Eat This Now: Hwae Dup Bap at Yoko Express
Photo by Charles Lam So cheap! So tasty!
Yoko Express is a food counter nestled in a tiny, three-stall food court housed in a dying shopping center that lost its anchor tenant--a once-pretty good Korean market--over a year ago to "remodeling."
With the anchor went much of the other businesses. Walk through through the plaza and you'd find abandoned cell phone stores advertising two-gen-old tech, mostly empty (but still fully staffed) banks, and a Burger King, which might actually be doing the most business in a one-block radius.
But behind a sign that plainly reads "Food Court Entrance," three plucky little food counters still work away, producing some of the tastiest--and most affordable--Korean food in Orange County.
Take Yoko Express' specialty, hwae dup bap, a medley of diced raw fish, chopped greens and cucumbers, perfectly firm long-grain rice, and dollop of salmon roe. It's like a Japanese chirashi bowl, but elevated by the pleasantly piquant chili paste (née gochujang) and mellowing sesame seed oil the dish comes with.
Add as much of the gochujang as you want, but make sure to stir well. Ever seen someone prep a bibimbap? Yeah, do that, because the magic in the bowl is in the contrast of texture, from the crunch of the fresh veg, to the pop of the roe and the coquettish softness of the raw fish.
Finish it off (if you can) and sit back feeling go about yourself because you just ate a giant bowl of mostly healthy things. Then feel good about yourself a second time because, hey, it only cost you $8.99.
Yoko Express, 14551 Red Hill Ave, Tustin, (714) 505-9122