-Cycle 2, Item 33-
7 (Mon) February 2011
Roast Duck Noodle Soup
at Mr. Choi Kitchen (Robinsons Place)
with Kim SY
After jjajang-myeon, roast duck noodle soup is my second favorite dish. Unfortunately, it's unavailable in Korea. In retrospect, I'm regretful that I didn't eat more of it when I had easy access--living near Chinatown in LA, for example. With that in mind, I took full advantage of our 6-day honeymoon in Bangkok, where Cantonese restaurants are widespread, and insisted that we have roast duck and/or roast duck noodle soup at least every other meal, including our first and final meals in the country; my wife was then introduced to the dish and immediately took a liking, though not necessarily a loving, to it.
So, for my first ever meal in the Philippines, I was reunited with my precious, a scant 3 hours within arrival. 190 pesos. Alas, it wasn't very good. I also ordered a plate of sauteed mixed vegetables, such a simple dish that's inexplicably also unavailable in Chinese restaurants throughout Korea. 170 pesos. It also wasn't very good. And of course, the local brew: San Miguel. 50 pesos. Very good.
I'm in Manila until Thursday on a consulting job for the WHO.
I had dinner with a colleague/mentor, a professor from Yonsei who's on a research sabbatical here. Fortunately, she knew from past experience that I would want Chinese as a matter of course. A few years ago, on a trip with her and others to London, whenever the group had decided on Korean food, I would get roast duck takeout (or "takeaway," as they call it in London) and sneak it into the restaurant.
As with my posts on Japan, I'll also discuss meals in addition to dinner and other food-related issues during my stay.
Earlier in the day, I had breakfast in the Asiana Business Lounge at Incheon International Airport. I was fully expecting to find that Shin Ramyeon would be the only variety on offer, and I wasn't disappointed. Koreans choose the brand in 99% of cases. Generally, when it comes to food, Koreans tend to make decisions not by conscious choice, but rather by force of habit, not necessarily because it's good, but because it's just there, and it's always been there, and always will be, so why bother with anything else. For example, on the camping trip to Japan last week, the default breakfast every morning was Shin Ramyeon, some of it brought from Korea and some purchased in the local supermarket--Japan, the birthplace of ramen, hundreds of brands available, and the Koreans all reach for the Shin. On extended trips to Geneva, I've seen multiple members of the Korean delegation pack boxes of Shin, each containing 20 packages. When I asked why they didn't mix it up a bit, they looked at me like I was crazy.
Anyway, a fat glass of Johnny Walker Black from the complimentary bar helped to wash it down. All flights were delayed that morning due to fog, so I helped myself to 3 more. I love the smell of Scotch in the morning.
On the plane, lunch was seafood in some kind of sauce. With all the advances and improvements in food across the board, I'd think in-flight meals would have benefited in some way, but they seem to be getting worse.
After dinner, back at the hotel, I went across the street to sample the local cuisine. Being in a not-so-glamorous part of Manila, it was a risky move in terms of both personal safety and food safety. From my 3rd floor hotel room, however, I was enticed by the sight of stainless steel pots at some sort of open-air restaurant cum street-side bar, conveniently bracketed by a karaoke on one side and a brothel on the other. I had absolutely no idea what the pots contained, whether they were even filled with food. Up close, I could see that the offerings were various types of braised fish in semi-clear broths or meats in brown sauces. I pointed at the one that looked most accessible, which turned out to be pork in what tasted like a black pepper, soy-based sauce. 30 pesos for a small serving. 8 pesos for rice. All served room/street temperature, not a heating implement in sight. No refrigeration either, come to think of it. In the warm and humid Manila weather, I wonder how long the food can sit before it goes rancid. In any event, it was pretty good.
In the morning, I woke up with slightly puffy cheeks. At WHO, probably the most highly qualified group of people in the country to know about this kind of thing, they said it could be an allergic reaction to a toxin in the notoriously polluted city air--or food poisoning. Damn, I was hoping to go back tomorrow and make the meal an official entry.