Red Chicken Korean Restaurant – Vancouver, BC

Red Chicken Korean Restaurant
833 Bute Street
Vancouver, BC
(604) 633-0667

Korean cuisine is diverse and full of rich history, but in many circles it is known for one major characteristic – it’s heat!  And one of the hottest and spiciest dishes is buldak – literally ‘fire chicken’.

Reminiscent of the dominating red colour that flooded the streets of Seoul during that country’s incredible run to the final four at the 2002 World Cup, the signage at Red Chicken Korean Restaurant in downtown Vancouver shouted out at me.  Earlier this year, I had previously been invited to dine at this place and try their renowned fiery chicken, but finally I was able to join a group outing recently to try it for the very first time.

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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

Seoul Dookbegi – Vancouver, BC

The major traffic thoroughfare of Kingsway that connects the cities of Vancouver and Burnaby, is also home to many ethnic eateries and food related businesses, especially of the Asian persuasion.  Driving up the strip, I spotted numerous Vietnamese cafes and restaurants, as well as Chinese and Indian.  As I don’t often travel this road, it will certainly warrant some repeat trips when I can make it out there, as the variety certainly intrigued me and there is still lots to audition.

Initially thinking of driving much further towards Burnaby for some Korean food at Cho Sun Korean Restaurant, a quick glance out my side window grabbed my attention when I saw some Korean text protruding from a sign, with English noting it was Seoul Dookbegi.  Not knowing what it said, I guessed it might be a restaurant and quickly pulled over for a closer inspection.  The exterior facade of the building isn’t that eye-catching, it almost appeared like an old world rural residence with its dark wooden look.  The lights were on and stepping inside, it was immediately clear there was food to be had here, in this brightly lit and spacious room, with the wonderful aromas permeating the air.  There were already a few other couples eating as we walked inside.

Throughout the left side of the restaurant were wooden tables that could seat pairs and larger groups.  To the right were some more private, partitioned off, floor-only seating rooms.  The use of light colored wood in the tables and chairs, as well as the wood paneling in the walls, made it feel very clean and well maintained.

A motherly figure appeared to be handling the front of house duties, and was busy shuffling back and forth to the kitchen that was housed in the backside.  After being seated, she brought out some hot barley tea and gave us our menus.  Along the top of the walls were framed pictures of many popular Korean dishes, complete with some English descriptions.  They looked to be commercially done, so part of me wondered if this place was part of a chain, or perhaps an offshoot of a restaurant from South Korea itself.  Alongside another wall was a bulletin board of sorts, filled with pieces of paper with autographs in Korean.  Not sure if they are from anyone famous.

After placing our orders, a few more minutes passed and she came out with a tray of the banchan, interesting that there was steamed broccoli flavored in garlic within this combination – I have never seen that before in a banchan set, so was nice to get some variation.  The cabbage kimchi was ultra spicy!  No diluting for local tastes here, so that was a good sign.

The menu featured quite prominently, the Seolleongtang (or Sullungtang), which is basically a soup made from ox bones that are cooked for hours thus extracting the flavor from the marrow inside.  Seoul Doogbaegi offered some variations on this by adding in other ingredients such as sliced beef, beef tripe, beef tongue, and noodles.  I chose the version with sliced beef and noodles (that turned out to be a skinny, straight, wheat variety).  I also love dumping in a whole bowl of steamed rice right into the soup, to make it that much more filling, and that’s what I did.

The standard topping of sliced green onions that go with this dish were on hand, as well as the coarse sea salt to help flavor the light creamy soup, that fortunately had none of that pungent and sometimes classified as stinky scent that comes from pork bone-based soups.  As such, in my opinion it was hands-down, the best Seollengtang I’ve had in the city!  And at just $7.95, a great deal as well.

My dining companion had the Kimchijigae.  It was disappointing to say the least [sorry no pictures taken of it], with its unbalanced flavor.  Speaking to our server, it turned out that their house specialty is their Soondubu.  There was a table of six elderly Koreans sitting next to us, and they all ordered this dish, and it seemed to varying degrees of spiciness as they gave individual comments to the waitress as she took it all down on a pad of paper.  We regretted not getting this instead of the Kimchijigae.

We also shared a large-sized seafood Pajeon.  Unfortunately, the second it appeared on our table, we noticed it had a strange twist to it – shredded artificial crab meat was scattered all over.  This just overwhelmed the flavors here, and we wished they hadn’t done this.  For $14.95, it was a huge pie, that we decided to take home as take-out, but ended up eating very little of it the following day.  Pajeon is best eaten when its still nice and crispy, and most of all hot.  No re-heating can help it recover after its cooled down and falled into that soggy state.

So overall, a mixed outing.  I scored the Seolleongtang very high and it will have me coming back again.  As well, I’m curious about the popular Soondubu, as its a favorite of mine within Korean cuisine.  The Kimchijigae and Pajeon though, are not recommended.  It seemed to be a place visited by people who knew about it already, as from the street, its fairly nondescript and easy to miss.  No doubt the more visible Cho Sun about ten, fifteen more minutes down the same road has a wider base of customers.

For more, read here.

Seoul Dookbaegi
#1031, 1033 Kingsway
Vancouver, BC
Tel: 604-879-1515

Seoul Dookbaegi on Urbanspoon

Other Vancouver area Korean restaurant reviews on Foodosophy:
House of Tofu Soup – Burnaby, BC
Dae Bak Bon Ga – Vancouver, BC
Jang Mo Jib – Vancouver, BC
Blue Sea Seafood Restaurant – Coquitlam, BC