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1.085 Moroccan Sandwich


-Cycle 1, Item 85-
31 (Wed) March 2010

-Moroccan-
Moroccan Sandwich

* * * * *

at Maakouda Sandiwich

-Itaewon, Seoul-

I don't know if there's really a thing called a "Moroccan sandwich" (or "sandiwich").  As far as I know, there's only this one guy in Itaewon that makes them.  And the guy claims to be Iraqi, which is further reason to doubt.

In any case, the sandwich consisted of a lamb meatball and what appeared to be a potato knish, which the guy mashed together and rough chopped and cooked in oil of some sort on a flat grill, added diced onion and a sprinkle of sugar, then scrambled an egg into the mix, stuffed it all in a soft hoagie roll, and topped it off with white (yogurt) and red (spicy) sauces. Without question, the best street food in Korea. Maybe the best that I've ever had in my life.

One time, sitting and drinking at home, I got the craving, so I walked down to the taxi stand, got in a cab, informed the driver of my intention for a roundtrip, took the 20-minute ride to Itaewon, to the street corner where the truck is usually parked, got out of the cab, bought 1 for myself and 1 for the cab driver, ate it on the spot, leaning against his cab, got back into the cab, and returned home (the driver didn't charge me for the return trip). They're that good.

The sandwich probably would've received 6 stars in the past, especially that first time I had one--a mind-blowing experience. Maybe I've had one too many since then. Maybe the guy changed the recipe. Maybe he, or I, was having an off-night. But tonight, it just wasn't...perfect...the way that it had once seemed.

1.084 Sauteed Flatfish

MEAL 1.084
30 March 2010

-Korean-
Sauteed Flatfish

by me

HOME
Oksu, Seoul

* * *

1.083 Deep-Fried Eggplant in Chili-Garlic Sauce

-Cycle 1, Dinner 83-
29 March 2010

-Chinese-
Deep-Fried Eggplant in Chili-Garlic Sauce

* * *

at Ha-Ha

-Yeonnam, Seoul-

My second foray into the quasi-Taiwan/Chinatown located in and around the Yeonnam/Yeonhi (연남/연희) neighborhoods. As I noted in an earlier post on my first foray (see 1.063 Taiwan Shrimp), I appreciate the fact that the restaurants here offer dishes that aren't available in mainstream Chinese restaurants throughout the country.

Overall, this dish wasn't really a radical departure from any other deep-fried chili-garlic sauce dish, say with chicken, but the use of eggplant was unique (although I've seen eggplant on the menus at other restaurants in the area). At 12,000 won for the plate, definitely worth a try.

1.082 Chicken Tikka, Dal Makhani

MEAL 1.081
28 March 2010

-Indian-
Chicken Tikka
Dal Makhani

plus naan

by me

at home

Oksu
Seoul

* *

I'm going to label this as a "by me" meal, because it involved actual cooking and tweaking of the seasonings here and there, but the basic spice mixes and flour mixture for the naan all came from various boxes. Despite the slick photo, each and every item here was awful, not inedible so as to warrant a 1-star rating, but really close.

1.081 Grilled Pork Galbi

-Cycle 1, Item 81-
27 March 2010

-Korean-
Grilled Pork Galbi

* * * *

at Bon-Ga (본가)

-Oksu, Seoul-

While this exact same dish at the exact same restaurant was the subject of the inaugural post (see 1.001 Grilled Pork Galbi), one additional comment concerns the ideal method of cooking galbi, which is to grill it over oak charcoal on a grill of some sort that minimizes the surface area in contact with the meat. The oak charcoal imparts a soft smoky flavor, unlike charcoal briquettes or gas flames. As for the grill, it allows for the fat and excess marinade to drip into the fire, which in turn prevents buildup of caramelization on the meat and leaves it crisp and light; the drippings also cause the fire to flare up on occasion, thus intensifying the smokiness.

1.079 Tomatoes and Cauliflower


-Cycle 1, Item 79-
25 (Thu) March 2010

-Universal-
Tomatoes and Cauliflower

by me

at home

-Oksu, Seoul-

Of course, the drawback to this dietary method is that I get hungry a few minutes later and end up glutting myself to compensate. 


