3.321 P31bO/Thailand(21): Phak Boong Fai Daeng

-Cycle 3, Item 321-
21 (Wed) November 2012

P31bO/Thailand(21): Phak Boong Fai Daeng


at Sala Thai

-Jeongja, Bundang-

with Kim HJ and Park HY

Thailand is the 21st consecutive country to be featured in the on-going Project 31 By Origin (see previously 3.320 P31bO/Turkey(20): Lamb Doner Kebab Wrap).

Phak boong fai daeng is a Thai vegetable dish.  Consists of morning glory (phak boong), stir-fried with garlic and chilies in soy sauce and fermented bean paste (fai daeng).  One of the most common and popular dishes in mainstream Thai cuisine, though not that well known in overseas market.

If not for P31bO and certain logistical issues arising this evening in relation thereto, I may never have gone to Sala Thai and discovered that the restaurant has morning glory, much to my amazement and joy.  As previously described, morning glory is my new favorite vegetable, which I learned to appreciate during my recent travels to Southeast Asia (see generally 3.292 Stir-Fried Minari in Oyster Sauce).*  Sadly, I'd believed it to be unavailable in Korea.  But this evening, when I asked the owner/manager/server to recommend a simple vegetable dish, she hesitantly suggested the morning glory, as if unsure of how we'd react.  She claimed to have a special arrangement with the one farm in Korea that grows it.  As far as I'm aware, this unassuming establishment in Bundang, a neighborhood where authenticity in foreign cuisine isn't necessarily a virtue, may be the only place throughout Korea that serves this most fundamental of Mekong greens.

*Previously, I mistakenly referred to minari as the local equivalent of morning glory, but tonight's experience confirms that the two are different species, though I'll maintain for now that they're somehow related.  The owner/manager/server at Sala Thai flatly denied any such relationship, noting that the Korean word for morning glory, insofar as Koreans are aware of it, would be "gong sim" ("empty heart") (a term similar to something that I've seen on Chinese menus in the States, possibly in reference to the same vegetable).

The soft shell crab in egg curry was very good (3.0), though pricey at 39,000 won.

complimentary side dishes

The pad siew (rice noodles with beef) was terrible (0.5).

The chicken with chilies and basil was okay but too spicy (1.5).

complimentary tapioca dessert

Most importantly, the phak boong fai daeng didn't disappoint.  A tad underseasoned, likely to accommodate local palates yet unaccustomed to the sharp saltiness of fai daeng.  But perfectly cooked.  A rare show of exquisite vegetable simplicity that I've been longing for in Korea.  As soon as P31bO is over, I'll be going back for more, way more.  And at just 9,000 won a plate, I can afford to. 

After an opening round of Thai beer, we went with Korean soju, which was not only economical at just 3,000 won per bottle but also paired well with the food and didn't fill us up. 

Accordingly, we were able to order a plate of spring rolls (1.5) to help finish off the soju. 


  1. Hey is this place a chain? Because a restaurant with the same name was review by the Eatyourkimchi-bloggers way back ( And not a very good review either...

  2. yeah, it is a chain restaurant, which i guess i should've mentioned.

    the thing about chains in korea, especially franchises, is that they're usually not very similar from branch to branch, because corporate HQ doesn't do much in the way of quality control. in other words, the restaurant in that eatyourkimchi review may be totally different than the one in mine.

    also, it wouldn't surprise me that the branch in bucheon, a small city about an hour away from seoul, has very likely moderated its recipes to cater to the locals, who may not be or who may not be considered to be as savvy when it comes to authenticity. the eatyourkimchi people's chief complaint was that some flavors seemed lacking, which would be a given. probably not enough cilantro and fish sauce.

    that said, i totally agree with their assessment of the oad siew, which i got too. it was pretty bad.

    i don;t think my review was a rave really, beyond the water spinach.