2.207 Cham-Bok-Jjim

-Cycle 2, Dinner 207-
31 (Sun) July 2011

Cham-Bok-Jjim (참복찜)

* *

at Dong-Suwon Agu-Jjim (동수원 아구찜)

-Suwon, GyeongGi-

with my parents, Wife, and Dominic

All I care to know about this fish--which goes by the name "bok" (복) in Korean, "fugu" in Japanese, "tetraodontidae" in Latin, and "blow/puffer/balloon/bubble/globe/swell/toadfish," as well as "honey/sugar toad" and "sea squab," in English--is that it's poisonous but tastes pretty good. Actually, it doesn't really taste much like anything but has a clean and lean flavor with a slightly chewy texture. The cham-bok (참복), a sub-species that I couldn't find an English translation for, is cleaner and leaner and chewier and costs about double. For more information about bok in general, check out Wikipedia (see entry on Tetraodontidae), which is where I got all those names.

Other than the type of fish, bok-jjim (복찜) is a dish identical to agu-jjim (아구찜), the spicy monkfish and bean sprout stir-fry that I described in a previous post (see 1.333 Agu-Jjim).

This restaurant, a five-minute drive from Ajou University, was one of my favorite restaurants for both agu-jjim and bok-jjim--but no longer. First of all, the flesh of the fish was unpleasantly flaky, a sign of extended freezing. When asked, the owner looked to the side and mumbled that, no, the fish was completely fresh. On top of that, in reference to the old joke about the soup being terrible and not enough of it, there wasn't enough of it. And at 70,000 won for the platter, which included just 6 tiny pieces of fish, a complete ripoff.

The plan had been to enjoy a family feast on the eve of my mother's surgery. Scheduled to have a benign growth in her nasal cavity removed the following morning at Ajou University Hospital, we got her checked in and then promptly smuggled her out for a final good meal to carry her through the next couple weeks, when all the blood and bandages shoved up her nose would prevent her from tasting anything. Also, the word "bok" is a homonym for "luck." The food wasn't very good, but hopefully it was lucky.

2.206 Hotdog with Megasauce and Honey Mustard

-Cycle 2, Dinner 206-
30 (Sat) July 2011

Hotdog with Megasauce and Honey Mustard

* *

at Megabox

-Dongdaemun, Seoul-

with Dominic

Foreign condiments, like all foreign foods here in Korea, once they enter the mainstream, inevitably undergo Koreanization of some sort.

Take mustard, for example. The Korean mainstream was introduced to mustard largely during the early 1990s by way of TGI Friday's and other American family restaurants that offered new varieties of appetizers, such as chicken tenders, along with new varieties of dipping sauces, such as honey mustard--items so immediately and immensely popular that they were immediately and immensely copied throughout the country by various types of establishments serving western-style food, particularly cheap drinking holes where chicken tenders with honey mustard sauce would make an ideal accompaniment to draft beer. Korea did not yet, and still doesn't really, have much of a sandwich or hotdog culture through which unadulterated mustards (e.g., dijon, whole seed, yellow) may have gained a foothold. Although burgers had been around for a few years, the tiny dollops of mustard mixed in with the ketchup and mayonnaise and other sauces were too indistinct to raise much awareness. As a result, the concept of mustard in Korea soon became identified with honey mustard. In supermarkets, the condiment aisle is stocked only with honey mustard, which is now produced domestically; other mustards might be available in a separate "imports" corner, if any.

In the middle row, 4 types of domestically produced honey mustard.

So, I was not surprised to discover that the hotdog at the movie theater came with honey mustard.

I was, however, a bit surprised to discover that the multiplex's proprietary "Megasauce" was an unfortunate blend of ketchup and sweet pickle relish. Contrary to the broad generalization asserted above, ketchup has valiantly maintained its purity in Korea, despite being the most mainstream foreign condiment of all. Then again, the use of ketchup on certain foods does seem distinctly Korean, as on fried rice. Thus, perhaps I shouldn't have been too surprised that ketchup too would eventually fall.

I'll reserve my comments on the Koreanization of the hotdog--i.e., the frankfurter sausage itself--for another day.

2.205 Cilantro-Lime Shrimp Wrap

-Cycle 2, Dinner 205-
29 (Fri) July 2011

Cilantro-Lime Shrimp Wrap

* * * *

by me

at home

-Oksu, Seoul-


Rather than throwing out the god-awful cilantro-lime shrimp salad from Costco a few days back (see 2.202 Cilantro-Lime Shrimp Salad), I tried reworking the shrimp with additional seasonings and turning it into a wrap. Mayo, djion mustard, Tapatio, pepper, paprika, coriander seed, minced garlic, chopped celery, chopped chives, shredded red cabbage, romaine lettuce, flour tortilla. Not bad, especially considering that the shrimp otherwise would've been dumped.

