Kangsanhanwoo – Gyeongju, KOR


Kangsanhanwoo
220 Shinpyong-dong, Gyeongju City

North Gyeongsang Province, South Korea
Tel. 054-776-9200

Okay, now we’re finally getting to the literal ‘meat of the matter’ from my trip to Korea this past summer.  One of the key locations on our hit list was this Korean barbecue joint recommended by many Seoulites to us.  Kangsanhanwoo was situated in its own large building at the intersection of some major roads in this resort town, with its brightly lit signage there was no trouble in finding it.  A huge parking lot directly in front provided ample spaces as well, as we made our way in after nine pm and a long day of sightseeing…

While most of the diners were already fully engaged in their meals and were Koreans by and large, we did spot a few tables of foreigners so its appears this is on the international food lovers’ radar when one comes to this popular tourist location of Korea.  To aid everyone coming in, there is a large display case of various types and cuts of beef, much like a butcher shop, immediately as you come inside.  I’m sure there is a lot of pointing and gesturing to get what one wants when language is an issue.  All part of the joys of international travel I say.  With the hot temperatures and the air conditioners running full blast, there was a huge barrier of condensation on the glass, which the two fellows behind the counter would wipe across with a hand-held windshield wiper like tool (similar to those you see at gasoline stands) to give you some visibility.

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Atlas Specialty Supermarket and Persian Cuisine – Calgary, AB


Atlas Specialty Supermarket and Persian Cuisine
100-1000 9 Avenue SW
Calgary, AB T2P 2Y6
(403) 230-0990

I was asked an interesting question today. “What do you think will be the next big cuisine? Japanese has taken off. Vietnamese before that. What’s next?” In thinking about this, I realized that the food trends over the past 10 years have quite a few similarities. First off, they’re ethnic that are becoming mainstream. Secondly, they have an abundance of flavour, yet with approachable ingredients (sushi would be the exception – that was quite the shock to the North American palette, and based on how many people mean “rolls” when they say they like sushi, i’d still say it is), and lastly, they are healthier than many traditional Western and European fare. Might it be Persian? It’s possible. There are an increasing number of kabob houses starting to open – which are generally Afghani, Iraqi, or Persian. The cuisine is quite healthy, has an abundance of flavour, and approachable ingredients. We might have a winner!

Atlas Specialty Supermarket and Persian Cuisine is a combination restaurant and supermarket, definitely a combination I find odd. While you often find takeout and grocery combined, rarely do you see a nice, well appointed room combined with groceries. However, it’s easy access to some of my favorite spices like sumac, and ingredients like pomegranate paste, so i don’t mind getting my shopping done while i eat.

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As previously mentioned, the room is a clean, well appointed, comfortable affair. Much longer than it is wide, it comfortably seats 30-40. It is often completely full on weekends, when it is usually difficult to get a table. Weekdays i find are hit and miss. Sometimes, completely empty. Sometimes, you’re turned away, or encouraged to order take out. If you get a table, they are spartan, yet comfortable. No complaints here.

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Persian food has similarities to other Middle Eastern cultures, primarily Afghani, Iraqi, as well as similarities in grilled meat with the Turks. As we order, we decide to try the traditional Iranian drink doogh ($2.50) with the meal – a mix of soda, yogurt, and mint. We made the incorrect assumption that this would function similar to a lassi in Indian cuisine – quench some of the heat, while providing a flavourful and complementary balance to the food. On the contrary, we found it difficult to finish, and while it complimented the khoresht (stew) reasonably well, it killed the flavour of the grilled meat. I would not order it again.

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For food, we order a khorest – Ghormeh Sabzi ($13.99) to be exact, and a platter of grilled meat ($31.99) – koobideh, steak and chicken. The platter comes with the typical accompaniments – rice, grilled tomato and onions.

The rice itself is good. A kateh (butter-enhanced rice) decorated with some saffron color and onions,  it is both flavourful, and extremely fluffy. The richness goes well with the depth of the grilled meat. I find it’s a good balance with some of the more acidic, sweeter khoreshts, but not as good with the rich, creamier khorests. Bread would probably be a better choice for those.

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The Ghormeh Sabzi is a khoresht made of mixed greens (herbs, spinach, and cilantro), and cooked with kidney beans, meat, and citrus, to produce a fragrant, tangy, yet slightly sweet stew. It’s good, but a touch oily, and not quite enough chunks of lamb for my liking. Good flavour though.

