Like most good Koreatown hole-in-the-walls, chances are if you weren’t fluent in Korean you would pass Yu Ga Ne without notice. In addition, I’d imagine than even a good amount of native Koreans would walk by this dumpling house without thinking twice. Situated in a tiny detached building that looks more akin to a maintenance shed than restaurant, its only identifier is a small sign in English that reads Yu Ga Ne Authentic Korean Dumpling accompanied by a slightly larger sign in Korean. Beyond that, the exterior of this mom-and-pop diner is wall of tightly drawn bamboo shades and faded pictures of noodle dishes. A look inside reveals a few chairs and tables which are separated from the kitchen by only a well-worn screen door. Though sometimes a lone student or retiree will take a seat and peruse a newspaper as they eat, most of customers here are older women who pop in, gossip with the owners for a few minutes, then leave with a box or two of freshly steamed dumplings. Considering the multitude of Korean restaurants in Los Angeles and the fact that most of them feature some specialization into a particular dish it’s a wonder that more don’t focus on mandu, otherwise know as Korean dumplings. It’s certainly debatable whether Yu Ga Ne serves the best mandu in the city, but by all standards they make an exceptional meal in terms of flavor-to-cost ratio. For $4.99 you can enjoy a platter of 6 steamed king dumplings; they are easily the best thing on the menu: hand-formed doughy ovals stuffed to the point that they resemble oversized Easter eggs.
The king dumplings are filled with either a combination of ground beef, onions and steamed leeks, or rice noodles and kimchi, the latter identifiable by its bright red color that radiants though the dumplings thin noodle skin. Both are excellent; the leeks lending an earthy flavor and freshness to the beef, while the kimchi provides a slight heat and acidic tang to the chewy rice noodles. Ask nicely, and you may even get an order of half and half. Alas no banchan to be had here, the only accompaniment to your meal is a small dish filled with chopped jalapenos to be filled with the soy sauce, vinegar and chile flakes that sit on every table. Though these dumplings may not be chin-drippingly juicy as their Chinese cousins, Xiao Long Bao, they certainly are moist enough that concocting your own dipping sauce seems almost superfluous. Yu Ga Ne also serves fried dumpling as well as the Korean favorite black bean noodles, both of which are decent. Avoid the lackluster Chinese dishes such as orange chicken or mongolian beef as well, though at a place like this it seems to go without saying. One look in the kitchen reveals that most of the work is done in front of a large steel steamer where dumplings are plucked out and stuffed in styrofoam containers at regular intervals. During the late afternoon the place is filled with Korean mothers who shrugged off cooking that night and choose to take home a dozen dumplings for the family meal instead. They make for an entertaining clientele, language barrier aside, in particular the one older woman who complimented my slippery use of chopsticks, telling me to “keep up your practice”. I figured I should follow suit with the mothers and order another another half-dozen dumplings for the road. In my estimation, tasty dumplings that can be had this cheap are like car tires, it never hurts to have an extra spare.
Yu Ga Ne Authentic Korean Dumpling
698 S. Irolo st. #111
Los Angeles, CA 90005