2.204 Galbi Tang

-Cycle 2, Item 204-
28 (Thu) July 2011

Galbi Tang

* * *

by me

at home

-Oksu, Seoul-

with Wife and Dominic

I defer to my previous comments on this dish (see 1.283 Galbi Tang).

In addition, I will say that Australian beef sucks--specifically, the Australian beef that's sold in the supermarkets here in Korea. I made the soup stock with Korean rib bones, which had scant amounts of attached meat. To provide more meat, yet wanting to save money, I tossed in a few Australian short ribs, which are about 1/4 the price of Korean short ribs. Ultimately, the soup was rich and beefy, while the ribs were dry and flavorless--even in the photo, they look bland. I swear, no more Australian beef.

2.203 Bajirak Kal-Guksu

-Cycle 2, Dinner 203-
27 (Wed) July 2011

Bajirak Kal-Guksu (바지락 칼국수)

* * *

by me

at home

-Oksu, Seoul-

with Wife and Dominic

Bajirak (바지락) is a type of clam found in Korea. According to at least one on-line dictionary, it's called "marine clam" in English. According to Wikipedia, the marine clam--i.e., Venerupis philippinarum--is also called "Filipino venus," "Japanese littleneck/cockle/carpet shell," and "steamer clam" (see entry for Venerupis philippinarum).

The bajirak is perhaps the most common clam in Korean cooking. Small yet strong in flavor, they're typically used to make a stock for soups, stews, and noodle soups, such as the kal-guksu (칼국수) here. (Italian restaurants in Korea also use them for vongole pastas.) But because each bajirak has relatively little meat, they're usually not used for dishes where the clam itself is the main ingredient. Bajirak are fairly cheap, often sold in sealed water-filled pouches containing 200 grams for around 1,200 won.

Tonight's dish comes close to repeating the very first dish of this cycle, the only difference being the absence of kimchi this time around (see 2.001 Kal-Guksu in Kimchi-Clam Broth). Ideally, bajirak kal-guksu should be about the pure flavor of the clams in the broth, best when the clams are fresh and plenty, rendering additional kickers like kimchi unnecessary.

2.202 Cilantro-Lime Shrimp Salad

-Cycle 2, Item 202-
26 (Tue) July 2011

Cilantro-Lime Shrimp Salad


at Costco

-Yangjae, Seoul-


While the ready-made food items at Costco aren't especially great, they're usually not especially awful--but this one is. Dried cilantro, lime juice concentrate. Ugh. At least the tomatoes were fresh.

2.201 Mandu Guk

-Cycle 2, Item 201-
25 (Mon) July 2011

Mandu Guk


at Pil-Dong Myeonok (필동면옥)

-Pil-Dong, Seoul-

with Ka TY and Shin HS (fathers of Dominic's friends from daycare)

Pil-Dong Myeonok is a landmark Korean restaurant specializing in northern-style cuisine.  Having previously described two other establishments with northerly leanings--Pyeonggaok (평가옥) (see generally 1.067 Mandu Jeongol) and Pyeongyang Myeonok (평양면옥) (see generally 1.286 Mul Naeng-Myeon), the first of which I would recommend, the latter not so much--Pil-Dong Myeonok may be the best of the three.  All the dishes sampled this evening were quite good, albeit a bit southernized.  For example, the mandu themselves were very simple, all white as per northern sensibilities.  But then, the soup was served with a spicy/pungent mushroom and pork topping, very southern in feel--excellent, by the way.  Even the broth was richer/meatier than the typically austere soups of the north.  A great bargain at 9,000 won.  As someone who grew up on northern fare but subsisted predominantly on southern grub outside the home, I found myself liking the stronger flavors.

Classic northern-style minimalist mandu: pork, tofu, bean sprout, salt, pepper.

Even the kimchi was white(ish).

Another example of northern simplicity + southern spice: mul naeng myeon (3.0).

Talk about simple: boiled beef (suyuk) and pork (pyeonyuk) (3.0).

Incidentally, "ok" (옥) is an old Korean suffix meaning "house."  It's not used in the modern vernacular except in reference to homes built along the lines of traditional Korean architecture (i.e., hanok) or to old-school noodle shops (i.e., myeonok).  After 6 decades of separation, anything associated with the north feels old-school, frozen in time, which is why many northern restaurants include "ok" in their names.  Come to think of it, Pil-Dong Myeonok contains the "ok" but not a northern town or region, just the neighborhood where it's located here in Seoul, perhaps suggesting that the food is intended to be something of a compromise.

While I would recommend this place for the food, I should warn that the service tends to be rude and abrupt--especially the owner/manager sitting behind the cash register, who's too busy counting the money to look up and say "Thank you."