The grilled platter has many similarities to the kinds of kebabs served in most other Middle Eastern cultures – and there’s definitely nothing wrong with that! A couple of spiced ground meat (koobideh) kebabs, generally my favorite, are excellent. Flavourful, well spiced, and nicely caramelized on the exterior. The barg (beef in this case) is good, but really just chunks of seasoned meat on a skewer. The chicken is good – flavourful, tender, and not overcooked. Easy to share, and tasty to boot, this dish is an easy introduction for people learning to appreciate other flavours.

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Overall, the food at Atlas Supermarket and Persian Cuisine is flavourful, and quite consistent. And just as importantly, the value seems to be there. Khoreshts are small servings, but reasonably good deals, priced similar to an Indian curry. The grill is where some find it a bit pricey – $32 for a platter for two isn’t cheap, but as long as you arent a meat glutton, then it will serve 2 people comfortably. We shared the khoresht and the platter among three people, and left a little bit of food behind. Not bad for $50.

Thinking on it some more, I feel predicting the next “big cuisine” is difficult. Typically, I find the trends of the West Coast generally filter their way across slowly, which means we can usually predict Calgary’s next restaurant shift based on what is popular there a year ago. And Persian food, while somewhat popular, is a long way from sharing the same success that other cuisines have had on the coast. Calgary seems to have a bigger Middle Eastern population, so im not sure if it’ll catch on or not. Which is too bad, as the food is approachable, flavourful, and reasonably priced. Something that should easily succeed here.

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European Bakery and Deli – Calgary, AB


European Bakery and Deli
160-515 17 Avenue SW
Calgary, AB T2S 0A9
(403) 806-3768

Meat on a stick. Meat wrapped in dough. Every culture has some variation of these tasty treats, and I have to admit, I’ve never really found one I didnt like. While im sure anthropologists have some theory for why these managed to develop separately in countries with no trade, or historical contact, the end result is really all that matters. When attending a festival, or travelling abroad, you can always count on finding a new local variant of meat in dough. Something a little less exotic, and a little more familiar, on one of your less adventurous days.

Hidden in a small recessed storefront, underneath an apartment building on 17th Ave SW in Calgary – better known as the Red Mile – the European Bakery and Deli, from outwards appearances, seems to be another in the long line of independent convenience stores. “Porn, liquor, and smokes” my University friends used to call these ubiquitous stores. With one drastic difference: Bakery really means bakery. Inside is a treasure trove of breads and other baked delights. Including Burek.

The first Burek i ever had was the Bosnian & Herzegovina version – rolled puff pastry filled with spiced beef, and coiled into a pie and baked. This was an extremely tasty treat – each bite netting a great combination of pastry and spiced meat – no bite was left wanting. This was a dish truly worthy of the meat in dough tradition.

I first heard mention from John Manzo (by way of Chowhound) , frequent Foodosophy commenter, that fresh Bureks were available in Calgary at the European Bakery and Deli. I was slightly disappointed to discover that they served the Serbian version – rounds of pastry and meat that more resemble a Calzone, but i quickly put that aside and looked forward to sampling a new meat in dough offering.

European Bakery and Deli had two Burek versions available – meat, and cheese. Cut like pizza slices, a very large piece of each was laid out in a to go container, with the corners thoughtfully cut to allow steam to escape. These are probably better eaten promptly, than allowing them to cool, and get a bit soggy.

The verdict? Not bad. The meat one was quite good – the outside was baked to a wonderful golden brown, with a satisfying, crispy bite. The pastry inside was soft, not flaky, but contrasted well with the crust. The meat itself was a bit sparse, many bites missing the required blend of dough and filling. It was also a bit under-seasoned, and could have used with a few more spices, and salt. The cheese offering was a bit worse – filled with feta, it came out a bit mouth-blistering salty. Once again, some spices, or hot sauce, would have been a welcome relief from the blast of salty, sticky feta. However, at the price (~$3.50), it’s really hard to complain about something handmade, that can easily serve as a large snack for a hungry person. If you have no shame like me, next time, i would bring tomatoes, banana peppers, and some spinach, and stuff the cheese Burek with them, making a better balanced, tastier meal.

What have i learned from all this? Surprisingly, a lot. Im surprised that a few regional differences in a Burek would result in such a difference in taste. Considering these version both come from the former Yugoslavia. I never expected there to be such variation. After all, in Asian cuisine, a dumpling is a dumpling to me, and i love them all. While i will continue to search for Bosnian Bureks, the ones available fresh at the European Bakery and Deli are worth the occasional drop in.

European Bakery and Deli on Urbanspoon