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The World’s Best Foods Are At Koreana

After a recent meal at Koreana in Hicksville, I found a list of the world’s 50 best foods from a poll conducted by CNN in 2011. Four Korean dishes were there: galbi (41), bibimbap (40), bulgogi (23) and kimchi (12) and I was pleased to have eaten three of the four.

It’s impossible to escape kimchi at a Korean meal and at Koreana the spicy fermented cabbage appears as one of the little vegetable side dishes, called banchan, that are brought to the table. In addition to the kimchi there were soy bean sprouts, macaroni with mayonnaise, vegetable stir fry seaweed seasoned with white vinegar, and acorn jelly made from acorn starch. The banchan vary according to the choices of the chef. Whatever the variety, care is taken to make sure there is a wide representation of flavors, textures and color.

Health, too, is a big concern at Korean meals. Kimchi is packed with vitamins and minerals; the seaweed is good for hemoglobin production and eating lots of vegetables is generally a good thing.

They’re never at a loss for fresh ingredients at Koreana. All they need do is walk out the door and in a few steps they’re in the attached H&Y supermarket where everything they might need is close at hand.

Korean cuisine is not defined by vegetables alone and so we also had delicious bibimbap, BBQ and fried chicken, plus noodle dishes and casseroles.

Bibimbap, which translates as “mixed meal,” is served in a bowl and features greens and other vegetables such as bean sprouts, zucchini and red peppers, plus beef, atop rice. It is crowned with a runny egg. Mix it together and add as much hot sauce as pleases you. A variation, dolsot bibim bap, is made in a heated stone pot. The bottom of the ultra hot bowl is coated with oil. When cooked rice is added, the hot oil sizzles the bottom of the rice, creating a crunchy crust.

For the BBQ, you can do it yourself at the table or they will prepare it for you in the kitchen. I was told that BBQing at your table is generally done during the evening meal. I guess people are in more of a hurry at lunchtime. I had the kitchen prepare pork bulgogi (bulgogi means “fire meat”), thin slices of marinated pork. It came with lettuce leaves and the way to eat it is to fold the meat, rice and condiments in the leaf.

Fried chicken is number 31 on the CNN list and the fried chicken at Koreana—Bonchon—puts most other fried chicken I have had to shame. The chicken is coated with a spicy or soy garlic sauce, which is shipped to Koreana from Korea. It is fried twice and served with a side of cubed, pickled Korean radish. Because nothing is prepared in advance, it takes up to 20 to 30 minutes to make the chicken so it should be ordered in advance or upon arrival at the restaurant.

I have yet to try galbi, which is beef short ribs, thinly cut and prepared with a marinade or without. That’s for the next visit.

Koreana is located at 478 Plainview Road. For more information, call 516-932-4690.