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2.176 Spaghetti Dominico with Cherry Tomatoes

-Cycle 2, Dinner 176-
30 (Thu) June 2011

-Italian-
Spaghetti Dominico
with Cherry Tomatoes

* * * * *

by me

at home

-Oksu, Seoul-

with Dominic

For 2 reasons, I've decided to develop "signature" dishes and give them names. The first reason is purely narcissistic, delusions of culinary grandeur borne of little more than a subjective belief not necessarily reflected in objective 3rd-party review that some of my creations are pretty good and that they are, in fact, my own creations. The second reason is more practical, impatience with trying to come up with dish descriptions that have become increasingly overlong, clumsy, and in themselves pretentious for their implicit insistence that all the stated ingredients are essential and demand recognition.

Thus, I present Spaghetti Dominico. It's a follow-up to a dish that I made a couple weeks back (see 2.165 Spaghetti with Shrimp in Basil-Cream Sauce), but more refined. The key components are shrimp, shrimp stock, and fresh basil. As I didn't follow a specific recipe and eyeballed the amounts of various ingredients during the process, I'll just summarize and approximate how it went. Shell and devein 8 whole shrimp. In a small pot over medium heat, combine 2 cups of water with the shells, a few slices of carrots and celery and onions and leeks, a few cloves of garlic, a bay leaf, and parsley stems. Simmer for 30 minutes until reduced to 1 cup, occasionally skimming the foam that rises to the surface. Meanwhile, in a separate large pot over high heat, bring 1 liter of water and 1 tablespoon of salt to a boil and add 250 grams of spaghetti, cooking for 8 minutes until just short of al dente. While the stock is reducing and the pasta is boiling, in a separate pan over low heat, add 2 tablespoons of EVOO and saute, in order, 1/2 cup of diced onion, 1/4 cup of diced celery, 1 tablespoon of minced garlic, salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste, a combined 1/4 teaspoon of dried oregano and thyme, and 2 tablespoons fresh basil julienne--5 minutes total. Increasing the heat to medium-high, add 1/2 cup dry white wine and cook until the alcohol has evaporated--1 minute. Strain the stock and add to the sauce in the pan, along with 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of fresh grated parmesan cheese--1 minute. Add shrimp and 4 halved/seeded cherry tomatoes (optional) and stir--30 seconds. Drain the spaghetti and immediately add to the pan, and stir-1 minute. Garnish with basil leaf and fresh parsley. Done.

Dominic loves it. It's named after him, after all.

2.175 Pan-Fried Chicken Tenderloins with Roast Pepper Salsa and Parsley Lettuce


-Cycle 2, Dinner 175-
29 (Wed) June 2011

-Mexican-
Pan-Fried Chicken Tenderloins
with Roast Pepper Salsa and Parsley Lettuce

* * * *

by me

at home

-Oksu, Seoul-

with Wife and Dominic

The piccata method of cooking meat by pounding it flat, dredging it in flour, then pan-frying it in butter--a technique that I discussed in a recent post (see 2.153 Chicken Piccata with Basil Capellini)--is ostensibly Italian in both origin and practice but lends itself well to Mexican cuisine. For tonight's dish, the chicken tenderloins prepared in this manner provided a crisp and savory counterpoint to the sweet picante salsa in my now-signature style (see 2.155 Grilled Lamb Chops Aliman with Roast Pepper Salsa and Mixed Greens), which was not entirely dissimilar in terms of tartness to the lemon and parsley sauce that accompanies actual piccata dishes. In fact, come to think of it, both "piccata" and "picante" derive from the same Latin(?) root word meaning "to prick or bite"--i.e., "sharp."

2.174 Chicken Taco with Tapatio Sauce

-Cycle 2, Dinner 174-
28 (Tue) June 2011

-Mexican-
Chicken Taco with Tapatio Sauce

* * * * *

from Naked Grill
[takeout]

at home

-Oksu, Seoul-

solo

Exactly what I said before in a prior post about this same dish at this same restaurant (see 1.291 Chicken Taco), only way better smothered in Tapatio Sauce.

2.173 Janchi Guksu


-Cycle 2, Item 173-
27 (Mon) June 2011

-Korean-
Janchi Guksu (잔치국수)

2.0

at Bon-Ga (본가)

-Oksu, Seoul-

with Wife and Parents

Janchi guksu (잔치국수) is a Korean noodle soup.  The name literally means "party (janchi) noodles (guksu)," because the guests at celebrations of yore were often served some kind of noodles in broth, a special treat back in the day.  The modern representation of this tradition is a very simple affair consisting of so myeon (소면) (thin dried flour noodles) boiled in an anchovy-stock soup topped with some combination of carrot, onion, scallion, zucchini, mushroom, egg ribbon, laver.  Buffets for weddings or 1st-year birthdays often offer mini-servings of the dish in small bowls, just a couple bites, more symbolic than substantive.  But some restaurants offer a full-sized serving as an actual meal, as here.  I've never had a bowl of the stuff that's been any better than mediocre.  

