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1.299 Pizza with Muenster Cheese, Black Olives, Mushrooms, and Onions

MEAL 1.299
31 October 2010

-Italian-
Pizza with Muenster Cheese,
Black Olives, Mushrooms, and Onions

by me at home

Oksu
Seoul

* * * *

Last week, I raved about a line of frozen pizzas (see 1.292 3 Cheeses & Onions Pizza) made by an Italian company called, appropriately enough, Pizzeria Italiana. In the interim, I've gone back to the supermarket where I'd discovered them and bought the whole line. Here, I took their basic Margherita and added veggies and a slice of muenster cheese. After warming up the pie in a covered pan drizzled with olive oil on low heat for about 20 minutes, which melted the cheese and gives the crust a nice crisp, I tossed the whole thing under the broiler for another 5 minutes to finish cooking the veggies and brown the cheeses a bit. Not as good as it had seemed last week, not even with my embellishments, no rave here, but it's still pretty good, especially for a frozen pizza. Definitely worth having in the freezer for emergencies.

1.298 Barbecued Samgyeopsal

-Cycle 1, Item 298-
30 October 2010

-Korean-
Barbecued Samgyeopsal

* * * *

by Yeonhee

at Yongin Leisure Swimming Pool
[campsite]

-Yongin, GyeongGi-

Generally a bad idea to barbecue pork bellies, because the fat drips into the fire and causes flareups, which in turn both burns the meat and leaves a sooty residue, but it becomes a good idea at the end stage of the fire, when the charcoal has dwindled down to ashy embers. The fat gets nicely crispy, the meat nicely smoky.

I don't think my marriage could've withstood a third consecutive weekend of camping. But my team was going. Thus, in a comprise position, I made it a daytrip. Actually, my wife had taken the kid and gone shopping at an outlet mall nearby, so we ended up rendezvousing at the campsite and going home together after dinner.

Incidentally, this was absolutely the worst campgrounds ever. It was the dirt parking lot of a defunct public swimming pool along a busy road. Total bullshit.

1.297 Baby Octopus & Mixed Veggie Salad in Some Kind of Vinaigrette


-Cycle 1, Item 297-
29 (Fri) October 2010

-Sui Generis-
Baby Octopus & Mixed Veggie Salad in Some Kind of Vinaigrette

* * *

by me

at Ofelis Wedding & Convention

-Sogong, Seoul-

In a prior post (see 1.273 Grilled Beef Tenderloin in Red Wine Reduction and Grilled Salmon in Parsley-Cream Sauce), I noted that the food served at Korean weddings takes 1 of 2 forms, either a buffet or a steak. This time, on the occasion of my wife's cousin's wedding at the curiously named event hall Ofelis in downtown Seoul, it was a buffet. As I had at my cousin's daughter's 1st birthday party, also at a buffet (see 1.152 Smoked Salmon Salad with Tomatoes in Balsamic Vinaigrette), I avoided making my plate into a pile of pig slop and made my own minimalist dish with just a few of the items being offered. It didn't turn out too great but at least I escaped without overeating to the point of nausea.

1.296 Shrimp & Broccoli Burrito


-Cycle 1, Item 296-
28 (Thu) October 2010

-Mexican-
Shrimp & Broccoli Burrito

3.5

by me

at home

-Oksu, Seoul-

After 3 prior attempts at homemade burritos (see most recently 1.294 Grilled Chicken and Asparagus Burrito), I believe that I've come a step closer to getting it just right.  A couple days ago, I noted that sour cream would probably have elevated the burrito to 3.5 stars.   I still didn't have any sour cream this time around, but the shrimp, sautéed in butter and garlic with Mexican seasonings, didn't need it.   I'm also partial to shrimp anyway.  By contrast, the relatively dry grilled chicken breasts would have benefited from the extra layer of fat.  And definitely broccoli over asparagus.  Maybe lobster will take it to 4 stars.

1.295 Su-Cho-Myeon

MEAL 1.296
27 October 2010

-Chinese-
Su-Cho-Myeon

at Geum-Jeong^ (금정)

Apkujeong
Seoul

* * *

Talk about the power of advertising, the only reason I wanted to try this restaurant was the sign above the door. Loosely translated, it reads "A place that makes good Chinese food" ("중국음식 잘하는 집"). Simple. Brilliant. I thought it was the actual name of the restaurant until I got closer and saw the name Geum-Jeong in fine print below their claim of goodness. Judging by the moderate crowd, about 80% capacity, the place really was good or the sign was succeeding in luring a lot of first-time passersby, like me. So, I gave it a shot.

