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The new Thai

January 7, 2012
The GTS, parked

Stone Pot is exactly what it says on the tin (Orin O'Neill photos)

These days, Korea’s on everyone’s mind. The coolest electronic gizmos are made by Samsung and LG. Kia and Hyundai are getting all the attention from car buyers. South Korea, already the most wired nation on Earth, is upgrading every home to high-speed Internet that will be 10 times faster than anything available in the U.S.

That Korean food is becoming the new Thai is, therefore, no surprise.

Stone Pot Korean Restaurant recently moved from a strip mall on Northwest Avenue to a spot on Magnolia Street next to Everyday Music in downtown Bellingham.

The place got rave reviews in its former location, and the move seems not to have changed anything about their food. I wouldn’t know—aside from a small sample of kimchi a long time ago, I’ve never had Korean food.

Korean condiments

I think the array of small plates above is called banchan. You’ll notice sprouts, broccoli, kimchi and other things, all pickled. It arrived first.

Bibimbap

Their signature dish is the Stone Pot bibimbap, a couple bucks more than the plain one because it includes your choice of chicken, beef, pork or tofu. It arrives in a large stone pot (natch), sizzling very loudly.

My waitress explained that in Korea, people eat rice dishes (bibimbap is mostly sticky white rice) with the long-handled spoon supplied with the place setting. She then showed me how to smoosh everything together to mix the various flavors.

She also left a squeeze bottle of dark red sauce. Experience has taught me to be extremely cautious of such things; my mom cooked straight outta the Betty Crocker Cookbook, so “spicy” was a concept I didn’t fully grasp until many years after I left home (and something my digestive tract does not play well with, still). While the sauce was nowhere near as hot as, say, Sriracha, it had a delayed hot action that cleared my sinuses and made my nose run. Tasty in small quantities, for sure.

Empty bowl

As you can see, I enjoyed it. The pot stays hot for quite a long time, so the rice closest to it gets a bit crunchy. The fried egg’s gooeyness permeates the other ingredients, making for a filling, warming dish. Just the thing for the chill of January.

Back in the early 1990s, Thai restaurants sprouted like mushrooms in Seattle. The Seattle Times’ restaurant critic at the time, John Hinterberger, advised readers with little-used extra rooms in their home to check to see if a Thai restaurant had opened while they weren’t looking. He was only half-joking.

These days, Thai food has become mainstream, just like Chinese, Mexican and other ethnic cuisines. Korean restaurants are not spreading as rapidly as the Thai places of yore (Stone Pot is the only game in Bellingham, so far), and it being fairly new to most Americans I’m going to guess it remains closer to its origins than, say, Chinese (Try ordering Chop Suey in Beijing and see what kind of reaction you get!), for now anyway.

As with other Asian cuisines, Korean food is “healthy,” i.e., cooked quickly in small amounts of oil, with lots of fresh ingredients.

Stone Pot has vegetarian and vegan offerings, and they’re open for lunch and dinner Monday thru Saturday. They take credit/debit cards, and you can make reservations if you wish.

I plan to go back to try the bulgogi. Favicon

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2 Comments
  1. January 7, 2012 5:53 pm

    That looks pretty tasty. Thanks for the informative post with yummy food porn.

    I don’t think we have any Korean restaurants around here, but will have to keep an eye out for one.

  2. January 10, 2012 8:03 am

    Mmmmm, Bulgogi is my fave!

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