Beyond barbecue, little of Korean cuisine has entered mainstream Western food culture. And it’s a damn shame, because there’s far more to Korean food than grilled meats. For evidence, simply take a stroll through Koreatown, along Bloor Street West. Here’s what to order, and where.
Hae-mul pa-jeon (pictured above)
This savory pancake, usually made from squid, scallions, eggs and flour, is perfect for sharing. Chop it into chunks with your metal chopsticks and dip it in soy sauce spiked with sesame oil. Try it at Na Deul Mok, 735 Bloor St. W., 416-532-1494.
This soft tofu stew is served bubbling in a stone bowl that’s packed with silken bean curd, garlic and Korean chili powder, and topped with an egg. It’s Korean comfort food at its best. Eat it with a bowl of white and purple rice at Buk Chang Dong Soon Tofu, 691 Bloor St. W., 416-537-0972.
A whole young chicken stuffed with rice, ginseng and jujube, boiled in broth and served in individual bowls. Some swear it helps beat the heat in summer. Get it at Ajuker Chicken, 680 Bloor St. W., 416-536-8292.
An alternative to soju, Korea’s version of sake, this golden-hued tipple is made with ten herbs, including ginseng. Its name means “100-year liquor,” because those who drink it are said to live to 100. Indulge at Camto, 692 Bloor St. W., 416-588-5142.
Before imbibing, suck back a bottle of this herbal energy tonic. The perfect antidote to a night of too much baek-se-ju. Get it at the PAT Central Supermarket, 675 Bloor St. W., 416-532-2961.
Image courtesy of Renée Suen