I probably should've gone for something standard, like jjajang-myeon, something with frames of reference against which to compare, but I saw something on the menu that I'd never seen before, something called su-cho-myeon (수초면). When I asked the server about it, she said that she'd never seen anyone order it but understood it to be some kind of stir-fried seafood noodle dish. Not the glowingest recommendation but, given that my presence in the restaurant had been predicated on a dare, I decided to give it a shot. Incidentally, upon hearing my order, the server frowned and walked away without saying a word.

Despite all the buildup above, the dish turned out rather unremarkably. It tasted exactly as its description would imply, no more, no less, somewhat similar to udong (see 1.243 Udong) but without the broth.

The point is, I really can't say yet whether the place is as good as it claims. I'm willing to go back for another shot.

1.294 Grilled Chicken and Asparagus Burrito

MEAL 1.294
26 October 2010

-Mexican-
Grilled Chicken and Asparagus Burrito

by me at home

Oksu
Seoul

* * * *

Inspired partly by the excellent chicken taco I had on Sunday (see 1.291 Chicken Taco) and the terrible vongole pasta yesterday (see 1.293 Linguine alla Vongole with Asparagus), I went through the trouble of making a 4-layer burrito, mostly from scratch. Layer 1: refried beans. I'll try to do this from scratch someday (though probably not). Layer 2: spanish rice. I didn't have any long grain rice, even Thai jasmine rice would do in a pinch, so I tried it with medium grain Korean rice, "sticky rice" as it's sometimes called. Not such a great idea. It ended up kinda, well, sticky. It should be fluffy. Layer 3: chicken and asparagus. Seasoned with chili powder, cumin, and coriander. Grilled to charred perfection on my trusty cast iron grill pan. Layer 4: salsa. Tomato, onion, yellow bell pepper, lemon juice, fresh parsley, and spices and seasonings. Back in the States, I'd never given a second thought to the difference between lemons and limes, both being readily and cheaply available, using one or the other, whatever the recipe called for. But with limes rare here in Korea, costing 3-4 times more, assuming they can be found, maybe from one of the supermarkets catering to foreigners around Hannam, lemons are the citric acid of default. So, the salsa this evening would have to do without that distinct sweet tanginess of lime. I'll reserve comments on cilantro for another day, but for now I'll just say that I had to omit this essential herb because certain people in the household aren't the greatest fans. Overall, it turned out well, despite the deficiencies in the ingredients. If I'd had sour cream for a 5th layer, this might've have earned 5 stars. My kid gave it a 9 (he doesn't quite understand the rating system; he knows that 1 is the worst, but he has no upper limit; popsicles tend to rate in the teens.)

1.293 Linguine alle Vongole with Asparagus

-Cycle 1, Dinner 293-
25 October 2010

-Italian-
Linguine alle Vongole with Asparagus

* *

by me

at home

-Oksu, Seoul-

Looking back at October, I hadn't really cooked anything myself, apart from a couple Korean dishes with ingredients on hand, so I decided to rekindle the fire with an old standby. Vongole pasta was at one time a regular in the rotation, a favorite among the few Italian dishes in my repertoire, but six months months had passed since I last made it (see 1.170 Casarecce all Vongole).

Unfortunately, tonight's vongole was awful, possible the worst ever. Granted, I tend to cook without set recipes, eyeballing amounts and estimating times based on feel, so there's always potential for error, but by now I would've thought that I could pull off the dish via muscle memory. Maybe it was the clams.

1.292 3 Cheeses & Onions Pizza

MEAL 1.292
20 October 2010

-Italian-
3 Cheeses & Onions Pizza

by Pizzeria Italiana (instant)

at home

Oksu
Seoul

* * * *

I hadn't eaten frozen pizza since college, maybe even before then, so I was surprised by the quality of the sample I tried at the supermarket and shocked at how good the whole thing turned out after I'd bought one and made it at home--in a pan, with a drizzle of olive oil, on low heat, covered. My technique certainly gave the crust a proper crisp, something that would've been lost via microwave, but the point is that the pie had a real crust to begin with. The cheeses and tomato sauce were good, too. Made in Italy. Did frozen pizza have some kind of revolution that I hadn't been aware of? This was actually better than most of the delivery pizzas available here. And at 6,000 won, cheaper. Cheap. I gotta try them all.

1.291 Chicken Taco

-Cycle 1, Dinner 291-
23 October 2010

-Mexican-
Chicken Taco

* * * *

from Naked Grill
[takeout]

at home

-Oksu, Seoul-

For my second visit to Naked Grill, a small American-style diner in Hannam whose "Naked Burger" I discussed in a prior post (see 1.089 "Naked Burger" with Fries), I went for the chicken taco. I'm not sure that it's really a taco: chicken grilled in some kind of chili powder, salsa, onions, lettuce, cabbage, jalapenos, black olives, sour cream, and some kind of hot sauce. Maybe more like a burrito. It tasted somewhat Mexican, or at least Tex-Mex. Regardless, all those flavors came together nicely. And quite substantial in size. Well worth 5,000 won. I'm really liking this place.

