|Minimal decor: Bongchu Restaurant offers gourmands a taste of Korean cuisine with two remarkable dishes. — VNS Photos Minh Thu
|Tempting:The dish Jiim dak (steamed chicken) is wonderful when enjoyed with dong chi mi (turnip kimchi soup).
|Looks tasty: Nutritious sam gae tang (chicken ginseng soup)is one of only two Korean specialities served at Bong Chu Restaurant.
Add: Villa B40, Nguyen Thi Dinh Street, Ha Noi
Price: VND420,000 (US$20) for a dish of steamed chicken for two.
Hours: 10am - 9pm, daily
Comment: Serving two course only: steamed chicken and chicken ginseng soup. Food can be taken away. Vietnamese, English and Korean speaking staff.
A franchise with more than 150 outlets in South Korea is well known as a steamed chicken restaurant which prides itself in serving only two dishes. Minh Thu
reports on the Ha Noi version.Among the many Korean restaurants in Ha Noi, one prides itself on serving only two chicken dishes.
Bongchu is located in a typical old villa. Entering the gate, its architecture, decorations, facilities and melodies of Korean popular music fools me into thinking I am in Seoul.
The franchise has more than 150 outlets in South Korea and is well known as the No 1 Steamed Chicken Restaurant, said owner Maria Chung.
"Bongchu opened in Viet Nam for the first time last December," she said, adding that, "unlike other Korean establishments, we only serve jiim dak (steamed chicken) and sam gae tang (chicken ginseng soup)."
"We serve what we know how to make best," she stressed.
While jiim dak is served in different sized portions, sam gae tang only serves one.
Chung said people often ate only one dish, but my friends and I are so greedy that we order two at once.
Although we are in a group of four, Chung suggests we order jiim dak for two to safe a spot in our stomachs for sam gae tang.
We start with an appetising pancake made from potato and sticky rice before moving on to the main course.
We have lots of fun eating the noodles with metal chopsticks (the only kind Koreans use).
If you like spicy food, you would love the steamed jiim dak, complete with chicken, sweet potato noodles, vegetables, chilli and a special sauce, all arranged in perfect harmony. The menu also includes instructions on how to best enjoy the dish.
We follow the instructions to eat the noodles first then the chicken and vegetables. A waitress elegantly helps us cut the noodles and chicken into pieces, spurred on by our lavish praise.
The dish is so extremely spicy that we are more than only a little grateful for a bowl of dong chi mi (turnip kimchi soup), its sweet and cool taste easing our burning tongues.
The soup looks transparent, but it contains many nutritious ingredients, Chung said.
"Ingredients are covered in a bag while cooked to keep the soup clear."
If you struggle with chilli, advance enquiry will make sure the dish is prepared in accordance to your pain threshold.
Having finished only half the course, our waitress brings us a dish of fried rice (cooked rice is also available), which she dips into the remainder of our sauce and chicken, transforming it into a whole new experience.
It is marvellous to enjoy the steamed chicken in such a new way without wasting the delicious "secret" sauce.
There is little difference between the Bongchu dish and the chicken ginseng soup I first enjoyed on a freezing day in Seoul.
Chicken ginseng soup is the most nutritious dish in Korean cuisine, including fresh ginseng and gold dum mushrooms.
Once again, the waitress helps us cut the chicken, revealing the succulent glutinous rice filling inside which, when mixed with the soup, becomes a tasty porridge.
While Korean soju (liquor) is popular, we stick to Seung makgeoli (fresh rice wine) which offers us much needed repose during our meal and enables us to clean each and every plate.
The alcoholic beverage native to Korea is made from a mixture of wheat and rice, which gives it a milky, off-white colour and sweetness.
"I know people don't eat chicken everyday. The important thing to me is that they are impressed with and remember my unique dishes when they do come though," Chung said.
In addition to its yummy dishes, Bongchu comprises an impressive exterior and interior complete with lanterns, paintings and chimneys.
"I had a really good time here. They just serve the one dish and it's pretty spicy," an anonymous food lover commented.
"It's absolutely top-notch and highly recommended if you're looking for a culinary adventure. The food is very, very good and perfect for winter warming." — VNS