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Non-Korean getting jipped on the Panchan - how to handle?

I'm a white guy with an adventurous palate who loves Korean food. Went last night to Ichiban, the only place to get it near me in Hartford CT. It's not a great Korean restaurant - which requires a trip into NY -- but it gives me a fix.

I get my panchan with the meal, naturally. After the meal I head to the rest room and pass by many tables with Korean diners. Well, they each had several panchan items that were not brought to my table: the more adventurous (and costly) items like squid, and the little dried fishes. All that was brought to me were the kim chi, tofu, potato salad, etc.

I can give the benefit of the doubt to the restaurant that perhaps after bringing certain panchan to the tables of white folks that the food mostly goes to waste. Or perhaps more cynically they're keeping the best stuff for the home team.

I want the good stuff -- how do I handle this? I'm not sure of the average server's English skills there. I was thinking of having a Korean acquaintance write a note in Korean for me to bring that says "bring me the good stuff - pretend I'm Korean". (Chowhound used to sell a "chow passport" that took care of this in several languages - is that still available?

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    1. tell the waiter you want all the banchan

      1. Having grown up in that area, I would guess a lot of the fish based dishes are wasted when they serve it to non-asians. Indeed, try asking next time. Love it, Korean food with a Japanese name.

        1. Find a Seoul brother.

          1. Agree, just ask for it. But it's banchan, not panchan.

            1 Reply
            1. re: rockandroller1

              Panch'an is also a recognized romanization.

            2. Ask for the stuff that you want. The non-Asians with whom I dine, even those who consider themselves adventurous, often pass up most of the banchan leaving a lot of waste (I can only eat so many fried fish banchan before I am too full for mains). I'd vote to give the proprietors the benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise.

              1. OK, no more replies needed. I'll open my mouth and ask - duh. :)

                And it's "banchan" - thanks for the correction.

                1 Reply
                1. For quite a while we thought, as diners of European extraction, we were being shorted on the good stuff, too. We started paying very close attention to what other tables were getting and we realized that all tables were getting exactly the same thing. We just thought we were being treated differently. Now I'm not saying that you're imagining your problem. I'm sure you're not. However, I did learn to ask specifically for the dishes I especially like. Sometimes they have them in the kitchen, sometimes not. It's always worth asking.

                  And boy, do I dislike that potato salad.

                  1. Funny this is, you're probably missing out on more than just the banchan.

                    1. Uncledave & Crew,

                      I have a fav spot in Ktown here in NYC called Hyo Dong Gak (51 W. 35th St). To those unfamiliar, it looks like a chinese restaurant in the middle of a sea of korean spots. And if you're unKorean, it will be. I'm half korean, half scotch-irish and my husband is puerto rican/dominican and we're both pretty tall, so we don't look like their typical customers. When you sit down, they'll give you wontons and duck sauce. If you are Korean, they'll give you sliced pickled radish, onion & black bean sauce.

                      Here's the trick: order something immediately that lets them know you mean BIZNESS. When they come over to greet you/get your drinks, say, "Can I get an order of goon mandoo to start?" This will shock the cute darling waiters and make them pay attention (OH! She'za KOLeehan!). This past Saturday we were there for the best jajamyun in the city, and she jumped a bit when I ordered the mandoo and immediately took the chinese menus off the table and got us the korean ones. She took the wonton and duck sauce and gave us the real deal.

                      This place is chinese-korean, it doesn't specialize in BBQ or pajaen. This is where you get your jajamyun and jellyfish fix on. Also, If you inhale the first plate of kimchee, they love that. Koreans can't get enough of white people gettin' dirty with them. Make a point of saying, "I love this stuff!!!

                      Please don't let pushy ajama ladies intimidate you. If you act like you know what you're doing, they'll respect you for it. They may even tell you and rub your hair playfully while laughing with you.

                      I've been going to HDG for years and I'd say 50/50, they recognize me. If I go with my other halfie or korean friends, it's never a problem (haven't you noticed, Koreans travel in packs???). However, my halfie & korean friends run on hip hop time and are always late so I have to pull the mandoo trick.

                      Try it, let me know how it works!