27 June 2004

Thai Food 3

Returning to our short series on Thai food, let's continue from where we left off.

This is “yum ma meung” or mango salad, a Thai favourite. These are made with young green unripe mangoes and not the soft and ripe orange-flesh fruity variety. These young mangoes have a hardier crunchy flesh and offers a sourish zing.

Shred it and mix well with sliced shallots, “khee nu” chili, roasted finely-dessicated coconut flesh, crushed peanuts, pounded dried prawns, fish sauce, lime juice, sugar and coriander leaves.

I like my yum ma meung light and dry (not soggy in sauce), as is the case here. The combination of ingredients blend perferctly and is sour, sweet and spicy all at once. This flavourful ensemble assaults your tastebuds with every bite. Just perfect!

This is “kaeng ched” or clear pork tofu soup, similar to the ones had in earlier posts. The variation here is the inclusion of dried seaweed in the soup.

This is "pla grapok lad prik", or deep-fried mullet fish in Thai chili sauce. The fish is so well deep-fried that you can just eat it whole, fish bones and all. Dip in the chili-oil sauce and pop it into your mouth. *crunch*crunch* Absolutely gorgeous.

Another take on my favourite “kaeng som”, or spicy sour fish soup (covered in detail in earlier posts).

This is “woon sen phat koong” or stir-fried glass noodles with prawns. “Woon sen” is mung bean noodles or cellophane noodles or 'fun-see' in Chinese. These noodles are stiffer than the other varieties of noodles and are identical to those used in Korean "jab chae" mixed veges.

Stir-fried with prawns, eggs, chinese cabbage, “cloud’s ear” mushroom and large onions. Nice.

Overall, another extremely satisfying meal. Thumbs up!

25 June 2004

Dakdori Tang

Today we're having Dakdori Tang (닭도리탕), or spicy chicken soup (more like stew to me anyway). This is the first time I'm having a go at this, so I'm really excited.

Watching telly while having your meal is common here. You should have seen these guys jumping and waving when the football game came on shortly after. Never mind the food was getting cold.

Panning left, we see this.

First to arrive was this "thing" - all bubbly, wobbly and spewing steam. A bowl of bath sponge?

Dig in and you'll see that it's a pot of steamed eggs, lined with minced pork at the bottom. It's been a while since I've had steamed eggs like this. Nice.

Then came the parade of side dishes.

Some green vege kimchi.

Odeng (fish cake) tossed in chili and sliced onions.

Fried anchovies with green chilies.

Jap chae (mixed vege) which we’ve covered in an earlier post.

Fried sliced potatoes.

This is the piece de’ resistance, dakdori tang. It’s made of chuncky cuts of chicken & potatoes in that bright red stew sauce, and topped with several kinds of mushrooms, sesame leaves and sliced leek. KRW25,000 for this mid-size portion (large - KRW35,000). Eaten with steamed rice.

The flame-red color reminds me of typical Southern Indian curry. Alas, despite its dangerous looking color and appearance, it was only mildly spicy. Nonetheless, it imparted an interesting flavour. The sauce (or soup if you want to call it that) is made from chicken stock, chili paste, red pepper powder, minced garlic, sesame oil, soya sauce and seasoned with salt and black pepper.

As with most stew, the longer you let it boil, the better in taste it gets. So be patient and wait a couple of minutes to let all that plain white chicken meat and potatoes absorb the full robust flavours of the sauce. When it thickens, then have a go at it.

Overall, I'd rate it a 6.5 out of 10. It's something new and interesting and a change from all the jaded food I've been having of late (which I hope helps explain the lack of interesting posts on the blog). From my limited observation, I've not seen many Seoul's eateries offering this. I wonder why.

23 June 2004

Tacos & Burritos

* I first started writing this post on 16 May 2004 but only managed to complete it today *

Prompted by a recent article in the Korea Herald, we're off to Chili Chili in Itaewon for some mexican food.

This is the entrance to Chili Chili. The yellow signboard will be hard to miss even from a distance, particularly from the Noksapyeong Subway Station where you get off.

