Food & Drink Indiana Jones & the temple of dumpling

Hidden deep in Hanaro Mart, steamed pockets of kimchee and toasty barley tea

Davney Fong, front, and Derek A. Toy steam kimchee dumplings in the restaurant at Hanaro Mart on Rittiman. (Photos by Mark Greenberg)

Ear to the ground, nose to the wind, eye on the sky: This is the Indiana Jones attitude assumed by many food critics in their most fantasy-fraught moments. As Brillat-Savarin once said, the discovery of a new dish does more for the happiness of mankind than the discovery of a star, and it is just this spirit that drives us to keep searching, meal after meal after meal ...

Hanaro Mart Korean Restaurant, as I call it (for lack of a better name), provides just such a Eureka! experience. Housed within a Korean/Asian market, there's no sign of its existence on the exterior - at least not in English - and you need to persevere to find the eight-table space at the rear of the store. There's no sign announcing it there, either, and the only menu is taped to the far wall, listing dumplings, noodles, and soups in loose categories. The smiling couple behind the counter speak little English, so all of your communications skills might be called into play, but that's the thrill of it. Abandon all inhibitions and simply order.

A plate of steamed kimchee dumplings served with a soy dipping sauce. Small bowls of kimchee are served with all orders.

The intrepid scouts that led me to this hidden treasure insisted we start with steamed kimchee dumplings, and they have my eternal gratitude. Ethereally light and tantalizingly tart-hot, they were, as one diner observed, "little pockets of joy," only enhanced by a lashing of the universal soy-based dipping sauce. The toasty barley tea that appeared with the dumplings was an altogether amenable companion, as were the three complimentary panchan (side dishes), each delightful in their own way - punchy shredded daikon, complex kimchee, and fresh, marinated bean sprouts. Fried dumplings might seem anti-climactic after this heady introduction, but no: One should consider them a crisp, pork-filled counterpart to the joy pockets.

The Cold Noodle with Assorted Mixture was also very satisfying, with slices of pear providing sweetness, hard-boiled egg a lushness, sliced beef a familiar grounding, and the touch of dried chile just a little heat. Mix it all up before you start to get the full range of flavor in each bite. Do the same with the Noodles with Blackish Bean Sauce, which is refreshing in both its candor and the unusually earthy-toasty taste of the coffee-like bean sauce. The wheat noodles here are house-made and have an agreeable, just-this-side-of-sturdy texture; small chunks of potato add a great textural counterpart, as do thin slivers of crunchy squash.

Hanaro Mart
1003 Rittiman
11am-9pm daily
Price range $5.00-19.99
Cash only
Wheelchair accessible
Sundae Soup's baffling name intrigued us: Who knows what it means, but the soup's claim to fame is its inclusion of Korean sausage stuffed with rice, sweet potato noodles, and pork. Its flavors aren't intense, but they blend nicely against the soup's other ingredients: greens, brisket, and bits of tripe, all in a slightly piquant base. A ginger- and onion-accented stack of Korean pancakes, not on the wall menu but available if you order ahead, play well with the hot soup.

Don't leave Hanaro Mart without cruising its orderly aisles. You'll find all manner of Jones-worthy items from packets of dried anchovies to house-made kimchee, bottles of persimmon vinegar, and boxes with names such as Oh Yes Choco Cake: "Presents for your delicious taste." Eat your heart out, Harrison Ford.

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