Han Bat Shul Lung Tang — Los Angeles, CA
As a foodie, the feeling is all too familiar:
Staring at the menu, racked with indecision about what to order. Everything looks so darn delicious.
After some hemming and hawing, you finally make a decision and cross your fingers in hopes you ordered the best dish. But then what if it ends up being mediocre? You simply can’t shake off that lingering feeling… what if that other dish would’ve been better?
Well, you certainly won’t have that problem at Han Bat Shul Lung Tang. Even before you arrive at the restaurant, you already know what you’re going to eat. In fact, the waitresses know what you’re going to eat, and so do all of the restaurant’s other loyal patrons.
That’s because the restaurant only serves one dish: Shul Lung Tang, a traditional korean beef soup. This clearly isn’t one of those joints we often see in strip malls that “specializes” in Chinese and Japanese and Thai food. Han Bat concentrates on doing one thing and doing it very very well.
Shul Lung Tang is made from simmering ox bones for what I surmise is an eternity while constantly skimming oil off the top. The dissolved bone marrow results in an opaque, milky-white broth that conceals a small bed of noodles along with your choice of meat. Most opt for long-simmering slices of brisket or flank, but some are especially adventurous and choose between a hodgepodge of organ meats including tongue, intestine, spleen, tripe, and liver. While I usually get the brisket, I opted for the organ meats this time around.
The soup is priced right at $9.00 (including tax!), and includes rice as well as plates of what is some of the best kimchi in LA. The cabbage kimchi, perfectly sweet and spicy, comes in thick, pasty, well-fermented slabs. Their radish kimchi? Even better! Crisp, sweet, and sour all at once.
In two minutes your soup arrives piping hot and the ritual begins: you’re usually expected to season the soup yourself.
Most put in a scoop of korean salt (almost kosher-like in texture) to bring out the soup’s beefy flavor. Next comes my favorite part: a few heaping ladels of suhl lung tang’s best friend: finely chopped scallions (note the giant vat they serve it in; many places give you a teeny plate).
You can also add in a dollop of red chili paste, but I prefer to use the juices from the radish kimchi, which adds a nice tang to the soup. Lastly, I add in a few spoonfuls of rice (and continue to add more piecemeal as I eat).
A bite of beef, some rice, and a spoonful of the milky broth, and you’ll understand why poeple keep coming back for more: the soup is simultaneously soothing and refreshing at the same time. It’s curative effects cannot be understated– it’s the korean version of pho with a healthy dose of Advil. Whether you’re clogged up with a stuffy nose, feeling frail, sick with a cold, or just plain hungover (usually the case with me), there is really nothing better!
I’ve spent many hungover Saturday mornings hunched over my soup, slowly healing. In between spoonfuls of rice, soup, and beef, my stomach would settle, and my pounding headache would gradually subside.
With the amount of alcohol Koreans consume, it’s unsurprising that Han Bat Shul Lung Tang has been around for years with a fiercly loyal following despite essentially only serving one dish. After all, when you’re hungover, all you really want is a hot bowl of soup and not to have to think about what to order.