Address:  Seoul Jung-Gu Pil-Dong 3-Ga 1-5 (서울시 중구 필동3가 1-5)
Phone: (02) 2266-2611

2.200 Deul Bap

-Cycle 2, Dinner 200-
24 (Sun) July 2011

Deul Bap (들밥)

* * * * *

at Deul Bap

-Icheon, GyeongGi-

with Wife, Dominic, Ahn HY + Kim IT + JH, Cho JH + Kim KH, Lee HS + Yun YH, MtG + his new girlfriend

The only difference between this deul bap (들밥) and the more common bibim bap (비빔밥) is that the deul bap ingredients are served separately, not directly in the bowl, thereby allowing each individual to add various components according to personal preference. In fact, the ingredients may be kept entirely on the side as banchan (반찬), like in a standard baekban (백반) meal. The name "deul bap," which literally means "field (deul) rice (bap)," suggests that the spread is similar to what a farmer's wife of yore would arrange on a tray and bring to her husband in the field while he was working. Thus, the ingredients are kept simple and humble. Here, the rice was served in those cheap tin bowls that Korean restaurateurs like to use when they want a vibe of retro shabby chic.

The sign depicts a farmer's wife with a tray carried on her head, the old-school way.

The restaurant Deul Bap was located on an actual farm in the heart Icheon (이천), a region famed for its rice, and served nothing but. The types of side dishes were obviously chosen with great care to balance tastes and textures, even while keeping everything simple and humble.  Most important, of course, they were prepared and seasoned to perfection.  7,000 per person.  A bit pricey for what it's supposed to be, but well worth it.

12 side dishes, not including the doenjang jjigae (된장찌개) and lettuce wraps.

The deul bap itself.

Earlier in the day, we had lunch at a restaurant (the name escapes me as I write this) on the grounds of a defunct temple. The solitary menu item was sashimi-style song-eo (송어), a type of salmon/trout, served with various vegetables and dipping sauces, all of which could optionally be mixed together in a bowl. Very intriguing.

2.199 Monkfish Karaage

-Cycle 2, Item 199-
23 (Sat) July 2011

Monkfish Karaage

* * * *

by Kim IT

at Art in Island

-Pyeongchang, Gangwon-

with Wife, Dominic, Cho JH, Kim I and family,
Kim JA and family, Kim KH, Lee HS, MtG and girlfriend, Yun YH

The term "karaage" generally refers to the Japanese cooking technique that involves bite-sized pieces of an item (usually meats, most commonly chicken) seasoned in a soy-based marinade, coated in flour, deep-fried, and served as-is with a slice of lemon. It differs in both taste and texture from tempura, the more famous Japanese deep-fry, which is coated in bread crumbs and comes with a separate dipping sauce. Karaage dishes can be found at drinking establishments, such as izakaya, as an accompaniment to alcohol.

With the popularity of izakaya throughout Korea, and perhaps owing to a widespread lack of know-how or laziness to cook Japanese appetizers from scratch, specialty restaurant supply stores offer a wide variety of pre-made frozen items that can be prepared with minimal fuss. Ictaek, who owns a kimchi jjigae restaurant and has the inside track on restaurant supplies, often contributes such items to our camping feasts. In fact, he brought chicken kara-age to our trip to Ulleung-Do/Dok-Do last year (see 1.228 Chicken Karaage)--which, now that I think about it, was an odd choice given the friction between Korea and Japan on the issue of Dok-Do/Takeshima/Liancourt Rocks.

From left: MtG (엠티골드), Yun YH (마늘꽁꽁), Lee HS (수피꽁꽁),
Kim KH (짬구), Cho JH (지니), Kim IT (감자탕), me (코골이);
Jinhee, who arranged the figures for some story that she was planning for her own blog,
had me seated and bringing up the rear because, supposedly,
I always complain about my bum knee and lag behind whenever we go backpacking.

This weekend marked the 1-year anniversary of the first camping trip (see 1.200 Kimbap) that our group had organized outside the auspices of Backcountry Camping, the on-line community that had initially brought us together. For the past year, we've primarily done our own thing, some of us getting together nearly every weekend and often during the weekdays for dinner and drinks in the city. Amazing how close 7 people, who have no ties other than friendship, can become in just one year.

The campsite was a small outcropping of land (i.e., an "island) along a stream amidst farmland.

The entrance to the main grounds, one of the best organized and cleanliest car camping sites that I've seen.

In addition to immaculate restrooms, hot-water showers, and hot-water sinks (for dishes),
the site also features excellent pensions/cabins for the less outdoorsy types.

Our site, away from the crowded main grounds, on a patch of land reserved for VIPs;
those large mounds of grass on the left are graves.

The view from our site: a stream with crystal clear water, perfect for adults and kids.

