What comes to mind when you think of comfort food?
For me, it’s always been and always will be anything Korean, especially my mom’s cooking. Nothing beats her touch, from congee to her famous spicy king crab hot pot. One of my childhood favourites is donkkaseu (돈까스), the Korean version of the popular Japanese pork cutlet. One would be hard pressed to resist a crispy fried pork cutlet.
My birthday happened to fall in the middle of our Vancouver trip, and while Mark was thinking we should go somewhere special for dinner, what I wanted most was some comfort food. Luckily, I tracked down a shop that specifically serves all things kkaseu, aptly named Dae Ji Pork Cutlet House, which happened to be less than a block from our hotel (“Dae Ji” essentially translates to “pig”).
The shop itself is very simple and homey; with its bright orange walls, minimal decor, and run-of-the-mill furniture. It was fairly quiet when we arrived, with just a couple of tables besides us. I did see the place packed during lunch time when I passed by earlier, so I didn’t make much of the relative emptiness that evening. People were probably out at pubs closer to Rogers Arena; the Canucks were playing the Blackhawks that night.
I didn’t expect that their menu would be that big, so I was pleasantly surprised to see a variety of kkaseu available. Ranging from the traditional pork cutlet, they also have chicken, fish, curry versions of the pork and chicken, hamburger steaks, special cutlets (pizza pork cutlet, anyone?), and a variety of rice dishes. Apparently they’re famous for their kimchi fried rice, but you will not see this Korean try that anytime soon.
As much as I love the traditional pork cutlet, I went with the fish cutlet instead, as it was on special that night and I wanted to try something different. This is kind of like the Korean version of fish and chips, albeit without the chips. It came with a creamy tartar-like sauce, shredded cabbage with a very mildly spiced yet sweet dressing, pickled radish, macaroni, corn, and steamed rice. First of all, this plate is huge. The portion size is definitely on the generous side. Secondly, the side dishes – with the exception of the shredded cabbage and steamed rice, since they’re usually standard with this type of food – were quite quirky. The macaroni was dressed in what I guessed to be gochujang. This threw me for a loop, but I ended up really liking it, as it gave a nice spicy finish. The corn was the standard canned variety, so nothing too special there. Now onto the fish itself, which was amazingly crispy, moist, and just all around delightful. Even thought it was deep-fried, it wasn’t greasy or heavy; I found it surprisingly light. It was sheer joy every time I heard the loud “crrruuuunch” of the crispy exterior as I was eating it. I got 4 generous-sized pieces in total and they were all happily consumed.
Mark went with the curry pork cutlet, which came with the same side dishes as the fish cutlet. Two gigantic pieces of pork cutlet smothered in a rich gravy – you can’t go wrong there. The pork cutlets held up well in the gravy (the breading didn’t get all mushy and fall apart). I tried a piece and I found the gravy to be well-seasoned and not too heavy. The pork cutlets themselves were divine – crispy, moist, and reminiscent of my mom’s kkaseu. This got my stamp of approval.
It may not be 4-star dining, it may not seem “special” enough for a birthday dinner, but it was exactly what I was craving and it fit the bill. The service was fast, yet friendly (typical Korean style), the prices are decent for the amount of food you get (great value), and they do the kkaseu justice by keeping it simple.
I’ll definitely go back to check out some of their other offerings on my next trips to Vancouver and I’d say they’re doing pretty good in meeting their daily mission of “delivering the best cutlets”.
Dae Ji Pork Cutlet House
519 Dunsmuir Street
Vancouver, BC V6B3K4
Phone: (604) 677-1636