1.290 Franks & Beans & Buns

MEAL 1.290
22 October 2010

-American-
Franks & Beans & Buns

by me

at campsite

Yongdae Forest Park
Inje
Ganwon-Do

* * *

On a last minute trip organized by Backcountry Camping, I had no time to go grocery shopping, so I was forced to grab whatever was on hand at home, which happened to be a can of baked beans, 3 hotdogs and 3 buns. The hotdogs for a late dinner. The baked beans for lunch. After arriving at the campsite, just before midnight, I set up my tent and then tried to be real quiet about preparing my food, knowing what could happen if word got out. Word got out. Everyone's always curious about what I bring to eat. And everyone always wants a taste. But three hotdogs isn't enough for 10 grown men and not particularly amenable to sharing. So I had to improvise and slice the hotdogs into the baked beans and then tear the buns for dipping. The funny thing is, Koreans obviously have hotdogs, and they even have the beans, but these guys were absolutely amazed that I had thought to put the hotdogs in the beans. Anyway, it all worked out.

1.289 Baekban

-Cycle 1, Dinner 289-
21 October 2010

-Korean-
Baekban

* * *

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

-Suwon, GyeongGi-

For a description, I defer to a prior post on this subject (see 1.275 Baekban).

Tonight was the third occasion this semester of dining in the student cafeteria, a first in the 6 years that I've been at the school. I mention this only because the food is generally pretty lousy, once a semester, or never, usually being enough.

Clockwise from bottom: doenjang-guk (된장국) (bean paste soup), steamed rice, ggakdugi, chickory greens in spicy soy dressing, sauteed mushrooms, and pork japchae (잡채) (glass noodles).

1.288 Pan-Fried Tofu


-Cycle 1, Item 288-
20 (Wed) October 2010

-Korean-
Pan-Fried Tofu

2.0

by me

at home

-Oksu, Seoul-

This is a classic Korean side dish.  It consists of firm tofu, cut into pieces about 2-cm thick, pan-fried in oil--ideally sesame oil, but typically just vegetable oil--for about 10 minutes until golden on each side, seasoned with a dash of salt and pepper, and often dressed or dipped in a soy-based sauce--I like it plain.  So simple, it goes with any Korean spread.

Tonight, it represented the whole meal, my pitiful attempt at dieting, which lasted about 2 hours.  I ended up eating ramyeon a few hours later.

1.287 Grilled Ribeye


-Cycle 1, Item 287-
19 October 2010

-Korean-
Grilled Ribeye

* * * *

at Il-Pum Saeng-Gogi (일품생고기)

Oksu, Seoul

As we sat down at the table, trying to remember the last time we'd splurged on hanwoo (한우) (Korean beef) at a restaurant together as a family, neither of us could recall, it'd been so long. I had to look it up on my iPhone's Project 365 app. The most recent occasion had been on April 29 (see 1.114 Barbecued Ribeye), when we'd all gone out for dinner to say farewell to Nanny 2 (who's now back with us for the 3rd time, incidentally) on her penultimate evening with us.

 We used to be welcomed regulars at this restaurant, a local barbecue joint within walking distance of our apartment, mostly because the owner sells wine at cost but also for the quality of the meat at reasonable prices, about 30,000-35,000 won per 200 grams, which is relatively cheap by Korean standards. In fact, the unimaginative but reassuring name of the place literally means "top quality" (il-pum) (일품) "fresh meat" (saeng gogi) (생고기). On the negative, the restaurant employs gas grills, as opposed to charcoal, and their selection of side dishes is pitiful--both presumably to keep costs down. The main reason we stopped going was Dominic: when he got older and began eating people food, we found that another local barbecue restaurant, Bon-Ga, which has been featured 7 times in this blog to date (see most recently 1.256 Nurungji Tang), is better suited for feeding a toddler. Anyway, it was good to be back.

1.286 Mul Naeng Myeon


-Cycle 1, Item 286-
18 (Mon) October 2010

-Korean-
Mul Naeng Myeon (물냉면)

2.0

at Pyeongyang Myeonok (평양면옥)

-Dongdaemun, Seoul-

In a prior post, I discussed the basics of Pyeongyang-style mul naeng myeon (MNM).  What I hadn't mentioned before is that, given the inherent subtlety of this type of MNM, with respect to both the noodles and the broth, it has to be made just right, otherwise it comes out tasting and feeling like stringy dough in water.

