San Dong Banjeo: Korean-style Chinese in Calgary
Coming home from a Canadian Tyre run (the one at Richmond Square) I tried to stop for lunch at both Sushi House Richmond and then Moriyama (or whatever the new place by Glamorgan Bakery is called), but both were closed today, so winding my way home I came upon what used to be Cherry Bento at 26th Ave and 37 St SW. It's now what I presumed to be a Korean place called San Dong Banjeo, and I decided to give it a try.
It's a small place and I was the only (as far as I could tell) non-Korean present- good so far- so I grab a table and am given a menu. Hmmmm.... the menu is divided between noodle dishes and "entrees." No bulgogi, no dakgogi, no mandukguk, no bibimbap- but the menu is clearly "Asian," what gives? Turns out that this is Korean-style Chinese. Very interesting. I take the waiter's suggestion and try "rice with potato starch noodles," which at $7.50 will not, methinks, be enough for lunch (I'm hungry eh?) so I get an order of fried dumplings. Dumplings come quick, clearly handmade, stuffed with what appears to be spinach and pork, deep fried, nice enough texture. This being "Chinese" I don't get the namul and kimchi and such, but do get a small bowl of that yellow pickled daikon (ick, I don't like this sweet-sour stuff) and a tiny bowl of what tastes sorta like miso soup. All good so far. Pretty big portion of smallish dumplings by the way, better for two. Then my main comes- oh my, what a huge portion! A pile of clear noodles with cabbage (GOD I love what Koreans do with sauteed cabbage, magic!), onions, carrot, wood ear 'shrooms and a tiny handful of shrimp. Other side is rice- yes it's a lot of starch but the rice and the well-seasoned noodle lump go really well together. This is messy- the noodles are all stuck together and hard to eat elegantly, but I manage.
A big table of Korean gentleman are tucking into what looks like the spicy fried chicken and man do I want to try it.
All in all, interesting spin on "Korean." I love to taste other culture's take on Chinese food- like when I went to a "Chinee" place in my partner's homeland of Trinidad and Tobago- talk about a cuisine that's been locally adapted. Hey, I have a great idea for a food-travel book...
I haven't tried this place yet, but I have been very curious. In Korea, "Chinese" food is very popular, and you generally cannot get these dishes at regular Korean restaurants. When I lived in Korea, we frequented a lot of these Chinese places. They are, however, different from the true Chinese restaurants, which also exist. The two cuisines are entirely different, the Korean-ized one being far more popular. Apparently this place is doing very well with Koreans, and now maybe some other people!
Jajanmyun is a contentious dish. Many Koreans believe it be a Korean dish, even though the Cantonese word for it is, um, jajanmyun :) It's widely available here in Calgary (Korean Village's is quite good), BTW.
Hmm... The most representative dish? That's a toughy. The problem I have with it is that it's like going to Tiki-Ming and getting Americanized Chinese food. Now imagine going there and getting Koreanized Chinese food. For me, it's a bastardization either way :)
But my parents absolutely adore a specific seafood dish. I'll have to ask them what it's called (I'm allergic to shellfish, so I generally ignore those dishes and their names).
Oh, and I just have to say that in LA, when you go to a Chinese restaurant and you're Asian, they assume you're Korean, and speak Korean to you. It's really neat hearing a Chinese person speak Korean in a Chinese accent.