Here's one more time sensitive article before I return to my Canada series.
The Season 1 boxed set of Heroes has consumed my feeble little brain. Help me...)
Last week, Polar, a fellow OC Food Blogs contributor, emailed me a hot tip about something I'd never heard of before; the 24th Annual Korean Festival of Garden Grove. I was intrigued, particularly when my online searches turned up almost nothing about it. All I knew was that it was going to be held during the weekend, near the corner of Garden Grove Blvd. and Brookhurst.
Feeling adventurous, Cat and I set off in search of the festival after our Saturday brunch at the Magnolia Cafe. But, finding the Garden Grove Korean Festival was easier said than done. Garden Grove Blvd. was closed from Magnolia to Brookhurst for the festival's big parade. We ended up parking along a side street near the corner of Garden Grove Blvd. and Magnolia, and walking down Garden Grove Blvd. until we found the festival in a shopping center at the corner of Garden Grove Blvd. and Galway. Confused? We were too. For future reference, park in a side street near Garden Grove Blvd. and Galway, and look for a red sign with pandas on it. The pandas will show you the way to deliciousness.
Once we managed to find the closed off parking lot housing the Korean Festival, we were greeted by several long rows of bustling booths offering a variety of Korean food, goods, and services. The central food court was surrounded by booths housing everything from grocery stores to health care providers.
I scored a couple of tchotchkes, including a cute cell phone ornament from Korean fried chicken chain, KyoChon Chicken, which was marketing its new Los Angeles store. Wandering Chopsticks, another OC Food Blogs contributor, has written a review of KyoChon Chicken here.
As usual, I was mainly there for the food. Once we'd poked around a bit, Cat and I headed back to the food court where some of the most amazing sights and smells greeted us.
Bin after bin of kimchi (Korean pickles) made from a dazzling array of vegetables, all crusted with the fiery glow of kochukaru (Korean chili flake) seared the senses as they were bagged and sold to lines of eager customers. Stalls of home-style and hawker fare not normally seen in Korean restaurants filled the air with savory aromas. Pillowy lengths of fried fish cake, simmered in a rich broth and served on long skewers, reinforced my long held belief that no food on a stick could possibly be bad. A frighteningly red stew lured me like a moth to a flame. Piles of deep fried vegetable fritters, kimchi pork sausage, blood sausage, and jun (Korean savory pancake) tempted me with their greasy goodness. Cat practically needed to drag me away from the mandoo molds as they cranked out plate after plates of crispy cakes filled with sweetened bean paste. The Garden Grove Korean Festival is sweet torture for anyone on a diet.
The highlight of the festival is the parade held on the Saturday of that weekend. Although the focus of the festival is Korean culture, the exhibits in the parade represent the major ethnic groups which made up the city, including Asians, Latinos, and Caucasians. I saw a number of really great displays, although I was sadly unable to stay for the entire parade. Cat and I had an appointment later that afternoon. However, I'm definitely clearing the entire day next year to that I can enjoy the whole event.
The Annual Korean Festival of Garden Grove - Really interesting home-style Korean food that you can't get in the restaurants. The parade is a must-see event. All the local high schools, cultural groups, and politicians come out. I even got to see Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez.
Garden Grove Korean Festival
Between the corner of Garden Grove Blvd and Galway, and Garden Grove Blvd and Brookhurst.
Garden Grove, CA
Occurs mid-October of every year, around the 13th.