The restaurant Pyeongyang Myeonok, which literally means "noodle" (myeon) (면) "house" (ok) (옥), specializes in the Pyeongyang style, as well as other North Korean dishes.  While the first post was at the main branch in Nonhyeon, this occasion took me to the secondary location in Dongdaemun.  The MNM at both are okay: not quite dough-in-water, but close.

1.285 Oryong Samseon Jjajang-Myeon

-Cycle 1, Dinner 285-
17 (Sun) October 2010

-Chinese-
Oryong Samseon Jjajang-Myeon

* * * * *

at Yanjing

-Chinatown, Incheon-

On 6 prior occasions, jjajang-myeon has been featured directly on this blog. And though it wasn't mentioned directly, it was also part of the meal on an additional 8 occasions.

On this 15th occasion, I encountered a new variety that I'd never even heard of. It included something called "oryong" (오룡): a minced-shrimp meatball, wrapped in a slice of sea cucumber and deep-fried. Quite excellent, as was the jjajang-myeon itself. The "samseon" more-or-less means "seafood," as I've discussed before (see 1.117 Samseon Jjajang-Myeon). At 12,000 won, this was the most expensive version that I've ever had.

Our camping trip the evening before had taken us to an island off the western coast, near Incheon, where Korea's only official Chinatown is located. Being in the neighborhood, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to eat my favorite food of all time at its birthplace. In fact, the plan was to go to the very restaurant that claims to be ground zero, the originator of the Koreanized version of Chinese black bean sauce noodles. Back in February, on the heels of another camping trip in the general area, we had also ventured into Chinatown for jjajang-myeon, but in that case looking for the authentic, non-bastardized Chinese version, only to be disappointed when the restaurant informed us that they didn't serve the real stuff on weekends because the mainstream Korean tourists invariably didn't like it (see 1.052 Pork and Chive Stir-Fry). This time, our plans were again unrealized as a result of the long queue in front of the restaurant, a wait of more than an hour, which was undoable due to a sleeping toddler, whom I'd have to hold, in my arms, in the outdoor October cold, for that time. We settled on the joint next door, cynically noting that the crowd of patrons there had probably suffered a similar fate. But, fortunately, the food was pretty good. (I'm certain that I'll review the other restaurant, the originator, sometime prior to the conclusion of this project.)

1.284 Barbecued Pike Mackerel


-Cycle 1, Item 284-
16 October 2010

-Korean-
Barbecued Pike Mackerel



* * * *

by me

at Sindo
 [campsite]

-Sindo, GyeongGi-

Again, it's difficult to determine what counts as "the meal" on any camping trip, as each camper usually prepares one or two offerings that are shared by the group. It's also difficult to differentiate the afternoon snacks from the dinner from the late night anju that accompany the drinking, all of which happen in a continuous blur from around 4PM to 2AM and beyond. Gluttony.

This barbecued pike mackerel, or ggongchi (꽁치) in Korean, came somewhere in between, either as the last course of dinner or the first anju dish. The fish, which was brought by another camper but grilled to perfection by me on the barbecue station was so good that it didn't even need salt.

1.283 Galbi Tang


-Cycle 1, Item 283-
15 October 2010

-Korean-
Galbi Tang

2.0

by me

at home

-Oksu, Seoul-

In a series of prior posts, I've discussed various dishes referred to collectively as "tang" (탕). The first of those posts, which describes what constitutes a tang, involved fish (see 1.013 Daegu Maeun Tang). Another post involved chicken (see 1.020 Samgye Tang). Finally, I get around to beef.

The term "galbi" (갈비) means "ribs," beef or otherwise.

Galbi tang (갈비탕) is Korean beef rib soup. Typically using the bits leftover from ribs carved for more glamorous purposes (e.g., barbecue), the meat and bones are first boiled for at least 2 hours to extract maximum flavor, along with various aromatics, such as garlic, leeks, and onions. Some recipes call for even stronger additives, such as ginseng, wood chips, or dried jujubees, though I personally believe that such things overpower the flavor of the beef and suspect that they're employed to mask the flaws of a weak stock. Afterwards, the rendered fat on the surface of the resulting stock may be skimmed off or otherwise removed, especially if the ribs had a high amount of fat content to begin with. The broth is seasoned simply with a touch of soy sauce, salt, and black pepper. Additional ingredients, such as radish, egg ribbons, or glass noodles, may be added just prior to serving, as here, though galbi-tang in its purest form features just the meat and bones and broth, as well as fresh sliced leeks for garnish.

