Hee Rae Dung Korean Chinese Restaurant 喜來燈Posted: 03/08/2012
I wrote about this restaurant before, but I wanted to redo the post, mostly because I didn’t actually review the restaurant itself, just the food. Anyways, Hee Rae Dung is on North Road and serves up Korean-Chinese food. It’s a small restaurant, and very popular within the Korean community. My family tends to go to this place at least once a month (being very, very Korean), so this review is the compilation of many visits.
Every meal starts off with this tray of side dishes. If you’ve been to other Korean restaurants, you’re probably used to the plethora of side dishes referred to as Banchan, with kimchi and the potatoes everyone loves. In a Korean-Chinese restaurant, the side dishes are very simple: raw onion, black bean sauce, and pickled daikon. My family tends to liberally pour vinegar over the onion and daikon (not sure if everyone does this). Anyways, nothing much to say about this, except that it’s supposed to be a refreshing start to the meal before the entrees arrive.
I’ve noticed here that the entrees don’t arrive all together, which is typical of many Asian restaurants. But the time gap between the entrees’ arrivals can be a bit long, especially if the restaurant is busy (as it usually is). This is pretty much because the kitchen cooks every dish in large batches. Recently the waitresses have been asking whether you’d prefer to have everything brought out together or just as soon as it’s ready, which is nice.
I usually get the Seafood Fried Rice. It’s a different consistency than the regular Chinese fried rice–Korean rice is denser, and doesn’t have that light quality. This is a very generous portion and comes with a fried egg, the fried rice (with egg, carrots, baby scallops, shrimp, squid, red pepper, etc.), black bean sauce (with onions, potatoes, etc.) and a cabbage salad with again, carrots and red pepper, and a Thousand Island dressing. I usually struggle to finish this–look at all the rice! I haven’t had a negative experience with the rice here yet (and I’ve ordered it many times). The rice is generally very moist, and I love baby scallops. It’s nice to see they don’t skimp out on the seafood. The black bean sauce (which we’ll see again later) compliments the rice quite well, so you don’t really need soy sauce on the rice as you usually do at other places.
The next dish isn’t an entree, but a shareable plate. In Korean we call it Tang Soo Yook, which is basically just sweet and sour pork. As you can see again, it’s a generous portion, with deep-fried pieces of pork, a sweet glaze-like sauce, and carrots, lemons, onions, red peppers, green peppers, pineapple, and mushrooms. You can also ask for the sauce on the side as it tends to get quite sweet and can leave the pieces too soggy if you don’t eat it right away. Whether or not this dish is good really depends on the time at which it’s brought to your table. Sometimes the pieces are very hot and crispy and therefore delicious (everything good is deep fried, whyyy) and other times the pieces are a bit too hard to chew. My family usually orders this in addition to our four entrees and end up packing this up and taking it home. The sauce is also quite lemony.
The most popular dish at these types of restaurants in Korea is the Ja Jang Myun, or black bean noodles. I know it doesn’t look very appealing–black sauce resulting in some strangely coloured brown noodles. But the sauce (same as the one served with the fried rice above) is sweet and yet savoury, and the noodles cooked just right, not too mushy and not too hard. Like the other dishes, it’s best when eaten straight away, before it gets cold. I’ve generally had no problems with this dish, as it’s the most popular one here and they’re always cooking batches of it anyway, so we’ve never really had to wait long for it. There are several variations of Ja Jang Myun on the menu that are also worth checking out.
The second most popular dish is the Jam Bong, noodles with seafood in a spicy soup. Once again, they are not shy about the seafood, including shrimp, baby scallops, and squid, again, in addition to many different kinds of vegetables and quite a large portion of noodles, which can’t really be seen in the photo here. The soup is very spicy and warms you up–my dad always has this and breaks out into a sweat almost instantly. A small bowl of the soup from these noodles is also provided with the fried rice above. The soup is very refreshing and provides a kick, although it’s probably not for you if you can’t handle anything spicy.
We’ve talked a lot about noodles, so maybe we should move onto some rice dishes (well, after the fried rice above). This is the Jab Tang Bab, which is rice with a mixture of seafood and various vegetables in a somewhat sweet yet savoury glaze. It’s a bit like the sauce with the sweet and sour pork, but a lot less sweet. The ingredients in this include shrimp, baby scallops, squid, mushrooms, bok choy, carrots, red peppers, green peppers, baby corn, napa…you can tell it’s a lot of ingredients. In fact, it’s almost too many ingredients to eat with the rather small portion of rice. We usually enjoy this very much–there are a lot of different ingredients, but they all work with the sauce. I wouldn’t say this is one of their more popular menu items, but it’s definitely worth it for the price you pay.
Another shared dish my family often gets is the Kan Poong Ki, which is deep-fried chicken coated with a spicy chili sauce that also consists of carrots, chili peppers, and other minced veggies. Again, this is a big portion, and not recommended if you can’t take the spicy. I showed this photo to my friend Steven, who remarked that the presentation is quite sloppy. I guess that’s true, but the prices you’re paying are quite low, and I don’t think that presentation is a priority for such a low-cost restaurant.
They also do take-out, as you can see! It’s also 10% off if you order one hour before, so that’s a good way to save a couple bucks. This is the Mabu Tofu, which can come either with rice or as a shareable plate. We ordered the version with rice, so you can see you actually get enough to share anyways! This is definitely different than the mabu tofu found in Chinese restaurants–the sauce is sweet yet spicy, with onions, green onion, carrots, mushrooms, tofu (of course), pork, and baby scallops. It goes well with the white rice and I liked how they didn’t skimp on the take-out portions like a lot of restaurants do.
All in all, I’d really recommend this restaurant, especially if you’ve never tried this sort of food before. Although on reflection, I guess some of the flavours and the ingredients can be repetitive, but I don’t really mind. Also, Korean restaurants are notorious for ill-mannered, inattentive servers, but I’ve always received quite enthusiastic and pleasant service here. The prices are very reasonable, with most entrees priced below $10, and the portions are very generous. However, I’d recommend bringing a Korean friend with you if possible as the English descriptions on the menu are not exactly helpful! But definitely recommended!
Hee Rae Dung Korean Chinese Restaurant 喜來燈
435 North Road