Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Veg Week: Vegetarian Bibimbop At Shin Chon

Korean barbecue may not be the first idea for vegetarians, but Shin Chon Garden can serve up great flavor even if you're passing on the char of grilled bulgogi.

Our meatless meals at Shin Chon Garden in Ellicott City have been based around vegetarian dolset bi bim bop -- basically a heated stone pot filling with rice, then layered with a bunch of different vegetables, including carrots, sprouts, daikon radish, and others.  Mix in some of the spicy sauce.  The first servings are a delicious mix of rice and vegetables.  The second set get even better as the hot pot sizzles and crisps the rice.

If you eat meat, then I'd recommend the normal dolset bi bim bop because the beef adds an unctuous taste.  But it doesn't really change the dish, and vegetarians can eat well even in a place that specializes in grill-you-own meat.

The beauty of Korean for a vegetarian is that each table comes with a half dozen meat-free dishes.  Shin Chon serves the small plates called panchan with every meal, and they cycle through items like kimchi, other pickled vegetables, seaweeds, and potato salad.  Look out for tiny silvery fish, and look out for octopus tentacles -- the rare meat panchan that are usually obvious to everyone.

You fill out the rest of the table with a few well-picked entrees.  Chapchae are sweet potato noodles stirfried with vegetables.  The pancakes are plate-sized savory spreads with green onions.  The Shin Chon folks are sophisticated.  Explain that you're a vegetarian.  Explain how much you like hot peppers, and they'll put together a plate for you.

This is part of Veg Week here at HowChow.  With Mango Grove temporarily closed as it relocates, we're suggesting some other spots where you could please a vegetarian friend or please yourself.  Obviously, any local vegetarian should check out the vegan kitchen at Great Sage in Clarksville.  Or click on all the HowChow posts that we have marked on the theme.

1 comment:

EG Kate said...

I had a great vegetarian Korean lunch today at Lighthouse Tofu. I got the mushroom soondooboo. I think I prefer the veggie version I got last time (the mushrooms were quite chewy and didn't add much flavor wise, but overall it is still a wonderful, rich bowl of soup), I was happy to see that they have improved their panchan selection since my last visit, now offering about 5 per table. The toasted rice tea is, as always, one of the highlights of the meal. It's definitely a great destination for vegetarian meals in Howard County.

I am really looking forward to the rest of the week of vegetarian dishes. Unfortunately, I don't work in Howard County any more, but it is still one of the best places in the region for a cheap lunch (particularly for someone with a love of all Asian cuisines).