The best galbi-tang offerings are from high-end, large-scale barbecue restaurants, where they have plenty of quality leftover rib bits and proper facilities to boil them down in huge quantities over an extended period of time. Still, it's not that difficult to make at home, at least in theory.

1.282 Grilled Makchang

-Cycle 1, Dinner 282-
14 October 2010

-Korean-
Grilled Makchang

*

at Go-Hyang Makchang (고향막창)

-Mapo, Seoul-

Trying to find an appropriate description for makchang (막창), the closest I came was "abomasum," defined by the World English Dictionary and courtesy of dictionary.com as "the fourth and last compartment of the stomach of ruminants, which receives and digests food from the psalterium and passes it on to the small intestine." Whatever that means, makchang tastes like ass, literally. More accurately, it tastes like shit. I'm not being metaphoric here. At the time, when nobody at the table knew exactly what part of the pig's digestive system it came from, I suspected that makchang might be the colon, which would explain the fecal flavor. Reportedly, some restaurants wash the parts in bleach to eliminate the odor, though I'm sure purists would poo-poo the idea, pun fully intended, thank you. It's sliced into rings, grilled to a crisp over charcoal, and dipped in various sauces. Apparently, makchang is so treasured in certain parts of the country (the regions that like the taste of shit, I suppose) that it's hard to come by here in Seoul and thus relatively expensive at 9,000 won per serving (the photo shows 3 servings).

This was the sequel to the gopchang meal four days earlier (see 1.278 Skillet-Fried Gopchang), both with the same group of friends. On the previous occasion, one of us had wanted makchang, but the others were wary and compromised with gopchang, another variety of digestive tract delicacy, though more mainstream and accessible in terms of taste. We couldn't say no the second time around. While it was my first and probably last experience with makchang, though I might try it one more time just to confirm, the others, who weren't entirely uninitiated, also couldn't handle it very well either.

After a few minutes of pretending, we ended up ordering pork chops so as not to starve. The pork chops weren't too bad.

1.281 Baekban

-Cycle 1, Dinner 280-
13 October 2010

-Korean-
Baekban

* * * *

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

-Suwon, GyeongGi-


For a description, I defer to a prior post on this subject (see 1.275 Baekban).

Clockwise from bottom left: steamed rice, spicy pork stir-fry, spicy pickled cucumbers, steamed omelet, radish sprout kimchi, and dried pollack & tofu soup.

Maybe once a semester, only when circumstances are dire, I'll suffer the indignity of eating at the student cafeteria in the basement of the medical school building where I work. Tonight was the second time this semester (see 1.064 Al-Bap). Generally, the food's really not that bad, especially at 2,700 won per person, but it's prepared in such a half-assed manner that it just doesn't feel right. Tonight was better than usual. 2 minutes across the courtyard, the employee cafeteria in the hospital basement does it marginally better, even though the same company, Arakor, prepares the food for both. In fact, the faculty cafeteria, also by Arakor, is actually pretty good, though it's only open for lunch. Just goes to show where the priorities lie.

1.280 Holic Chicken Baguette, Ddeok Galbi Burger

MEAL 1.280
12 October 2010

-American-
Holic Chicken Baguette
Ddeok Galbi Burger

at Bubble Buns

Apkujeong
Seoul

* * *

In a recent post, I railed against bogus "fusion" restaurants that merely offered dishes from various culinary traditions under one menu rather than mixing those traditions into one dish (see 1.270 "Broilled King Shrimp"). At the absurdly named Bubble Buns in Apkujeong, a burger/sandwich stand of sorts operated by and located on the ground floor of a seafood and steak joint called Fish & Stech, I sampled 2 items that adhere more closely to what I would consider bona fide fusion: the Holic Chicken Baguette and Ddeok Galbi Burger, both of which are constructed along the lines of American sandwiches but contain meats seasoned Korean-style. Unfortunately, neither offering was a particularly successful fusing.

Holic Chicken Baguette. In Korea, the term "holic," derived presumably from "alcoholic," has come to mean "addicted" or "obsessed," though without any pejorative connotations; it's a marketing thing. There's even a local denim clothing brand called "Jean Holic." The name of the sandwich is supposed to imply, I guess, that it's for people addicted to chicken or that the sandwich itself is worthy of addiction or maybe that the chicken is addicted to the baguette--I doubt that whoever came up with the name thought it out that far. Anyway, it's basically a baguette cut in half with most of the bread scraped out with a fork, which is then filled with chicken that's been diced and seasoned in some kind of light soy marinade and grilled with onions and paprika. Other than the fact that the ingredients were cooked on low heat for several minutes, leaving the veggies rather limp and the entire sandwich somewhat mushy, it wasn't terrible. Just unimaginative. 3,500 won. 2/3 stars.

