Friday, August 28, 2009

BM Review: Hae Kum Gang

I'd been to Hae Kum Gang last Friday to review it for Bangalore Mirror. The review, in full text, can be read either here, at the Bangalore Mirror site, or the watered down version with just what we ate, down below.

The pictures here were taken by the Bangalore Mirror photographer Durgesh, and since I couldn't take any, we'll have to make do with these for now.

The haemul pajeon is a pancake-like dish, made with flour and eggs, with a good amount of seafood tossed into it. The base is like a puff-pastry, while the top is fluffy. This has become my favourite egg-based dish.

This sushi-like dish is called a kimbap. It's the Korean version of sushi, an just like sushi, it's filled with rice, with vegetables and meat in the center, wrapped in seaweed, and then cut. This is a very popular fastfood dish.

This firey red dish is called a kkan pung gi, and is fried chicken cooked in a sweet garlic sauce. It's not as spicey as the colour indicates, and it didn't seem as if some kind of colouring was added.

The dish below is a pork dish called tang su yuk. What is unique is one of the main ingredient, which until now I had never encountered in any cuisine. Guess what the yellow coloured liquid is? Honey! Yup, pork with vegetables and honey. This was yum, and for someone like me who has a sweet tooth, this was something I reall loved.

The patties seen below are called beef wanja. Ground beef, herbs, garlic, a little seasoning - presto! Melt in your mouth tenderness.

Although I don't have the snaps of all the dishes we ate, this was just a summary. The full details can be read in the review in the link provided above. Below is the cut fruit salad in orange juice syrup.

Service - Prompt, helpful
Food - Fantastic
$$$ - Larger the group, lower you pay. The 9 of us paid 300 each including tips.
Verdict - Certainly a place to visit
Extra Info - Finding parking on Castle may turn out to be a problem, so try to park somewhere else.

Hae Kum Gang, #20, Paul Castle, Castle Street, Ashoknagar, Off Brigade Road, Bangalore. Phone: 41127730, 41127732

The full review is here:

Think Korea, and immediately Samsung, Hyundai, Fila, or tae-kwon-do come to mind. Think food associated with Korea, and most people would grimace, make a face, and feed you some nonsense about 'weird' things eaten, generalising all oriental cuisines as being 'freaky', to use a mild adjective. And mind you, this isn't a one off thing - go to any city across the world, and you'd get a similar answer, partly due to Ripley's Believe It Or Not (probably), but mostly because of ignorance. Well, hopefully, by the end of this review, although you wouldn't be any older, you'd be a little wiser.

I visited Hae Kum Gang with Mrs. Lee Woo Young, who takes piano lessons, and her daughter Lee Ye Jin, Koreans living in Bangalore for the last 7 years, and a few of their relatives who were visiting from Korea. Named after a place along the river Han in Korea, the first thing about Hae Kum Gang that struck me was the simplicity with which the restaurant was made to look beautiful. No brightly coloured walls or clichéd Buddha statues or ancient swords, but simple everyday stuff - from dolls dressed in the traditional hanbok to small paintings and vases, Hae Kum Gang makes you feel at home. And the fact that it puts you at ease, like you're at home, is what endears it to Koreans like Mrs. Lee. The restaurant is co-owned by Mr. Hira Bahadur Karki, a Nepali, whose wife is Korean and instructs the chefs in the kitchen along with Mrs. Yeon Mun Sung, the wife of the other co-owner.

Along with her aunt, Mrs. Lee ordered the food and also explained Korean customs and traditions, from the ceremonial costumes to the names given to children. Here's some food for thought: find out if going about your meal with 'appetisers' before the 'main course', and then having dessert is an Indian custom or a borrowed one. Ye Jin explained the importance of chopsticks and said that in Korean schools, the chopstick skills of students are tested at an early age by making them shift beans from one plate to another, one at a time. Also, Korean chopsticks are almost always stainless steel, and are flat, almost 2-D, when compared to the chopsticks used elsewhere in the world.

And so began our meal, which consisted of 'starters' like the beef wan ja (small patties of ground beef), haemul pajeon (a pancake-like dish made of eggs and flour, with seafood tossed in) and beef kimbap (Korean equivalent to sushi, and a 'fast-food' for those in a hurry) eaten along with our 'main course' of kkan pung gi (fried chicken in sweet garlic sauce), pork tang su yuk (pork cooked with vegetables and topped with honey), jajang myeon (thick, wheat noodles topped with a thick, black bean sauce), and bibimbap (rice topped with vegetables, chilli paste, egg and meat), the latter two being served in hot, beautiful ceramic pots. And although there was no Korean barbecue at the table, we didn’t seem to miss it amidst what was laid out before us.

Haemul pajeon (sometimes called the Korean pizza) has become my favourite egg-based dish, while the tenderness of the wan ja made me crave for more. The jajang myeon was pretty good, with Mrs. Lee doing the honours of mixing and serving (just as someone would at home). The jajang myeon and bibimbap came with separate bowls of the ubiquitous kimchi, radish, spinach, egg plant, sweet potatoes and tofu, along with individual bowls of rice and soup. The pork dish gave a good account of how vegetables can be blended in with meats, and the use of honey in it was a first for me - simply brilliant!

The last time I visited this place, I actually ate the rice with chopsticks, but didn't want to risk making a fool out of myself in front of my guests and stuck to the spoon. Contrary to popular belief, it's not only seafood that's central to peninsular Korea's cuisine - tofu, chicken, pork, and beef along with seafood make up the core elements of Korean cuisine, with rice of course. The wonderful meal was rounded off with a traditional bowl of cut fruits in orange juice syrup, giving it some zing. And as Ye Jin says "the food served here is the kind Indians would like as well", referring to the slightly spicy dishes available. This Indian agrees completely.


nitesh shetty said...

I have heard a lot bout a korean dish called Kimchi...hav u tried it? Moreover, I hear korean food is really pungent....people supposedly cant stand its smell....true u think?

sunith said...

Next time try out the hemul jeon gol set or the chicken chulpan gui. It is wonderful.


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