1.078 Hai/Hash Rice Meal


-Cycle 1, Item 78-
24 (Wed) March 2010

-Japanese-
Hai/Hash Rice Meal

* *

at Ajou University Hospital Cafeteria

-Suwon, GyeongGi-

As seen in the photo, the steamed rice was served smothered in a brown sauce containing chunks of potato, carrot, and onions. The dish is referred to orally as "hai rice" (하이라이스), though packages of the instant sauce base sold in stores are labeled in English as "hash rice." I suspect that it may originally be Japanese, partly because "hai" sounds Japanese, perhaps some derivation of "hash" (?), but mainly because the products are always found next to the Japanese-style curries. Whatever the name, whatever the national origin, it's very similar to a Japanese-style curry, darker in color yet lighter in taste with less spices, almost like a soft steak sauce. And like curry, it's one of those quick-fix items that moms make for young kids or cafeterias serve to the student masses.

Of the 5 side dishes, 3 of them are some form of kimchi.

1.077 Oyster Sauce Chicken with Bokchoy, Bamboo, and Cauliflower


-Cycle 1, Item 77-
23 (Tue) March 2010

-Chinese-
Oyster Sauce Chicken with Bokchoy, Bamboo, and Cauliflower

* * * * *

by me

at home

-Oksu, Seoul-

Same deal as before (see 1.010 Oyster Sauce Chicken with Bokchoy and Broccoli) but with cauliflower instead. The higher rating here is attributed to the texture of the sauce, which I got just right this time, the difference being that I added the chicken at the very end, after the sesame oil, just prior to serving. Because the chicken has a deep-fried coating, it tends to absorb sauce very quickly and get a bit soggy. Adding it last preserves the sauce and keeps the coating crispy.

1.076 Burrito with Shrimp, Black Olives, and Zucchini

MEAL 1.076
22 March 2010

-Mexican-
Burrito with Shrimp, Black Olives, and Zucchini

by me

home
Oksu, Seoul

* * * *

1.075 Pork Schnitzel with Black Olives in Marinara Sauce


-Cycle 1, Item 75-
21 (Sun) March 2010

-Austrian-
Pork Schnitzel with Black Olives in Marinara Sauce

2.5

by me

at home

-Oksu, Seoul-

Having determined that schnitzel works best with a simple pork fillet (see 1.002 Pork Schnitzel;1.019 Beef, Pork Schnitzel; 1.065 Pork, Shrimp Schnitzel), I thought that I should come up with a sauce or some sort, which had been missing in my previous efforts. But rather than go through the effort of actually making something from scratch--isn't the schnitzel enough?--I decided to try canned marinara, along with some sliced black olives. Not bad.

1.074 Tuna Sashimi


-Cycle 1, Item 74-
20 March 2010

-Japanese-
Tuna Sashimi

3.5

at Chamchi Land

-Geumgok, Bundang-

Another example of the Korean bastardization of foreign fare: the tuna sashimi restaurant. It's Japanese to the extent that the fish is raw and presented like sashimi, served with soy sauce, wasabi, and gari (pickled ginger). But somewhere along the line, Koreans developed an alternate system for tuna, and tuna alone, which involves dipping the fish in sesame oil and salt, then wrapping it in a laver (dried seaweed) sheet with radish sprouts. The fish is all-u-can-eat, a waitress bringing refills to the table as soon as the platter is empty. And like any sashimi restaurant in Korea, serving tuna or otherwise, the standard sides include abalone porridge, spicy fish stew, spicy braised fish, buttered corn, salad with some kind of fruit-mayonnaise dressing, raw cucumbers with spicy bean paste dipping sauce, kimchi, and usually finished off with a sushi hand roll or rice hot pot of fish roe. When the tuna sashimi craze hit its peak about five years ago, a given establishment usually offered a range of options from as low as KRW15,000 (about US$12) per person for a basic order up to KRW50,000 for the "special" cuts of fish. On a side note, it's funny that the laver is always provided in single-serving packages containing about small five sheets (ostensibly intended for quick, convenient consumption on the go); by the end of the meal, the table is strewn with piles of discarded cellophane.