2.172 Ggongchi-Kimchi Jjigae


-Cycle 2, Item 172-
26 (Sun) June 2011

-Korean-
Ggongchi-Kimchi Jjigae (꽁치김치찌개)

* * *

by me

at home

-Oksu, Seoul-

with Wife and Dominic

Kimchi jjigae (김치찌개), Korea's most ubiquitous stew and the subject of many posts on this blog (see generally 1.301 Kimchi Jjigae), is most commonly made with pork but sometimes with fish, specifically pike mackerel, which is called "ggongchi" (꽁치) in Korean, usually from a can. Of course, the fish variation is significantly different, much leaner and crisper in texture without the pork fat but also intensely fishy (for lack of a better term) due to the inherent fishiness of the mackerel. Either way, it's a matter of personal preference.

One key aspect in assessing a given plate of kimchi, aside from the types of seasonings that it contains and the level of heat, is where it lies along the spectrum of fermentation. Kimchi continues to ferment throughout its life. Some people prefer to eat their kimchi early on, just a few days after pickling, when the cabbage is still crisp, not having had time to absorb all the juices, which themselves have not yet fully developed in flavor, making it all taste and feel like a light and spicy salad. On the other end, some people prefer their kimchi fermented to the extreme, often after a year of careful storage, at which point the cabbage is soft and a brownish-orange hue from all the spices, which are now mouth-puckeringly sour. Most people prefer something in between, right when the kimchi peaks.

Anyway, my buddy that owns a kimchi jjigae restaurant gave me a bundle of kimchi that had prematurely fermented due to improper storage in the summer heat. It's perfectly edible--like I said, some people like it that way--but difficult to handle. To make tonight's stew, I added liberal amounts of sugar and/or honey to counteract the acidity, but even then the broth was way sharp, each spoonful going down with a slight wince. A bit too much for Dominic, who was present but ate something else.

2.171 O-Jju-Sam Bokkeum with Ddeok

-Cycle 2, Dinner 171-
25 (Sat) June 2011

-Korean-
O-Jju-Sam Bokkeum with Ddeok

* * * *

by Kim KH

at Camp Hill

-Gapyeong, GyeongGi-

with Wife, Dominic,
Cho JH, Kim KH, MtG,
and Kim JA's family

Similar to the standard o-sam bokkeum (오삼볶음)--squid ("o-jingeo")(오징어) and pork bellies ("sam-gyeopsal")(삼겹살), stir-fried ("bokkeum")(볶음) in a sweet-spicy chili sauce--this variation included octopus ("jju-ggumi")(쭈꾸미) and rice cakes ("ddeok")(떡). This particular type of octopus, which is a smaller species no bigger than 10 cm in length, is often made into a stir-fry on its own (see 2.145 Fried Rice a la Jjuggumi Bokkeum). Here, Kiho took a ready-made package consisting of octopus and pork (not a typical combination) and added the squid, as well as other ingredients, like the cutely shaped rice cakes (for the kids), to make it his own. Well done.

This wasn't, strictly speaking, a campsite dish but rather a dish prepared with camping gear on the desk of a rented cabin on the premises of a campsite.

2.170 Chicken a la King

-Cycle 2, Dinner 170-
24 (Fri) June 2011

-American-
Chicken a la King

* *

by me

at home

-Oksu, Seoul-

with Dominic

Chicken a la King--essentially: chicken, mushrooms, bell peppers, cream, sherry--is a classic American dish that's become something of a culinary clunker, a cliche along the lines of, say, tuna casserole without the retro chic of, say, mac & cheese. Even the quaintly grandiose name, whose origins are in dispute but which likely has nothing to do with actual royalty, now seems ironic. Many of the recipes that I found online were prefaced with comments about it being "a great way to use up leftover chicken." Personally, I can't recall a single instance of seeing the dish outside the frozen food aisle of the supermarket.

Quite possibly the final straw, this was the 4th attempt at realizing a recipe in Emeril's Delmonico, a cookbook that hasn't yielded much success in my kitchen. Including the previous three (see 2.163 Steak Diane, 2.153 Chicken Piccata with Basil Capellini, 2.152 Shrimp Remoulade), it's averaging 2.5 stars. Granted, I take responsibility for some of the problems in the final products, but I'm beginning to think either that the recipes are inherently flawed or that, if correct, they're simply not my style. Case in point, although I had no prior experience for comparison, the Chicken a la King here was way too rich and too heavy on the sherry for my liking.

2.169 Club Sub


-Cycle 2, Dinner 169-
23 (Thu) June 2011

-American-
Club Sub

* * * *

at Subway

-Suwon, GyeongGi-

solo

Surprisingly, with all the sandwiches that I've eaten in my life, I'd never had a club sandwich prior to this evening.  Well, I may have unwittingly sampled something that generally fit the description, say, from a sandwich platter at a buffet, but I'd never actually ordered one.  I don't know why.

In any event, I'd never thought about the composition of a club sandwich until just now.  It turns out to have many variations, though most involve a double decker format with bacon and/or turkey and/or chicken, all of which seem rather arbitrary, as well as theories about origin, though most suggest some kind of exclusive resort or hotel, all of which seem rather speculative, such that the name "club sandwich" is rendered meaningless.

The Club Sub at Subway consists of turkey, ham, and roast beef on a hoagie roll with the seasonings and toppings left to the customer's discretion, which allowed me to apply my personal Subway formula (see 2.058 Turkey Sandwich with Tapatio Sauce).  All in all, this wasn't a "club" by even the loosest of definitions.

In case anyone's wondering, my decision to order this particular item was by process of elimination.  I won't go into details.

