5.026 Modeum

 -Cycle 5, Item 26-
31 (Fri) January 2014



at Deo Keun Jib

-Nonhyeon, Seoul-

with the Family

The Prodigal Son Returns for the Lunar New Year, Day 2 (see previously 5.025 Tangsu Yuk).

Having spent the night at my parents' place and done all the bowing stuff with them in the morning--more on that tomorrow--the plan had been to pass the afternoon/evening at the in-laws', but the mother-in-law wasn't feeling well and called it off.

So, we were on our own for dinner.  However, I was in no mood to cook.  The wife is never in a mood, much less capacity, to cook.  Unfortunately, the 3-day Lunar New Year holiday being one of Korea's two most sacred--along with Chuseok--the vast majority of restaurants across the country are closed.  Then, I remembered that Deo Keun Jib (see most recently 3.238 Seolleong Tang), right across the river, is open 24/7/365.  So, that's where we went.

New signage.

With very few dining options in town, the place was packed, though I didn't see any other table eating barbecue.

Meat counter where the cauldrons of boiling beef bones once stood.

Even in a joint like this, I can't resist the point-of-sale marketing.

Not really a butcher shop, as the beef is presliced and prepriced, ranging from 35,000 won to 150,000 per platter, depending on cut/grade/amount.

At the special holiday rate, 36,660 won for 544 grams of grade-1 hanwoo in various cuts, ridiculously cheap by restaurant standards, especially in Gangnam, maybe 1/3 to 1/4 of the regular price.

We'd never before tried the meat, always just something from the soup menu.  Since our last visit many years ago, the barbecue part of the business had become one of those a quasi-butcher shop arrangements (see generally 2.190 Grilled Beef Brisket).  When I saw the point-of-sale promotional poster for a holiday special, it was a done deal.  The prices were good (hook).   The meat looked good (line), especially in light of crappy beef that I'd had in Manila (see for example 5.022 Wagyu Course).  And I was overwhelmed by the urge to feed my sons meat (sinker).

Mostly variations of boiled/braised beef; at the very bottom, a "setting fee" of 3,000 per adult, 1,500 won per child, for barbecue customers.

The meal was excellent.  I can't recall the last time enjoying beef so intensely, so thoroughly, so gratefully, particularly beef in this Korean barbecue form.  The meat itself, a mixed modeum platter of mostly blade with a few slivers of salchisal and deungsim tossed in (see generally 4.197 Grilled Salchisal), was respectable enough, tasty/fatty/juicy, but I ate like I'd been starved.  Even after a mere two weeks away, I suppose that I was in desperate need of restoration. Everything else on the table was or at least seemed, same thing, great.

2 firsts: (i) pasta other than elbow macaroni, (ii) "Italian" dressing, like from a bottle--both only in Gangnam.

Salchisal, being so tender, all went to the boys.

For dessert, this bowl of galbi tang, packed with ribs; objectively, not as good as Samwon Garden's (see most recently 5.001 Galbi Tang), but it seemed better on this occasion.

Or maybe it was just spending quality time with the family.  

A very truly happy Happy Lunar New Year!

5.025 Tangsu Yuk

 -Cycle 5, Item 25-
30 (Thu) January 2014

Tangsu Yuk


at J&J

-Geumgok, Bundang-

with the Family and the Folks

The Prodigal Son Returns for the Lunar New Year, Day 1.

In Seoul to spend the Lunar New Year holiday with the family, the first time that I've been home since leaving for Manila earlier this month.  Flying back Sunday evening, giving me 3, maybe 4, dinners in town--yes, thanks to the blog, that's how I calculate time these days, in units of dinner.

J&J is a Chinese restaurant.  Located in Bundang, on the first floor of my parents' apartment building.  Mid- to upper-range, in terms of both price and quality.

For dinner this evening, long story short, everything else in the neighborhood was closed for the holiday, so we ended up at J&J.

Tangsu yuk (탕수육) is a Chinese dish.  Strips of meat, pork by default, but sometimes beef, or chicken (see for example 4.300 Orange Tangsu Chicken), or fish (see for example 2.342 Tangsu Eo), battered and deep-fried, tossed in a tangy glaze, along with some veg/fruit, such as carrot and onion at a minimum, pineapple perhaps.  Essentially, it's the Korean version of sweet & sour.  The term means "tangsu = taffy water" + "yuk = meat," though variations of sweet & sour dishes in China are sometimes referred to by other names.  