A five-minute walk from my parents' apartment in Bundang, my family has frequented Chamchi (참치) Land--chamchi is Korean for "tuna"--since it first opened in 2004. Frankly, most of these places are exactly the same, with the same menu offerings and same quality fish; what differentiates the dining experience is the relationship the diner has with the sushi chef, who reserves the best stuff for loyal clients. It's all about service. As soon as we sit down, the waitress knows to bring my father a bowl of sushi rice and canned corn (without the butter). We don't even put in an order anymore; they know we're going to have the second-tier platter for KRW25,000 per person. And we know they're going to give us top-tier fish.


1.073 Clams with Tomatoes and Mushrooms in Saffron Broth

-Cycle 1, Dinner 73-
19 March 2010

-Italian-
Clams with Tomatoes and Mushrooms
in Saffron Broth

* * * * *

by me

at home

-Oksu, Seoul-

Something about saffron and seafood. Works every time. Like a charm.

This was the best thing that I've cooked in a long time, the first 5-star rating since my veggie and chicken soup nearly 2 months ago (see 1.024 Veggie Soup with Shredded Chicken).

1.070 Nasi Goreng with Beef

-Cycle 1, Dinner 62-
16 March 2010

-Indonesian-
Nasi Goreng with Beef

* * * *

by me

at home

-Oksu, Seoul-

For background, I defer to my description of nasi goreng in a prior post (see 1.038 Nasi Goreng with Chicken).

I claim the fried rice featured here to be nasi goreng based solely on the fact that it contains sambal oelek sauce, a chili garlic paste common to Indonesian/Malay cooking.

I posted this photo on my Facebook page, the first time for any photos from this blog. The response was quite positive, particularly with respect to the plating.

1.069 Spaghetti alle Vongole

-Cycle 1, Dinner 69-
15 March 2010

-Italian-
Spaghetti alle Vongole

* * * *

by me

at home

-Oksu, Seoul-

My favorite pasta dish of all time.

Apparently, vongole pasta is meant to be simple. Most recipes that I've encountered for the white variety call for clams, which are called "vongole" in Italian, along with just olive oil, garlic, parsley, and salt and pepper. The red variety includes tomatoes. Otherwise, that's it.

By contrast, my takes on vongole tends to be more intricate. I always start with a soffrito consisting of minced onions, celery, and zucchini, as here, if available. On occasion, subject to whatever's on hand, I also incorporate other vegetables as a main ingredient, such as mushrooms or asparagus I always use white wine in the sauce, which is an American thing, supposedly. I always, always use butter. I sometimes use cream and maybe grated parmesan cheese. I'm aware that any or all of these additions are not strictly traditional, but I've found that they make for a richer and thus more satisfying dish.

1.068 Bouillabaisse


-Cycle 1, Item 68-
14 (Sun) March 2010

-French-
Bouillabaisse

* * *

by me

at home

-Oksu, Seoul-

About five years ago, the wife and I were fortunate to find ourselves concurrently in different parts of Europe on separate business trips and took advantage of the opportunity to rendezvous in southern France after the work was done. As I'd explained to her in no uncertain terms while making the arrangements, the primary objective for choosing southern France as the destination was to stop by Vieux Port in Marseilles and eat bouillabaisse at the source.  Then, conditioned upon the successful completion of the primary objective, we would then be free to pursue subsidiary activities in Provence or Cote d'Azur or Monaco or wherever, so long as we were in the neighborhood.  She'd quickly acquiesced to the terms, which I'd taken for avidity only to discover later that it was apathy.  Indeed, when we arrived in Marseilles, she was suddenly "bouilla-what?" Long story short, due to her bullshit alternative itinerary, which I was stupid enough to follow, we ended up without any time to eat bouillabaisse.

To express in no uncertain terms how deeply the experience had wounded me, I griped/grieved/grumbled/groaned/groused about the grievance every day and twice on Sunday for the following year.  These days, only every month or so.  Now, whenever the wife seems poised to interfere with my plans, I simply say, "bouillabaisse," and she backs off.

Incidentally, I've wanted to try bouillabaisse since the summer of 1989, when the Beastie Boys released their classic album Paul's Boutique featuring a medley entitled "B-Boy Bouillabaisse."

With no plans for a return visit to southern France anytime soon, I went ahead and tried making it myself. I should've waited.

