ChowDigest Editor and LA Times contributing food writer Thi Nguyen kindly turned me on to the beauty of Hanbat Shul-Lung-Tang. A small entry tucked into a short block of shops on Fifth Street just west of Western reveals this restaurant serving only shul-long-tang (alt. seolleongtang), a long boiled, beef bone stew.
This soup is one of the great beef broths. Pure and simple, it reminds me of pho in its essential beefiness, though it has that cloudy, slightly viscous quality that comes from bones and melted marrow simmered for hours. Also, like pho, the broth is unseasoned and you are expected to add condiments to your liking, including coarse salt, pepper, Korean chili paste and scallions. I wanted to maintain as much of the beef flavor as possible and not cover it with chili, so I stuck to some salt and scallions, which made for a wonderful broth that I slurped to the bottom of the bowl.
Within the broth are a few cellophane noodles and your choice of meat: brisket, flank steak, assorted innards (tripe, spleen, etc.) and tongue. I avoided the innards since tripe is one of the few things I just don't like, but I tried the others. The flank steak was a bit fatty and the brisket was fine but lacked flavor. The tongue, however, was wonderful. Thin, lean slices perfectly complimented the beefiness of the soup. Tongue can be chewy or tough, but this was as tender as steak and more flavorful than either the brisket or the flank steak.
Hanbat Shul is about beautiful minimalism, about doing one thing well and not letting much (including salt) get in the way of that one thing. The soup is pretty much the only thing on the menu here, though it appears that you can get the meats alone. The panchan consist of two bowls of kimchi, cabbage and daikon (both are very good renditions) and then there is a bowl of rice. You will not be asked if you want a beverage though if you do, you can get some cold Korean tea. And that's it. So go, slurp soup, eat tongue and contemplate the beauty of its simplicity.
4163 W 5th St
Los Angeles, CA 90020