, I thought nothing of her weight—I cannot see her any other way but beautiful because I know her heart is in the right place. To me that is true beauty. And when I became a filmmaker, I finally found a way to do something about it—make Hungry for Love.

Who are Giovanni and Priscilla? What was the inspiration for the characters?

JA: Well, they are not your typical romantic movie leads, that’s for sure! Too many scripts put together a “smoking hot babe” and a “chiseled hunk” and we watch the drama ensue, but personally I cannot relate to those characters. Almost everybody I know feels like they are struggling to get to where they want to be. Giovanni and Priscilla are the same. They’re just regular people, good people, who also deserve a happy ending, too. So, when writing the script, I was thinking about the people I know in my life—my family and my friends. Each character is a reflection of someone close to me.

SC: I believe there is a little of everyone in Giovanni and Priscilla. For example, after sustaining an injury while I was working on a Korean film set, I came to the U.S. to restart my career. Making that transition, I had my fair share of ups and downs like everybody else, and sometimes I just needed to let it all go, to restore my strength. And that is where Giovanni and Priscilla are at in their lives. After having a bad day, they just want to enjoy themselves instead of feeling depressed. And who knows? Maybe they can find hope and confidence, or even their soul mate, who doesn’t judge them!

If you could, tell us a little about the journey the characters go on. How do they ultimately come to realize who they truly are?

JA: Giovanni and Priscilla face their own set of internal struggles. Giovanni is a shy man with hopes and dreams but lacks the courage to pursue them. The world is too intimidating for him and therefore he is content with what little he has.

Priscilla on the other hand is a force to be reckoned with. She is determined to pursue her dreams but lacks a certain positive outlook on life to achieve them. Basically, she lets the obstacles in her way get her down. Eventually, Giovanni finds the courage he never knew he had and Priscilla learns to take life day by day and be happy with what she has.

HFL_Square Logo

Food is so prevalent in the media and popular culture. How can food play a role in an intimate relationship?

JA: In the particular case of Giovanni and Priscilla, food is what brings them together. They are both used to eating alone. While Priscilla might be comfortable with it because she’s a bit more independent, for Giovanni it is the worst part of his day. He loves food but he hates eating alone, so eating with company is the ultimate definition of happiness for him.

On the other hand, for Priscilla, eating is a necessary habit. She doesn’t think about what she is eating, but through the experience of eating with Giovanni, she begins to appreciate food in a different way and therefore begins to enjoy life a bit more. So, by sharing time and eating at a dinner table, they each give something to the other they never had before.

How did the restaurants featured in the movie make the cut? Do they have a personal connection to either of you?

SC: In the script, Justin wrote in restaurants he loves whether he has a personal connection to them or not. Even though we’ve been going around to many places, ultimately we have not casted the restaurants yet because we would like the audiences to join us in that process. We would like to make an online campaign to choose the restaurants that will be in the movie. It is going to be fun to hear everyone’s opinion… so I encourage your readers to follow us on Twitter and Facebook and be apart of the experience! Of course, I am thrilled to have the chance to introduce some unique Korean restaurants too!

What do you notice about the different cuisines among the five boroughs? Do they point to a larger culture that is representative of each area?

JA: Imagine you are looking at Earth from outer space. Now smash that globe, and shove it into a tiny set of islands along the Hudson River. That is New York City. It’s a microcosm of the world. You can find every kind of cuisine here. And it can get more specific than your average city. While other cities might have a famous Caribbean restaurant, in one part of the NYC, known as Flatbush, Brooklyn, you can find many Caribbean restaurants, only they are called Haitian, Jamaican, Bajan and other specific Caribbean country’s cuisine.

SC: From a non-New Yorker’s perspective, I found it very interesting that every borough and every town within every borough, and every block within every town, is culturally diverse! Like in Queens, you can walk around and see nothing but Greek food with Greek signage, then turn the corner and see nothing but Korean food and signage! It’s like the city changes with one turn of the head. But in the end, it’s all New York City!

Justin, how do you think food and restaurant culture has changed, particularly in New York? What has remained the same?

JA: There is a bittersweet scene in the script where the characters are going to an Argentinean restaurant where Giovanni has great memories of eating at as a kid, but when they arrive they find out it will be closing for good the very next day. They have a “last supper” of sorts and share a moment with the chef who has mixed feelings himself about what’s happening.

You see, this is a story I hear all the time in New York. Every day a new landmark restaurant is closing. Whether it is the raising of rents, the owners retiring or the competition winning, it’s really hard to pinpoint the answer to the change, but this is NYC, change is inevitable.

With the influx of new restaurants offering farm-to-table, organic cuisines, with locally sourced ingredients, the older restaurants are put into a dilemma: change their menu and offend their regulars or stick with their menu but get passed over by new residents. I think the most successful restaurants are the ones that were originally farm-to-table, always using locally sourced ingredients and that changed their menus frequently–they stayed fresh with each generation.


Soojin, how much of an impact has food had in your life? Does this film have any personal touch for you as well?

SC: Growing up, I was never interested in food. I was an unusual kid because I didn’t ask for candy, chocolate, ice cream or hamburgers like the other children. But since I met Justin, eight years ago, I found another side of myself that I never knew existed.

When we worked on our first film at AFI together, Justin invited the crew to his tiny apartment for our first production meeting (where we were supposed to discuss all the details of making the film). But when I arrived, Justin was sweating, frying fresh shrimp, making dough from scratch—he was cooking up a feast! Then, as we ate, all everyone discussed was food and wine. It was definitely a delicious dinner, made with love and care, but after three hours of talking and eating, I wondered when the production meeting would begin! But everybody seemed to have no problem, and as the only Asian in our group, I took it as cultural differences. But along the way, I was slowly became a foodie myself and here I am.

What’s the approximate timetable for the movie?

Hungry For Love was selected for the IFP Project Forum 2013. Ever since then, we have been pitching to financiers and film industry people. Luckily, we’ve drawn positive attention, and we are running a Kickstarter Campaign supported by Sundance, IFP (Independent Film Project), Film Independent and Filmmaker Magazine.

Crowdfunding has become the opening gate to making independent films and to prove to the investors there is an audience for each film. The success of our campaign will surely convince our potential financiers and lead to us raising the complete budget. We are aiming to shoot our movie in April 2015 and delivering the final film by September 2015 so we can begin our festival run in 2016. But all this will not be possible unless we succeed our Kickstarter campaign, so it’s really up to your readers and all the people out there to make our dreams come true!


Images courtesy of Soojin Chung & Justin Ambrosino