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2.360 Dak Dori Tang


-Cycle 2, Item 360-
31 (Sat) December 2011

-Korean-
Dak Dori Tang

* * *

by Wife

at home

-Oksu, Seoul-

With Wife and Dominic

For background, I defer to a prior post on this dish (see 2.110 Dak Dori Tang).

I asked the wife, who'd made the dish and therefore had complete discretion to decide what to call it, what she was calling it. Before she could answer, I reminded her of the controversy surrounding the traditional name "dak dori tang" (닭도리탕), an issue discussed in the prior post. Without hesitation, she said, "dak dori tang."

Personally, I believe that the dish should remain "dak dori tang." But it's a potentially touchy subject, one with possible historical and geo-politcal ramifications, and I don't want to end the year on such a serious note, so I'll save the explanation of my reasonings for a future post.

As far back as I can recall, this was the first New Year's Eve that I spent at home, and sober at that.

5 meals remaining in the cycle.

2.359 Mega Mac

-Cycle 2, Item 359-
30 (Fri) December 2011

-American-
Mega Mac

* * *

at McDonald's (E-Mart)

-Seongsu, Seoul-

With Wife and Dominic

The Mega Mac is a Big Mac with 2 additional patties. It's new to Korea, although it seems to have been available to varying degrees in other markets. 5,200 won for the burger alone.

It tastes like a Big Mac with 2 additional patties, which may be 2 additional patties too much. After a single bite, the wife shook her head in disapproval and concluded that they should've also added more cheese and and more condiments and more bread to balance out the meat. I said, "But that would just be 2 Big Macs." "Exactly," she replied.

As always, I'm a sucker for the in-store advertisement.

Around this time last year, I lamented that the final ten meals of that first cycle would include McDonald's--a Big Mac, in fact (see 1.356 Big Mac and Chicken McNuggets). I can't seem to avoid it, apparently.

6 meals remaining in the cycle.

Ultimately, it's just a whole lot of meat.

2.358 Shrimp with Broccoli Stems and Cauliflower in Corsino-5S Sauce


-Cycle 2, Item 358-
29 (Thu) December 2011

-Chinese-
Shrimp with Broccoli Stems, Cauliflower, Bamboo in Corsino-5S Sauce

* * * * *

by me

at home

-Oksu, Seoul-

With Dominic

A variation on an old favorite (see most recently 2.211 Shrimp with Mushrooms and Cauliflower in Corsino Sauce), I added a dash of five-spice to the sauce, as well as a touch of chicken powder.  The small amount of additional seasonings made a huge difference, perhaps better.  It certainly tasted a bit more "Chinese."  Also, I'm now fully convinced about the broccoli stems.

7 meals remaining in the cycle.

2.357 Churrasco

-Cycle 2, Item 357-
28 (Wed) December 2011

-Brazilian-
Churrasco

* * * *

at Carne do Brasil

-Sinchon, Seoul-

With Kim IT, Kim KH, Lee HS, MtG

As it's known in Korea, churrasco is a form of Brazilian cuisine consisting of various meats that are roasted on skewers, brought to the table on the skewers, and sliced directly onto the customer's plate, typically in unlimited quantities. When churrasco first began to appear here sometime during the early 2000s, the types of meats were more varied, including beef, pork, chicken, and lamb. By now, however, sadly, most establishments have done away with all but the beef and maybe a pork sausage. Of course, an array of complimentary (complementary?) side dishes are provided.

This place was no exception. 4 types of beef. 1 pork sausage. Side dishes. Roast pineapple and espresso for dessert. 32,000 won + 10% VAT. It wasn't all that bad. But if I'm just going to be eating beef, I'd rather spend the same amount of money on a good steak.

picanha churrasco
(the only item worth seconds, and thirds)

alcatra
(tough)

contrafile
(a bit too garlicky, obviously)

brochette de file
(dry)

linguica
(looked like a severed finger/penis).

clockwise from bottom: salsa ("pimenta"), pickles, cabbage salad,
fried rice, chili sauce ("vinagrate"), potato salad

The meal was, ostensibly, in celebration of my birthday. Afterwards, we went to Ictaek's restaurant to share a bottle of Glenfiddich and fried Spam, which everyone seemed to enjoy more than the churrasco.


8 meals remaining in the cycle.

