Myung-Ga Sonmandoo – Coquitlam, BC

Myung-Ga Sonmandoo (Hand Made Dumplings)
455 329 North Road
Coquitlam, BC
(604) 939-8828

In an area already congested with places to eat, its always nice to discover the pending opening of yet another place to try some new food.  In the shopping complex anchored by the H-Mart Supermarket, while getting some groceries there in early-December, I noticed a place with some paper up on the windows and some temporary signage signifying something was about to occupy the place shortly.  From what I could make of it, it was going to be about dumplings.  Yum.

And so at the end of 2010 I was back as the doors were now open and I quickly had my virgin meal at Myung-Ga, which was indeed offering dine-in and takeout service for its sonmandoo (or hand made dumplings).  It was  a small, narrow space with an open kitchen up front where you can see workers making the various dumplings they have right in front of you.   A small window from the sidewalk allows you to peak inside, if they have the shade up.   The steaming is also done right there, so if its chilly outside, you can get a noticeable amount of fog indoors with the constant opening and closing of the main entrance causing the ambient air temperature to fluctuate.

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Won Jo BBQ and Noodle Restaurant – Coquitlam, BC

Won Jo BBQ and Noodle Restaurant
105-508 Clark Road
Coquitlam, BC
(604) 931-1004

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The chill is definitely in the air in the Lower Mainland now after our fantastic summer.  Perfect time to switch my focus onto hot stews, soups and hearty, filling meals.  Thankfully, Korean cuisine has many choices when it comes to dishes like this…

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Ddoo Gau Bee – Burnaby, BC

Ddoo Gau Bee
203-4501 North Road
Burnaby, BC
(604) 422-0500

Slowly but surely, I’m making the rounds of the various Korean restaurants in this geographic area that borders Burnaby and Coquitlam.

Mexican Chicken Hof
Wang Ga Ma
House of Tofu Soup

A few more to check out and I’ve done an initial look-see in some of them yet explored, but meanwhile here is one of my most recent visits…

Debating between Ddoo Gau Bee and another Korean restaurant in the same building complex, after looking inside both and finding this one busier, we elected to dine-in here.  Seated at a booth along one of the far walls, I noticed that there were several combinations and set meals available.  But we selected some choices from the extensive menu booklet instead.

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Deli Oriental Meat Style & Food – Calgary, AB

Deli Oriental Meat Style & Food
117-15 Avenue SE
Calgary, AB
(403) 233-2252

Taking a short break from the usual dine-in experience we like to report on here at foodosophy, I bring to you a quick write up on what I believe is a little known but pleasantly surprising Asian food store…

Visiting the Stampede City recently on business, I remembered this tiny shop along 15th Avenue SE that I used to frequent when I lived for a time in Calgary,  which was my go-to spot to buy my supply of delicious homemade kimchi.  To be precise, they sell it in $5, $10, and $15 batches, all weighed and packaged by whoever might be working at the time.  I recommend you switch it to an airtight container once you are back home and store it in your refrigerator to ensure maximum freshness.  It can last for weeks, and when you start to notice the sourness peak up, mix it in a big pot and create your own kimchi chigae.

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Seoul Dookbegi [Re-visited] – Vancouver, BC

Seoul Dookbaegi [ Re-visited]
#1031, 1033 Kingsway
Vancouver, BC
(604) 879 1515

Seoul Dookbaegi on Urbanspoon

Previously I had mentioned on an earlier visit to this restaurant that I wanted to explore the Soondubu on the menu, after hearing that it was their house specialty.  As a few months had passed since then, I felt it was time to go sample this dish at Seoul Dookbegi.

This visit coincided with a much busier night, with many of the tables in the central part of the restaurant occupied, so we were seated in a booth near the entrance.  I noticed there was some interesting Korean script plastered on the wall in front of me, and the bowl of flavored salt (for Seolleongtang) was already on the table.

From this vantage point, I could see more clearly the framed pictures with descriptions of dishes available on the menu.  Seeing great images of food just wets my appetite all the more while I am checking out the menu or waiting for my food to be delivered to my table.

The banchan was exactly the same five dish combination that we had seen previously.  The steamed broccoli being the unique thing I remember from this set, as well the kimchi was really good again.

And finally the Soondubu.  Immediately after it was brought to my table, I noticed the strong scent of sesame oil.  For those who have ever cooked with it know, a little goes a long way.  So sensing so much of it had me worried.  A quick stir of the top layer did reveal a shimmery level that confirmed my guess that they had been a little generous when pouring this on top.

