Sorabol's Influence on Korean Food History in Oakland During 1979 & Working with Sorabol + SF Westfield to Create a New Food Experience

Sorabol Banchan and Kimchee

The past few weeks of my life have been filled with great food experiences. One recent event in particular reminded me the reasons why I love to explore and write about food so much. It's because I love supporting local businesses, meeting people who are passionate in their craft and sharing worthy food discoveries with others. 

I've been working on a cool project for a good cause and was selected to be one of six Westfield Food Tastemakers. This involves teaming up with Westfield San Francisco and Chef Theresa Lee from Sorabol, a well-known Korean restaurant, to create an exclusive dish that will be featured in a new Westfield food experience. 

Sorabol Started in Oakland During the Late 1970s

Sorabol BBQ Chicken

I am especially excited to team up with Sorabol not just because of their delicious barbeque, but because they’re East Bay natives who changed a part of food history! Most people know Sorabol as Korean fast food within several food court locations across Northern California. What many don't know is that Sorabol started in Oakland and was established in 1979 at 372 Grand Avenue as a fine dining Korean restaurant by a woman named Young-ran Hong, along with her husband.

During this time, Korean food and culture was not well-known in the area and Young-ran Hong saw an opportunity to change that. Sorabol was one of the first restaurants to introduce Korean cuisine and made it popular not only in the East Bay but throughout Northern California. The original location is no longer there, but there are many locations in existence today. While there are many Sorabols, they’re not all alike and operate individually, which means they may vary in quality, flavors, and dishes depending on location and the chef. However, the original family recipes remain true throughout all locations. 

Cooking with Passion at Sorabol in SF Westfield

Sorabol San Francisco Westfield

The Sorabol at San Francisco’s Westfield Centre has always been a favorite of mine. I haven't visited for several years because I don't shop at malls, so upon my return I was surprised to see how popular this location was -  there were consistent lines of people moving throughout the evening! Chef Lee runs the kitchen and prides herself on using fresh ingredients to serve authentic Korean food from traditional barbeque, noodle dishes, and stews. The ban-chan (small side dishes of food served with cooked rice) and kimchee (traditional fermented Korean vegetables) is exclusive to the San Francisco location thanks to Chef Lee and it’s incredibly delicious. While many Korean restaurants use artificial food coloring in their kimchee to intensify the brightness in appearance, Chef Lee prides herself on using all natural colors only. It’s truly a work of art. Did I mention that their food portions are insanely generous and affordable? Most of the dishes are $8.95 and comes with rice, noodles, vegetables and kimchee

Brainstorm Dinner - All I Can Eat 

We kicked off our dish brainstorm meeting with a dinner that consisted of tasting every single item Sorabol had readily available. It was awesome! Because they already have a lot of options on their menu, it made creating a new dish tricky. 

Sorabol Food Sampler
Soft Tofu Seafood Soup
Shrimp Stir-Fry Noodle Bowl Made to Order

Getting to Know Chef Theresa Lee

The best moment of all is the opportunity to meet and work with Chef Theresa Lee. She is very humble, sweet, and generous. Based on her interactions with the team, it seems like she runs a happy little kitchen. It was also nice to see that her team looks up to her for guidance. Prior to Sorabol, she had her own restaurant called Sura, a popular Korean restaurant located in Temescal, Oakland. She left Sura to pursue an education at Le Cordon Bleu, where she's currently attending while working full-time at Sorabol. She manages the kitchen, cooks, trains the staff, and pretty much does all the day-to-day at Sorabol. 

Towards the end of our brainstorm, Chef Lee looks at me, gives me a hug and says "I am so honored to meet you." Surprised, I said to her "Me? No way. I am honored to meet you! I don't know how you manage to work a full-time job and go to school, while having a family to take care of." Her love for cooking and Korean food is reflected in Sorabol, which is no secret why people keep coming back for more. 

Prior to this experience, I was like the majority and thought of Sorabol as a regular fast food chain but it's not. It's food made with passion, tradition and heart using fresh ingredients and authentic Korean flavors. 

Brainstorm Session with Sorabol

Ticket Giveaway: VIP Launch Event at Westfield San Francisco

There's going to be an event to celebrate the launch of this new experience and Westfied has given me one pair of tickets to give away to my readers!

It will take place on Wednesday at 5/28 from 5:30-8:00 PM at Westfield San Francisco Centre.

While I can't reveal what the event is about, I'll be there with the rest of the tastemakers to unveil our exclusive dishes from Sorabol, M.Y China, Lark Creek Steak, Cupola Pizzeria, Straits, and CocoaBella Chocolates. So this means you and a guest will be indulging in free food for a couple of hours. 


I can't wait to share details and photos of our exclusive dish next week on the 28th, as well as reveal the project that I'm working on with Westfield. Stay tuned until then! 

Sorabol on Urbanspoon

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