1.067 Mandu Jeon-Gol


-Cycle 1, Item 67-
13 (Sat) March 2010

-Korean-
Mandu Jeon-Gol

3.0

at Pyeonggaok (평가옥)

-Bundang, GyeongGi-

Mandu (만두) is a Korean meat dumpling.  Though common and popular throughout the country, it's generally regarded as a dish from the north, closer to China, where the form originated.  Typically, as per northern style, the dumplings tend to be very simple, containing just pork and tofu and bean sprouts and salt and pepper, making them whitish in appearance both inside and out, light and delicate in flavor; of course, the simplicity requires the ingredients to be fresh and the basic seasonings to be spot on.  By contrast, dumplings made in a more southern style may also contain onion, scallion, ginger, garlic, maybe soy sauce or chili powder or even kimchi for additional flavoring.  Either way, mandu is widely available and immensely popular throughout the country.  The mandu can be steamed or pan-fried or boiled or served in a broth, as here.  I'm curious what mandu in North Korea today are like.

Because I grew up with mandu that were very very white--both parents and all grandparents were born in what is now North Korea--this is the style that I prefer.

The jeon-gol (전골) is the 4th category of Korean soup dishes to be discussed in this blog.  Unlike the other categories--tang (see generally 1.013 Daegu Maeun Tang), jjiigaeguk (see generally 1.027 Kimchi Jjigae and Pan-Fried Hairtail)--which are served in finished form, a jeon-gol contains an array of uncooked ingredients in a stock that's served in a wide, shallow pan set on a table-top heating source, family style, allowing diners to eat the ingredients one piece at a time as they become gradually ready.  As such, it's more of a hotpot than a basic soup or stew.  Mandu, given its self-contained form, makes for a convenient jeon-gol, the fanciest way of serving mandu.  When they're not in a hurry, Koreans like jeon-gol because it provides a leisurely communal dining experience, often involving booze.

This restaurant specializes in North Korean dishes, most of them very good.

1.066 Assorted Jeon


-Cycle 1, Item 69-
12 (Fri) March 2010

-Korean-
Assorted Jeon

3.0

at Ganggane

-Hannam, Seoul-

Jeon (전) is a broad category of Korean pancake.  The pancakes generally fall into one of two subcategories.   The first consists of an central ingredient that is sliced or otherwise formed into bite-sized pieces, lightly seasoned with salt and pepper, coated in flour and egg wash, and pan-fried in a touch of oil.  Common varieties include tofu, fish, ground beef, mushrooms, and ae-hobak (애호박) (a type of squash similar to zucchini).  The second subcategory consists of a several ingredients that are shredded or chopped into small pieces, mixed together in a flour-based batter, lightly seasoned with salt and pepper and maybe some additional spices, and pan-fried in a generous pool of oil.  Common varieties include scallions, soy beans, kimchi, seafood, or combinations thereof.  Both types are almost always served with some manner of soy-based dipping sauce.

This hole-in-the-wall no-nonsense joint, featuring tables with stainless steel tops and plastic chairs, specializes in and makes excellent jeon, mostly of the first type.

* * * *

ADDENDUM
11 September 2015

I'd always assumed the term "jeon" to be Korean, but the etymology turns out to be Chinese in origin (see generally 6.215 Nanj Wans).


1.065 Pork, Shrimp Schnitzel

MEAL 1.065
11 March 2010

-Austrian-
Pork, Shrimp Schnitzel

by me

at home

Oksu
Seoul

* * * *

A third variation of schnitzel, which I have discussed in 2 prior posts (see 1.002 Pork Schnitzel; 1.019 Beef, Pork Schnitzel), this time with shrimp. The flavors of the breading mixture work fine with the shrimp, if only the bread crumbs would stay on.

1.064 Al-Bap

-Cycle 1, Dinner 64-
10 March 2010

-Korean-
Al-Bap

* * *

at Suninjae (선인제)
(Ajou University School of Medicine)

-Suwon, GyeongGi-

Known as al-bab (알밥) in Korean, which means "egg/roe" (al) and "rice" (bap), this dish typically consists of rice, kimchi, and veggies topped with raw fish roe and served in a sizzling hot pot. It's most commonly found in Japanese restaurants here, sometimes as a stand-alone dish or as the final course in a multi-course meal.

