Eat This Now: Bibimbap at Morangak
Morangak is the archetypal Korean barbecue; it's got booths and tables each equipped with a stainless steel grill and burners, a huge, noisy exhaust hood over each grill, and an automated machine near the entrance that dispenses something purporting to be coffee. Dinner at Morangak is a carnivorous, long, loud affair, and you're likely to come away smelling like you were the only survivor of a forest fire that claimed ten cattle.
At lunch, though, the stainless steel remains polished, the burners remain covered, and the tornadic exhaust fans remain firmly in the 'off' position. Lunch at Morangak is time for less meat-centric fare, with home cooking-type dishes on the menu, including yukhwejang (spicy beef soup) and one of the better bowls of bibimbap in Orange County's burgeoning Korean District.
There are three options, two of which come in a heavy stone crock called a dolsot. If you don't order your bibimbap in the dolsot, the server will flick an eyebrow. "Are you sure you don't want it in the stone bowl?" And of course you do, because the stone bowl is what makes the whole dish; the intense heat bakes the rice into what Persians call tadig, and if you break it up into the rest of the food, you get vegetables mixed with crunchy bites of rice dolloped with egg yolk. Make sure to add an appropriately obscene amount of gochujang, the bean-and-chile paste that comes in a squeeze bottle; it ties all the vegetables together.
Unlike so many other places, too, Morangak doesn't skimp on the banchan at lunchtime. You'll get at least eight, plus the random beef broth on the table, and eventually, a p'ajeon (Korean pancake) will land in front of you, rushed from the kitchen. It ends up being a huge meal for less than $10.
Morangak is located at 9651 Garden Grove Blvd., Garden Grove; 714-638-1177.