Country 038 – North Korea (Chaban)

chaban
Location
: 872 The Queensway, Etobicoke
Websitehttp://chabantoronto.com/

No, this technically isn’t a North Korean restaurant — I think it’s safe to say that all Korean restaurants in Toronto (or any city, really) are South Korean.  But I painstakingly researched how the cuisines in North and South Korea have diverged since their split in 1945, and I tried to order a dish that’s closest to what North Koreans actually eat.

Actually no, I didn’t do that at all; I just went to a Korean restaurant and ordered what looked good.  Because I’m lazy, you see.

I ordered the Chaban Dolsot Bibimbap (it’s always a safe bet to order a dish that features the restaurant’s name).  For the uninitiated, bibimbap is a dish in which plain rice is topped with various vegetables and meat, an egg, and is usually served with a tasty Korean hot sauce called gochujang on the side.

This particularly version is served in a piping hot stone bowl (which is where “dolsot” in the name comes from),  which makes the rice along the edges delightfully crispy.

I’m generally a pretty big fan of this dish, and this might just be the best version of it that I’ve had.  It has a really nice balance of flavours, and just the right amount of kick from the hot sauce.  It’s one of those dishes where every bite is a little bit different.  It’s pretty great.

Chaban - the restaurant Chaban - the banchan Chaban - the bibimbap Chaban - the bibimbap

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Country 026 – South Korea (Cho Dang Soon Tofu)

chodang
Location
: 5130 Dundas Street West, Etobicoke
Website: None

If the whole point of this blog is to try new things, then I’m failing pretty miserably with this entry; not only have I been to Cho Dang Soon Tofu several times before, I’ve even written about it for another blog.

Still, I haven’t written about the restaurant’s namesake dish: an intensely flavourful, bubbling hot stew that I can’t get enough of.

Like any Korean restaurant worth its salt, the meal starts with a generous selection of banchan — essentially a variety of small appetizers.  My favourite here are the crispy, addictively salty fried sardines, but the silky cubes of soft tofu (made in house) with a little bowl of sesame- and green-onion-infused soy sauce for dipping are also quite memorable, as is the obligatory (and delcious) kimchi.

But of course, the reason to come here is that delicious, piping-hot stew.  I got mine with pork, though several other options are available.  It’s spicy, flavourful, and seriously hearty — aside from the aforementioned pork, its absolutely suffused with the restaurant’s creamy house-made tofu, not to mention the egg that you crack into the bowl yourself, and the generous bowl of purple rice that accompanies the stew (made that distinctive colour by mixing black rice in with the white).

The best part?  All that food?  Eight bucks.  Yeah, it’s a deal.

Cho Dang Soon Tofu - the tofu Cho Dang Soon Tofu - the kimchi Cho Dang Soon Tofu - the sardines Cho Dang Soon Tofu - the soup