What really sets tangsu yuk apart from sweet & sour anywhere in the world is the vapid yet rabid popularity of the dish in Chinese restaurants throughout Korea.  Unquestionably, undoubtedly, undeniably, unmistakably, unequivocally, unambiguously, incontrovertibly, irrefutably, incontestably, conclusively, categorically, plainly, patently, definitively, decisively, explicitly, implicitly, it's the undisputed, unrivaled, unassailable, unconquerable, indomitable, inviolable, invincible king, emperor, pharaoh, raja, sheik, shah, chief, sachem, liege, lord, potentate, padrone, allah, jehovah, master of the universe, ruler of all things, god.  Seriously, without exaggeration, I'd estimate that tangsu yuk accounts for 80% of all dishes sold here, the remaining 20% only when tangsu yuk is already on the table; in other words, the first dish is always tangsu yuk, then maybe additional items, or maybe some more tangsu yuk.  

To be clear, I'm referring to special dishes, served on platters and shared by everyone, not individual noodle or rice dishes, like JJM or JBB, which is another story, though actually the same story, only on a different level (see generally 2.224 Hayan Jjambbong).

Tangsu yuk epitomizes what I hate about Korean food culture: prescriptive predictability.  I've discussed it before--coincidentally, on the occasion of my first trip to Manila, where the open-mindedness is mind-boggling--in the context of ramyeon (see 2.033 Roast Duck Noodle Soup).  Lack of imagination, fear of the unknown, laziness, ignorance, whatever, it's why Chinese cuisine, the most diverse in the world, has been reduced in Korea to less than 10 dishes in all (see generally 3.198 Stir-Fried Shrimp & Tofu Skins; see also 3.258 Japchae Bap), led by tangsu yuk.  In protest, it's the only dish that I refuse to order on principle, disallowing it if I have any say in menu choice.  

I wield no authority over my father, so tangsu yuk it was.  

The tangsu yuk at J&J was actually one of the best that I've ever had.  Juicy on the inside, crispy outside, perfectly sweet and sour balance in the sauce, wide variety of veg/fruit, including lotus root.  If the dish were always like this, I wouldn't complain so much.

5.024 TERRP (08)1.08 Mr. Choi Kitchen: Egg Fuyong with Scallops

 -Cycle 5, Item 24-
29 (Wed) January 2014

Egg Fuyong with Scallops


at Mr. Choi Kitchen (Robinsons Place)

-Ermita, Manila-

with Lee Y and various Korean WPRO interns

I'm flying back to Korea tonight, just for the Lunar New Year holiday weekend, the first time going home since I've been here in Manila for the past 20 days--the longest that I've ever been away from my family.

Try Every Restaurant in Robinsons Place (TERRP). In Manila through mid-April, living above Robinsons Place, I'm going to attempt eating my way through the mall.  As far as I know, nobody has ever done anything like this, so this could be my unique contribution to the food/blog scene of Manila. Given time constraints, I'll aim for the 36 establishments (currently--down from the initial 40) on the first floor, working my way up.  

This is the 8th restaurant in the series.  Padre Faure Wing.

Previously covered restaurants:

- 01(1.01) Jan 13 / C2 Classic Cuisine (Filipino) (see generally 5.008 Chicken Pork Adobo...) / 2.5 / $$
- 02(1.02) Jan 15 / Banana Leaf (Asian) (see 5.010 Stir-Fried Noble Leaves with Garlic) (Malaysian) / 3.5 / $$
- 03(1.03) Jan 16 / Holy Cow! (American) (see 5.011 Lonestar Grilled Pork Chop) / 2.0 / $$$
- 04(1.04) Jan 21 / Super Bowl of China (Chinese) (see 5.016 Pork Strips with Kangkong...) / 3.5 / $$
- 05(1.05) Jan 23 / TGI Friday's (American) (see 5.018 Filipino Platter) (Filipino) / 2.5 / $$$
- 06(1.06) Jan 24 / Tempura (Japanese) (see 5.019 Ramen Burger) / 0.0 / $$
- 07(1.07) Jan 28 / Hainanese Delights (Singaporean) (see 5.023 Hainanese Delights) / 2.5 / $

Mr. Choi* Kitchen is a Chinese restaurant.  Located in Padre Faure Wing.  Cantonese.

