APPEALING TO THE MASSES
WHILE THE POPULARITY OF KOREAN FOOD CONTINUES TO GROW, ONE OF ITS PIONEERS IN CAIRNS, COREA COREA, REMAINS A FAVOURITE
Speak to anyone who dines out with the family and they are sure to know about Corea Corea. Fast, affordable, fresh and filling, it’s a good solution when you’re short on time or pennies.
Stricken with Friday-itis (symptoms include an unwillingness to cook dinner) we arrive around 7pm to find the place swamped. Once orders are placed at the counter, the task of trying to find somewhere to sit ensues.
Checking inside we find an empty booth table, but it looks like the aftermath of a kids’ party, complete with dishes, strewn cutlery and messy floor. You’ve got to roll with the punches here, this is not fine dining by any means.
The turnover revolves at such a pace on a busy night like this, that staff are run (literally, we see a guy sprinting from table to table) off their feet trying to clear up and make space for new customers.
Out on the food court we select a space which has just been cleared and given a quick wipe. By the time we settle, our orders arrive, it’s that quick. We self-serve water from an Esky dispensary into plastic cups just before it runs out.
If it all sounds a bit manic and unrefined, it is. But that’s all part of the package and certainly testimony to the level of traffic this place attracts at peak hours.
We’ve ordered jabche (a beef and vegetable stir-fry with rice and vermicelli noodles); barbecued beef pot and spicy chicken pot.
All meals are straight from the wok to the table, topped with finely shredded fresh cabbage, herbs and spring onion. You can still hear the food sizzling in its cast iron dish.
The chicken and barbecue beef come with miso soup and rice. Plastic cutlery or disposable chopsticks are self procured and we tentatively begin. This food is freshly cooked and while the aroma makes you want to delve in, wafting steam advises caution. It’s a great way of ensuring you take your food slowly and appreciate the flavours.
The chicken is not for the faint-hearted. Fresh chilli slices, complete with seeds, are plucked out and put to one side, there’s enough heat spice in this stir-fry dish without those little devils.
I’d prefer a bit less of the piquant sauce, which overwhelms the meat and vegetables, but the menu does show clearly a red chilli beside the item to indicate this will have some kick.
The chicken’s not a winner this time, the rice at the bottom is insufficient for the heat load and there are crispy bits where the food has overcooked and stuck to the pan.
Both the jabche and barbecue beef are loaded with crunchy veggies, tender meat and are more palatably seasoned.
Corea Corea has legions of fans for lunch and dinner based on the concept of generous portions, healthy food and sensible prices.
Be prepared to jump into the experience and go with the flow and you’re likely to join the throng of regular followers.