Ddeok Galbi Burger. The term ddeok (떡) literally means "rice cake" in Korean. The term galbi (갈비) literally means "rib" in Korean but, in the context of food, usually refers to pork or beef ribs in a sweet sesame soy marinade, which I've discussed in many prior posts (see 1.001 Pork Galbi, 1.081 Pork Galbi, 1.091 Pork Galbi, 1.167 LA Galbi). When the meat is minced and slapped together into a patty, creating a cake of sorts, we get the idiomatically named ddeok galbi. When the patty is tossed between a pair of buns, we get a natural if obvious Korean-American fusion burger. One interesting aspect of this particular version was the bread, which had some kind of Nacho-like seasoning on the surface. Is that what they mean by "bubble buns"? It was good in and of itself, though I'm not sure it worked so well with the galbi. Same with the processed cheese. Overall, it wasn't terrible. Just unimaginative. 3,500 won. 3/4 stars.

1.279 Kimchi Jjigae (Kimchi Stew)


-Cycle 1, Item 279-
11 October 2010

-Korean-
Kimchi Jjigae

* * * *

from The Kimchi Jjigae [takeout]

at home

-Oksu, Seoul-

Due to unusually low (or is it high?) temperatures this summer, the nation is currently suffering an unprecedented shortage of cabbage. A single head of cabbage, if available, is selling for over 15,000 won, up from less than 2,000 a few months earlier. To put it mildly, this is a crisis that threatens to tear the very fabric of culture in Korea, where cabbage kimchi is typically served and consumed with virtually every meal of the day. Many restaurants have given up serving it altogether or limiting servings to one dish per customer or even charging for it, a measure that many are finding offensive. At home, we haven't dared touch the small reserve of cabbage kimchi made prior to the crunch, just in case it gets worse. Somebody coined the term geumchi, a play on the word "geum (금)" for "gold."

Just last week, one of my camping buddies opened a restaurant specializing in kimchi jjigae (김치찌개), which I've discussed in two previous posts (see 1.027 Kimchi Jjigae, Sauteed Hairtail, 1.225 Kimchi Jjigae). The restaurant, aptly enough, is named "The Kimchi Jjigae" (a slight step beyond naming a Bejing Duck restaurant, "Beijing Duck"--which does exist). He says that his stock of kimchi, which he secured before the prices went crazy, will hopefully last a month if sales are slow, a cruel Catch-22 if ever there was one. Anyway, the twist to The Kimchi Jjigae's kimchi jjigae is that it comes with huge chunks of pork that are meant to be wrapped and eaten in a leaf of lettuce and/or perilla in the manner of Korean barbecue. The evening before, our camping group had gathered at the restaurant to sample the menu, which features just two items: the stew and, for some reason, tonkatsu.  At 13,000 won for a basic order of stew, it was probably the most expensive kimchi jjigae that I've ever had in my life, although the amount actually serves 2-3, so it's really not that pricy divided amongst a group. Incidentally, after the "tasting," we went elsewhere for "dinner" (see 1.278 Gopchang).

Before going home, he gave each of us the basic ingredients for an order to go, which I prepared tonight per his instructions and had for dinner. Good stuff, worth gold (despite the photo, which doesn't make it look particularly appetizing, maybe because of the big rind of fat on the pork).

1.278 Skillet-Fried Gopchang

-Cycle 1, Item 278-
10 October 2010

-Korean-
Skillet-Fried Gopchang

* * * *

at Hwangso Gopchang (황소곱창)

-Sinchon, Seoul-

Beef intestines in a cast-iron skillet with mushrooms, onions, chives, and some kind of special secret powder that the server made a big show of dashing over the mix at the table. As far as we could make out, it was black pepper, salt, and what tasted suspiciously like ramyun soup seasoning. I don't have the vocabulary to describe beef intestines except to say that they're like rubber tubes filled with gunk, chewy and fatty at the same time. It's an acquired taste/texture. Judging by all the menus and magazine articles written in Japanese and displayed along the walls of the restaurant, the gourmands from across the sea seem to have acquired it. Not really my thing, though I won't object to it once a year or so.

1.277 Dal Makhani with Steamed Rice


-Cycle 1, Item 277-
9 (Sat) October 2010

-Indian-
Dal Makhani with Steamed Rice

* *

by Priya

at home

-Oksu, Seoul-

This was the 3rd time during this project that I've attempted Indian food based entirely or primarily on packaged products (see 1.082 Chicken Tikka, Dal Makhani; 1.125 Beef Demi Curry). And like those prior attempts, which admittedly involved products manufactured by Korean companies, this was also a complete disaster, even though the curry was made in India. That pitiful dribble of beans to the right of the rice in the photo, that's the extent of solid matter in the packet, the rest being a puddle of orange oil (compare with the photo on the box). I managed to finish the meal, thus avoiding a 1-star rating, but barely. Maybe something about Indian food doesn't carry over well into packaging. I have a box of biryani spice in my cupboard that I haven't gotten around to, but now I'm wondering if I should just dump it.