2.198 Conchiglie Rigate La Spatio

-Cycle 2, Item 198-
22 (Fri) July 2011

Conchiglie Rigate La Spatio

* * * * *

by me

at home

-Oksu, Seoul-

with Wife and Dominic

I proudly present my second signature pasta dish, the La Spatio: an improvised combination of 2 prior dishes that resulted in (near) perfection. The basic structure came from the scallop-corn-shell pasta dish that I'd made a few months back (see 2.106 Pan-Seared Scallops with Corn and Conchiglie Rigate in Clam Sauce). This time, the sauce was based on the blended tomato-parmesan recipe that I developed last year (see 1.340 Spaghetti Nero di Seppia with Black Olives in Tomato-Parmesan Sauce) and experimented with several times since (see most recently 2.018 Abalone-Zucchini Scampi with Penne in Tomato-Parmesan Sauce), augmented with both the scallop juices and the caramelized bits of scallop in the pan. The bright acidity of the tomatoes, the nutty creaminess of the parmesan, the buttery brininess of the scallops, the sweet pop of the corn--amazing harmony. Even the shell pasta, which I'd previously thought to be a bit too cute and obvious for its own good, was the ideal vehicle to scoop all the ingredients together in every bite.

Even more proudly, the dish was named by the kid. At the table, in between shoving the food into my mouth, and moaning, and reaching behind to pat myself on the back, I was tossing out potential names for the new dish, when suddenly, somewhat shyly, Dominic proposed: "la spatio." Not quite sure if I'd heard him correctly, I asked, "Did you say 'la spaccio'?" "No," he replied, ever-so deliberately, "'la-spa-tee-oh.'" He couldn't explain what it meant or how he'd come up with it--after all, he's just 4, for crying out loud, just recently capable of constructing a coherent sentence. But he's already naming dishes, and pasta dishes in pseudo-Italian no less.

2.197 O-Bul-Sa

-Cycle 2, Dinner 197-
21 (Thu) July 2011

O-Bul-Sa (오불사)

* * * *

at Haenam Ojingeo (해남오징어)

-Hannam, Seoul-

with exchange students from Stonybrook University

The name of the dish is a portmanteau of its primary components: "o" from "ojingeo" (오징어)(squid; in this case, marinated in spicy chili sauce), "bul" from "bulgogi" (불고기)(sweet-soy-sesame marinated beef), and "sa" from "sari" (사리)(noodles; in this case, glass). All of the above, along with sliced leeks and bean sprouts, are stir-fried together in a long shallow pan at the table, resulting in a hodgepodge of contrasting-yet-complementary tastes and textures. Optionally, the individual bites may be wrapped in lettuce leafs. Optionally, at the end, the leftover sauce in the pan may be used as a base for fried rice. 24,000 won for a double serving, which is a bit skimpy (the photos shows 4 servings), and 2,000 won for each bowl of rice. A fine meal.

It's similar to the popular o-sam bulgogi, which I discussed a couple weeks back (see 2.188 O-Sam Bulgogi with Mixed Green Wraps). The main differences here are the two distinct marinades mixed into one, the leeks and the bean sprouts, and the glass noodles. In my experience, I've never seen this combination elsewhere, and certainly not by this name, so I'm wondering if the dish might be unique to this particular restaurant.

2.196 My Take on Mom's Salsa Beef

-Cycle 2, Item 196-
20 (Wed) July 2011

My Take on Mom's Salsa Beef

* * * *

by me

at home

-Oksu, Seoul-

with Wife

I tried to improve on the basic idea of my mother's quick-fix salsa beef (see 1.317 Mom's Salsa Beef). Instead of stewing pieces of beef in the salsa, I seasoned a whole steak, pan-grilled it to medium-rare, and then sliced it into bite-sized pieces--both to control the doneness of the meat and to provide a contrasting texture from the crust. Instead of heating salsa from a jar along with some green beans, I sauteed the green beans with garlic and onions and bell peppers and corn and rice and various spices, including cumin and coriander and paprika and chipotle powders, and then added a bit of salsa at the end--both to increase the substance of the topping and to augment the Mexican flavors. Ultimately, it turned out to be something of a cross between a fajita and a burrito. Dare I say, it was an improvement.

Incidentally, I ended up getting a new iPhone to replace the one that I'd left out in the rain over the weekend.   The internet-sourced solutions for saving water-damaged phones--rice, silica pellets, hair-dryers, toaster ovens--all seemed plausible, but I couldn't afford waiting around for the requisite days/weeks on the off-chance that one of them might eventually work.  And carrying around my DSLR camera to take photos for the blog is a hassle.  Then again, the 2-day vacation in mobile communication limbo was liberating.

2.195 Garlicpeno Spaghetti

-Cycle 2, Dinner 195-
19 (Tue) July 2011

Garlicpeno Spaghetti

* * * * *

at Mad for Garlic

-Sinsa, Seoul-

with Wife and Parents

As the somewhat awkward name would suggest, this dish featured garlic and jalapeno peppers, sauteed in olive oil and white wine and tossed with spaghetti. It's similar in concept to a dish that I described in a previous post, Duo Cose's spaghetti al jalapeno (see 2.014 Spaghetti al Jalapeno). The main difference was that the garlic here was sliced and fried, which I found to be more satisfying as the texture of the crisp chips contrasted nicely with the soft jalapenos and the intensified garlic flavor held its own against the sharpness of the pickled peppers; by comparison, the other dish was primarily a jalapeno dish. In that other post, I wondered if this type of sauce were unique, but apparently not. I'm now wondering if it's unique to Korea.