2.168 Rockin' Mozzy Mushroom Burger

-Cycle 2, Item 168-
22 (Wed) June 2011

-American-
Rockin' Mozzy Mushroom Burger

* * * *

by me

at home

-Oksu, Seoul-

with Dominic

In trying to create a burger that represents my own ideal version, I came up with this and came close to succeeding.

The 8 components, including 5 spot-on choices and 3 mistakes, were as follows:

1. beef (125 grams per burger, chopped in a food processor just prior to the point of standard "ground" meat to retain bite, seasoned with salt and pepper and garlic powder and dried Italian herbs and EVOO, cooked on a grill pan to medium rare) (preferably a 50/50 mix of sirloin (for the flavor) and ribeye (for the fat), American) (this time, however, my inadvertent purchase of upper chuck, an inherently lean cut of meat, combined with my chunkily chopped style, resulted in an unacceptably tough patty) [(accidental) mistake]
2. bagel (toasted) (I had some sitting in the freezer and was curious to see how they would work: though admirably maintaining their integrity to the end, they were a bit too bulky and chewy) [mistake (out of convenience)]
3. dijon mustard (liberally) [spot-on]
4. mayo (just enough to lubricate the bread) [spot-on]
5. mozzarella (pre-sliced) (I was going for subtlety on the cheese but perhaps mozz is too subtle) [mistake (out of convenience)]
6. button mushrooms (sauteed with minced garlic and sliced onions in worcestershire sauce and EVOO) [spot-on]
7. onion (raw, sliced) [spot-on]
8. rocket (as is) [spot-on]

Next time, proper beef and bonafide bun and better cheese, all else to remain the same.

2.167 Fish & Chips

-Cycle 2, Dinner 167-
21 (Tue) June 2011

-English-
Fish & Chips

* * *

at The Wolfhound

-Itaewon, Seoul-

with Kim KH, Lee HS, and MtG

In a post last cycle, I discussed this same dish at the same restaurant on the same day of the week (i.e., 2-for-1 Tuesday) (see 1.105 Fish & Chips).

On this occasion, however, something was different, not in a good way. It was either my lack of appetite at the time or my ever-pickier standards or, on their end, the food and/or cooking was off, like the fish was a bit greasy and more crumbly, making it nearly impossible to actually get a solid chunk of fish onto the fork, and the chips were somewhat limp.

Still, the female bartender with the short hair (I never bothered to get her name), who tends the 1st-floor bar at The Wolfhound, pours the fattest drinks that I've seen anywhere in the country. Order the house special, a double Jameson's for 7,500 won, and she'll pour a triple. Order another one, and she'll pour a quadruple. Order a third, and she'll fill the glass until the whisky's spilling over the rim. It's as if she gives more to those who prove themselves worthy. Or she figures that she'll have less work to do by pouring more each time (a few years back, on a Paris-to-Seoul flight via Air France, which was serving booze in those ridiculous 50 ml pocket rockets, each one sufficient to keep me occupied for as long as it takes me to swallow, I kept ordering scotch from the flight attendant, who eventually came back with 10 of them, five in each hand--I'm not making this up--and said, slightly exasperated, "Will this be enough?")

2.166 Garlic Steakhouse Burger

-Cycle 2, Dinner 166-
20 (Mon) June 2011

-American-
Garlic Steakhouse Burger

* * *

from Burger King
(Ajou University Hospital)
[takeout]

in my office

-Suwon, GyeongGi-

solo

For my class on public health law, I show the film Super Size Me, which opens with a rant on the omnipresence of fast food restaurants--"even in hospitals!" This always draws nervous laughter from the students, who, likely for the first time ever, are suddenly conscious of the irony in having a Burger King in the basement of our hospital. Come to think of it, I know of 3 other major hospitals in Seoul with Burger Kings. "At least you'll be close when the coronary hits," the film quips.

This Garlic Steakhouse Burger is lame. Neither the taste nor texture of the patty gives the impression that it's 100% beef, more like a flattened meatball or meatloaf, an impression reinforced by the mushy dollop of cooked onions and garlic, as well as the sickly sweet, slightly spicy sauce that's somewhere between BBQ and marinara. As I suspected, an internet search suggests that it's a creation of Burger King Korea; however, the US website mentions something called a "Steakhouse XT Burger," which has a similar-looking patty but no onion-garlic and no sauce, so maybe the Koreans are only partially to blame. A rip-off at 5,500 won.

Food styling taken too far:
why the hell would there be grill marks on the side of the patty??!!

2.165 Spaghetti with Shrimp in Basil-Cream Sauce

-Cycle 2, Dinner 165-
19 (Sun) June 2011

-Italian-
Spaghetti with Shrimp in Basil-Cream Sauce

* * * * *

by me

at home

-Oksu, Seoul-

solo

To great success, this was the first time that I incorporated stock into a pasta sauce. With a handful of whole shrimp, I peeled the shells and tossed them into a pot of water with a sachet d'epices and mire poix, bringing it to a gentle boil and letting it reduce for about 30 minutes. I used the interval to devein the shrimp, prepare the other ingredients for the sauce, boil the pasta, make a side salad, and set the table--which means the extra step didn't require a whole lot of additional prep time, maybe 10 minutes more. Strained and added to the mix, the stock gave the sauce a significant boost of shrimp flavor, a layer of complexity to the base richness of the cream, butter, and parmesan. Accordingly, it tasted like a shrimp dish, as opposed to a pasta dish garnished with shrimp as an afterthought.

