Monday, April 4, 2011

Hanjoongkwan in Ellicott City

You can mix two foreign cultures and still end up with comfort food.

Hanjoongkwan is one of Ellicott City's restaurants that specialize in Chinese-Korean food -- or the "Chinese" food that you would expect to be served in Seoul.  It is no more authentically Chinese than General Tso's chicken, but it's just as delicious.

The real hit was noodles with black bean sauce.  That's jajangmyun (or some similar transliteration), and you get an enormous platter of noodles with a thick, rich sauce.

This isn't the fire of Korean BBQ or the elegance of sushi.  I understand that Hanjoongkwan doesn't make its own noodles, but these were tender and stood up to the mix of beans and onions in the sauce.  It felt more like a plate of pasta on a night when you just want something tasty and warm.

Overall, Hanjoongkwan seems aimed at that scene.  The Yelp reviews are full of young folks comparing favorites.  The down side to those review -- and Hanjoongkwan overall -- is that you'll get more out of them if you already know a little Korean.  The restaurant's specials are on the wall in Korean, and neither the menu or even the Yelp reviews do much to explain the dishes to beginners.

(As beginners leading beginners, I recommend that you pick a few dishes by reading on-line reviews and Kevin's guest post about Korean food along Rte 40.  Expect a limited number of the small, free dishes that come with Korean meals -- yellow, fermented radishes, spicy kimchi, and raw onions.  We ate those panchan like side dishes.)

We actually went to try the hand-torn noodle soup special that Min guest posted about last month.  But I asked for advice from the table of 20-somethings at the table next two us, and they waved us away.  One of the guys hadn't loved it last time, so he listened to my three ideas and suggested jajangmyun and kampoogi.

What's kampoogi?  Fried chicken wings with a hot and sour sauce.  More comfort food.  Nice crispy texture on the outside and meaty, bone-in wings.  I didn't really understand the peas and carrots in the sauce, but I chewed through the chicken happily.  By a hair, I preferred Rainpia's chicken -- in part because we got half that order without sauce so it stayed crisp.

Overall, this is a great window -- along with Tian Chinese Cuisine near Lotte -- into Chinese-Korean cuisine.  It's nothing like the barbecue at Shin Chon or Honey Pig.  It's nothing like the tofu stews at Lighthouse Tofu.  So go order a bunch and figure that you'll take home leftovers -- the black bean noodles were even more-delicious as lunch the second day.  Or at least that's what I hear because Mrs. HowChow scarfed them all happily.

You want to sample more Chinese influence on other cuisines, check out the Chinese-Indian dishes at Mirchi Wok in Columbia.

9338 Baltimore National Pike (Rte 40)
Ellicott City, MD 21042

NEAR:  This is on Rte 40 west of Rte 29.  It's actually just west of Chatham Road and the Chatham Mall shopping center.  It's on the north side at the end of a strip of stores.

Hanjoongkwan on Urbanspoon


Kris9 said...

The restaurant with the Korean sign to the left of Lotte Plaza is also very good Korean-Chinese (I haev no idea what the name is.) My favorite is to get the blackbean noodles and the seafood noodle soup combo. More food than you can possibly eat in one sitting but delicious! On the menu I think these two are numbers one and two...

HowChow said...

@Kris -- That is Tian, the other Chinese-Korean place that I mentioned above. Thanks for the recommendation.