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Much more than bulgogi

Get a taste of authentic Korean cuisine at Kyungbokgong


EVERY BODY KNOWS Nandanam and Chamiers Road. Yet, how many know the little piece of Korea on that road? Open the door of Kyungbokgong Hotel Pvt. Ltd and voila! it's Korea for you.

Even the air, the smell is different. The TV is blasting Korean news and the eyes of two diners, Korean of course, are fixed on it. There are Korean books to read for those staying there.

The only brown faces are those of a few waiters.

With so much of Korean hitting me on the face, I began the evening with the premise that this has to be as good as it can be in Chennai. The menu is a veritable tome with pictures in the true South East Asian style showing how each dish looks. Since my mind was stuck on bulgogi (the famed barbecued beef) and khimchi (pickled fermented vegetables), we needed help, from the waiters. They did it with such sympathetic understanding that it looked as though they had done it quite a few time earlier.

The prices too are meant for expats. The figures run up to even Rs. 800 for some dishes. But don't lose heart. Most of dishes come with rice or noodles.

So with the much-vaunted Indian ingenuity and survival skill, one can have a meal at a reasonable price. What gladdened my thrifty heart was that an array of cold starters, including khimchi (cabbage), and the dessert, watermelon wedges and cinnamon drink, were complimentary.

The warm starter Haemul Pajun (Rs. 300) or Korean pizza-omelette stuffed with vegetables, octopus and squid, was suggestive of Chinese Fuyong. Jjanjangmyun (Rs. 250) is described as noodles topped with special sauce. The sauce is soy glazed vegetables and pork. It's a choice that suits our desi palate. The vegetarian options are fewer.

We couldn't go without savouring the `tang' or soup. Sulongtang (Rs.300) is bone soup with slivers of beef and a separate helping of sticky rice. One can call it a Korean kanji! It is interesting to note that Koreans do have a juk or gruel-eating tradition.

There is even a `scorched rice from the bottom of the pan' delicacy on the menu. Fruit drinks or Hwachae are often offered with dessert. We had a tingly, zingy cinnamon one.

Well, aren't you curious about the success secret of Hyundai? Get to Korean Palace (ph: 52113346/3347) and give it a shot.

MARIEN MATHEW

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