Indeed, the cream, butter, and parmesan here seemed like an afterthought, which makes me think that the stock alone may be the way to go next time around.

Also, I'm beginning to think that shrimp and basil are ideal partners, an idea that first occurred to me when I attempted a tomato-basil shrimp bisque a few months back (see 2.063 Tomato-Basil Shrimp Bisque). Something about the sweet brininess of shrimp and the sweet spiciness of basil go so well together.

2.164 Yeonpo Tang

-Cycle 2, Dinner 164-
18 (Sat) June 2011

-Korean-
Yeonpo Tang (연포탕)

* * *

at Sanmaru Dolgui (산마루돌구이)

-Sinsa, Seoul-

with Wife, Dominic, and the In-Laws

I discussed this dish in a post last cycle about a different restaurant, though the basic idea remains the same: the torture of octopus (see 1.194 Yeonpo Tang).

One difference, however, was that this restaurant did not use the octopus ink. Traditionally, when the heads of the octopuses have been fully cooked and cut into bite-sized pieces, the ink sacs are ruptured in the process. The black goo spills into the broth, which is both sipped on its own and later used as the base of a stir-fried rice made directly in the pot (see 1.207 Octopus Ink Fried Rice). But here, there was no ink at any point, the ink sacs presumably having been removed in the kitchen--more torture--before the octopuses were brought to the table. As a result, the broth and the stir-fried rice were white, and somewhat bland, though some might prefer the cleaner taste and texture.


I'm wondering if the absence of ink had anything to do with the report last year in Korea that showed high levels of the metal cadmium in octopus ink, leading to an overnight consumer boycott of anything even resembling a cephalopod. The Korean public constantly has some kind of food villain to deal with, be it cadmium octopus or mad cow beef or FMD pork or avian flu chicken, which I believe they embrace with such enthusiasm because it makes them feel that much more confident in the other, "safer" things that they're eating. Inevitably, the scare is always followed by health officials calling a press conference at a restaurant, where they eat the suspect item in front of the cameras to prove how safe it is. It wouldn't surprise me if most octopus restaurants these days avoid the ink, at least until the next villainous food appears.

Dominic, with a bit of tentacle from a live octopus on his forehead;
he would only eat the bits that were actually squirming.

This place is apparently quite famous, as evidenced by all the laminated autographs on the wall, a common sight in restaurants here that have been so blessed by the touch of celebrity. Aside from my general contempt for Korea's obsession with entertainers, I don't understand the appeal of eating at a restaurant that's patronized by singers-actors-comedians-athletes, people whose opinions on food mean nothing. Incidentally, I hold similar views of celebrity endorsements for fast food and packaged food products, here and abroad.

2.163 Steak Diane

-Cycle 2, Dinner 163-
17 (Fri) June 2011

-American-
Steak Diane

* *

by me

at home

-Oksu, Seoul-

with Dominic

The version of Steak Diane in the cookbook Emeril's Delmonico is a pan-fried beef filet mignon in a sauce consisting of garlic, shallots, mushrooms, parsley, scallions, butter, cognac, heavy cream, mustard, worcestershire, stock, salt and pepper, along with the drippings of the meat, all made in the same pan. On paper, the combination of butter, cognac, and heavy cream promised an extravagantly luscious base, balanced out by the mustard and worcestershire, as well as the fresh parsley and scallions tossed in at the end.

Unfortunately, I was careless in the management of time and heat, resulting in various components at various stages being browned or singed or evaporated or--in the case of the cognac, which was supposed to be flambeed until all of the alcohol had burned off--undercooked. Ultimately, the sauce was simultaneously bitter and salty and sour and greasy and--due to the undercooked cognac--boozy.

It also didn't help that I used really cheap beef tenderloin, which was tasteless and tough.

Better luck next time.

Steak Diane is something of a culinary mystery. Although no definitive evidence has been shown to determine an exact place or date of origin, it rose to ubiquity in American cookbooks and on American restaurant menus during the mid-20th century. At the time, post-WWII, French cooking was in vogue, including such haute techniques as flambe. Indeed, though Steak Diane is usually attributed to American cuisine, it's nearly identical to the classic French steak au poivre, only without the peppercorn crust. As the name "Diane" would suggest, a reference to the Roman goddess of hunting, the sauce initially may have been served with venison or other game meats. However, at some unknown point and for some unknown reason, perhaps as the dish fell into the mainstream, beef tenderloin or filet mignon became the default cut.

2.162 Mixed Greens in Italian Dressing


-Cycle 2, Dinner 162-
16 (Thu) June 2011

-Italian-
Mixed Greens in Italian Dressing

* * *

by me

at home

-Oksu, Seoul-

solo

By "Italian" dressing, I'm referring to the bottled stuff by Kraft. Sweet and tangy. I like it. I often use it on side salads.

However, although fine in small amounts, I realized tonight that it isn't quite up to being the dressing for a main course salad, especially one made exclusively of vegetables. After a few bites, everything became too sweet, too tangy.

For a moment, I considered categorizing this meal as "Italian," but I'm pretty sure that no Italian would ever actually use "Italian" dressing, which is about as Italian as "French" dressing is French. I often complain about Koreans messing around with and messing up food from other countries, but Americans invented the practice.

