Tai Won – Burnaby, BC

Tai Won
4727 Kingsway
Burnaby, BC
(604) 437-3399

A true hole-in-the-wall based on its location in a somewhat downtrodden row of commercial businesses just across from the busy Metropolis at Metrotown, but once inside it looked better (and cleaner) than I expected at the front door.  Nearby, was a AYCE-looking sushi place and I caught more than a few people looking inside Tai Won before stepping over next door.  I think this business might have received a refreshing or a change of ownership around the time of my visit, as I could see it was very busy inside – and there were some apparent “congratulations” type of gifts near the front door and the female manager was conversing with some trades people outside and it seemed they were discussing the awning above the front window.  The clientele was very young, mostly teenagers and early-twenty somethings led the way.  Which led to a nice buzz of conversation and excitement, all in a very casual setting.

Up front was an intriguing self-serve setup.  Of course a water station.  But also two containers filled with pickled vegetables that you could re-fill at your leisure, after getting your first serving with your meal.  Tables and chairs for two and four seating were scattered around, including a small two-top in the corner right by the front window – a perfect place to take in the busy Kingsway traffic, both on the road and the sidewalk.  Only a pair of waitresses were on hand and it was clear they were swamped.  It made the do-it-yourself area all the more reasonable.  I took advantage of the free side re-fills at least twice. 🙂  It wasn’t the full array of a stereotypical medley of banchan, but sufficed.

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Book Kyung Ban Jeom – Vancouver, BC

Book Kyung Ban Jeom
1638 Robson Street
Vancouver, BC
(604) 629 8822

Book Kyung Ban Jeom on Urbanspoon

Competing for the highly demanding dining dollar along this section of downtown Vancouver that has in recent years become the domain of East Asian eats, is the uniquely positioned Chinese-Korean cuisine of Book Kyung Ban Jeom.

Without a doubt, it is a lesser known variant of popular food in South Korea, with most North Americans probably unaware of this genre of food from this country.  The local blogosphere also suggests that most of the coverage on Korean food in town centers all too much on barbecued meats.  It is as if to say that Italian cuisine is simple spaghetti, or Japanese food is only sushi.

To help spread the word of something other than bulgogi, kimchi and bibimbap, I thought I would introduce two of the major staples of Chinese-Korean food, both of which they do well at Book Kyung Ban Jeom.  I’ve dined here several times and the clientele has been mixed, so I do believe that its not just local Koreans eating here, so I take that as a positive sign that Vancouverites are open to trying a new element of food from this region.

Pictured above is the tangsuyuk, which is a mixture of red peppers, onions and crispy deep fried pieces of pork, all coated in a sweet, and slightly sour sauce.  Texture is key here with the veggies not at the overly-cooked through and thus soggy state, as the slight rawness of it complements the outer coating of the pork pieces.  It comes out pipping hot and the small serving ($14.85) is more than enough to share between two people, and is offered in a large size as well.  Goes well with soju if you happen to be there at night.

Of all the dishes in Chinese-Korean cuisine, the wheat noodles slathered in a savory soybean-based sauce with chopped vegetables and small bits of beef that is better known as jajangmyeon ($9.45) , is probably what comes top of mind.  The sauce and toppings appear on top of the noodles for presentation purposes, but its important to mix it all together – much like you do with bibimbap.

I am not sure how to best express this in English, but the “bite” or general “chewiness” of the noodles is what makes or breaks this dish, as is the case with other noodles from other cuisines.  In Japanese, the expression “koshi” is often used to describe this.  Something to note when sharing this dish.  The noodles are very long and entangled as they are and with a slippery coating due to the sauce, it makes it difficult to try and transfer them into smaller cups for individual servings.  You may end up giving up and eating from the same communal bowl, for those that cringe at doing such a thing, be aware.

As one of the more spacious and better naturally lit Korean restaurants on Robson, Book Kyung Ban Jeom is very inviting when you glance in from the sidewalk and enter the main foyer.  If you are open to trying the Korean twists on some Chinese-inspired dishes, this is a solid place to venture out of your Korean food comfort zone.

Book Kyung Ban Jeom on Urbanspoon