The set up is simple. Which is fine by me since I don't want to be subsidising for the interior decor through the price of my food. The 2 guys behind the counter (let's pause and play the "spot the other guy" game) are the proprietors. Click on the link at the end of this post for some background info on these guys and how Chili Chili came to be.

It's a small somewhat cramp place. There's 3 small tables beside the kitchen counter and another bar-style counter facing the street outside. When we arrived, it was pretty packed with customers and was very hot inside.

This is the beef taco. KRW3,000. The soft taco shell is loaded with minced beef, shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes, onions, bell pepper, black olives, grated cheese, salsa sauce and sour cream.

It's pretty authentic and I especially like the freshness of the ingredients and the veges. I also like the bottled tobasco-like chili sauce that's on the table. Dash some on your taco for added zing. An ideal light snack. I'd need at least 3 of these to fill me up though. Me hungry. Need more.

I ordered the burrito next. This is the burrito. KRW4,000. This tortilla shell holds a generous portion of well seasoned minced beef cooked in enchilada sauce, mexican rice, refried beans and topped with shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes, bell pepper, grated cheese, pickled jalapenos, salsa sauce and sour cream.

Now we're talking. The burrito is fresh, hot and oozing with goodness. Thoroughly filling and satisfying. Thumbs up.

These are their nachos. KRW5,000 (if I remember correctly). For that, you get half a bag of nacho chips, melted cheese, salsa sauce and pickled green chilis.

I wish they gave more sauce as I like to drench my nachos in cheese and salsa. Then again, I never did ask them for seconds. I wonder now if they would have given it to me for free. I also like mine with guacamole and sour cream, but that's another story. Here it's kept pretty basic.

Overall, Chili Chili is a great place to get your Mexican food fix. The place is simple, prices reasonable and food is fresh and delicious.

Here are some links relating to Chili Chili:

JoongAng Daily's article

Enjoy Itaewon

Map to Chili Chili found at www.enjoyitaewon.com

Korea Herald's article (requires free registration to access the archives)


Needed to walk off all those taco and burrito. Here are some Itaewon street scenes taken on 16 May 2004. At that time, it was the start of the Hi Seoul! Festival, hence the apperance of all those banners hanging over the street.

In most literature you read on Seoul, Itaewon touts itself as "the place" for expatriates living in Seoul. While it may be true in some sense, especially when it comes to the diversity of food to be had, to me it's just a tourist trap.

During peak vacation seasons, you'll find busloads of tourists from all over crowding the single main street of Itaewon. If they finally do end up buying something from any of the many street vendors, chances are they're paying Itaewon prices (read "premium prices").

The expatriate community would have by now realised that Itaewon is so passe and you're more likely to get better bargains and more bang for your buck elsewhere in Seoul. Also, the US soldiers living in the nearby base at Itaewon will probably beat the crap out of me after reading this post.

22 June 2004

Thai Food 2

Sawatdee khrab.

Here are some hawker fares I had on the streets of Thailand. These are slanted towards Thai Chinese food.

This stall serves Hainanese-style chicken rice ("khao mun gai") and chicken noodles ("kway teaw gai"). Skinny chickens, aren't they?

I opted for the chicken noodle with rice vermicelli ("sen mee") instead of the broader "kway teaw" noodles. You get chicken stock (loaded with MSG) with rice vermicelli and pieces of chicken, including my favourite, chicken feet. Topped with a sprinkle of white pepper, spring onions and deep-fried shallots. Nice.

Don't forget to add the condiments (sorry no photos) you'll find on the table if you need further customisation. Typically, you'll find at least these 4 items on your table : (1) chili powder (2) vinegar (3) pickled sliced chili in vinegar (4) fish sauce. Sometimes even sugar. Thais have a penchant for adding sugar into almost anything.

This stall serves braised pork trotters ("kha moo"). It was way past lunch time when I got here, so there was not much left of anything.

This is the braised pork all sliced and ready to be eaten. Only thing missing was the salted (preserved) vege that usually accompanies this dish.

The trotters are braised for hours in soya sauce and a healthy dose of star anise, cinnamon sticks and a pinch of palm sugar. What you end up with is a soft, moist, fragrant salty meat with a tinge of sweetness. Nice.