2.161 Chinese-Style Naeng Myeon

-Cycle 2, Dinner 161-
15 (Wed) June 2011

-Chinese-
Chinese-Style Naeng Myeon

3.5

at Gongeulgi

-Sinsa, Seoul-

with Wife and Dominic

Chinese-style naeng myeon is a chilled noodle soup.  Similar in concept to the original Korean mul naeng myeon (MNM), the Chinese version is significantly distinct in a few respects.  First, while the broth is tangy, somewhat like Hamheung-style MNM, it's usually heavier in soy.   Second, the noodles are flour-based with potato starch, giving them a cleaner taste and chewier texture than the somewhat mealy-tasting/feeling noodles made from buckwheat.  Third, the toppings include sliced jellyfish, shrimp, and beef, all seasoned with five-spice, together reminiscent of the chilled appetizer called "naeng chae" (냉채) commonly served as part of course meals in Chinese restaurants here in Korea.  Finally, the primary condiment is peanut sauce, which tends to overpower everything else.  In the end, the dish feels Chinese, although I doubt that it even exists outside of Korea.  Even here, it isn't available at every Chinese restaurant at any time of the year, just at some places during the summer months.


Gongeulgi (공을기) is a Chinese restaurant.

On its face, the restaurant appears to exemplify my number one gripe about the Gangnam food scene: show over substance. In addition to the distinctive façade, this was one of the first Chinese places to incorporate Chinese antiques (or replicas thereof) into the decor, including the use of four-post beds as semi-private dining booths.  All the servers are dressed in Chinese garb and yell out to each other in Chinese phrases, though I was told by someone who once tried to engage one of them in dialogue that they can't actually speak the language.  On the menus, which of course read from right to left, the names of the dishes are all Chinese, written out phonetically in Korean, and the prices are written exclusively in Chinese characters.  Even the plates are adorned in Chinese characters.  Given all that show, I would expect very little substance, as the two tend to be inversely proportional when it comes to restaurants in the area.


Much to my surprise, the naeng myeon at Gongeulgi is excellent.  The noodles, though not that much flavor, were perfectly chewy.  The toppings were well made from high quality ingredients, like a very fresh and succulent jumbo shrimp.  I didn't add any peanut sauce, which I find to be vile, so the overall feel was much lighter and more refreshing.  Good stuff.

This evening was my first visit at dinnertime, the 4th visit overall, the previous occasions at lunch, all during summer and all involving this same dish.

For the first time this time, I ordered an additional item: stir-fried vegetables in oyster sauce.  Okay but a total ripoff at 23,000 won for a handful of bokchoy, ginko nuts, shiitake mushrooms, and what seemed to be about 4 sliced bell peppers.

[Please be advised that Gongeulgi is no longer in business.]

2.160 Spaghetti in Pork Ragu

-Cycle 2, Dinner 160-
14 (Tue) June 2011

-Italian-
Spaghetti in Pork Ragu

* * *

by me

at home

-Oksu, Seoul-

with Dominic

My meat sauces are always 100% beef, but I thought I'd try pork. In the end, it had a meaty texture but the delicate pork flavor was drowned out by the tomatoes and spices. (Ground turkey probably would have a similar effect.) Conclusion: pork will work in a pinch, but beef is the preferred choice.

2.159 Spicy Odeng Skewers

-Cycle 2, Item 159-
13 (Mon) June 2011

-Korean-
Spicy Odeng Skewers

3.0

at Shab-Deng (샤브뎅) (E-Mart)

-Seongsu, Seoul-

with Dominic

Odeng (오뎅) is Korean-style fishcake.  Unlike Japanese oden, which come in great varieties of shape and taste and quality (see for example 1.035 Ebi Tempura with Oden Nabe), the Korean stuff is very simple, usually coming in thin sheets, probably more flour than fish, not a whole lot of flavor.  These days, motivated by what I suspect to be a misguided sense of linguistic/culinary patriotism, certain forces have been using the term "eomuk (어묵)," which literally means "fish (eo) cake (muk)," in favor of the Japanese-derived "odeng," but the vast majority of people still use the latter, as I do.  Even the stand here is named "Shab-Deng."  In any case, one of the most common methods of preparation, found in all street-side food carts throughout the country, is to skewer the the fish cakes on long sticks and dunk them in a vat of simmering stock; a customer will take a stick from the vat, dip the odeng in soy sauce, and eat it directly off the stick.  A variation is to slather the odeng in a spicy/sweet gochujang sauce, similar to ddeokbokki sauce (떡볶기), as here.

At our E-Mart, a stand sells odeng skewers, both the regular and spicy varieties.  500 won (regular), 600 won (spicy).  Available to be eaten standing on the spot or to go in a cup.  The stand happens to be located right after the escalator from parking lot, right before entering the store, so it's a good way to avoid hungry grocery shopping.

Our local supermarket has a stall that offers both. My kid eats them plain. 500 won each. I like them spicy. 600 won each.  Good stuff.

2.158 Rock & Roll

-Cycle 2, Dinner 158-
12 (Sun) June 2011

-Japanese-
Rock & Roll

* * *

at Sakanaya
(Chelsea Premium Outlets)

-Yeoju, GyeongGi-

with Wife and Dominic

Is it just "rock & roll" or "rock & roll roll"?

Whatever the name, it's a great sushi item for kids. All the ingredients are cooked. The eel sauce and mayonnaise make for a nice sweet-savory flavor combination.

With the wife soon ending her stint at Burberry, we took in one final shopping spree while we were in the neighborhood.