2.356 Egyptian Sandwich (Lamb, Cheese, Spicy)

-Cycle 2, Item 356-
27 (Tue) December 2011

-Egyptian-
Egyptian Sandwich (Lamb, Cheese, Spicy)

* * * *

at Egyptian Sandwiches

-Itaewon, Seoul-

With Jang HJ, Kim HS, Kim JO, Lee SW

Egyptians may eat a lot of meats wrapped in bread but probably nothing like this. The item was first brought to my attention on Seoul Food on his blog, where it's described succinctly as: "Kinda sorta like Philly cheesesteak." He continues: "I will admit that I was quite inebriated when I dived into this bad boy, but I thought it was kinda awesome. Meat, cheese, and grilled onions. What's there not to like?" (see Seoul Food's entry on Egyptian Sandwich Cart). I concur.

More specifically, the sandwich here consisted of seasoned lamb, along with the aforementioned onions and cheese, all sauteed in oil and stuffed into a hoagie roll and topped in a white yoghurt sauce and spicy chili sauce. Chicken, beef, and vegetable were available in lieu of lamb. The cheese and sauces were optional. 4,000 won for the basic sandwich. 1,000 won with cheese.


In many ways--context, construction, taste and texture, as well as the dubious claim of national origin--I'm reminded of the so-called "Moroccan Sandwich" that I wrote about in a prior post (see 1.085 Moroccan Lamb Sandwich). The key difference is that the latter didn't include cheese but featured a scrambled egg and potato knish-like thing, which together gave the sandwich a rounder flavor and mouthfeel while making it much more distinct than a standard meat-and-bread combination. Both sandwiches involved similar if not identical bread, which was also noted by Seoul Food: "I'm pretty sure this guy uses the same type of baguette roll that the Moroccan dude uses. I gotta find out where they sell these things. They're crispy and chewy and the perfect vehicle for greasy griddle-fried fillings." Ultimately, Seoul Food concludes: "I gotta give the slight edge to the Moroccan dude." I concur, though I would suggest that the edge is more than merely "slight."


Of course, the problem with any street business--beyond hygiene and other quality control issues--is tracking it down on a consistent basis. Alas, the Moroccan truck seems to have disappeared, at least from the Itaewon scene. I haven't seen it in ages. The Egyptian truck is/was on the street in the front of the building where Hollywood Grill is located, a couple blocks east of Hamilton Hotel. I can only hope that the tent and tables, a relatively sophisticated set-up for Itaewon street vendors, is a sign of long term quasi-permanence.

With 9 meals remaining to complete the cycle, I'm finally in the home stretch.

2.355 Kaang Kiew Wan with Shrimp, Bamboo Shoots, Broccoli Stems, and Cauliflower

-Cycle 2, Item 355-
26 (Mon) December 2011

-Thai-
Kaang Kiew Wan
with Shrimp, Bamboo Shoots, Broccoli Stems, and Cauliflower

* * * *

by me

at home

-Oksu, Seoul-

With Wife and Dominic

The 7th in a line of dishes employing packaged sauce bases by Asian Home Gourmet (see most recently 2.131 Grilled Chicken Phat Kraphao with Mushrooms, Paprika, and Cauliflower), this latest installment was the most successful yet. It probably had something do with the leftover crab & egg curry from two weekends ago (see 2.347 Poo Nim Pad Pong Garee) that I added to the mix.

I'm starting to prefer the broccoli stems to the florets. I used to discard the stems, as I'm sure many people do. But then, to stretch the value of our domestic grocery budget, broccoli being somewhat expensive here, I began to incorporate the stems into various dishes. And now, I like that they maintain their crunchy texture even when cooked for longer periods, allowing for a wider margin of error where timing is crucial, especially in stir-fries.

2.354 Brisket Pot Roast with Red Wine Gravy

-Cycle 2, Item 354-
25 (Sun) December 2011

-American-
Brisket Pot Roast with Red Wine Gravy

* * *

by me

at home

-Oksu, Seoul-

With Wife, Dominic, Mom and Dad

My first pot roast, which I thought would make a nice centerpiece for Christmas dinner. I followed a recipe from James Peterson's cookbook Meat: A Kitchen Education (see previously 2.043 Braised Pork Spare Ribs in Tomato-Red Wine Broth), but it didn't turn out so well. Neither did the items surrounding it. I won't waste time discussing the details.

