Rice Crook’s Spicy Korean Fried Chicken Bao – The GW Hatchet

Media credit: Elissa Detellis | Personal photographer

Rice Crook’s Spicy Korean Fried Chicken Bao consists of a soft bun, crunchy vegetables and tender chicken.

Explore your culinary palette at Rice Crook, an Asian fusion restaurant serving Korean-inspired rice bowls and bao buns.

Located in Ballston Quarter, a food hall with over 20 restaurants, Rice Crook is just a five minute walk from Ballston MU tube station. Ballston, just four subway stops on the Orange or Silver line, is essentially a foodie’s paradise with 50 restaurants within a five-block radius, and with inventive neighbors like Ice Cream Jubilee and pierogi shop Rogi, I was excited to return to Ballston Quarter to try Rice Crook.

The restaurant was created by chef Scott Chung, who also launched Bun’d Up, a bao-only restaurant, and co-creator of Wild Tiger BBQ, a pop-up restaurant combining southern barbecue cuisine with Asian flavors . Knowing that Chung was the creative mind behind Rice Crook made me even more eager to get my hands on some of the restaurant’s baos.

Rice Crook’s decor is minimalist with simple hanging incandescent lights and a wall with Polaroids of their customers. The dining room provides a relaxing environment and offers enough space to feel comfortable camping at a table with friends for hours eating and engaging in a lively discussion about whether bao buns can be considered sandwiches. The restaurant has plenty of indoor seating options, but since it was a beautiful day, I decided to soak up the sun on some of their outdoor seating.

Since I was craving crispy fried chicken, I chose the spicy Korean fried chicken bao. The restaurant offers three baos for $12, so you can mix and match your order with intriguing options like Korean barbecue, mushrooms, and Asian-spiced fried shrimp.

The buns came stacked in a row, filled with fried chicken, coleslaw and green onions, served in all compostable wrappers. As for the bao buns, the dish held up well and I was able to eat with my hands without making too much of a mess, but I recommend getting a pair of chopsticks or a fork from the pick up counter for all the trim you lose along the way.

The hot roll was soft and chubby, as it should be, and provided a stable base for the fried chicken and coleslaw. The chicken, although coated in the sweet and spicy Korean barbecue sauce, retained its crispness. The cool coleslaw, combining both purple and green cabbage and tossed in a light but creamy dressing, was a nice complement to the heat of the chicken.

The bao was delicious and had all the textures you hope to find in a bao bun – soft bread, crunchy veggies, and crunchy yet tender chicken. Unlike some baos I’ve tried in the past, the sauce wasn’t sweet or overpowering. My only criticism is that the coleslaw could use a bit of spiciness, but that probably could have been solved with the addition of their cilantro-lime aioli, which can be requested separately.

For those who prefer a bowl to a bao, fret not. Rice Crook serves make-your-own bowls ($12-$13), so visitors can choose one of the protein bao choices or an extra tofu option served with toppings like cucumber kimchi, fried garlic and shallots.

The restaurant offers a variety of drinks and their cucumber kimchi for sale in eight-ounce ($4) and 16-ounce ($8) options. Head to District Donut to satisfy your sweet tooth after your tasty meal.

Take a fun afternoon excursion with friends, sample satisfying Rice Crook baos and explore Ballston.

About Francis Harris

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