"Dracula Killer":
baguette slices with garlic cloves and parmesan cheese,
a total rip-off at 12,500 won plus 10% VAT.

As the name of the restaurant would suggest, garlic is the running theme throughout the menu. Fortunately, they don't overdo it in most cases but manage to make it the prominent ingredient with just enough emphasis. Unfortunately, although the garlicpeno spaghetti was quite good, everything else was only moderately successful; the mixed cheese pizza was awful. And of course, being Gangnam, the prices were off-base: salads around 14,000 won, pastas 16,000 won, pizzas 18,000, steaks and seafood between 21,000-34,000 won, all plus 10% VAT.

2.194 Royal Paprika Mabo Tofu

-Cycle 2, Item 194-
18 (Mon) July 2011

Royal Paprika Mabo Tofu

* * * *

by me

at home

-Oksu, Seoul-

with Wife

Not quite a signature dish, but so long as I'm going to give it a name then I may as well stick to the "higher power" theme of my other nomenclatural efforts (e.g., Spaghetti Dominico, Hammo-Cesaro Panino). Forgive me for this self-indulgent explanation of my oh-so-cleverness, but it's called "royal" because the dish contained three colors of paprika/bell peppers: red, orange, and yellow--ROY. Next time, I might use red and green and call it "regal."

2.193 Jaengban Nakji Jjajang-Myeon

-Cycle 2, Dinner 193-
17 (Sun) July 2011

Jaengban Nakji Jjajang-Myeon (쟁반 낙지 짜장면)

* * * *

at Hong Kong

-Namyangju, GyeongGi-

with Wife, Dominic,
and various families from Dominic's daycare

This is the 10th post on jjajang-myeon (짜장면) in its many variations, the second this cycle (see 2.023 Yuni Jjajang-Myeon).

The one presented here differs from the basic version in 2 ways. First, the "jaengban" (쟁반), which literally means "tray," denotes that all the components are mixed by the chef in the kitchen and served on a large platter, as opposed to the standard deep bowl that would facilitate mixing by the customer at the table. In addition to the noodles and black bean sauce, jaengban jjajang-myeon usually involves seafood, as well as strips of chives (for some reason), and a bit of heat via red chili powder. Here, the dish also included a whole octopus, a smaller species called "nakji" (낙지) in Korean, which was immediately cut with scissors into bite-size pieces by the server, just after everyone had a chance to ooh and aah.

We'd discovered Hong Kong on our way home from a camping trip a couple weeks back, a restaurant in a stand-alone building surrounded by absolutely nothing near a lonely highway onramp. Restaurants that make noodles by hand are increasingly rare in the city, one theory being that the higher rents and greater volume of customers in urban locations compel quicker turnaround, whereas hand-made noodles are extremely time-consuming. Such places can now be found here and there on the city periphery, always with a prominent sign advertising "son jjajang" (손짜장), "son" meaning "hand," or "suta-myeon" (수타면), "suta" meaning "hand hit." I'm always on the lookout during the return legs of my frequent camping excursions, which once led to the first 6-star dish on this blog (see 1.117 Samseon Jjajang-Myeon).

Hand-made noodles, of course, like hand-made pastas or pizzas or breads, are literally a cut above their machine-pressed counterparts. In this case, the dough is pulled into one long strand and then folded in half to make two and then again to make four and so on, the bundle occasionally slammed down on the work table ("thwack!") to intensify resilience and elasticity, until the increasingly thinner strands multiply through geometric progression. Not only are the noodles much chewier as a result, the slightly irregular thickness of the individual strands provides much more of a pleasing contrast in texture.

Hong Kong turned out to be a real find. The noodles were about as perfect as I've ever encountered. Their two signature dishes, this jjajang-myeon and a spicy noodle soup called "jjambbong" (짬뽕) (see generally 1.178 Seafood Jjambbong), both Korean-Chinese standbys, feature a whole octopus, as well as immense chunks of squid. Each dish is listed as a double portion but, as evident in the photo, is generous enough to feed at least three. 16,000 won. That said, I didn't find the jaengban sauce to be quite right and preferred the regular jjajang-myeon sans octopus sans squid sans chives sans chili powder, just black bean sauce and those exquisite noodles. The jjambbong was excellent, as was their shrimp fried rice. I'll reserve further comment on the latter two for future reviews.

Address: Gyeonggi-Do Namyangju-Si Suseok-Dong 251 (경기도 남양주시 수석동 251)

Phone: 031-555-5337

2.192 Mixed BBQ

-Cycle 2, Item 192-
16 (Sat) July 2011

Mixed BBQ

by me

at Palhyeon Camp (팔현캠프) [campsite]

-Namyangju, Gyeonggi-

with Wife, Dominic, and various families from Dominic's daycare

To be sure, the show will go on, but possibly with a break in the action for tonight and yesterday. The best case scenario, of course, is that I can retrieve the photos from my damaged phone and retroactively post them, along with additional comments concerning the meals themselves. Next best, someone else present took photos of the meals that I can use, which would still end the do-it-myself streak, but it'd be better than imageless posts. Worst case, imageless posts.