Anyway, Merry Christmas.

grilled eggplant with garlic-shallot-parmesan topping

shrimp & broccoli scampi

roast garlic-rosemary potatoes

cauliflower stuffing

mixed greens with blue cheese & parmesan dressing

2.353 Lemon-in-the-Ass Rosemary Roast Chicken with Roast Potatoes and Pan Gravy

-Cycle 2, Item 353-
24 (Sat) December 2011

-American-
Lemon-in-the-Ass Rosemary Roast Chicken
with Roast Potatoes and Pan Gravy

* * * *

by me

at home

-Oksu, Seoul-

With Wife and Dominic

Lately, I've been reading a book entitled Man with a Pan: Culinary Adventures of Fathers Who Cook for Their Families. It's a collection of essays by various men--their musings on food, memories of eating and cooking food, and meditations on the modern man's roles and responsibilities in the kitchen. Each essay is accompanied by a recipe or two, in most cases for dishes discussed in the text. About a third of the way through, it's been a fun read thus far.


In the first piece, "Putting Food on Your Family" (in reference to "You're working hard to put food on your family....", George W. Bush's remark at a voter rally during the 2000 presidential election campaign), author Jack Hitt offers a recipe for "Really Good Chicken." I skipped the initial brining but followed the remaining steps. What I like about the recipe is the part about sticking a whole lemon or lime up the chicken's butt. According to the author: "The idea is that once the high temperature hits the goods in the cavity, the lemon juice will evaporate, taking the flavors around it directly into the flesh of the bird; so whatever you stuff around the lemon or lime will become a slight flavoring in the meat." Any cooking tip laced with pseudo-science seems to make sense.

Just in time for Christmas Eve, the rosemary makes the lemon look like a yellow Christmas tree.
Or a French tickler, which is also appropriate considering where it's going.

2.352 Svinsko Verteno

-Cycle 2, Item 352-
23 (Fri) December 2011

-Bulgarian-
Svinsko Verteno

* * * * *

at Zelen

-Hannam, Seoul-

With Wife, Dominic, Mom and Dad,
and the In-Laws

As anticipated just two days earlier, I was soon back at my new favorite restaurant for some more Bulgarian food. The occasion was the wrap-up dinner following Dominic's daycare holiday pageant (he played the lead role as Mowgli in The Jungle Book).

Pork fillet rolled with bacon, smoked cheese, mushrooms, scallions, and pickles, served in gravy, along with potatoes and vegetables. According to internet reviews, it's one of the restaurant's more popular dishes, and I can see why. The tender pork, the salty bacon, the gooey cheese, the earthy mushrooms, the sharp scallions, the tangy pickles, the savory gravy--all combined to create a most pleasurable balance of taste and texture. Haute cuisine and comfort food at the same time.

2.351 Arugula Pizza

-Cycle 2, Item 351-
22 (Thu) December 2011

-Italian-
Arugula Pizza

* * *

at Due Cose

-Hannam, Seoul-

With Wife and Dominic

I discovered that our neighborhood hole-in-the-wall Italian joint in Hannam, which had mysteriously vanished several months ago, had not gone out of business but moved to a secluded alley across the street. Within a day of the chance discovery--made yesterday on the occasion of dining at Zelen, a restaurant located within the same alley--we promptly headed to the new location for some of our old favorites (see most recently 2.014 Spaghetti al Jalapeno). Unbeknownst to us, the place has become something of a local hotspot, what with all the luxury apartments cropping up in the area but not a wide range of chi-chi eateries catering to the discerning residents; we arrived at 6:30 to grab the last open table, would-be customers lining up behind us.


Maybe it's because a restaurant seems to lose a touch of the original magic when it relocates to better digs, or maybe we were still buzzing from last evening's meal at Zelen, or from the amazing meal at Villa Sortino over the weekend, but the food at the refitted Due Cose was a bit disappointing. Frankly, the food had never been spectacular, just admirably good for a place so close to home, especially the wood-fired Neopolitan-style pizza, a rarity way back when. But everything was blander than I'd remembered, now along the level of blah associated with the food preferred by the rich-though-timid wannabe gourmands who primarily feed south of the river. Despite the joy that I may appear to exude whenever ripping apart certain establishments for their perceived failings, I really really really despise finding that an old favorite haunt has gone by the wayside.