Stirring the pot some more, I was pleased to find a plentiful amount of soft tofu – a key element of this dish.  Although I had asked for the seafood variant, there was a distinct lack of many pieces of shrimp, clams, squid, etc. Thus the flavor hadn’t really been incorporated into the soup, unlike what you get at Insadong.  As much as they may think highly of their version, I’m afraid Seoul Dookgegi’s doesn’t cut it 100%, and thus Insadong remains the Soondubu champ in the GVA for me.

Seoul Dookbaegi on Urbanspoon

Wang Ga Ma Restaurant – Coquitlam, BC

Wang Ga Ma Restaurant
#450 – 329 North Road
Coquitlam, BC V3K 3V8
(604) 936 6866

Wang Ga Ma on Urbanspoon

I’m often torn when I am head out for grocery shopping. Do I eat at home before I leave, partly to help control any sudden pangs of hunger that may arise and cause me to exceed my planned purchases? Or do I go on an empty stomach, as an excuse to visit another restaurant that I’ve been hoping to try and that is located near the store? Either way, I figure I can’t lose so my dilemma is not much of one in the end.

Wang Ga Ma Restaurant is located in a U-shaped strip mall complex that houses the popular Han Ah Reum (or H-Mart) Korean supermarket chain, just off North Road as you enter the city of Coquitlam. At the H-Mart, its easy to satisfy one’s hunger through the ready-to-eat food items in this market – from the take away kimbap rolls, sets of nigiri sushi, and other Korean fast foods available from the in-store kitchen located along the east wall of the building. I’ve previously dined in some of the restaurants in this same strip mall (Blue Sea Seafood) and general area (Insadong, House of Tofu Soup). But there are still others that I have yet to step inside of, and on this occasion, I was able to strike another one off the hit list. All in the name of Foodosophy, of course!

With the dominance of Korean cuisine in just a few block radius of this location, I am sure the competition are all wary of each other and try to do their best to capture a loyal following in the community. While others seem to try and focus on one particular dish, Wang Ga Ma is more of an all-encompassing place, featuring staples such as noodles, soups, and hot pots – in other words, Korean comfort foods. Deceptively large as a result of the wall of mirrors filling an entire wall as you enter the doors, you’re immediately put at home as it does feel very casual with its partitioned off seating areas, from tables of two up to larger tables that could accommodate up to eight people. The kitchen is visible through a window on one wall, with a large walk-in space to it also seen from the seating area, through which the servers scurry back and forth, often using a rolling cart to bring out hot steaming dishes of food that are too hot to carry by hand.

As it seems I am close to exhausting the hunt for the best Soondubu dish in greater Vancouver, I decided to switch my focus to Seolleongtang. For those new to Korean cuisine, and for those who are not very fond of spicy dishes, Seolleongtang is probably a very safe bet. After all, its a simple combination of a mild ox bone broth (though my guess is that pork bones are used as a replacement as well in Canada), that is seasoned with green onions and your own discretionary amount of sea salt to help flavor the broth. The version of this dish here was just average in my opinion. I think the broth is much richer and therefore better tasting at Seoul Dookbegi.

Thin wheat noodles or steamed white rice is often added to give it more volume. At Wang Ga Ma, the Seolleongtang comes with a special treat – hot stone bowl steamed rice. There’s just something about rice cooked in such vessels, as it adds a difference taste component to it, making each rice kernel seem that much more moist and tender.

The kimchi plate came in a very rustic form – with each strand of the cabbage uncut, as was each length of the daikon version. For the uninitiated, some sharp scissors and a serrated knife are provided to cut it into smaller pieces which you need to do yourself. I was quite impressed with the flavor that had been incorporated into each variant, a strong kick of heat, and the daikon was particularly fresh and crisp when bit into. The above photo was taken after I had made a significant dent into the plate before I realized my over eagerness.

The plate of sliced boiled pork belly (known as ‘Bossam‘) was our other selection during this meal. Served with the usual sides of blanched lettuce leaves and a spicy kimchi mixture to be wrapped with the pork, I came to the conclusion that this again was fairly standard. I’d say the version to be had at Pojang Macha is slightly better with the pork.

For a relatively new home-style Korean restaurant, this one fits the image of the typically clean, with limited service and chatter from workers, that you might expect of places in this mold. It was very busy when we walked in during the afternoon, so a good sign that its known and frequented by locals, most likely those who are also shopping at the H-Mart. I am thinking that based on the level of satisfaction I had with the dishes, that a part of their success is from their location, as comparable dishes that taste better can be found at other locations. And I assure you, this opinion was not influenced at all by the empty stomach I had when I entered the place. (SMILE)

Wang Ga Ma on Urbanspoon