As for tonight specifically, many items were on the table, mostly BBQ meats, though I don't know which ones, if any, got photographed, so I can't speculate at this point as to what the representative dish will be for this post.

[ADDENDUM: It turned out that nobody took a photo that day. 11 adults, all armed with smart phones, and nobody thought to take a shot, not even a single shot of the campgrounds or their kids. Strange.]

2.191 Mixed BBQ

-Cycle 2, Item 191-
15 (Fri) July 2011

Mixed BBQ

* * *

by me

at Palhyeon Camp (팔현캠프) [campsite]

-Namyangju, Gyeonggi-

with Park MS and Park JS

Unless I can find a way to repair my water-logged iPhone, or at least recover the photos on it, the streak ends at exactly 555: 555 consecutive days, 555 dinners, 555 photos all taken by me with the same device. If it ends, all because I was drunk and careless and left the phone out overnight in the monsoon rain (albeit on my chair under a tarp, but the water blew in and pooled in the seat), what a shameful conclusion to the most extensive, consistent, dedicated personal project of my life.

As for the food, it was nothing special, just a hodgepodge of meats thrown onto the grill. Without a photo, I'm not inclined to discuss it.

Nor the campsite, which I've been to before (see most recently 1.151 Box-Roasted Pork Cutlets with Garlic Slices).
- - - -

[23 July 2012]

Subsequently, I did manage to get a couple photos of the food from my cousins, who apparently are the worst food photographers in history.

An early attempt at Gold Mountain Pork Bellies,
which I would perfect a month later (see 2.226 Gold Mountain Pork Bellies).

Chicken wings and baby back ribs.

2.190 Grilled Beef Brisket

-Cycle 2, Item 190-
14 (Thu) July 2011

Grilled Beef Brisket

* * *

at Noksaek Hanwoo (녹색한우)

-Suwon, GyeongGi-

with Kim HJ and Park HY

One way to have quality Korean BBQ here in Korea for relatively cheap--though of course by no means actually cheap--is the hybrid butcher shop/restaurant. In a separate area of the premises, often at the entrance, meats are displayed behind glass much like at a butcher shop and sold at or near market prices. Customers purchase meat and either take it with them or eat it in the fully-serviced restaurant section, usually for a small "seating fee" of around 5,000 won per person, which covers the typical array of side dishes, while other menu items (e.g., rice, soups, noodles) and beverages are charged at regular restaurant prices. Because top grade (1++) hanwoo (한우) (Korean beef) is so expensive--between 8,000-12,000 won for 100 grams (about US$30-$45 per pound) at the market, and around 50,000 per 150-gram serving (around US$125 per pound) at a restaurant--these hybrids offer a bigger bang for the buck.

At tonight's venue, however, the meat prices weren't quite at store rates but still significantly lower than what it would cost at a comparable restaurant. The one-notch-below-top-grade (1+) brisket was 30,490 won for 242 grams, or 12,600 won for 100 grams, although its market price would probably be about half that. Thus, the whole butcher shop thing--even the meat was brought to the table in shrink-wrapped packaging--was something of a ploy. Then again, they didn't charge a "seating fee."

2.189 Chicken Caesar Wraps

-Cycle 2, Dinner 189-
13 (Wed) July 2011

Chicken Caesar Wraps

* *

at Costco

-Yangjae, Seoul-


Chicken, yes. Wrap, yes. Caesar, to the extent that it had romaine lettuce, parmesan cheese, and some kind of caesar-salad-esque dressing.

Although the dressing wasn't particularly great, the wrap still needed more of it to cut through the dry chicken breast. In fact, the chicken was so dry that I had one of those moments where I swallowed a mouthful and stood there for about 30 seconds, not being anywhere near a source of water, while I could feel the lump of food ever so slowly and uncomfortably creeping its way down my esophagus.

2.188 O-Sam Bulgogi with Mixed Green Wraps

-Cycle 2, Dinner 188-
12 (Tue) July 2011

O-Sam Bulgogi (오삼불고기)
with Mixed Green Wraps

* * *

by Nanny 2

at home

-Oksu, Seoul-

with Wife, Dominic, and Nanny 2

This comes precariously close to repeating a meal that I had a couple weeks ago (see 2.171 O-Jjuk-Sam Bokkeum with Ddeok), both involving squid and pork bellies stir-fried in chili paste. The key difference between the two, aside from the prior dish having octopus and rice cakes, is that tonight's was wrapped in various greens to give it a significantly distinct texture and flavor profile. Also, the marinade tonight was intentionally lighter on the chili paste and heavier on the soy sauce to reduce the heat for my kid, though this was more of a difference in degree than kind.