*Lest there be any confusion, the "Choi" here is the romanization of the surname 蔡 as it's pronounced in Cantonese--alternatively "Cai" in Mandarin and "Chae" in Korean--not to be confused with the Korean surname Choi, which is something else entirely.

Dimsum, of course (though I haven't tried it yet).

The food at Mr. Choi Kitchen, which I've had on several occasions through the years, lunch/dinner/late-nite snack, is generally pretty good, though not great by any means.

shrimp with broccoli (2.5)

kailan with garlic (1.5)

yang chow fried rice (1.5)--too salty.

beef ho fun (3.0)

Egg foo young is a Chinese omelette.  Egg plus other components, such as veggies (e.g., bean sprouts) or meats/seafood (e.g., pork/shrimp), are mixed together and pan-fried, typically into a flat patty, often topped in some kind of brown sauce.  While the name is Cantonese--芙蓉 (fu jung) = lotus flower, 蛋 (dan) = egg--the dish is generally regarded as an overseas Chinese creation, found mainly in British/American-Chinese restaurants.

One of the best items at Mr. Choi Kitchen is the egg fuyong with scallops.  Not so much a patty as it is an orb.  And not so much egg as flour.  As such, the general impression is that of a ball cake containing tiny bay scallops and strips of carrot within.  But with the brown sauce, it's kinda good.

More importantly, this restaurant is the only place in Manila that I've seen thus far to offer roast duck.  In fact, back in 2011, when this relationship with WPRO began, Mr. Choi Kitchen was the site of my very first meal on my very first visit to Manila; I went in for the roast duck (see 2.033 Roast Duck Noodle Soup), thinking how awesome it would be to have such easy access to one of my all-time favorite dishes, which is virtually impossible to come by in Korea, and not that easy here either.  On that trip, I went back several times, in between and after meals, to get as much duck as I could before I left (see for example 2.034 Gatang Sigarillas...).

roast duck noodle soup (2.5)

Traditionally, my last-meal-before-flying practice has applied only when departing from home.  First, because the point is to eat my favorite dish, currently MNM (see for example 4.261 Pyongyang Mul Naeng Myeon), found only in Korea, or previously JJM (see for example 3.281 Spaghetti in 3-Minute Jjajang), which is rare outside of Korea, possibly in locales with large Korean expat populations, hunting down the dish on my last night in some foreign city wouldn't be practical--Big Macs would be so much easier.  Second, on my last night in some foreign city, where I may never visit again, I couldn't imagine eating anything but local anyway.

Happy New Year!

Given the historical significance of Mr. Choi Kitchen, I'd planned on saving it for the final installment of TERRP 1, but then I decided to adapt the aforementioned practice in light of my new surroundings.  After all, for all intents and purposes, I'm living here now, at least into the near future.  Moreover, roast duck noodle soup is already an all-time favorite, preceding both MNM and JJM, so it works out--I've never really considered myself to be a big noodle fan, but I am, apparently.  Now, I'll just have to find a place that does it right.

See you on the other side.

I love it when this happens (see also 3.267 "Fish").

With a departure time of 23:45, the in-flight meal was literally a midnight snack.

5.023 TERRP 07.1.07 Hainanese Delights: Hainanese Delights

 -Cycle 5, Item 23-
28 (Tue) January 2014

Hainanese Delights


at Hainanese Delights (Robinsons Place)

-Ermita, Manila-


Try Every Restaurant in Robinsons Place (TERRP). In Manila through mid-April, living above Robinsons Place, I'm going to attempt eating my way through the mall.  As far as I know, nobody has ever done anything like this, so this could be my unique contribution to the food/blog scene of Manila. Given time constraints, I'll begin with the 30 (or so) establishments on the first floor, working my way up.  

