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Fruit and veggie chips

Fruit and veggie chips at Baru

Last year, my concept of Buddhist temple cuisine was floored by a visit to Baru soon after it opened. I recently returned, this time with a better camera. I am still blown away by most of the food there. The fruit and veggie chips are everyone’s favorite. This time around, they served a meatless Gganpunggi, which I say is close to the American-Chinese Sesame Chicken. I could eat that every day.

Not only is this all vegan food, it also uses no onion, garlic or sugar. No artificial flavorings. All organic. And I actually felt satiated until dinner time.

For a review of Baru (sometimes spelled “Balwoo”) and directions go to ZenKimchi Dining. But this post is all about the pictures.
Baru - Chilled soybean soup

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We started with a tiny bowl of chilled soybean soup, highlighting the restaurant’s seasonal menu. The coldness of the soup was refreshing enough but the sprouts made it even more so.

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Baru - Cubed radish kimchi

I had to highlight this one. Simple ggakduggi–little radish cubed kimchi. There is no pickled shrimp or fish sauce in this, but it was pleasantly tart and spicy.

Baru - Summer salad

Still on the refreshment kick, we had a salad with radicchio and other firm bitter greens matched with a slightly creamy dressing–but using no cream. It was a little sweet for my taste, but I’m a sucker for structured salads with bitter lettuce blends.

Three-colored pancakes

The Sam Saek Jeon, or Three-colored Pancakes, greatly contrasted each other not only in color but in flavor and texture. I especially liked the one on the left, made with kimchi. The one in the middle was beany, and the one of the right tasted of pumpkin.

Baru - Little delights

Ah, now we’re playing with pumpkin. The dumplings on the left are filled with sauteed pumpkin and zucchini. The jellies are pumpkin and buckwheat. Not much flavor in the jellies themselves, but the toppings punched you in the face. The real summer treats in the back were rice wraps with pumpkin leaves. Like Greek dolmades but more of a vegetable garden on the outside with fermented soybean paste hidden inside.

Baru - Gganpunggi

This was their take on Gganpunggi, which is my favorite Korean-Chinese dish. This got devoured immediately. I didn’t get around to asking what the meat-like substance was, but its texture and high protein flavor made it satisfying.

Baru - Wild sesame soup

This was the only dish I wasn’t too wild about, even though I love wild sesame. It’s a thick wild sesame soup with mowi stems–kinda related to rhubarb, I think. I just didn’t like the stems. There is such a thing as being too vegetal.

Baru - Lotus Leaf Rice

Ah, now here is what I consider the heart of temple cuisine–the lotus leaf rice. Even though it’s considered Chinese, I think that Korean Buddhist have put their own stamp on this.

Baru - Lotus Leaf Rice

It’s basically Samgyetang without the chicken. Gingko nuts, jujubes, pine nuts and medicinal stuff are steamed with rice in lotus leaves. The aroma just transports you to some exotic mountain hideaway. EJ wasn’t a big fan of this, but I love it.

Baru - Banchan

With the rice we had traditional Korean banchan. The little surprise was in the bowl to the right. It’s a little shy. It was a paste made with tofu and doenjang. Would go perfectly on crackers.

The set menus start at around W30,000. Temple cuisine seems to be becoming a trend in Korea, and Baru is one of the hardest reservations to get in Seoul. You need to reserve three days in advance. That’s pretty big in Seoul, where it’s common to not plan anything until the last minute.

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