One of the great things about being back in the city is meeting up with old friends. Lucky for me, I got to go back to work with my good friend Dave who you might remember from a Chestnut Report back in 2007. We had a meeting a while ago where he was telling me about a Korean restaurant that serves a super spicy chicken dish. Recently we decided we should go. So we did.
The place is called Bonga Buldak, or Home of Hot Taste. This is actually a chain of chicken restaurants from Korea. Dave first tried this when he was teaching in Korea, so I let him do all the ordering.
Home of Hot Taste certainly caters to the young Korean demographic as 99% of the patrons there at the time fit that description; Korean pop videos play constantly on the flatscreen, posters, pictures and menu boards are all also in Korean. There is no indication in English what these specials are.
I was glad Dave was in charge because I had no idea what was going on other than that I would be eating some spicy chicken. He did all the ordering and explained what we were getting and why (basically something hot, with something to cut the heat). I was just happy for the ride.
To begin carafe's of water with a Korean model and writing came to the tables to start things off. Then came a salad to share. I don't know what it was or what was on it, but it was fresh and crisp, and the dressing was light ginger/vinegerette of some sort.
The next side dish was Ddok-bok-ki (I believe, but I could be wrong), which is Korean rice cake and fish cakes in a sweet and spicy sauce. Now for those of you who are not familiar with Korean cuisine, you might be looking at the above photo and be wondering where the rice cake is . . . well the cylindrical tubes above are the rice cake. Unlike a Western rice cake with is crispy and flakey, the Korean rice cake is spongey and doughey. The fish cakes are thin and not strong (thankfully). I love the rice cake and the spicy sauce combo - so unique.
Dave also ordered a cauldron of Rice Crust Soup. This was another dish he said would help cut the heat from the spicy chicken.
The flavour of this soup reminded me of puffed rice cereal (of course it tastes like rice, duh) with just a hint of being burnt. This isn't a soup I would ever eat on its own, but it just seemed to work on some level with this meal.
Dave said we should have gotten a banchan or side dishes, so he asked them, and shortly we had this little side dish. I looked at these glistening white cubes and I tried to figure out what they were. Potato? Pear? So I asked Dave and he said it was white radish. Now I am not a fan of radish, but when in Rome right? Well I was glad I did try it because I really liked it. They were pickled radish, so they tasted vinegary and sweet at the same time, with a soft crunch. Very refreshing.
Finally the main dish arrived. Home of Hot Taste is famous for their spicy chicken. There were two dishes to choose from: "Blazing Fire Chicken" and "Tearful Blazing Chicken". We asked what the difference was and one of them was ordered. I don't know which it was. Actually they have a third dish that is covered with cheese which is supposed to be very good too. We just stuck with the spicy chicken.
The chicken looked like hunks of bloody lava. I was excited. The meat was super tender. Soft and very easy to chew. By looking at it I thought it might be crispy, but it wasn't. So no deep frying. I thought it might have a little bark from the sizzling style plate but no.
So how was the taste? Good. The heat was a slow build - the more you eat the hotter it got. The dominate flavour that Dave identified was Korean pepper paste, but there was a lot more going on. This is a dish that has heat, but flavour as well.
This was a large portion and definitely appropriate for sharing. In retrospect I think this dish needs accompaniment if you were to eat it on its own. Rice, noodles or any of the sides we had would have worked. The meal was good, and I see they have chicken wings too, so I will be back. It was great hanging out with Dave - an awesome and generous host. Thanks Dave!
Home of Hot Taste
710 Yonge Street, Toronto ON