Ever had Korean food? Ever heard of pho? Are those culinary opportunities from across the Pacific foreign to you? Many in the United States are in the same club. However, because of a few opportunities in north Visalia, you can now experience Asian-style foods and open your world experiences a little wider, without leaving our backyard.

The Korean House is a little yellow, non-assuming building at 1400 W. Houston Ave., a house converted to commercial kitchen standards. Inside, you will find a remarkably clean, air-conditioned dining room with four booths and roughly four tables, the kitchen separated by the register counter.

It’s a two-person operation, a husband-wife production. Doug Hauschel, a Los Angeles transplant, is retired from two different careers. He was in the U.S. Marine Corps for 26 years, followed by 20 years in the alarm industry. Now Doug, with his wife, Chol Sun, who learned to cook Korean while growing up there, run the show. They originally set up shop in a trailer in the parking lot of Young’s Market in 2010 and moved into their present spot in May 2013.

How would I describe Korean food? It’s like Chinese, but with spice, and less oil. It’s fresh, it’s light, it’s a welcome change in local restaurant options. The meats (pork, chicken, beef) are tender and flavorful. You can indicate what level of spice you want when ordering something like house favorite Bibimbap, which is marinated beef with carrot, zucchini, spinach, bean sprouts and spicy sauce on a bed of rice. If noodles are your thing, you may go with the Japchae, which is glass noodles (transparent noodles made with starch and water) stir-fried with marinated beef, carrots, cabbage and savory green onion. The forenamed spice comes largely from the fresh Korean peppers used and enhanced by combining the use of jalapeno. If heat isn’t your thing, no problem; just mention that to Doug when you order and your meal will come suited to taste.

Something to keep in mind about the Korean House is that a possible wait is part of the charm, not a nuisance. Each meal is prepared with the utmost quality, and the anticipation should be appreciated for the end result. Hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, and closed Sundays. A military discount is offered. 

Ever had a bowl of pho (pronounced fuh), a Vietnamese treat-filled bowl of sweet, steaming hot broth of beef? Within the soup – flavored by actual cuts of beef and sometimes bone for upward of seven hours – lie the vast ingredients and additions. A ball of rice noodles becomes the center of attraction. Its accompaniments depend on if you choose the seafood or beef selections. When you order seafood, you generally get whitefish filet, tail on shrimp and some form of calamari. If you go with beef, look for rare slices of steak, which continue to cook in the broth, well-done brisket, some flank and tripe, and meatballs. If at any time an ingredient turns you off, simply request that it be left out. Most places will accommodate you.

Before your bowl is brought out, you will have a greens plate placed on the table. This will consist of bean sprouts, lime slices, a sprig of basil and fresh sliced jalapeno. Close by will be a jar of spicy hot oil, soy sauce, Sriacha (chili sauce) and plum sauce. All of these options are for you to prepare your bowl to taste. Add lime for sweetness, jalapeno for heat or sprouts for a cool crunchy texture. The plucked basil leaves blanch their flavors into the hot broth as well, for a familiar flavor in a foreign dish.

Any way you choose to enjoy your pho works without question. There is, however, a “proper” way, as explained by those in the pho know. First, you’ll need both a spoon and chopsticks. You must never use a typical metal soup spoon. It’s too shallow, and the metal will heat up and be uncomfortable in your mouth. Most places will provide the ladle-like traditional Chinese soup spoon. This spoon allows generous amounts of broth, while still capable of being filled with soup substances.

If you look around at others, it’s not uncommon to see people adding soy sauce, chili oil or fish sauce directly to their bowl. However, your first taste of broth should have nothing added to it. Perhaps you have a perfectly flavored soup, and you may not want to take anything away from it. Like how the perfect steak needs no sauce, your pho may need nothing more than the provided greens, or maybe even none of them. That is part of the adventure; find your own tastes.

A great way to discover your palate preferences is by eating your pho one bite at a time. I know that sounds redundant, but I mean exactly that; create super bites with what you have in front of you.

When the soup is delivered, do as you would with any dining experience, or should do, and that is bend down and smell the aroma of your food. See what you can pick up on; search to be intrigued. Then take your spoon and sip or, better yet, slurp the broth; learn its taste. After appreciating the broth, partially fill your spoon with it, then go to work with your chopsticks. Pick out some noodles and drop them in, look for a sweet onion swimming around, then pluck a protein to top the collection. Say you put a shrimp in your spoon; take a drop of plum sauce to accompany it and bring out the sweetness of the meat. Or let’s say you have a bite of steak situated with noodles and a slice of fresh jalapeno, and you drop a couple of pearls of Sriacha on the meat – what a reward for the senses, what a bite.

Visalia has several places where you can experience pho. Each place has its own charms or nuances both in pho and environment. If you want an afternoon blue-collar pho experience, try Pho-N-Seafood on the Oval. Davorns sits across the street from the old Wagon Wheel restaurant and has a trendy vibe, or if you want a semiformal evening of pho, Keothip Thai Restaurant, across from the Glicks and Co. meat market, has a semi-formal feel about the meal. Or simply Yelp pho Visalia to start you on your journey.

So there you have it, two culinary experiences from across the globe, right here in your hometown. Take a shot; try them out. It’s an experience derived from a destination adventure. At your next dinner party, you can say, “Have any of you eaten at the Korean House here in town?” and sound like the cool one in the group. And why not? We are, after all, members of a cool town.