Going further west, from the vast AZ desert, we found ourselves in a town, a real modern town with live people: Sierra Vista. Seemingly at first, there didn't seem to be much here but a Walmart, chain fast food, a dead mall, and some strip malls. None the less, it was nice to be out of the desert, and nice to be near a meal. You know me, I can eat anytime, and it was time for me to eat. I finally got cell phone service in Sierra Vista, so I dialed up Yelp.com and Urbanspoon.com to find out where there was to eat. Sierra Vista is not high on the list of yelp, so there were only 9 restaurants listed and amongst those listed were a Pizza Hut and a Subway. I did not travel across the desert to eat at a fast food chain.
|yummy red sauce|
Then Arirang restaurant popped up on my app. Yes, a Korean restaurant in the middle of the desert. I called and they were open, and off we went. We walked into the small strip mall space, and it is rather utilitarian inside. A few tables and plain chairs, and the wait staff are white, but the woman cooking is Korean with Korean language as her first language. Actually, the waitress said that there was some issue communicating with the chef and owner because she did not speak a lot of English, and the chef cooked way too much food that wasn't ordered. I thought that was a good sign for dinner, a Korean meal being made by a woman of Korean decent. We ordered a ton of food such as seafood pancake, kim chi pancake, steamed dumplings, jigae tofu soup, bipimbab, kalbi, and more.
When the appetizers came out, the banchan, the seafood and kim chi pancakes and the dumplings, we dove right in. My travel pal, who has spent time living in South Korea, exclaimed that the banchan and appetizers were the best he has tasted outside of Korea. Yes, in the middle of no where AZ dessert is the best Korean food outside of South Korea. I too liked the banchan kim chi, there was one that was some sort of ginseng kim chi which was my favorite. There were baby bok choy, napa cabbage, zucchini, potato and other kim chis that were quite tasty too. We really loved the seafood and kim chi pancakes. The pancakes were fairly thin and crispy, just the way I like them. The restaurant gave us this really delicious red vinegar soy and chili pepper sauce to dip our pancakes in. I am not sure what was in the dipping sauce, so I asked. The waitress was trying to ask the chef, but there was mis-communication and I could never find out. So, I am thinking it is a little soy sauce, red vinegar and Korean red chili flakes and possibly something else. This is a dipping sauce like I have never had before. We also ordered entrees, but we were so stuffed by the starters, we didn't really eat much of the meal, so we took them back to the motel to eat later.
I learned after talking to the waitress that it turns out that there is a small but vibrant population of people of Korean decent living in Sierra Vista. There are a couple other Korean restaurants as well, but they are not showing up on Yelp. The reason why Arirang was opened is because the owner was not pleased with the other Korean restaurants in town, he and his wife claim that the others are dirty, or do not have good quality food. It was the husbands idea to open his own restaurant, and prove to Sierra Vista that Korean restaurants can be clean, good quality, and a fair price. It is true, the restaurant is clean, the food is good, and the food is a good price.