After winning a Michelin star for Danji, his first New York restaurant, owner/chef Hooni Kim opened Hanjan as an homage to the Joomak, a simple Korean traveler’s tavern. Hanjan is all about the soul food of Korea, something Kim says you cannot find anymore—even in Seoul. He visits the small towns in the countryside to find true ingredients. For example, jang, a spicy paste of aged and fermented soy beans and red peppers, is crucial to Korean cooking and, like wine, has a different complexity depending on the “terroir.”
“If you have good jang, you can make good food,” says Kim. His chongjang is the base for the spicy vinaigrette for the Atlantic Salmon Sashimi Salad, a spicy and cool nirvana. The housemade cold tofu is comforting and creamy—and nothing like the bland commercial stuff—and served with perilla jang vinaigrette on the side. You spoon it over the top like putting hot fudge on a sundae. In Korea, gwangju—fried chicken—is made with chickens fed on garlic. Kim’s Pennsylvania chickens are not fed garlic, but they arrive at Hanjan the same day they are killed, then brined in garlic and ready to fry when dinner guests arrive. The chicken is served with a few cubes of daikon (cool) and sliced chile peppers (hot). Panjean, scallion pancake, has become an extremely popular dish even in mainstream restaurants, but Kim says it has become all about the starch rather than the scallions. It has to be crispy, light, and “scalliony.” At Hanjan, it is just that!
Treat yourself to a cold glass of makgeolli, Korean farmer’s beer, a rice brew that is becoming very trendy, especially with younger diners. It is a mild, melon-like, and refreshing drink with a subtle kick. Dinner Monday to Saturday 6 to midnight. Closed Sunday. -- Marian Betancourt