As for the name, the basic dish is referred to both as a "bokkeum" (볶음) and a "bulgogi" (불고기). The first is a generic term that translates to "stir-fry" and applies to any dish made by stir-frying a mix of ingredients and seasonings in a pan or wok. The second is a culinary term of art that translates loosely to "fire meat" and is most commonly associated with the sweet soy-sesame-marinated beef of Korean BBQ fame (see generally 1.003 Bulgogi, 1.014 Bulgogi), though it's inexplicably applied to entirely dissimilar dishes, such as this one.

In any event, just past the halfway point of this cycle, I'm getting really tired of maintaining the no-repeat-dishes theme. On a practical level, I get confused sometimes as to whether I've already had a particular dish this cycle or if it was something from last cycle, which requires me to open my phone and check. Secondly, though the primary motive for this exercise was to encourage diversification, which it has accomplished to a certain extent, it's also resulted in the foregoing of a perfectly good if redundant option at the expense of something arbitrarily different. I'm beginning to wonder if I should continue.

2.187 Damn Yo Shrimp

-Cycle 2, Dinner 187-
11 (Mon) July 2011

Damn Yo Shrimp

* * * * *

by me

at home

-Oksu, Seoul-

with Wife, Dominic, and Nanny 2

An instant signature dish. Jumbo shrimp, marinated in oyster sauce, sugar, garlic, white and black pepper, wrapped in a half wonton skin, tied with a chive, flash-fried in oil. Again, the idea for the form came from the cookbook Dim Sum, but the recipe didn't call for seasoning and instead suggested dipping the shrimp in a separate sauce, so I improvised a marinade. However, I was wary of using too much oyster sauce, mostly because I didn't know how the naked liquid would react in the hot oil, which fortunately didn't turn out to be a problem, so they were just a tad underseasoned. With a slight adjustment to the recipe, and bit more practice to fine-tune the wrapping technique, this could be 6 stars.

The oh-so-clever name of the dish, which I came up with, thank you very much, is a play on the Korean word "dam-yo" (담요), which means "blanket."

2.186 Spaghetti in Beef-Pork Ragu with a Trio of Tomatoes

-Cycle 2, Dinner 186-
10 (Sun) July 2011

Spaghetti in Beef-Pork Ragu
with a Trio of Tomatoes

* * * *

by me

at home

-Oksu, Seoul-

with Wife, Dominic,
and Wife's friend and family

Three forms of tomatoes: canned, sun-dried, and fresh.

Incidentally, our guest was the friend who'd invited us to her daughter's birthday party last year, very early on in the history of this blog. As the story goes, we arrived "a bit late" only to discover that most of the food had already been eaten (see 1.018 Buffet Scraps). The friend, just now discovering the blog and learning about the food shortage that night through the related post, appeared mildly yet amusingly offended that I'd given the meal a 2-star rating but quickly defended her honor by recalling that we had been more than just "a bit late."

As a follow-up to that post, in the interest of full disclosure, I will note here that additional sandwiches and other finger foods worthy of at least 3 stars were soon served after the main trays had been cleared. Ultimately, we had more than enough to eat and, with an abundance of beer, had a very enjoyable evening.

2.185 Chicken Skewers in Sriracha-Oyster Sauce Marinade

-Cycle 2, Dinner 185-
9 (Sat) July 2011

Chicken Skewers
in Sriracha-Oyster Sauce Marinade

* * *

by me

at home

-Oksu, Seoul-

with Wife, Dominic,
and various families from D's daycare

Eventually, we all ended up at our place. Dominic's friends from daycare and their families: 10 adults, 8 kids. Initially, 3 families had planned a BBQ at a campsite on the outskirts of the city. But reports of continuing monsoon rain had prompted us to call it off. When the sun came out blazing late afternoon Saturday, we scrambled to organize an impromptu gathering at our apartment complex, where the plan was to set up in an abandoned and secluded playground that I'd used many times for BBQs in the past, back before I got into camping. But a security guard happened by and started freaking out when he saw what we were up to. Not wanting to deal with the hassle, especially when we learned that the party had suddenly grown to 6 families upon the news that the BBQ would be local, we packed up and moved everything indoors.

Among the most efficient ways to feed a large contingent of guests at home without prior notice is certainly Korean BBQ. It's cooked by the guests as they eat, so there's nothing to prepare beyond buying the meat (e.g., thinly sliced beef ribeye, pork bellies) and serving it on a platter, along with a spread of kimchi (side dish), lettuce leafs (wraps), sesame oil and salt (dipping sauce), next to a table-top grill with tongs, scissors, chopsticks, and plates. And booze. Done.

However, I wanted something more, if only for the sake of the blog. A couple days ago, I'd purchased a dual function tabletop cooking device consisting of a grill and a skewer rotisserie rack (see 2.183 Pork Aliman Skewers with Mushrooms and Bell Peppers). While the guests were busy grilling the beef and pork on top, I took the opportunity to make skewers below: chicken tenderloins marinated in sriracha, oyster sauce, rice wine, garlic, and black pepper.

