After recently checking out Chakan Suhllungtang up the street on Western, my friend Matt Rodbard (who co-wrote the Koreatown cookbook) told me about Master Ha, a sleek new Korean bone broth specialist that’s opened in a small strip mall next to El Cholo in K-town. Master Ha, or HaSunSaeng in Korean, is a new school bone broth soup vendor that hawks a healthier, cleaner, and more wholesome kind of product in the same vein as Chakan. But I found Master Ha much better than Chakan for a variety of reasons. In fact, I think that it might eventually surpass the dominance of the old school Young Dong and Han Bat over time.
First let me dive into the standard ox-bone suhllungtang, which comes in a bubbling stone bowl. The standard accoutrements of kimchi and kkakdugi were reliably good, but nothing you’d really write home about. The green onions were chopped a bit rough and uneven. The seasoning was standard-issue Korean sea salt flakes. The broth, purportedly boiled three times with bones, was milky and dense, but touts the absence of MSG or creamer. Thumbs up all around.
But the most immediate, amazing thing I enjoyed about Master Ha was the brisket. Sliced into a thick bite-sized pieces, the beef melted in my mouth. It’s a rare sensation for suhllungtang, which tends to have stringy, almost tough beef that’s only briefly ameliorated by a soy-jalepeno dipping sauce. Not only did the brisket have a fantastic tender texture, there was a good amount it. I sometimes find myself fishing for the beef and dealing with mostly noodles and rice toward the end of a bowl. Not at Master Ha because they don’t skimp out.
For a wonderful variation of suhllungtang, you can order up the ul-kun suhllungtang. Ul-kun, according to my dad, who was describing the connotation to me, is a bit less formal a term for ‘spicy’ than mae-woon, which has a more elevated meaning. It’s served with a crack of an egg on top:
The flavor immediately reminds me of yukgaejang, a spicy Korean beef soup that’s served with potato vermicelli noodles (dang myeon), stringy fernbrake (gosari), and long strips of wiry brisket. Instead at Master Ha, you get the same tender beef chunks you’d find in the standard bowl and just vermicelli, and that same rich, spicy broth (plus a few veggies and aromatics). It won’t really remind you of suhllungtang because the structure is more similar to yukgaejang.
I haven’t had the chance to try what seems like the underrated finds here, the raw marinated shrimp and the raw crab rice bowl (which comes as part of a $29.99 package). I’ll have to come back for those, and while they’re notable, I’m really here for the namesake dish. Chakan Suhllungtang was a nice entrant into the game, but I think Master Ha is doing something really special with Korean bone broth soup. If you’re hungover, sick, or just want a soulful brothy noodle soup with solid kimchi, this place should be your next stop.
Master Ha. 1147 S Western Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90006.
Open 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Open at 8 a.m. on Saturdays, but closed Sundays.