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LAist's Guide To Snacking In the City: My Favorite Koreatown Treats

Several bags of Korean snack food poured out onto a white surface. Between each snack bag is a small pile of choco pies and chocolate-dipped sandwich cookies.
A selection of Korean Snacks from California Market in Koreatown with a range of flavors from sweet to spicy.
(Brian Feinzimer
/
LAist)
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In a world of uncertainty, many of us look for comfort wherever we can. For me, it's snacks.

About Snacking in the city
  • Instagram LA snack maven Jason Goble takes us on a tour of Los Angeles to share his favorite snack addictions.

Snacks are my passion and a constant source of cheer. Snacks can be celebratory, like a big bowl of chips and dip at a party everyone huddles around. Snacks can serve as a familiar friend that you turn to when maybe you're having a bad day. Snacks have the ability to nourish you and soothe you with their familiar flavors.

Beyond those deep connections, snacks also provide a window to our surroundings. Here in Los Angeles, they provide an intimate look into who we are as a culture.

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Snack aisle at California Market, Koreatown
Rows and rows of delectable snacks to satisfy your tastebuds
(Brian Feinzimer
/
LAist )

They're also an affordable, accessible way to experience the flavors of each neighborhood. Neatly packed, portable, and ready-to-eat, they’re perfect for us on-the-go inhabitants of L.A.

Through my Instagram account SuperSnackSupreme, I’ve spent more than five years exploring and reviewing the food and snacks of different communities all over the city.

Specifically, I enjoy the snacks that come in enticing bags with colorful images of unfamiliar foods and ingredients. Often they're skipped over in favor of something known — but there’s a lot people are missing out on.

So I’m kicking off a series of snack surveys across L.A.. I figured I’d start with Koreatown— busy, cacophonous, filled with post-modern high-rises and grandiose vintage apartment buildings, featuring a diverse mix of people and cultures.

California Market

My Ktown market of choice, California Market, has one of the best snack aisles in the city. It’s on the north-western end of the neighborhood, on Western and 5th Street, and occupies the first floor of a multi-level complex.

For me, Korean food represents a powerful punch of flavor and a feast for your senses — spicy, sweet, umami, and sour, with everything harmoniously in balance.

California Market represents ground-zero for these types of favors. The shelves sit crammed with chips of different shapes and flavors not often seen in American snacks, such as gochujang, roasted seaweed, sweet potato, garlic, and a wide range of seafood flavors from shrimp and octopus to squid and anchovy.

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Here’s a guide to some of my top Ktown snacks:

Turtle Chips By Orion

A split image. On the right is a green and white snack bag with a cartoon turtle next to an image of the light yellow snack good resembling a turtle shell.
Sweet Corn Flavored Turtle Chips
(Brian Feinzimer
/
LAist)

A cute snack folded over on itself and shaped like a little shell, which structurally provides maximum crispiness in a minimal space while also being very light. Sweet corn is one of turtle chips' many flavors, but is probably the most popular. It’s a delicious combination of soft buttery flavors, reminiscent of saltier creamed corn with just a hint of sugar. The combination of the crispy texture and umami flavor becomes addicting VERY quickly.

Tako Chips By Nongshim

A split image: on the left is a pink bag with yellow writing in English and Korean. In large letters read "Tako Chips" and the words "Seafood flavor" in think white lettering. Below is an image of the octopi-shaped chips. On the right, as part of a separate image, is a close-up image of the snack chips; they are light orange and laid atop each other at a slight angle.
Tako Chips
(Brian Feinzimer
/
LAist )

Not every snack needs to be a flavor bomb. In some cases, I want a mild snack for a bit of mindless eating. These tako chips hit the mark. Shaped like a slightly strange octopus, they're very light puffs with just a hint of seafood flavor (from a mix of flour and yellow Corvina fish, giving it a hit of brine-ness) and a light sprinkle of salt.

A young couple I saw perusing the snack aisle mentioned that though these aren't the most flavorful or best snacks in the store, they were strongly nostalgic, with childhood memories spent snacking on the little octopi.

Caramel Corns Peanuts Snack By Crown

A split image: on the left is a red bag with Korean characters in yellow and white with cartoon peanuts wearing cowboy hats. On the right is puffed snack corn and coated peanuts surrounded by crumbs on a white background.
Caramel Corns Peanuts
(Brian Feinzimer
/
LAist )

Have you ever thought to yourself “y'know, Cracker Jacks could be so much better”? Enter Caramel Corns Peanuts Snack. It has an airy texture, crispy caramel glaze, crunchy caramel peanuts, and a peanut brittle sweet-and-salty vibe. They were a big hit with another shopper who saw me investigating and remarked, “my mom really loves those.” The only thing missing from these is the classic Cracker Jack prize, but the real prize here is having a snack this good.

Tteokbokki snacks By Haitai

A split image: on the left is a red snack bag with Korean writing in red and white characters. On the right are three tublar-shaped snacks chips that are bright red and contain ridges down the bottom.
Tteokbokki snacks
(Brian Fienzimer
/
LAist )

Tteokbokki is a popular spicy, slightly sweet stir-fried rice cake dish mixed with a sauce containing gochujang, the chili paste made from the gochugaru pepper, which gives it a distinct earthy and mildly spicy flavor. It’s a very popular food and often consumed with beer (my favorite is an icy cold Hite on draft from Dan Sung Sa). These snacks are designed to emulate the original in a more convenient form. Rather than the traditional dense and chewy cylindrical rice cakes, these are crispy, and glazed with the sweet and spicy flavors of gochugaru, gochujang, soy, and sugar. The flavor grows on you and keeps you reaching for more. Though the texture is completely different from the original version, the flavor carries the vibe, and you’lll finish this bag much faster than you anticipate.

Churroz Snack By Crown

A split image: a yellow snack colored back with a white and orange letter with the image of the churroz snacks it contains. On the right, two churroz snacks are laid on top of each at an angle. The snacks are light-ish brown and covered in sugar crystals.
Churroz Snacks
(Brian Feinzimer
/
LAist )

Yes, churros are associated with Mexican culture. But churros have historical connections back to Asia, when the Portuguese learned about them from the Chinese and brought them back to Europe. These “Churroz” are the type of snack that, once you open the bag, you might not close again. I buy them every time I see them because of their sweet, addictive nature.

Ultra-light with a crispy texture and the perfect sugar and cinnamon flavor, it’s the next best thing to eating an actual churro. The snack is Los Angeles in a nutshell — a cross-cultural fusion combining the flavors of distinct cultures to create something wholly new and delicious, that can be found in your neighborhood market.

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