I've discussed Sakanaya in 2 prior posts (see 1.198 Negi Toro Maki, 1.254 Engawa Nigiri Sushi).

2.156 Tamarind Duck

-Cycle 2, Dinner 156-
10 (Fri) June 2011

-Thai-
Tamarind Duck

* * * *

at Yum Thai

-Sinsa, Seoul-

with Wife, Dominic, and Cho JH

Finally, a decent Thai restaurant with reasonable prices: Yum Thai. The small establishment was packed on Friday evening, customers waiting in line.

I've never had "tamarind duck" before, so I have no basis for comparison, but the one here was good in and of itself, whatever the standard may be. The marinade seemed to have a slight soy sauce flavor, not unlike Korean galbi. I'm not sure if the Yum Thai offering was a fusion recipe intended to appeal to local palates--particularly the locals in this neighborhood, which I've much lamented as a dumbed-down food district where authenticity is automatically abrogated in the anticipation of appeasement--but surely the dish would be immediately accessible. At 19,000 won, the dish was among the most expensive on the menu.

We had several additional dishes, all of which were authentically Thai, well-made, and priced somewhere between 10,000 to 15,000.

2.157 Makguksu

-Cycle 2, Item 157-
11 (Sat) June 2011

-Korean-
Makguksu

* * * * *

from Silbi Sikdang (실비식당)
[takeout]

at my uncle's cabin

-Hoengseong, Gangwon-

with Wife, Dominic, Cho JH, Kim KH, Kim IT, and MtG

Makguksu (막국수) is a Korean noodle dish.  It consists of buckwheat noodles topped with shredded lettuce, cucumber, and dried laver, seasoned with gochujang and sugar and sesame oil and sesame seeds, and served in a chilled fish broth. When done right, it's a refreshing combination of contrasts: spicy and sweet and savory, chewy and crunchy. Awesome on hot summer days.

This very fine example of makguksu comes from an unlikely source. In the famed cattle region of Hoengseong (횡성), in the sleepy farming village of Seowon (서원), along a short strip of paved road--"downtown"--that features 3 Korean restaurants (plus 1 Chinese restaurant, 3 grocery stores, 1 agricultural cooperative, 2 beer joints, 1 noraebang, 1 coffee chop, 1 fire station, 1 catholic church, and 1 elementary school), Silbi Sikdang (실비식당) awaits in the dark, lights turned on only when diners come in. The house specialty is makguksu, the buckwheat noodles made fresh to order on the premises.

The restaurant doesn't have disposable to-go containers,
so a takeout order requires a firm oath to return the dishes and condiments.

The noodles were so good that we had them for 2 meals in a row, twice in one day, first for lunch and then again for dinner.

2.155 Grilled Lamb Chops Aliman with Roast Pepper Salsa over Mixed Greens


-Cycle 2, Dinner 155-
9 (Thu) June 2011

-Sui Generis-
Grilled Lamb Chops Aliman
with Roast Pepper Salsa and Mixed Greens

* * * * *

by me

at home

-Oksu, Seoul-

with Dominic

A few months back, I made an impromptu marinade for lamb chops, which I then barbecued over coals at a campsite to overwhelmingly positive response by my friends (see 2.087 Barbecued Lamb Chops in Worcestershire-Thyme Marinade). When I tried to recreate that recipe here, I didn't get it just right; the pan-grilling this time probably had something to do with the different outcome. I'll share the recipe once I've perfected it. In any event, I've decided to call it "Lamb Aliman," after the name of the campsite.

I've perfected my salsa. The driving force is roast peppers made by charring the whole bulbs over an open flame on the stovetop then peeling off the blackened skin to reveal the caramelized flesh underneath, a technique that I've recently added to my repertoire (see 2.135 Cheddar-Jack Quesadillas with Grilled Chicken and Roast Peppers). Absolutely gorgeous. Minced and mixed with lemon juice, tomatoes, onions, garlic, cilantro, and a few spices, the resulting salsa was amazing--smoky, sharp, sweet, intense. And it was an ideal partner for the lamb.

As I don't always follow a set recipe, and I'm willing to throw various components--both ingredients and techniques--together on a whim, I sometimes face difficulty categorizing my dishes by national origin. I have categories for "Pan-Asian" and "Middle-Eastern" but haven't yet made groups for fusion creations inspired by, say, European traditions. The salsa here was clearly intended and ultimately turned out to be Mexican. The Aliman marinade was more of a hodge-podge: Worcestershire sauce and balsamic vinegar and red wine vinegar and lemon juice and lemon zest and dijon mustard and olive oil and thyme and cumin being the primary components, all of which combined don't precisely fall into any particular region, though the combination whiffs a bit of the Mediterranean. But the star tonight was the salsa, so I'm going with "Mexican." [Note: since this posting, I've created a separate "miscellaneous" category.]

2.154 Pan-Seared Scallops and Chicory Leaves in a Butter-Gin Reduction


-Cycle 2, Dinner 154-
8 (Wed) June 2011

-French-
Pan-Seared Scallops and Chicory Leaves
in a Butter-Gin Reduction

* * * * *

by me

at home

-Oksu, Seoul-

solo

Initially, the plan was to try the remoulade dressing, which I'd made for boiled shrimp a couple days ago (see 2.152 Shrimp Remoulade), on some other seafood prepared in a different manner, so I went with sea scallops. But after I was done searing them, I realized that I couldn't let all those beautiful juices in the pan go to waste. A couple months back, I experimented with deglazing via alcohol on a pan-seared pork chop dish (see 2.093 Pan-Seared Pork Chop with Garlic Mashed Potatoes in Martini-Caper Sauce), so I followed up this time with some gin.

