EN HAKKORE, CHICAGO

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In a land swamped with deep dish and doughnuts, En Hakkore is a breath of fresh air. I was over the moon to disregard snub the incessant battle I have between temptation and virtue. Here the bibim-bap bowls are packed with food for the body and flavours for the soul. Something outrageously delicious can also be something healthy.

There’s something wonderful about wandering a city on foot. The things you stumble upon are more than worth the walk. Try as I might you can’t find out about everything a city has to offer in the way of food just by reading reviews and Trip Advisor and, in reality, nothing can compare to the excitement of finding an unexpected gem.

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En Hakkore was one such jewel. Tucked at the edge of one of my favourite districts in Chicago, Bucktown, we happened upon this Korean café entirely by chance. A first glance through the window stopped us in our tracks. Full to the brim with dinner from down the road there was no way we were hungry but regardless we were struck by a smidgen of food envy gazing in at the vivid veggies.

Feeling well and truly bludgeoned by brunch after brunch, pizza, Italian beef dripping sandwiches and goodness knows what else, it was about time we gave our bodies a break so we returned one lunchtime to see if the food here was as good as it looked.

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Their menu is not extensive but allows you to customise your bowl to your liking with choices such as spicy port or barbeque beef. The appetisers are equally tempting and, never one to miss out, I ordered a small portion of Jap Chae (sweet potato noodles stir-fried in sesame oil with vegetables and beef).

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This arrived first, served up to us at the long communal table. Goodness it was delicious, all sweet and sour with tender slivers of meat and silky noodles. With hindsight, certainly too much food, but not something I regret for an instant.

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The bibim-baps arrived not much later and were as pretty as a picture. Sixteen different veggies jostle for you eye’s attention and sticky meat offers up tantalising wafts of spice. I was almost reluctant to disturb it in all its glory but to toss it all up with liberal helpings of sambal is the only way to go about it.

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Despite being really reasonably priced, serving sizes are easily shareable, although tasting a couple of the meats by picking one each is always fun. Thank goodness for the American doggy-bag culture. Leftovers will never have tasted so good.

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