Soy sauce, garlic, and sesame create flavors that are … Korealicious

Michelle Werner stands between her daughters Bretagne and Steph, the chefs at Korealicious. 

Story & Photo by Deborah Lynch

Address: 829 State St., Lemoyne
Phone: 717-317-9015
Open: Tuesday-Saturday 11:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m.
Takeout encouraged
Covid-19 updates: Indoor dining room seating available at 25 percent capacity; dining room regularly sanitized; social distancing enforced.
Years in service: 7, but 2½ under current owners
Busiest times: Thursdays for chicken wings, which are first-come, first-served; Friday and Saturday nights
Chefs: Steph Werner and Bretagne Werner
Most popular dishes: Bibimbap, pork belly, bulgogi, deep fried dumplings
Price range: Entrees range from $10-$20
Alcohol: BYOB
Owners:The Werner family — Stephen, Michelle, Steph, and Bretagne

In a time when supporting local businesses has never been more important, dining at Korealicious in Lemoyne also supports four members of an entire family, each of whom is pouring his and her specialities and soul into the restaurant. Sisters Steph and Bretagne Werner are co-owners/operators along with their parents Stephen and Michelle Werner. “We all do a little bit of everything from top to bottom,” Steph said. 

Steph and Bretagne run the kitchen, Michelle takes care of customers, phone, orders, and money, and Stephen does the accounting. Together, they found a balance in the 2½ years they have owned the popular restaurant that Steph discovered when it first opened seven years ago. “It was one of my favorite restaurants. I started going once in a while, then my parents started going. We became friends with the owners. Koreans flock together. … When their son went to college, they were looking for someone to take it over.”

Steph had the kitchen background after starting as a teenager at a Sheetz in Hummelstown and working for years in the kitchens of multiple different chain restaurants in the area. The variety of styles have carried over into her creations for Korealicious, where she turned her burrito-making skills from days at Neato Burrito into a fusion with Korean food — the Bibimbap Burrito, which features the Bibimbap ingredients of rice, veggies, marinated beef, and fried egg wrapped into a package that Steph brags is “aesthetically pretty to look at.”

The Werners serve some traditional dishes that date back centuries. Bibimbap is an ancient dish that is made in a stone bowl, then heated over an open flame. “It sizzles. It crackles when we serve it,” Steph said, adding that it is a perfectly balanced meal with kale, zucchini, carrots, sprouts, and the Korean spicy cabbage — kimchi — along with the rice, meat and egg. They also serve the popular bulgogi, which is a sweet marinated beef. 

The Werner family has ties to that ancient history as Michelle has traced her lineage to Royal heritage that goes back centuries. She and Stephen, who hailed from Harrisburg, met in Seoul when he was traveling in Korea. He surprised her doubting family when he returned to bring her back with him to Central Pennsylvania. In turn, she has brought her country’s cuisine along with her and gifted it to her children.

“Korean food is like soul food,” Steph said, saying that just describing it was making her hungry.

Central Pennsylvania diners raised on a more bland Pennsylvania Dutch diet don’t have to fear the exoticness of Korean cuisine. “The common misconception about Asian food is that people think it’s spicy — I would say it is sweet and savory. There’s a lot of garlic, teriyaki/soy sauce flavor, fruits in marinades [like pears], and sesame oil, which is a big component.” Her mother also makes gochujang, a red chili paste that has been growing in popularity with chefs.

“There was a time when I wished I could eat Korean food every day. Now, I’m living that dream,” Steph said.

Harrisburg Magazine staff reviews of Korealicious:

“I loved the pork belly. It was like nothing I ever had before. The lettuce wraps were delicious. The kimchi was fresh and perfect.” —Mike Jurosky, Director of Sales and Marketing 

“Although this might be an unfamiliar cuisine to many, Korealicious serves food to meet every taste, from spicy rice cakes (dukbokki) to sweet potato noodles (japchae) to lettuce wraps. The sticky, crunchy, and peppery chicken wings made a believer out of me, and I don’t like wings!” —Deborah Lynch, Editor

“Where do I start? The pork belly is crunchy with a fantastic spicy sauce. Wings are sweet yet spicy — absolutely delicious. My favorite is mandu, the deep fried dumpling with various fillings and sweet sauce. My first ever kimchi pancake — I’ll certainly have them again.” —Christina Heintzelman, Director of Operations

“Korean food is something I haven’t tried, but man it was good. I tried the noodles, pork belly and spicy rice cakes (dukbokki) and I really enjoyed it.” —Darwin Oordt, President/CEO

“I never had Korean food before, but it was delicious! I loved the wings (the best wings); they were super delicious. Also, the noodles (japchae), rice cake, and the dumplings were all the best dishes! I would definitely order from them again!” —Laura Reich, Graphic Designer

“Korealicious provided Harrisburg Magazine with a delicious lunch. My favorite was the kimchi pancake. I will be visiting there soon!” —Jo Ann Shover, Account Executive 

Korean cooking at home can spice up weeknights

Many chefs protect their secret recipes. Years ago, one of my Swedish exchange students shared her family’s secret Dream cookie recipe with us. It became my family’s favorite Christmas cookie. Two years later, we hosted a different Swedish student for a year, but she was a friend of the first one, so they kept in touch with one another. Soon after we baked the Dream cookies, I got an email from the first student saying I shouldn’t share the Dream cookie recipe with other Swedes. I think she was kidding, but was she? 

Similarly, Michelle Werner wants to keep the Korealicious recipes in her family and restaurant — maybe to create the mystique that keeps customers coming back. I wanted to share a Korean recipe with readers though, to show that Korean food can be as spicy or not as individuals want and that it doesn’t have to be difficult to create in the home kitchen.

I turned to a Korean friend of my daughter for help. Miyong Kwon, who attended Wilson College in Chambersburg, PA, as an international student from a sister college in Seoul for the 2013-2014 college year, shared her recipe for bulgogi, which she described as being easy. Miyong studied economics while at Wilson College, and today is pursuing her master’s in economics at a university in Korea while also teaching English at an academy there. She has fond memories of her days in Pennsylvania, especially of making local friends, and visiting places like Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Hershey.

My daughter, who was visiting for the weekend from Philadelphia, helped me to prepare the bulgogi for our dinner recently. It was easy — and was quite delicious. We used Miyong’s recipe and adapted it a bit to our tastes. We like it spicier, so we added the Korean chili paste called gochujang, but that can easily be left out.

Serves 2
For the marinade:
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. red cooking wine
1 Tbsp. anchovy paste (or one anchovy chopped with a dash of the oil)
1½  Tbsp. sesame oil
3 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 Tsp. minced garlic
2 Tbsp. sesame seeds
1 Tbsp. gochujang (Korean chili paste)
Ground black pepper to taste
To stir fry:
10½ ounces beef chuck roast, sliced thin
¼ cup green onions, chopped on a bias
Half an onion, chopped
Half a red pepper, chopped
Make the marinade first. Slice the fat from the roast, then slice into thin, small pieces. Pour the marinade over the beef, cover, and refrigerate for an hour to overnight. 
When ready to make the bulgogi, first add a tablespoon of olive oil to a skillet, then add the green onions and stir fry for a few minutes. Add the beef mixture and the other vegetables. Stir fry to your desired doneness. Serve over rice.