some kind of "chicken salad" with balsamic vinaigrette

pickles, of course

2.350 Agneshko po Gergiovski

-Cycle 2, Item 350-
21 (Wed) December 2011

-Bulgarian-
Agneshko po Gergiovski

* * *

at Zelen

-Hannam, Seoul-

With Wife, Dominic, MtG and his girlfriend, Cho J and Kim K

Prior to this evening, I'd never considered the existence of Bulgarian food, much less the idea of eating it. Remarkable how so few of the culinary traditions throughout the world, even a representative dish or two, manage to go global. Anyway, thanks to MtG's knack for finding good eats of any kind, a Bulgarian restaurant has suddenly become my new favorite dining destination in the city.

The cuisine of Bulgaria, paraphrased from Wikipedia (see Wikipedia's entry for Bulgarian cuisine), is representative of Southeastern Europe, essentially South Slavic, sharing characteristics of other Balkans cuisines and demonstrating strong Greek and Turkish influences. Owing to the relatively warm climate and geography affording excellent growth conditions for a variety of vegetables, fruits, and herbs, the food is diverse. Pork is the most common meat, along with chicken and fish and lamb. Most dishes are baked, steamed, grilled, or in the form of stew.

spinach chicken

svinsko verteno

kiufte

At Zelen, the food was along the lines of what might be considered "typical" European fare. Most of the dishes were meat-and-potatoes, both literally and figuratively in the sense that everything was simple and hearty and tasty. For example, the featured dish above was roast leg of lamb and boiled potatoes in gravy. At 26,000 won, it was the most expensive item that we had. It was also the most mundane and least satisfying dish of the meal--the lamb was somewhat stringy and a bit too gamy for my tastes--but I'm using it for the post despite the mere 3-star rating because it was the dish that I ordered for myself, and I'm sure that the other dishes will someday soon have their moment in the spotlight.

seafood plate

Generally, what I like about Zelen, beyond the good food and friendly service at reasonable prices, is that it offers the opportunity to try something new, though not too radically new. And conveniently for me, it's located in Hannam, a 2-minute drive from home (the original location is in Itaewon).


Address: Yongsan-Gu Hannam-Dong 262-1 (용산구 한남동 262-1)
Phone: (02) 749-2900

2.349 Buffalo Wings

-Cycle 2, Item 349-
20 (Tue) December 2011

-American-
Buffalo Wings

* * *

at Hollywood Grill

-Itaewon, Seoul-

With J Kim and H Jang

Buffalo wings are deep-fried chicken wings tossed in cayenne-based hot sauce and butter. Most aspects of the origin story seem to be in dispute, including the specific establishment where the dish was created, the circumstances of creation, the brand of hot sauce, and the sides and condiments served therewith, but I tend to go with Anchor Bar & Grill in Buffalo, New York, impromptu snack for the owner's son and his friends on a late-night visit, Frank's Original RedHot Cayenne Pepper Sauce, celery sticks and blue cheese dressing.

For the longest time, I've been meaning to check out Hollywood Grill, which offers appetizers at 50% off on Tuesdays. These buffalo wings, for example, among a variety of different wings available, were 3,500 won for a plate of 10. I couldn't tell if the sauce was Frank's, but close enough. No veggies. No dipping sauce. Not too bad overall, especially at that price. I may be back to sample other items on the menu.

2.348 Ganjang Gejang

-Cycle 2, Item 348-
19 (Mon) December 2011

-Korean-
Ganjang Gejang

* * *

by my aunt

at their home

-Seongsu, Seoul-

With Wife, Dominic, Mom and Dad,
and various maternal-side relatives

Word for word, I defer to a post about this dish earlier in the year, right down to the unshakable conclusion that I still don't really like it, even though my aunt's rendition is the best of its kind that I'm likely ever to have (see 2.089 Ganjang Gejang).

And so, with just 18 meals remaining, I fail in my mission to feature 365 different items for the cycle. Admittedly, some items along the way were similar to each other, but I believe that I maintained the spirit of the endeavor until now. On this evening, however, I had no choice: my aunt makes ganjang gejang for every family gathering, and everything else on the table had also been featured already, and I wasn't in a position to do anything about it. Oh well.