1.276 Yet Another Typical Korean At-Home Meal


-Cycle 1, Item 276-
8 October 2010

-Korean-
Yet Another Typical Korean At-Home Meal

* * * *

by Nanny 2

at home

-Oksu, Seoul-

This is the latest edition in a series of posts concerning the standard spread on a Korean dinner table (see most recently 1.031 Another Typical Korean At-Home Meal).

The nature of the typical Korean meal, which is simply rice and soup and various side dishes, is such that the infinite combinations make no two meals exactly alike, even though they're pretty much the same. In the absence of a proactive approach to dining, this is what is likely to turn up. I'm not complaining, just saying.

Clockwise from bottom left: bean sprout soup, steamed rice, pan-fried tofu, seasoned spinach, sauteed eggplant, stir-fried fish cakes; center bottom: hashed potatoes; center top: cabbage kimchi.

1.275 Baekban

-Cycle 1, Dinner 275-
7 October 2010

-Korean-
Baekban

* *

at Ajou University Hospital Cafeteria

-Suwon, GyeongGi-

This is pretty much what one might find on a Korean dinner table at home (see 1.031 A Typical Korean Meal), though it might called "baekban" in a restaurant setting (see 1.058 Nurungji Baekban). I'd make a point about quality, but it's difficult to criticize all-u-can-eat for 2,700 won.

Clockwise from bottom: steamed rice, braised mackerel, hashed potatoes, ggakdugi, cabbage salad, doenjang-guk (된장국) (bean paste soup).

1.274 Beef Shabuki

MEAL 1.274
6 October 2010

-Korean/Japanese-
Beef Shabuki

by me

at home

Oksu
Seoul

* * * *

As the 4th iteration of this meal (see 1.008 Beef Shabuki, 1.016 Beef Shabuki Noodles, 1.217 Beef Shabuki), I refrain from further comment, except to say that I like the photo here, even though the placement of the meat on top of the vegetables wasn't very practical during the meal.


1.273 Grilled Beef Tenderloin in Red Wine Reduction and Grilled Salmon in Parsley-Cream Sauce

MEAL 1.273
5 October 2010

-French-
Beef Tenderloin in Red Wine Reduction
Grilled Salmon in Parsley-Cream Sauce

at Seoul Convention Center

Samsung
Seoul

* * * *

At some point, maybe in the last twenty years or so, the meal for guests at a Korean wedding became one of two things: a buffet or a steak. The buffet is usually found in large wedding halls or churches, whereas classier joints, like hotels, offer the steak along with other courses served in waves by uniformed waiters. I prefer the buffet, even though it's almost always lousy, if only to avoid another goddamn tenderloin in brown sauce--it's always, 100% of the time, a goddamn tenderloin in brown sauce. According to my own wedding menu from the Ritz-Carlton, which is framed and hangs on my kitchen wall, the main course was "Aus Beef Tenderloin Medallion in Chasseur Sauce." It wasn't bad, other than the fact that it was a goddamn tenderloin in brown sauce.

On this day, my friend Sung Won got married at the Seoul Convention Center, which is on the 3rd floor of the City Air Terminal and used to be called the City Air Terminal Wedding Hall, I kid you not. One might expect a buffet, but no. It's classier than its name and location would imply. And in a remarkable twist, dare I say improvement, on the standard formula, a sliver of salmon was served along with the beef steak. I hesitate to call the meal "French," but it was more French than anything else. And surprisingly, the steak was so tender that I could and did cut it with the side of my fork.

1.272 Deep-Fried Quail


-Cycle 1, Item 272-
4 October 2010

-Korean-
Deep-Fried Quail

* * *

at an unnamed street-side tent bar

-Sinchon, Seoul-

Tent bars, though less common in recent years along the streets of Seoul, as city officials attempt to gentrify the city and younger patrons seek fancier, cleaner, and more consistent establishments to get their refreshments, still remain in isolated pockets as a popular venue for late-night drinking and snacking. They're called "pojang macha" ("covered wagon") in reference to the typical setup consisting of a mobile kitchen in the back of a pickup truck that's enclosed in a large vinyl tarp to form a makeshift structure large enough to accommodate tables and stools.  The kitchen often features a flat glass refrigerator displaying the ingredients available for order, usually by grill or stir fry or deep fry. Typical dishes, including chicken gizzards, chicken feet, eel, mackerel, and various types of shellfish, aren't regarded so much as meals per se as they are anju, snacks to accompany alcohol, such as soju.  Prices range from 10,000 to 20,000 won. Given that these tent bars cost the same or even more than their indoor counterparts with running water, it's clear that neither money nor hygiene is of particular concern to those who continue to frequent them. Nostalgia.

