Ho Lee Chow: As Good As It Gets
Don’t give up on the search for good, old-fashioned, authentic Chinese food in Korea. OK, scratch the authentic part. It’s probably not that old fashioned either. But for foreigners, this is as close as you’ll get to the Chinese food back home – wherever back home is.
Ho Lee Chow is “straight outta Chinatown.” At least that’s what the slogans say on T-shirts worn by the waitstaff. Take note, it didn’t read “straight outta China.” This Canadian-based restaurant chain serves up a deliberate Western-style slant on the cuisine.
Starting with the eggroll, choose from vegetable spring rolls (4,500 won), shrimp spring rolls (5,500 won), or wonton rolls (6,900).
The lightly fried sautéed-to-perfection Garlic Shrimp appetizer (11,900 won) also works well as a main course, with a side of vegetables.
This is obviously where all of the shrimp fried rice in Korea has been hiding. The various selections are a Ho Lee Chow specialty (8,500 won to 9,900 won/small).
The House Fried Rice is tossed with shrimp and squid. The Shrimp and Bacon Garlic Fried Rice, served with real bacon strips, is the most exotic of the choices that also include Szechuan, vegetable and beef. A small size is ideal for a single entrée, or you can order the larger sizes to share (11,500 won to 13,900 won).
The English-Hangul menu of popular Chinese dishes is inviting to read, and the photos look deceptively delicious. “What you see in the photo is pretty much what you get on the plate,” says Darren Grant of Seoul, who admits is not a fan of most Chinese food in Korea.
But the Ho Lee Chow regular says the restaurant does not disappoint. “The vegetables are fresh. The atmosphere is great. You can’t beat that,” says Grant, who’s originally from Canada.
General Tso’s Chicken (13,900 won) is one of the most popular dishes for expats. The chicken is not fried but stewed in a flavorful mild sauce with a red and green pepper medley. Try the Kung Pao Chicken (13,900 won) for a spicier kick.
The zingy Lemon Chicken and the spicy Orange Chicken (both 13,900 won) are each served with the respective citrus slices. The Sweet and Sour Chicken with pineapples, onions and red and green peppers (13,500 won) will taste familiarly good. If you like it hot, try the Szechuan Chicken (13,500 won).
Vanita Stewart, of Seoul, has been to the restaurant countless times. It’s similar to what she can find her native South Africa. “I like the reasonable prices, the friendly staff and the quality food,” says Stewart, explaining that you can actually taste the freshness.
It’s true. The crisp vegetables do more than decorate the plate or accompany the sauces here. So diners may find themselves eating the greens instead of brushing them to the side.
Ho Lee Chow brands itself as a healthy purveyor of Asian cuisine. Its ingredients are fresh, dishes are cooked to order, and there is no MSG added, according to the restaurant.
Complimentary Jasmine tea is a nice touch with each meal. It’s served warm, but you can request an icy kettle. The naturally semi-sweet after-taste is refreshing and a great alternative to sugary colas and juices.
Mongolian Beef (14,900 won) and Ho Lee’s Eggplant with Pork (14,900 won), two numbers you may not see in every Chinese restaurant, are worth a try. And if you’re in the mood for seafood, consider one of the shrimp plates (17,500 won to 19,900 won), jumbo prawn dishes (26,900 won) or lobster platters (39,900 won to 49,000 won).
Make a pit stop at Ho Lee Chow to share a lunch set with a companion or a dinner set with friends. If you’re not headed to a Chinatown soon, this should hold you over until then.