When we spoke exactly a week ago (or rather, when I typed at you exactly a week ago), I excitedly regaled to you my plans for a vegan tour of New York City with my parents in prolonged celebration of Thanksgiving. While I preferred not to interrupt my four-day familial reunion in the Big Apple with the scribing of blog posts, I now eagerly return to the online vegan community to at least somewhat relive, and perhaps allow you to somewhat experience, one of the most unforgettable Thanksgivings of my life thus far.
After reveling in a mess of hugs and smiles in the hotel lobby, my parents and I began our NYC excursion on Thursday evening with a stroll down Park Avenue to Hangawi for Thanksgiving dinner. Providing an intimate and quite special dining experience, Hangawi’s cozy atmosphere features mahongany tables sunken beneath floor level—at which patrons sit shoeless and the waitstaff kneels to serve you—adorned with jewel-toned cushions and calligraphy-etched candles. All exceptionally content in our Korean refuge away from the standard chaos of modern Thanksgiving, my parents and I stuck our noses into Hangawi’s tantalizing menu, which even includes a special gluten-free section.
For appetizers, my mother and I opted to split the organic wheat-free kale pancakes off of the gluten-free menu, while my father gravitated toward the spicy baby dumplings.
Boasting a creamy, steaming hot interior encased in a crisp outer layer that offered a pleasing crunch when bitten into, the kale pancakes blew the socks off of the tastebuds of both my mother and myself. The sweet rice flour diffused the inherently green flavor of kale, though the method of pan-frying the cakes intensified the kale’s hidden smoky flavor, most effectively and frequently teased out in the form of kale chips. While I, unfortunately, did not sample the dumplings due to their gluten-y-ness, my father attested to their deliciousness, even though he could not deduce for the life of him what constituted their filling. All I could offer to satisfy his inquiries: “It’s something vegan!” Indeed, I attempt whenever possible to identify vegan foods my father consumes on a regular basis to prove the accessibility of my diet to him, though I’m quite greatful for the surprising amount of support he provides me in my lifestyle choices.
At my enthusiastic recommendation (since my mother and I visited Hangawi on our last trip to NYC two winters ago), all three of us ordered a sizzling stone bowl for our entree. Both my father and I chose the avocado stone bowl—a medley of vegetables, tofu, and avocado over brown rice, smothered in miso sauce—while my mother opted for the vegetarian stone bowl—mixed veggies over brown rice mixed with spicy chili paste.
Ordering a stone bowl at Hangawi proves quite a performance: the servers bring a sizzling-hot, hefty black bowl to the table, pour in a sauce, and mix all the ingredients together to form a succulent mess of vegan goodness. The bowl continues sizzling throughout your entire eating experience, forming a layer of crunchy rice on the bottom of the bowl that serves as the most delicious aspect of the dish, aptly saved to enjoy at the very end.
Meal Checklist: Protein—tofu. Whole Grain—sweet brown rice flour, brown rice. Vegetables—mixed veggies including avocado, carrots, and mushrooms in stone bowl. Leafy Greens—kale, nori in stone bowl.
Happily satiated after our extravagant experience full of wholesome food, none of my family reserved room enough in our stomachs to partake in dessert, though the blueberry coconut cake and the iced green tea float certainly merit another trip down to the city in the near future.
Our post-dinner amble led us up 5th Avenue back to the hotel, where my parents and I retired to dream of our first full day in the city, promising a lengthy promenade through Central Park, lunch at Candle Cafe East, a tour of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and dinner at Caravan of Dreams.
Comment Provoking Questions: Did you do anything unorthodox to celebrate Thanksgiving? Have you ever had the pleasure of dining at Hangawi?
Until next time, Ali.