Some fusion cuisines just are weird and some are nothing but inspired. One of the inspired fusions is Korean and Mexican. On the surface, it seems to have nothing in common, but when you look closer there are a lot of similarities. Thinly sliced carne asada and Korean bulgogi have a similar look and are both grilled. Both cuisines share a love of hot chilis, hot sauces and pickled vegetables, plus both cuisines use a lot of rice. Finally, L.A’s Koreatown and it’s neighboring Mexican neighborhoods provide a mixing of ideas and tastes that has culminated in several delicious fusion dishes.
Long Beach has long been another place where various ethnic groups live and eat side-by-side. One of the newer places where this fusion has occurred is Seoulmate. Here, owner Jason Kang and Chef Michael Martinez combine their ideas to create a delicious fusion of Korean and Mexican flavors. While other places that do this fusion concentrate mainly on Korean tacos, Seoulmate has gone the burrito route, putting a whole meal into the humble flour tortilla.
Seoulmate isn’t fancy, basically a take out window with a patio that has several tables and umbrellas. The patio is enclosed on three sides, so it does give some protection from the elements. On a nice day, which seems to be just about all of them recently, it is a perfect place to sit and enjoy a lunch or dinner. In addition, since they are open until 10 p.m., it is a nice place to go after hitting one of Long Beach’s numerous music clubs and theaters.
Seoulmate’s burritos are things of wonder. Meat choices include bulgogi, beef in a slightly sweet, slightly spicy marinade that is grilled, with the grilling adding a flavor all it’s own. The other option for meat is a spicy pork, in a less sweet, spicier marinade, the meat being similar to a good Mexican al pastor pork. The burrito starts with a large flour tortilla that is heated on the flattop until there is a nice toasted flavor on it. Onto that goes your meat choice, making the burrito either an Old Boy Bulgogi Beef Burrito or a Spicy Pork Burrito. Into it goes a cilantro and lime infused rice, diced onion, cilantro and lettuce. Then the burrito takes a right turn at the flavor lane. Pieces of a delicious kimchi are added, adding the signature taste of Korea to the burrito. The burrito is wrapped and served, a hefty package of uniquely combined flavors.
One bite of the bulgogi burrito and you are amazed how well balanced the flavors are. It does not seem like something thrown together for the sake of fusion, but definitely tastes like each component was matched to the entire concept. You know you are eating a burrito, but the flavors are just different enough to add a wow factor that can wake up the tastebuds of even the most jaded burrito-phile. The cilantro and lime infused rice adds a subtle flavor, scented like a fine jasmine rice instead of the usual heavy ‘rice and beans’ that are found in a regular burrito.
Another option is their version of a breakfast burrito called the Running Man. In this burrito, melted cheese and scrambled eggs fill the burrito. Garnished with diced kimchi and shredded lettuce, it is a lighter and yet still filling way to start the day.
More traditional Korean choices fill out the menu at Seoulmate. The signature dish, Mom’s Kimchi Pork Stew, is a filling dish of simmered pork and kimchi, served with a side of rice. Jason pays homage to his mother with this dish, saying that it is ‘just like my mom made’. Bibimbap is a very popular dish throughout Korea and in any Korean restaurant in the United States, a red pepper and sesame spiced vegetable dish served with rice and topped with a sunnyside up egg. Rounding out the menu are the traditional versions of the meats featured in the burritos, a Bulgogi Plate and a Spicy Pork Plate. Both are served with a salad, rice and kimchi.
The menu board at Seoulmate also features several changing dishes including tofu tacos, and kalbi, the popular Korean thin-sliced marinated short ribs. Tamales filled with pork bulgogi sound like they could be the perfect item to go onto the regular menu. For dessert, Kelli’s Chocolate Chip Cookies are made fresh from a special recipe. The soft cookies are a great way to end your meal.
Seoulmate offers a reasonably priced, delicious menu. The burritos make a tasty, filling meal that’s familiar enough to please any one. For the adventurous, it offers a way to try delicious, traditional Korean food without going to a place where the menu is not in English and the waitstaff don’t speak much either. And for the person who knows good Korean food and might even have grown up with it, Seoulmate will be a taste of home.
4712 E. 7th Street
Long Beach, CA 90804
Ph: (562) 433-1158