I’ve gone to Haroo twice now, and each time it’s had the same effect, that being a wish to consume Korean food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day for several weeks. It’s a good thing there aren’t enough Korean restaurants in Richmond to sustain such a desire, otherwise you would all get mighty bored, mighty quick.
Fortunately for me, I was able to satisfy my (specifically bibimbap) cravings last night at the newly-opened Hanok Korean Restaurant. It’s across from Wo Fung Noodle Express on Alexandra Road, and its plain, stucco-ed outer walls suggest nothing of the elaborately dressed interior; tables are partitioned by patterned wood screens, and the walls are covered in elaborate wallpaper and murals.
Apparently their lunch combos are very popular, and they also offer more expensive dish combinations for small or large groups at dinner. I asked for the stone pot bibimbap ($12.99), and something that I haven’t yet tried – a mung bean pancake ($19.99).
The first dishes to arrive were a traditional rice stew and a bowl of miso soup. The rice stew was soft, savoury, and tasted of mushrooms and beef broth. I looooved it.
Then came the banchan – various small dishes that always accompany a proper Korean meal. They included marinated potatoes, bean sprouts, kimchi, and seaweed.
My bibimbap arrived shortly thereafter, in a sizzling stone pot that retained so much heat, the last bits of rice were still steaming at the end of my meal.
The bottom half of the pot was filled with rice, which had a crunchy crust similar to my claypot at James Snacks.
Hiding this rice was an elaborate arrangement of julienned carrots, minced pork, bean sprouts, mushrooms, spinach, and a paste-like, red mixture that tasted wonderful, though I’m still a little unsure of what it was…..
Topping off this colourful pinwheel was a sunny-side up fried egg and strips of nori. It came with a bottle of mildly spicy sauce (gochujang, which I was squeezing over everything with wild abandon), and I added most of the banchan to the pot before mixing it all up. The mix of flavours, textures, colours, and heat was beyond satisfying, and this dish has only added fuel to my Korean food-cravings-fire.
The other dish I had was the mung bean pancake. I’ve had plenty of crispy, Korean seafood pancakes before, but this pie-like, mung bean business was new to me.
Mung beans are commonly used around Asia, India, and parts of the Middle East; they’re small, green in colour, and used both whole and as a paste. The starch of mung beans can be used to make noodles, some of which are transparent and known as ‘glass’ or ‘cellophane’ noodles.
According to the fabulous ‘Beyond Kimchee’ blog, Korean mung bean pancakes (bindaetteok) used to be known as poor man’s fare, but now they’re beloved by all classes. Rice and mung beans are soaked overnight, then pureed with various other ingredients and fried as small (or very large) pancakes. The texture of Hanok’s mung bean pancake was soft and a bit mealy (almost like polenta), with a savoury flavour contrasted by a sweet sesame dipping sauce. It was simple and really tasty.
Hanok was busy, and while the service was a little harried, they were very friendly. Plus, they bring you this with the bill:
A half orange, perfectly peeled, cut, and placed back in its rind, with sections of orange to snack on with toothpicks. Combined with great food and inviting décor, its the little details like this one that make a restaurant worth coming back to. I’m sure Hanok will do well.
As for me, I’ve got to do SOMETHING to get bibimbap off my brain. Maybe I will watch Jiro: Dreams of Sushi to kickstart some sushi cravings….
Cash and cards accepted
Vegetarian options available