Bibimbap and kimchi in Boston
The Korean community in Allston-Brighton has been growing steadily for the past 10 years. And when about 1,600 of a neighborhood’s residents have Korean roots (a 54 percent increase from the decade prior, and one-third of the Korean population in all of Boston), the businesses, atmosphere, and food reflect it.
According to Allston Village Main Streets, a nonprofit that assists the town’s local businesses, of the 264 storefronts in Allston Village, 1 in every 10 is Korean-owned -- so it’s pretty much guaranteed you’re gonna find a great meal in this enclave.
The main streets to hit are Cambridge Street and Brighton, Harvard, and Commonwealth Avenues, where you’ll find a wealth of traditional Korean cuisine. Based on meat, rice, and vegetables, ingredients like sesame oil, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, and cabbage can be found in many dishes. Some of the more well-known are kimchi (spicy, fermented cabbage typically served at every meal), bibimbap (mixed rice bowls that your hipster friend can’t get enough of), and seolleongtang, or ox bone soup.
Seoul Soulongtang is the place to go for seolleongtang in Allston-Brighton. The bones simmer for so long, the broth develops a near-milky consistency. Throw in some brisket, bone marrow, thin flour noodles, and salt and scallions to taste, and that’s how they hook ya.
Then there’s Bibim on Harvard Avenue, owned and operated by mother-son duo Ed and Young Kim. Ed told the Boston Globe he moved here about a decade ago when he was 18 and studied biology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Knowing his mother, Young, always dreamed of having her own restaurant, he decided to help her make it a reality. And now it’s one of the most highly regarded spots in town, serving up dukboki (rice cakes in hot pepper sauce) and what they’re most known for: patinbingsoo, a dessert consisting of red beans, shaved ice, mochi, ice cream, and sweet syrup. The Globe wrote, “Nothing at Bibim has been Americanized and the heat hasn’t been turned down either.”
When places like Bibim stay true to their culture, they help enrich ours. An American food scene without Italian immigrants spreading their cuisine across Philadelphia, or without Mexicans incorporating their culture into downtown Denver, is not really America. So next time the Seamless options appear endless and the decision for that night’s dinner seems futile… isn’t that the best problem?