Koreatown is a neighborhood in Central Los Angeles, occupying around 2.7 square miles. Or, as Americans would say, around 150 blocks. It is also one of the most densely populated areas of Los Angeles, but it isn't the largest. This, to me, is baffling because it feels enormous. Everything is far away from everything else. It is served by three underground stops and walking from one station to another always takes the best part of an hour, or more.
People from South Korea began populating the area in the 60s, finding housing and setting up local businesses. In 1982, the local communities successfully talked the council into installing an official sign. Nowadays, the vast majority of signs are in Korean, and Korean Air, Asiana Airlines and the Korean Times newspaper all have offices here.
As you'd expect, the culinary scene is lively, powered by street food vendors and bona fide local restaurants and bakeries that are all about food and nothing else. I stopped at a bakery which looked like it came out of Korean cartoons and had some coffee, along with one of the finest things I've ever eaten: green bean pastry with grated almonds.
The dough had the same sort of consistency and taste you'd find in a Madeleine, except less sweet, and it was filled with green bean jam. Jams are all about the process, not ingredients, and that means that you can theoretically make it out of anything: onion jam is extremely popular in Italy, for example. I'd never tried green bean jam before and it's genius. It is sweet without being invasive, and I love the consistency. The grated almonds on top of it were extremely thin and lightly toasted, you barely noticed.
LA has a unique vibe and even when it appears featureless, and it rarely does, something is always cooking. It isn't the prettiest city in the world, or the most welcoming, but there's something about it that cannot be replicated.
In the ocean of areas and neighborhoods, Koreatown is rarely advertised and popularized, but you should definitely check it out because if you don't, you'll see this exactly the sort of place you wish you'd been told about.