Hankuk Korea Restaurant, located next to Atlas Hotel
on Mickey Leland Street, opened its doors about a
month ago. Located in a refurbished house, there is
parking space in the compound, and the lot was
filled during lunch time on Wednesday, March 2,
Almost obscured from view, some of the orange
chequered tablecloths were drying on a washing line
next to the wall separating the restaurant from the
street, lending a homey feeling to the restaurant,
an atmosphere supplemented by the delicious smells
emanating from the kitchen, situated across from the
There is only one other table on the small terrace,
occupied by a Chinese couple, and the friendly,
prompt waiters serve warm potato and pea soup while
patrons decide on their orders. This is no easy
task, as the menu is extensive.
However, once the order is placed, side dishes,
consisting of a variety of vegetables served in
small communal bowls and shared by the whole table,
appear. Kimchi forms an integral part of these.
Along with rice and soup, kimchi is the staple of
every Korean meal.
There are different kinds of the nutritious dishes,
which have a long shelf life; the kind served at
Hankuk, named for the Korean word for South Korea,
consists of fiery Chinese cabbage fermented in a
mixture of salt, chilli pepper flakes, garlic,
onions, ginger, soy sauce, and fermented fish. It is
not for nothing that Koreans are considered the
world’s foremost per capita garlic consumers.
Im Cheong-nam, co-owner and executive chef, makes
the kimchi herself, a common practice in Korea, for
each household to make their own.
Each person at the table shares these side dishes by
using their chopsticks that rest alongside the
spoon, an unusual addition to an Asian meal table,
on pretty chopstick holders on the table, laid to
the right, where a knife would go. There are no
knives on the table, but forks are available upon
request for those new to the use of chopsticks.
Cheong-nam’s sister, Ha Ok-sun, an acupuncturist and
manager of the restaurant, used to have a Korean
restaurant in Addis Abeba 15 years ago, before she
returned to Korea to qualify as an acupuncturist.
She has now returned, once more, to run her sister’s
“Almost all the ingredients are imported, except the
meat and vegetables, which are procured locally,”
Ok-sun told Fortune.
In the back of the restaurant are flower beds where
the restaurant grows its own herbs for use in the
food. Past these, one arrives at a large room where
picnic tables offer patrons the opportunity to have
Korean barbequed meat.
The barbequed meat, cooked by the eaters themselves,
if they so please, on coal fires contained in metal
boxes in the middle of the long wooden tables, are
eaten with soy bean paste and sesame oil, wrapped in
a salad leaf and eaten by hand.
The different meat can set one back between 80 Br
for chicken and sheep (all menu prices are exclusive
of 15pc VAT), to 100 Br for beef, or 130 Br for pork
bacon or ribs.
These sliced short ribs, a.k.a. galbi, are also
available in beef (120 Br), meat further utilised
for seobulgogi (100 Br), thin, roasted slices of
meat marinated in soy sauce, garlic, sesame oil,
ginger, onions, and peppers. Sambulgogi (300 Br)
consists of roast pork with squid and vegetables.
Seeing that three-quarters of South Korea’s border
is a coastline, seafood is a key ingredient to the
cuisine. Since Ethiopia is landlocked, the menu has
been suitably adapted to exclude such delicacies as
squid sushi – fresh, raw squid, freshly cut up to
remove the head, an act that does not stop the dying
muscles in the tentacles from continuing to
spontaneously squirm until thoroughly chewed up and
Yet, apart from the fish in kimchi, the variety of
seafood on offer at Hankuk is numerous. Heamultang
(450 Br) is shellfish in a seafood soup or pancakes,
made by frying onions with peppers in dough and
ingredients ranging from vegetables (20 Br), kimchi
(30 Br), green beans (50 Br), potatoes (50 Br), or
seafood (120 Br) to resemble a pancake.