This is the 7th restaurant in the series.  Other restaurants previously covered:

01.1.01 Jan 13 / C2 Classic Cuisine (Filipino) (see generally 5.008 Chicken Pork Adobo) / 2.5 / $$
02.1.02 Jan 15 / Banana Leaf (Asian) (see 5.010 Noble Leaves with Garlic) (Malaysian) / 3.5 / $$
03.1.03 Jan 16 / Holy Cow! (American) (see 5.011 Lonestar Grilled Pork Chop) / 2.0 / $$$
04.1.04 Jan 21 / Super Bowl of China (Chinese) (see 5.016 Pork Strips with Kangkong) / 3.5 / $$
05.1.05 Jan 23 / TGI Friday's (American) (see 5.018 Filipino Platter) (Filipino) / 2.5 / $$$
06.1.06 Jan 19 / Tempura (Japanese) (see 5.019 Ramen Burger) / 0.0 / $$

Hainanese Delights is a Singaporean restaurant.  Located in Midtown Wing.  As the name would suggest, emphasis is on dishes influenced by Hainanese culture.  Everything on the otherwise simple menu is referred to by some proprietary nickname--e.g., the iconic chicken rice is called, rather unimaginatively, "Hainanese Delights."

Finally, something cheap.

The chicken rice was not that delightful.  For starters, the "unlimited" Hainan rice was respectable--not that I'm qualified to judge, frankly, having only tasted the dish twice prior.  While the chicken was tender enough, the sauce tasted simply like sweet soy sauce, with none of the subtle silkiness that I experienced in Singapore (see most recently 4.267 Chicken Rice).  At 139 pesos, at least the price was authentically Sinaporean.

Take the Cake (1.0)--nothing like actual carrot cake, assuming that's what it's supposed to be; come to think of it, these lame nicknames do allow for leeway: "We never claimed that it's carrot cake."

In a pinch, I might get this again.

5.022 Wagyu Course

-Cycle 5, Item 22-
27 (Mon) January 2014

Wagyu Course


at Haesong


with CS Hahm, ST Han

ST (Sangtae) Han (한상태) is a former and currently emeritus Regional Director of the WHO Western Pacific Regional Office (WPRO).  One of the first Korean nationals to make a splash on the international medicine/health scene.  The original godfather of the KWM (see generally 5.005 Ki for Ki).  Splits his time between Manila (during the winters) and Seoul (during the summers).  I've been volunteered to write his Wikipedia profile in English.  

This was the third consecutive dinner with my uncle (see previously 5.021 Mackerel Jorim), the fourth in six days (see initially 5.017 Gambas al Ajiillo)--more time than I've spent with him in all of the past few years (see most recently 4.117 Jesa Spread).

Renovated, not so old school in appearance.

The occasion was a reunion of sorts between two families.  CS (and I) representing Hahm and ST representing Han.  Turns out that CS's father (my grandfather) and ST's father were BFFs.  While I've met ST several times over the years, I hadn't known about the personal connection until my aunt recently learned about my work at WPRO and noted that "Mr. Han's son" used to be "some kind of bigshot there."  At lunch with him a couple days ago, I confirmed that he was the guy.  And when I told him that my uncle also happened to be in town, he was eager to meet up.  In fact, though the fathers were so close, the kids had never met, for whatever reason.  So, I set it up.  

Hae Song is a Korean restaurant.  Located in Makati, just a few blocks from last week's Alba and yesterday's Masan Garden (see links above) (apparently, this strip of restaurants is my uncle's comfort zone).  Also like Masan Garden, an old school joint.  Perfect for a sit-down of old-timers.

sides (2.0)

juk (2.0)

sushi & sashimi platter (2.0)

chili & pork stir-fry (1.0)--waaaaaaaaay too salty, even by Filipino standards.

buchu jeon (2.0)

doenjang jjigae (2.0)

Table service.

kimchi (2.0)

zaru soba (2.5)


The food was just okay.  Given the special circumstances, my uncle ordered the special wagyu course meal.  1,050 pesos per person.  It also eliminated the hassle of having to decide on individual dishes.  Turned out to be a hodgepodge of Korean-Japanese-Chinese.  For the most part, everything was neither very good nor very bad--though in the Philippines, where food can be unpredictable, that's saying a lot.  Unfortunately, the beef itself was strictly meh, dry and flavorless, but at least it wasn't gamy, as beef tends to be.  So, for reliable mediocrity, this is the place.