I think it worked. By now, I've become pretty adept at searing scallops (see 2.106 Pan-Seared Scallops with Corn and Conchiglie Rigate in Clam Sauce). The gin, an alcohol that's inherently spicy by all the flowers and aromatics used to make it, added just a hint of fragrance that complemented but didn't overwhelm the subtle flavor of the scallops, all rounded out with a sliver of butter at the end. The chicory leaves [note: they're called "chicory" (치커리) here in Korea, but I'm not sure if this terminology is consistent in English], a bitter vegetable that I usually add in small amounts to a larger mix of greens in salads, provided a welcome counterpoint to the richness, as well as a bit of crunch to the softness, of the other components.

2.153 Chicken Piccata with Basil Capellini


-Cycle 2, Dinner 153-
7 (Tue) June 2011

-Italian-
Chicken Piccata with Basil Capellini

2.5

by me

at home

-Oksu, Seoul-

with Dominic

Piccata is an Italian cooking method.  Involves pounding a piece of meat into a thin patty--traditionally veal, now more commonly chicken--seasoning and lightly dusting it in flour, and then cooking it to a golden brown in butter and olive oil.  The sauce is usually kept simple: pan drippings deglazed with white wine and lemon juice, plus garlic, shallots, parsley, maybe capers.  Attributed to Milano.

This was another recipe from the cookbook Emeril's Delmonico, which I discussed in yesterday's post (see 2.152 Shrimp Remoulade). I substituted chicken for the veal. I really enjoyed the texture of the meat, cooked just for a couple minutes in sizzling butter to a perfectly crisp tenderness. The sauce was okay, though a bit too tangy for my tastes. Next time, I might reduce the amount of lemon juice and capers and substitute cognac for the white wine to make it a bit more savory.

2.152 Shrimp Remoulade

-Cycle 2, Dinner 152-
6 (Mon) June 2011

-American-
Shrimp Remoulade

* * *

by me

at home

-Oksu, Seoul-

with Wife, Dominic, and Parents

Remoulade is a mayonnaise- and mustard-based condiment of French origin that has been reinterpreted in many countries across the world, leaving a wide variety of divergent sauces that essentially share only the name in the common. I defer to Wikipedia (see entry for remoulade).

Recently, I picked up a cookbook by Emeril Lagasse featuring recipes from his restaurant Delmonico, a New Orleans landmark dating back over a century that he took over in the late 90s. A lot of the food on the menu is local, meaning Creole and Cajun, which of course are both strongly influenced by French traditions.


As served at Emeril's Delmonico, remoulade in the style of New Orleans is none-too-subtle, as are many foods in the region, flavored with a triple whammy of whole grain mustard, horse radish, and red wine vinegar. Chopped onions, scallions, garlic, and celery provide additional kick. Also, powdered paprika gives the dressing an orange hue, differentiating it in appearance from the pure white remoulade found in France. The recipe calls for the remoulade to be tossed with boiled and chilled shrimp over a bed of shredded lettuce. Not bad, though maybe a tad too tart for my tastes.

Incidentally, I'm not a huge fan of Emeril. Back when I was in LA and had the TV tuned into the Food Network all day, Emeril was a major part of the line up with several programs. I was never much impressed by anything that he made on camera; admittedly, I've never eaten at any of his restaurants nor tried to recreate his dishes on my own, until today. And those catch phrases of his didn't help to elevate the appearance of quality.

But his book was in the back corner section of my father's warehouse (he imports books), an area where books that haven't sold for years are tossed away for any of the employees to take at will.

I look forward to trying out some of the recipes, however, most of which can be made with ingredients that are readily available here.

2.151 Pizza D.O.C.

-Cycle 2, Dinner 151-
5 (Sun) June 2011

-Italian-
Pizza D.O.C.

* * * *

at Kitchen Salvatore Cuomo

-Sinsa, Seoul-

with Wife, Dominic, and Parents

The "D.O.C." stands for "denominazione di origine controllata," a snooty reference to the kinda cool fact that the pizza comes from the only restaurant in Korea to have earned the official seal of approval from the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (see organization's website), a quasi-governmental body in Napoli, which some consider to be the birthplace of modern-day pizza, that sets the standards for "authentic" Neapolitan-style pizza and recognizes establishments that adhere thereto.

Generally, the standards require: the ingredients (e.g., flour, cheese, tomatoes, basil) are all-natural and non-processed, the dough has been hand-kneaded to a thickness less than 2 cm on the outer perimeter and less than 0.3 cm in the center, and the pizza is cooked for not longer than 90 seconds in an oven that fires wood only and reaches an internal temperature of 485 degrees.


When The Kitchen Salvatore Cuomo (see restaurant's website) opened its Seoul branch last year, it made front-page news in the local media, the headlines reading as if it were some kind of goddamn affirmation of the country's state of affluence and modernity. As far as I can tell, chef and owner Salvatore Cuomo isn't particularly famous for anything other than his efforts to get this AVPN designation for his restaurants across Asia, first Tokyo then Shanghai and now Seoul. Very little is said, either way, about the food itself. Nevertheless, when I had called for a reservation sometime just after the opening, I was told that the first available opening would be in two months. Congratulations to Chef Cuomo for choosing as his 3rd location a city that thrives on both exclusivity and recognition, particularly recognition of exclusivity.

