The Bonga Korean restaurant at the back of the Han Yang Asian supermarket in central Dublin is the epitome of a cheap eat. For just over €5, man or woman can fill their belly with a good plate of Korean food. It’s certainly not easy to find. The Han Yang supermarket is on Great Strand St, just at the corner of the capital’s Italian Quarter on the northside of the Liffey. Ring a bell?
Once you can find that, you must venture down to the end of the shop to find Bonga, a small food hall. The menu is limited but they have a very good lunch deal for €5.50 – a bowl of fishcake soup, and three main dishes of your choice with boiled or fried rice. For an extra 40c you can get a can of soft drink (Coke, Sprite etc.)
The main dishes available when I was there included Korean crispy sweet and sour pork, pork in Kimchi (spicy cabbage), prawns with noodles and beansprouts and a beef dish we didn’t go for. The lunch deal was more than enough food for one person and, unlike other cheap Asian meals I’ve had in Dublin, didn’t result in strange goings on in my bowels over the coming days.
The last time I have gotten this kind of value was in a place I used to go to when unemployed and living in Vancouver, Canada ten years ago. Pushing through a wall of dirty but polite crystal meth heads on East Hastings Avenue in downtown Vancouver, one found ‘Save on Meats’, the biggest butchers you’re likely to find, with a small diner at the back. For five dollars one could feast on meats of all kinds including burgers, steaks and sausages accompanied by chips, coleslaw and vegetables etc. This really was stretching the dollar. Best not to think too much about where the meat was coming from, though.
The difference with Bonga, however, is that it is frequented predominantly by Koreans (unlike the Save On Meats diner, which was usually full with bums and poor students like me). I’ve said it before but it is generally a good sign if you see Koreans in a Korean restaurant, Chinese in a Chinese takeaway, Italians in an Italian pizzeria etc. It seems suspicious that they can make food at such competitive prices but maybe their costs are low. Come on people, convince yourself it’s true.
Han Yang Supermarket
22 Great Strand Street
01 887 4405