The grilled fish (200 Br), served with salad leaves
and lemon, is tricky to eat with chopsticks as it
has not been deboned, but using the sticks to cut it
in half, head to tail, to completely separate the
top and bottom sides, make the intact backbone easy
To enjoy rice with the fish, one has to order a bowl
separately. The rice is of the sticky variety and
comes in different guises: steamed (20 Br) or with
vegetables, kimchi, or egg (each 40 Br), or beef or
chicken (45 Br each). Rice meals, such as rice with
curry or stir-fried bean paste, are 80 Br each.
Like kimchi, other fermented ingredients, such as
soy bean paste, are fundamental to the national
cuisine, just like rice.
The dongkaseu (100 Br), breaded pork cutlet, is
served with rice as well as coleslaw with carrots
and mayonnaise. Originating from Japan, the pork
cutlet has become so common in Korea that it is
widely accepted as part of the national food.
Another dish, that may be considered to originate
from its Japanese neighbour across the Yellow Sea,
is gimbap (80 Br): filled rice rolled in seaweed,
very much resembling maki, a type of (typical
Japanese) sushi. However, instead of fish, gimbab
(literally meaning seaweed and rice) contains egg,
cucumber, carrots, and green leaves; the contrasting
textures are often off-putting to those more used to
the Japanese version of the food, which is also
eaten by dipping each piece in soy sauce.
Another borrowed dish is shabushabu (300 Br), a.k.a.
vegetable hotpot, traditionally a Chinese soup in
which a variety of vegetables and meat are cooked in
a communal pot.
Hankuk buys produce from a Korean farmer, located in
Kaliti, on the outskirts of the city, according to
Biruk Negussie, chef, who used to work in Ok-sun’s
restaurant 15 years before.
While vegetables feature strongly in the dishes, few
do not contain animal products. As the Easter
fasting period had started shortly before, on
February 28, the waiters are considerate to confirm
that upon ordering the pork cutlet, Ethiopian
patrons are not fasting.
Pork, not very widely eaten in Ethiopia, is another
strong feature on the menu, and cheyic pocugum (100
Br), roast pork with sauce, alongside kamjatang (300
Br), potato and pork bone soup, round off the long
list of pork dishes available. Another soup (both
“tang” and “jige” means soup, or watery broth)
pudeajige (300 Br), consisting of meat and
vegetables are meant for two people.
Soup is almost as integral to a meal as rice and
kimchi. Brown seaweed, miso, kimchi, and egg soup
are all 25 Br, while more specialised soups, such as
tangdoritang (300 Br) is pricier as it is a meal and
not a mere side order.
Samgetang (180 Br), boiled chicken soup with
ginseng, made by boiling a stuffed chicken for
hours, is only available on Tuesdays, as chogbal
(250 Br) can only be found on Fridays.
“Some dishes take the whole day to cook,” Ok-sun
told Fortune. “To include them on the menu, we can
only make them available on certain days.”
Noodles are faster to prepare, like jabchea (100
Br), stir-fried noodles with meat and vegetables,
and ramen (70 Br).
Neungmeyun (80 Br), a.k.a. ice noodles, served in
cold chicken broth, is refreshing on a hot day, and
often comes with ice cubes. However, it is an
acquired taste and can be off-putting as an
introduction to the country’s cuisine. Another very
traditional, but much more enjoyable dish, is the
traditional meal set (1,000 Br), consisting of rice
and soup, and nine different side dishes, which
takes five hours to prepare and must be ordered in
advance. For faster service, gucholpan (700 Br)
likewise consists of nine different side dishes.
In keeping with tradition and culture is the anju,
or side dishes meant for consumption while drinking.
Koreans generally believe it unhealthy to drink on
an empty stomach, and bars serve snacks, of varying
quality that depends on the kind of bar, with all
drinks. At Hankuk, these include fried chicken (120
Br), pan-fried potato (50 Br) and dried snacks (300
Br), which include salty dried fish that, for some,
goes well with beer, which is 6.10 Br for a local
bottle, VAT excluded.
The restaurant is open seven days a week, from
8:00am until around 11:00pm, and offers karaoke.