Ban Chan Bam!
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What’s great about Korean cuisine is … well, just about everything. But what turns on veggie lovers is the healthy variety of chilled pickled vegetables called ban chan that accompanies each meal.
At Korean Hibiscus BBQ in Kaimuki, you can just remove the meat from the meal, making life for vegetarians a whole lot easier.
“We can eliminate the meat from the dish and we can substitute tofu,” assures owner Raymond Kodani.
That opens up the menu quite a bit, with mouthwatering results (although Kodani recommends that those who don’t eat meat avoid the soups, since they are all prepared with beef broth).
The Vegetable Plate ($7.50) requires no substitutions, but making up your mind could be a challenge. Customers pick four cold vegetable creations from more than a dozen choices, including mung bean sprouts, head cabbage, spicy kimchee, choi sum, chop chae (sweet potato noodles, carrots, cabbage with shoyu and sesame oil), cucumber, broccoli, wakame (seaweed, which in Korea is believed to cleanse the blood) and many more. Most of the vegetables are blanched and seasoned with salt and oil. Two scoops of hapa rice (half white, half brown) complete the plate. Not doing carbs? You can choose five vegetables for the same price. Small appetite? A mini costs $4.75, with two vegetables and one scoop of rice.
If a rice bowl does it for you, then try Bi Bim Bap ($8.50). Five vegetables are served on a bed of rice, typically with beef and egg, but tofu can be substituted with delicious results.
Noodle fans may prefer Bi Bim Kook Su ($8), in which somen noodles are mixed with pickled daikon, cucumber and more — and again, tofu replaces the beef beautifully. The sauce is seasoned a bit spicy yet slightly sweet. Like it hot? You can request it as mild or spicy as you want. Bam!
Korean Hibiscus BBQ
3221 Waialae Ave., Honolulu
Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-8:30 p.m.
Sunday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.