The restaurant's signature wood-fired oven proudly on display in the open kitchen
(in the left corner of the photo, the head of actress/model Jeon Ji-Hyeon (전지현),
whom my father aptly described as "that girl who's made about 2 movies and 2000 commercials").

Anyway, the food was okay. The single factor that elevated the Pizza D.O.C. to 4 stars was its crust, which was among the best that I've ever had--better indeed that most breads here in the city--perfectly textured to be dry yet chewy, seasoned just right, and ever-so-slightly burnt in the wood-fired oven. The toppings, consisting of just buffalo mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, and basil, were fresh and tasty individually. It's a prime example of the old-school pizza trend in Korea that I've discussed in a series of prior posts (see most recently 1.191 Pizza with Black Olives and Mushrooms). However, I found the pizza in its totality to be less than spectacular. Fittingly, as this post's representative dish, the pizza seems to stand for all the other dishes that we ordered tonight: well-constructed with impeccable ingredients, yet somehow falling short of greatness in the end.

The more-vegetables-than-seafood fritto misto della casa.

Of course, everything was overpriced. 23,000 won for the pizza. 28,000 for a seafood linguine. 29,000 for deep-fried seafood, more than half of which appeared to be vegetables. We didn't dare stray into the meat section. I don't mind overpaying so long as I'm actually getting something for my money, but that wasn't the case here.

2.150 Beef Shabuki


-Cycle 2, Dinner 150-
4 (Sat) June 2011

-Japanese-
Beef Shabuki

* * * *

by me

at home

-Oksu, Seoul-

with Wife, Dominic, and Hong Shik and his wife

Tried and true, shabuki remains a favorite in our home. It's my own interpretation of Japanese shabu shabu, the main difference being the vegetables and the preparation thereof, as described and more comprehensively photographed in a previous post (see 1.008 Beef Shabuki).

Koreans have always been keen to consume any manner of vegetation, the rarer and more exotic--the better. On our recent backpacking trip to Seonjaryeong, signs posted along the trail read "Do not pick the vegetation," though that didn't stop gaggles of older women who'd come apparently for that very objective and brought bags to carry their loot. Such weeds are generally difficult to come by for the mainstream public, but big retailers like E-Mart have recently made efforts in the growing demand for healthy eating to stock all manner of greens and vibrantly colored leafy flora, most of which probably don't have English names.

To great success, I've been experimenting with these weeds in my shabuki mix. The shredding process allows for any type of vegetable to be incorporated seamlessly as far as texture is concerned. In terms of taste, because only a shred or two of any given plant will be present in each bite, the bitter or otherwise unusual flavors of the new additions don't overpower but provide just a slight kick, refreshing and lively. And finally, the added colors make everything look cooler and that much more wholesome. I wish I'd taken a closer photo.

2.149 Black Bean Sauce Noodles with Seafood

-Cycle 2, Dinner 149-
3 (Fri) June 2011

-Chinese-
Black Bean Sauce Noodles with Seafood

* * * *

at Jackie's Kitchen
(Coex Mall)

-Samseong, Seoul-

with Dominic

One of the only places in Seoul to get authentic Chinese food, even if it's just fast-food quality and overpriced, courtesy of Jackie Chan.

This noodle dish with black bean sauce (more of an oyster sauce with a few black beans thrown in) was pretty good. not really worth 11,000 won, but I can't think of another restaurant in the city that offers something similar.

By complete coincidence, my kid and I ended up watching Kung Fu Panda 2 right after dinner. In the movie, the panda's father runs a noodle shop. And Jackie Chan voices one of the characters.

2.148 Ddeokbokki

Cycle 2, Dinner 148-
2 (Thu) June 2011

-Korean-
Ddeokbokki (떡볶기)

* * *

from unnamed food cart
(near exit 4 of Oksu Station)
[takeout]

at home

-Oksu, Seoul-

solo

I defer to a prior post on ddeokbokki (떡볶이), rice cakes sauteed in gochujang (고추장) sauce, the "quintessential Korean street food" (see 1.161 Sundae in Ddeokbokki Sauce).

In several previous posts, I've also discussed this particular establishment (see for example 1.048 Sundae & Ddeokbokki), my neighborhood favorite, which is usually very good.

But these here were leftovers, a bit cold, which made the rice cakes somewhat rigid and the sauce somewhat gummy. Ddeokbokki has to be eaten right away.

2.147 Pan-Seared Ribeye Steak with Baked Garlic Potatoes

Cycle 2, Dinner 147-
1 (Wed) June 2011

-French-
Pan-Seared Ribeye Steak with Baked Garlic Potatoes
in Lemon-Dill Butter

* * *

by me

at home

-Oksu, Seoul-

with Wife and Dominic

While the description makes it sound like something (or maybe not), the individual components didn't quite come together in the final product. For some reason, the butter kinda played by itself, failing to complement either the potatoes or the steak. And while steak and potatoes are usually ideal together, the softness of the rare meat and the mushiness of the baked potatoes presented a not-entirely-pleasing mix of textures.

Then again, I've had an upper respiratory infection for the past couple days, so I can't really taste anything right now.