Monday, March 7, 2011

Ham Ji Bak (함지박)

A couple of days ago we had another Chinese food craving, only this time it was for the Korean version of Chinese food.  I suspect Chinese food is one of those foods that is completely different depending on where you are standing in the world.  Korean Chinese food is a far cry from your average chicken chow-mein.

We are lucky to have such a restaurant close by ~ Ham Ji Bak.  It is a little gem hidden on Lonsdale, and I haven't seen very much advertising for it at all (outside of Korean internet forums).  Usually we order to go, and this rainy night was no exception.  It is a small little restaurant on the inside, with maybe 10 tables all told.  I have never seen it quiet inside, although I have never had to wait for a table either (the few times we stayed).  Usually they have just one server, which is enough for the size of the restaurant, but it can conspire to make the service a little slow.

Friday night we had our usual ~ a two (possibly three) person combo.  As with most Chinese restuarants though (regardless of the ethnic twist), there is enough food for four people with this particular combo.  It includes Tong Soo Yook, Ja Jang Myeon, and Jjam Bbong, along with a little container of Mu.

Tang Soo Yook:

This is the Korean version of Sweet and Sour Pork.  When you take it to go, it comes with the fried pork in a clamshell container (with the corners cut off to prevent condensation) and the sauce in a separate container.  Koreans generally just pour the sauce over the pork and have at it, while I'm more of the dipping type person ~ I like to take a piece of pork and get half of it or so covered.  Eating in has the dish come to your table already prepared (sauce on the pork).  Either way, there is very little batter on the pork, compared to regular sweet and sour pork, and it is very rare that you get a piece with gristle.  It isn't overly greasy either, which is nice.  The sauce can be very sweet to the uninitiated, and the pork doesn't stay crispy very long if covered in it (I like the crunch of the pork, hence my preference to dip).  The sauce tends to be a little thicker than your average sweet and sour pork, but lighter in colour and with a greater variety of vegetables in it.  Overall though, this is a great dish, and I think most people who have not had Korean Chinese will enjoy it.

Carrots, onion, peas, and pineapple, to name a few of the chunks in the sauce

Jja-Jjang Myeon:

Jja-Jjang is a type of black bean sauce, filled with pork (usually) and chopped vegetables.  The black bean sauce definitely takes the colour out of everything though, and it looks like lumpy tar.  Two ways to have this: on noodles (myeon) or rice (bap).  This one came with the noodles, and the Jja-Jjang came in a separate container.  I really like it from Ham Ji Bak, as they seem to put a lot more pork in it than other places I've had it.  The noodles were a little bit limp, but that's to be expected with the drive home and all.  Expect it to be slightly savoury as well.  Overall, very well done.

Jjam Bbong:
Jjam-Bbong is super spicy seafood noodle soup, as far as I can tell.  At Ham Ji Bak, it isn't overly spicy, although if you eat an entire bowlful, your mouth well feel a little fuzzy.  They do well with the seafood as well, throwing in tiny octopus legs, pieces of squid, and a whole prawn.  I wish they'd put a few more prawns in though ~ one isn't really enough for me.  It always causes a bit of a fight as to who gets it.  The other thing some may not like is that you can easily end up picking out prawn antennae and legs from the soup.  In addition, I find this one to be a little too 'fishy', for lack of better word.

Difficult to really screw this stuff up: it's simply the yellow radish that comes with most sushi dishes.  It's a little sweet, and has never been one of my favourites.

Overall, I'd give the following ratings for Ham Ji Bok:
Tang Soo Yook:  9/10
Jja-Jjang Myeon:  7/10
Jjam-Bbong:  6/10

The cost for this combo is about $28 after tax, so just over $9 a dish.  Not bad, considering it feeds 3-4 people, with the chance of leftovers.  (Tip: if you follow the dipping method, left over Tan Soo Yook should be heated in the oven, not microwave.  If you poured the sauce on top, just toss it all in the microwave)

Ham Ji Bak on Urbanspoon


  1. Hi Ryan: Great to stumble across your food blog. I am going to add your blog to the chowtimes blogroll (hope that is OK with you). I am going to use the "restaurant" label since the blogroll is for restaurant review posts only. Let me know if there is another label I should use instead. Ben

  2. That's great, thanks Ben! I'm happy to see you managed to find my little blog :)


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