Space is a premium here I guess.

20 June 2004

Land Of Smiles (Thai Food)

I'm back! First off, a thousand apologies for the deafening silence. My humblest thanks to those who have taken the time and left their comments on the blog and also to those who have written me e-mails asking if I had succumbed to cholesterol and died. As you can tell, I'm well and alive, fatter than ever but finally back in Korea. Thanks to all ye’ ole faithfuls for your kind words and support.

I've been on the road, making it difficult to blog. But rest assured, I've not abandoned this blog (yet) and you'll get to see what I've been chomping down while outside Kimchi-land. I'll intersperse this into my regular Korean coverage, if that's OK with you guys. If not, let me know and I'll remove it completely from the blog.

Well I return to Seoul only to be greeted by a typhoon, well somewhat. Seoul's been hit by heavy thunderstorm since Friday. It's been gloomy all weekend. But thankfully I'm not in the southern regions, which are having it worse. Rain or no rain, I'm back. So let's get on with business.

Arrived in the Land of Smiles (occasionally referred to as Thailand by some) on May 24. Hence my blog will take in some Thai flavours in the forthcoming days. If I do get anything wrong in my posts, I would hope that and appreciate if my small following of Thai readers, namely Lynn and chez pim would correct me should I err. Khob khun maak khrab in advance.

Upon setting foot on Thai soil, I needed a quick fix for some of my Thai favourites and ended up here.

The place is sparse and basic, but the food is awesome. Oops I've concluded prematurely.

For starters, we have the perennial favourite, “nam prik kapi”. Nam prik kapi is a chili sauce heavily flavoured with dried (fermented) shrimp paste and finished with a squish of lime juice and a dash of “nam pla”(fish sauce). This is also known as “sambal belacan” in neighbouring Malaysia.

It is usually accompanied by raw vegetables. Here, we have “taeng kwa” (cucumber), "thua fug yaew” (long beans) and “thua phu” (winged beans or four-angled beans) on the left.

I also ordered my favourite, “setor” (in Thai, “petai” in Malay) which can be eaten raw or lightly grilled. That's it on the right.

This is how the setor looks like peeled. In English, it's popularly referred to as “smelly beans”, which if you’ve ever tried it will probably attest to. If you’re going to have setor, plan to walk around with bad breath for the next couple of hours. Hmmm ...... I’m missing it already.

The nam prik kapi acts as a dipping sauce for the vege accompaniment. It also goes well with plain rice or just about anything. It notches everything up a step. The nam prik kapi is extremely spicy and will blow the roof off any house. The chilis used to make this is typically “prik kheenu” (sometimes referred to in English literature as “bird’s eye chili”), a small tiny variety of chili which despite its size is extremely potent. It’s even smaller and spicier than the “cili padi” found in Malaysia. The essence of a good nam prik kapi is the use of a pestle and mortar to blend it all in, and never with any device that requires an electrical socket. The nam prik kapi here is as authentic as it gets. Burn lips buuuuuuuuurrrrrrnnnnnnn!

Next up is “phat phed pla krapong”, which means spicy stir-fried seabass. Sliced seabass stir fried in curry paste, ground chilies, shallots, basil and sliced chilies. Simple but absolutely yummy. Another lip numbing delicacy.

To balance things off, this is “kaeng ched” which is clear soup of minced pork, cabbage, tube tofu and garnished with cilantro. Kid’s stuff.

This is another of my all-time Thai favourite, “kaeng som pla”. Kaeng actually refers to soup or curry, som is orange (but in this context is closer to lime/sour), and pla is fish. So kaeng som pla translate literally to sour fish soup.

As the name suggests, it's an extremely spicy, sourish soup made with sliced fish, on this occassion, seabass, “nor mai” (bamboo shoots), sour curry paste (chilies, shallots, garlic, galangal, kapi shrimp paste, fish sauce), lime juice, more fish sauce, tamarind solution and sliced chilies. Absolutely gorgeous. Gets me salivating even thinking about it now as I write.

Double thumbs up for these glorious Thai food. All for approximately 500 Baht (~US$14). Stay tuned for more.

And Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers out there.