Prior to digging in, I took multiple shots of the tray from various angles, standing up for some, getting down to table level for others. I must've made something of a scene because the manager of the cafeteria ran over with a concerned expression on her face and asked what I was doing. She thought that maybe I was taking photographic evidence of a cockroach or some other sort of quality control problem. Even after I'd tried to explain, she didn't look entirely convinced. I was tempted to remark that I was recording how lousy the food was, but held back.

1.063 Taiwan Shrimp

-Cycle 1, Dinner 63-
9 March 2010

-Chinese-
Taiwan Shrimp

* * * *

at Ding Hao

-Yeonnam, Seoul-

Here and there, on a few scattered blocks within the neighborhoods of Yeonnam-Dong (연남동) and Yeonhi-Dong (연희동) in the northwestern quadrant of the city, near Sinchon and Yonsei University, a handful of restaurants serve what they claim to be Taiwan-style food. I've never had food in Taiwan, so I have no point of comparison. All I can say is that the dishes are certainly and refreshingly different than anything found in mainstream Chinese restaurants in Korea. If only for that reason, the area deserves further exploration.

1.060 Spanish Rice

MEAL 1.060
6 March 2010

-Mexican-
Spanish Rice

* * * *

by me

at home

-Oksu, Seoul-

It's called "Spanish rice" but for now--based on my near-nil experiences with from-Spain Spanish food and frequent experiences with Mexican food, which often includes this dish--I'm categorizing it as "Mexican."

1.059 Original Gui Chicken


-Cycle 1, Item 59-
5 (Fri) March 2010

-Korean-
Original Gui Chicken

3.0

from Torre Ore Chicken (delivery)

at home

-Oksu, Seoul-

Roasting is a relatively new method of cooking chicken in Korea.  Other than traditional chicken dishes, which usually involve stir-frying and/or braising, deep-fried chicken is arguably the most popular form nowadays, typically eaten as a snack accompanying beer, available for delivery from any number of chicken chains with branches in every neighborhood throughout the city.  From those same chains, roasting is now being offered as a second option.  The chicken is often lightly seasoned, usually in some kind of soy sauce.  In Korean, "gui (구이)" = " roasting."

I love deep-fried chicken as much as the next guy, but I've been opting for the roast in recent times.   Initially for health reasons.  But I'm coming to like it better: pretty tasty, when done right, and of course less greasy. 

1.058 Nurungji Baekban

-Cycle 1, Dinner 58-
4 March 2010

-Korean-
Nurungji Baekban

* *

at Cheongdam-Gol (청담골)

-Cheongdam, Seoul-

Technically, the only requirement for a meal to qualify as a "baekban" (백반)--which literally means "white" (baek) "meal" (ban)--is a bowl of white rice.

Of course, the rice usually comes with a soup/stew, a meat/fish, and a variety of small side dishes that are called "banchan" (반찬). This applies to nearly any non-noodle Korean meal, but it's a matter of perspective, the idea being that all the individual components combine to form a complete and balanced eating experience, everything together. Though one particular item may be emphasized in name, usually one of the soup/stew or meat/fish items, a baekban is often judged by the quality and variety of all the dishes offered.

Here, the meal nominally centers around nurungji-tang (누룽지탕), a simple water-based soup containing nothing more than burnt/toasted rice--a culinary remnant of a bygone era when rice was cooked in steel or stone pots over open flames, usually resulting in burnt/toasted rice at the bottom of the vessel.

In a way, baekban is supposed to exemplify the ideal home-cooked meal, which I described in a prior post (see 1.031 A Typical Korean Meal), even though a home-cooked meal would never be referred to as "baekban."

Clockwise from bottom left corner: stir-fried anchovies, stir-fried odeng strips, jangjorim, spicy pickled squid, nurungji-tang, dried laver, seasoned bean sprouts, kimchi jjigae, steamed egg. Center row from left: seasoned gosari, ggakdugi, kimchi.

1.057 Deep-Fried Garlic Wings

MEAL 1.057
3 March 2010

-Chinese-
Deep-Fried Garlic Wings

plus carrots and romaine

by me

home
Oksu, Seoul

* * * *

1.055 Beef Meatloaf in Marinara Sauce

MEAL 1.055
1 March 2010

-American-
Beef Meatloaf in Marinara Sauce

plus strings beans

by me at home
Oksu, Seoul

* * * *