I am a student from a third-world country living in a developed luxurious land of morning calm. Needless to say, I am poor (or to put it more correctly, I am stingy and I don’t like spending my money). But I happen to develop a love affair with good food. I don’t want to spend more than 5000 KRW for a meal BUT I want something tasty, hot, filling, and perhaps, healthy.
One day my boring vegan friend took me to a place called 하늘본닭 (how poetic does it sound? Chicken looking up the sky! The name itself delights my heart) in Sinchon. He is a vegan and I am a carnivore, and you know, usually, when such a mismatch couple hang out, the vegan always wins. Anyway, he ordered “the best item on the menu” called “Chicken and veggie stir fried rice” (see below) at 4500 KRW/pax. But of course, the annoying dude demanded his portion chicken-free. All he wanted was veggie + stir fried rice. Seriously, young man?
I was grumpy, but having filled my stomach before I was polite enough to tell him to order one portion and I would occasionally take one or two bite. The one portion came out like this:
Now that was A LOT of veggies. I was impressed. Having living in Korea long enough, I knew that veggie in Korea is freaking expensive (among MANY other things which we take for granted at home). For 4500 KRW, that’s quite awesome. The frowning but agile waitress started to stir fry the veggie. She walked away for 5 mins. She came back and stirred it again. Then she left. Rant: this was the curious part of Hanshik cooking style. They put everything, veggie, meat, condiments in one huge bowl/pot/pan and cook the potion. The result is always a mess, albeit tasty. I don’t agree with this style, veggie needs to be fresh and retain the crunchy chewy texture of the raw thing, meat–in contrast–either must fall off the bone or at least very tender. But whatever. Okay so when she came back, she brought with her a bowl of rice with some dried seaweed on top.
(this photo was not taken that day, it was on another day and we ordered 2 portions)
She threw the rice it, poured A LOT of sesame oil and gochuchang on top and stir fried like crazy. Mmmmmmmmmmmmm IT SMELT DAMN GOOD. More stirring, and this was the result:
(note that this is one one portion)
Man let me tell you, IT WAS EFFING TASTY. The food was scorching hot, but oh-so-good, the sesame oil gave it a smooth, delicately scented veil, and the gochuchang (chili paste) gave an extra kick. Despite the portion being vegan, I swore that it was the best vegan meal I had ever had in my life. The crunchy rice sticked to the bottom of the pan was especially heavenly.
This is 2 portions end result:
2 portions with chicken (the chicken is REALLY tender and seasoned SO well)
Lunch special: pork + bean sprouts + rice. 5000 KRW/pax, very good but I still prefer the stuff I described above
There are lots of options, dakgalbi — my all time favorite food — is also available at 7000 KRW per portion. Bring a Hangeul capable friend to read the menu. Haneul Bon Dak is everywhere in the country, but this is the review for the Sinchon location. Sinchon station exit 3, follow the map