6.037 Taste Test : Hetbahn, Supplemented


11 (Wed) Feb 2015

Taste Test : Hetbahn, Supplemented


by CJ CheilJedang

in my apartment

-Ermita, Manila-

with MK+CS, KK, TL

While Koreans typically prepare rice by steaming it plain, they also like to add supplements, such as grains and/or legumes, for deeper flavor, boosted nutrition, prettier appearance.  I don’t know of any other food culture that does so, at least not during the initial steam.

The best thing about budae jjigae is that it’s unabashedly full of crap; the second best thing is that good stuff can also be included; no matter what, making the dish provides an opportunity to clean out the fridge.
A convenient sauce base from food company Beksul.

Hetbahn is a semi-instant rice product invented by the Korean food company CJ CheilJedang.  Consists of cooked rice that’s partially condensed and vacuum-packed in a plastic bowl.  Reheated/reanimated in a microwave oven for a couple minutes, the rice comes out perfect, exactly like freshly steamed rice, but better because the consistency is precise every time–indeed, the slogan in Korean is “Rice that tastes better than rice.”  Other companies now make the same kind of product (see for example 6.021 Bibimbap), each under a different brand name (e.g., “haepssal”)–more or less the same in quality–but the original is so famous that “hetbahn” has now become the generic term for them all (e.g.,”aspirin”).

Yes, it is.
Components include [from top]: rice cakes, egg, ramen, kimchi, tofu, scallion, pea leaves, kangkong, onion, zucchini, shiitake, Hebrew National beef franks, SPAM.
Dried seaweed, which I’ve already posted on (see above), and other canned side dishes, which I may cover in a future post–all good with rice.

As a follow-up to their plain hetbahn (see for example 6.023 Flavored Seaweed), CJ has developed a series of supplemented rice cups in 5 varieties: (1) Rice & Black Bean, (2) Five Grains, (3) Barley Rice, (4) Black Rice, (5) Sprouted Brown Rice.

I invited the gang over to help me conduct a taste test of all 5 varieties.

An ideal accompaniment for rice with its spicy and salty components, I prepared budae jjigae.

When I develop a dish that features these sprouts more prominently, I’ll write more about them (see generally 5.010 Stir-Fried Malaysian Noble Leaves with Garlic).

The rice cups were fine.  Texturally, each turned out perfectly, as hetbahn always does.  In terms of flavor, I preferred the ones in which the supplements were more subtle, taking a secondary role to the rice.  However, I couldn’t really tell that much difference between them when drowned in budae jjigae–which, given its overpowering quality, may not have been the best choice to facilitate a taste test, come to think of it (kinda like how a whole wheat bun wouldn’t really stand out in, say, a meatball sub loaded with sauce and cheese).  But they all felt more healthful (like wheat bread).  And looked nicer (like wheat bread).  So, although I wouldn’t go out of my way to obtain them, I’d buy if available, why not.

In ascending order of preference:

Rice & Black Bean (2.5)–okay for people who like beans, as the beans come through very strong in the flavor profile.
Five Grains (2.5)–comprising the supplements from the other 4 varieties plus millet, the heartiest of the bunch, though hardcore five-grain rice can be much heartier.
Barley Rice (2.5)–the most common, the most plain.
Black Rice (3.0)–when steamed directly, the black rice turns the rice much more purple than this, presenting a striking visual, though the flavor isn’t particularly noteworthy.
Sprouted Brown Rice (3.5)–a bit of chew and nuttiness from the grain; this is the one for me.

7 thoughts on “6.037 Taste Test : Hetbahn, Supplemented

  1. if somebody needs to find a place for decent korean at-home meals in ermita/malate in manila, your place would be the one. good that at least your friends could have a decent korean meal; hope they enjoyed the meal, though it seemed a bit spicy for them.

    1. well, i just assembled the ingredients; the sauce pack did the work. but thanks for your vote of confidence.

      actually, nobody found the stew to be very spicy. maybe because of all the rice?

Leave a Reply