For my first visit to a pojang macha in some time, perhaps even years, I decided to try something completely new: quail. It was so hopped up on soy sauce and black pepper and MSG that it didn't really taste like anything, not even like chicken. Interestingly, the bones are soft enough to be eaten along with the meat.

1.271 Beijing Duck

-Cycle 1, Dinner 271-
3 October 2010

-Chinese-
Beijing Duck

* * *

at Beijing Duck

-Nonhyeon, Seoul-


Yes, the restaurant serves Beijing Duck and is called "Beijing Duck." At 30,000 won for a small order, about half a duck, it's supposed to be relatively cheap.

They also have fried rice on the menu.

1.270 Broilled King Shrimp


-Cycle 1, Item 270-
2 (Sat) October 2010

-Miscellaneous-
Broilled King Shrimp

2.5

at Luna

-Nonhyeon, Seoul-

On the occasion of my friend Sung Won's wedding, the groom treated the core group of his best buddies to a five-course dinner at a semi-fancy "Korean fusion" restaurant called Luna.

The second offering was this dish, which was curious in several respects.

First, just to warm up with an obvious one, they misspelled "broiled." The menu, in fact, was chock full of misspellings, not a problem per se but surprising in this day of electronic dictionaries and automatic spell-check functions built into most computer software programs; I mean, it wasn't written out by hand.

Second, the shrimp wasn't even broiled; it was deep-fried. That's a significant difference, like the difference between, well, broiling something and deep frying it. If a restaurant is going to bother with the trouble of writing their menu in English, then they really ought to get at least the cooking terminology correct.

Third, by "king" shrimp, they're referring to "jumbo" shrimp, a somewhat forgivable translational issue, as big shrimp in Korean are called wang (왕), which means "king."

However, fourth, I'm not sure what constitutes a "king" shrimp, but these guys weren't particularly kingly by any standard. This, I suspect, was simply marketing bullshit.

Fifth, and this is my main gripe, the dish was neither Korean nor fusion. It was simply deep-fried shrimp topped with some kind of tartar sauce. What "Korean fusion" typically means in the restaurant scene here is not that any given dish is a fusion of culinary traditions, bulgogi pizza, for example, but rather that the menu contains dishes from various origins. To illustrate, whatever this first course could be characterized as, possibly "American," the remaining four courses included a seafood salad in a balsamic vinaigrette (Italian), chicken teriyaki (Japanese), bossam (Korean), and finally deonjang jjigae with a bowl of steamed white rice and kimchi (Korean). Whether these types of restaurants, which are increasingly common throughout the city, result from laziness or stubbornness or a lack of creativity, expertise, and/or guts to attempt bona fide fusion, I don't know.

The "Broilled King Shrimp" itself wasn't awful, a bit predictable, about as good or bad as deep-fried shrimp topped with some kind of tartar sauce could be. But on the whole, the meal was a wash, particularly at 40,000 won per person.

1.269 Bibimbap


-Cycle 1, Item 269-
1 October 2010

-Korean-
Bibimbap

* * *

by me

at home

-Oksu, Seoul-

Writing this blog, trying to think of new things to say about the food I'm eating, I have an occasional revelation, though not always revolutionary--like tonight, I just realized something about bibimbap, which I've discussed in several prior posts (see 1.146 Bibimbap, 1.224 Bibimbap, 1.249 Dolsot Bibimbap). I would've imagined that the choice of vegetables in a given bowl would have a significant influence on the profile of the final dish. But looking back at the countless servings of bibimbap I've had throughout my life--at home or in restaurants, fancy or otherwise, in Korea or abroad, even on airplanes, even "instant" versions--they always taste... kinda the same, no matter what goes into them. Of course, some are better than others, better balanced, better seasoned, better quality and fresher vegetables, but essentially... kinda the same. The respective flavors of the individual veggies, no matter how distinct, are simply overpowered by the sesame oil and red chili paste. I guess it's like a salad with, say, ranch dressing: no matter the combination of vegetables, it's still going to end up tasting like a salad with ranch dressing.

Tonight, for example, I really had little to go on. Clockwise from bottom left: gosari, bean sprouts, bujigaengi, spinach, and of course the perfectly fried egg. Granted, I've made better, had better. But still... kinda the same.