2.347 Poonim Phat Phong Kari

-Cycle 2, Item 347-
18 (Sun) December 2011

-Thai-
Poonim Phat Phong Kari

3.0

at Thai Garden

-Itaewon, Seoul-

with Wife and Dominic

Poonim phat phong kari is a Thai curry dish.  It consists of deep-fried soft-shell crabs in a thick egg curry. The combination of crisp succulent crabs and rich savory curry is simply awesome.

On our honeymoon in Thailand five years ago, the wife and I encountered this dish for the first time. It was the single best experience that I've had with Thai food specifically thus far and among the best experiences that I've had with food in general. Inspired, all the curries that I made during the newlywed period--be it Thai, Indian, Japanese--included egg.

On this evening five years later, we were reacquainted with the dish upon a chance visit to Thai Garden, a previously unknown restaurant that had come to our attention thanks to the promotional efforts of our credit card company. The egg curry wasn't so inspiring, but the very offer of soft-shell crab was noteworthy in itself; I've never seen soft-shell crab anywhere else in Korea. And though it was the most expensive item on the menu at 33,000 won, the price was somewhat justified by the inclusion of 4 precious crabs.

Everything else was respectably good.

tom yam kung

phat siew with chicken

pickled cabbage-radish-carrot (free side dish)

2.346 Tagliatelle allo Zafferano


-Cycle 2, Item 346-
17 (Sat) December 2011

-Italian-
Tagliatelle allo Zafferano

4.0

at Villa Sortino

-Itaewon, Seoul-

With Wife and Dominic

For the final 20 posts of this cycle, I hope to make every one count.

Around the turn of the millennium, in a newspaper article featuring interviews with several supposed bigwigs of the local hospitality industry, one of them is quoted as saying that Villa Sortino is where Italian chefs in Korea go to eat. That was ages ago. And who knows whether the guy was a credible source. And frankly, I'm not even sure that it was Villa Sortino. But whenever I'd passed by the place, a prominent fixture in central Itaewon for years, that's the thought that passed through my mind. For that reason alone, I decided to give it a shot.


The meal that we had at Villa Sortino this evening ranks among the finest dining experiences with Italian cuisine in my life, certainly the best in Korea, definitely the best in recent memory, perhaps the best ever. It started with a calamari appetizer, the intriguingly cut whole squid grilled to medium-rare perfection and accompanied by a buttery dill dressing that enriched the juicy squid while providing a bright herbaceous counterpoint. Next, the perfectly cooked pasta, which seemed to be handmade judging by the chewy-soft texture that earned the simultaneous approval of the wife and me for the first time in history (I like it al dente, whereas she likes it mushy), was tossed in an exquisite saffron-infused seafood stock reduction, along with scallops, shrimp, arugula, and cherry tomatoes. Finally, the fish was a cod fillet with tomatoes, asparagus, black olives, and garlic cloves in a light yet impossibly savory wine sauce that had us sopping up every last drop with the complimentary bread. Even the olive oil that came with the bread was excellent. In addition to taste and texture, we were impressed by the freshness and quality of the ingredients in every dish.



Of course, it didn't come cheap. The calamari was 16,000 won, the pasta 25,000 won, the fish 51,000 won--hell, the beer was 12,000 won--all plus 10% VAT. Although overpriced by any reasonable standard, the food was so good that we weren't complaining. I wouldn't say that we got our money's worth, but at least we got something for our money.

Villa Sortino is now my favorite Italian restaurant.

Address: Seoul Yongsan-Gu Itaewon-Dong 124-9 (서울시 용산구 이태원동 124-9)
Phone: 02-553-9000

2.345 Grilled Cheese & Sun-Dried Tomato Sandwich: Provolone/Wheat

-Cycle 2, Item 345-
16 (Fri) December 2011

-American-
Grilled Cheese & Sun-Dried Tomato Sandwich:
Provolone/Wheat

* * * * *

by me

at home

-Oksu, Seoul-

solo

A spur-of-the-moment creation, the idea to add sun-dried tomatoes came--suddenly and inexplicably--after the bread and cheese were already in the pan. The result was remarkably like pizza, good pizza with an intense tomato flavor. I've never heard of this combination, even though it now seems obvious. The sun-dried tomatoes were from a jar, marinated in olive oil. I spread the tiniest bit of mayo on the inner surface of the bread and pan-grilled the outsides in butter.

The makings of a new signature dish, I'll name it once I've experimented with different types of cheese and determined which works best. I may also experiment with additional "toppings," such as olives or arucola.