2.184 Pizza Genovese

-Cycle 2, Dinner 184-
8 (Fri) July 2011

Pizza Genovese

* * *

at Padallina

-Oksu, Seoul-

with Wife and Dominic

A couple months back, I'd noted with some degree of reserved enthusiasm that our neighborhood had suddenly been inundated with a wave of new restaurants. One of those, the first Italian establishment in the history of Oksu-Dong, had succeeded in serving me the worst excuse for pizza that I've ever encountered--indeed, in making me realize that pizza can be so bad as to be inedible (see 2.128 Pizza with Porcini Mushrooms and Basil). A few blocks away, a second new Italian restaurant held more promise with a sign claiming that the chef had trained at Cordon Bleu. I'd been looking forward to see what such a hotshot had to offer.

Never having heard of a "Pizza Genovese," and not bothering to ask, we ordered it. 32 minutes later, despite being the only customers in the joint, we were served a cheese pizza consisting of a pestoesque sauce and a thin oily greenish crust that tasted more like flour than basil or whatever herbs it was supposed to have been infused with. Still, overall, it wasn't entirely awful--Dominic declared it the best pizza that he'd ever tasted. 16,000 won.

Oddly, astoundingly, the daily special was tom yam kung, which we also ordered just for the sake of conversation. It also wasn't entirely awful, though it didn't taste very authentically Thai, just a bunch of clams and (Korean) veggies in a spicy curry-like broth. 5,000 won (7,500 won with chicken fried rice).

My wife theorized that he probably wanted to showcase whatever dishes that he has in his repertoire, regardless of how good or absurdly incongruent they would appear together on a menu. Quite pleased by her self-perceived sense of insight, she mused further that I would do the same thing if I were to open my own restaurant: a few pastas, some tacos, and a couple dim sum dumplings. In the end, she concluded that the chef is probably a food hobbyist who's taken a lesson or two at the cooking school but otherwise wasn't professionally trained, at least not in Italian or Thai cuisine. Koreans have a word "chul-shin" (출신) that means "origin" and is often used fast and loose to denote a person's affiliation with a certain place, such as "the chef is of Cordon Blue chul-shin," notwithstanding how deep or long or official the connection may be. Tellingly, the references to Cordon Bleu have since been removed from the restaurant's signage, perhaps because the bullshit had become too apparent.

2.183 Pork Aliman Skewers with Mushrooms and Bell Peppers

-Cycle 2, Dinner 183-
7 (Thu) July 2011

-Sui Generis-
Pork Aliman Skewers
with Mushrooms and Bell Peppers

* *

by me

at home

-Oksu, Seoul-

with Wife and Dominic

Still working to perfect my Aliman marinade, previously used only on lamb (see 2.155 Grilled Lamb Chops Aliman with Roast Pepper Salsa and Mixed Greens), I experimented here with pork. It was a follow-up to an impromptu experiment conducted at a campsite recently, where I'd been loathe to discard a ziplock bag full of leftover marinade from a batch of lamb chops and used it to dress some pork bits before tossing them on the grill. Owing to the remnant juices of the lamb, as well as the cumin and other seasonings often associated with lamb, the pork ended up tasted exactly like lamb. Here, it wasn't quite the same but a reasonably close approximation thereof. However, the biggest problem of tonight's dish was the method of cooking.

What brought about tonight's meal was the acquisition of a new kitchen toy that had caught my eye while grocery shopping earlier in the evening: Hanil's HEG-1080 Electric Cooking Grill, a combination tabletop pan and skewer rotisserie. 3 heat settings. The top is double-sided, one with slats and the other flat. Underneath, 10 skewers are rotated by an automated gear mechanism; 5 of the skewers can be outfitted with tubes that turn cylindrical foods, like hot dogs at 7-11. In between, an electric coil conducts heat to the pan above and the skewers below. It's also equipped with a removable receptacle attached to a channel from the pan and removable drip trays under the skewers to collect fat/oil/juice runoff. 109,000 won.

Immediately, 2 downsides of the device became apparent. First, the intervals between the skewers along the mechanism are set so close together that inserting 10 skewers loaded with food was practicably impossible, thereby allowing only 6 skewers interspaced with an empty slot on either side, maybe enough for 2 small adult-sized portions. Second, the heat level set at maximum was still woefully weak, thus requiring an intolerable 25 minutes to cook the pork. In the end, most of the juices had dripped to the bottom of the pan to render the meat rather dry. And the inadequate heat resulted in an absence of roasted flavor, not the slightest hint of char. Even the veggies were left a bit mushy. Although I didn't use the pan this time, I anticipate that it won't be of much use beyond warming up hotdogs buns.

Nevertheless, I like the basic idea and look forward to trying out a few more dishes on it.