5.085 Spicy Chicken & Mushrooms with Steamed Rice

-Cycle 5, Item 85-
31 (Mon) March 2014

Spicy Chicken & Mushrooms with Steamed Rice


by Philippine Airlines

on Flight PR469

-Somewhere over the Pacific Ocean-


The Prodigal Son Returns to Get Documents, Day 3 (see previously 5.084 Odeng + Ddeokbokki).

For the ostensible purpose of securing some documents from the local government office, open only during the week, I was happily forced to extend my stay in Seoul this time through Monday evening.   

Since he started the first grade at the beginning of the month, this was my first opportunity to see him off to school.

A REALLY GOOD IDEA: arriving early and running 3 laps around the yard, a student shall receive a small sticker; the stickers aren't redeemable for anything beyond bragging rights, but the kids seem to find the incentive irresistible per se; just goes to show that health promotion can be so simple and cost-effective.

Still old-school, the students are required to change into "indoor shoes."

This nearly killed me.

On the flight back, the food was pretty bad.  The "main" dish was chicken and oyster mushrooms in a gochujang-based sauce that was probably intended to taste Korean but just tasted kinda weird, as if someone who'd never actually tried the stuff tried to cook with it.  Oddly, the "side" dish was penne and zucchini in tomato sauce, a totally random pairing that made me strongly suspect that they were dumping leftovers from a different service.  Plus stale bread, no butter.  Whatever. 

DID YOU KNOW: on this particular plane, presumably on certain others, or at least others of this same model, the seats fold forward all the way down (one has to reach over from behind, press the recline button on the side of the armrest, then push)--took me 38 years of air travel to discover.  

With the seats on either side of me also empty, better than business class.

The blonde head belongs to Allison Harvard, runner-up on cycle 12 of America's Next Top Model; upon arrival, standing next to her in line at immigration, I turned and asked, "Top Model?," to which she silently nodded acknowledgment, and then we parted ways, though I could sense that she was impressed by my discreetness.  

5.084 Odeng + Ddeokbokki

-Cycle 5, Item 84-
30 (Sun) March 2014

Odeng + Ddeokbokki


at some food cart/tent
(Namdaemun Market)

-Namchang, Seoul-

with Wife and Dominic

The Prodigal Son Returns to Get Documents, Day 2 (see previously 5.083 Mul Naeng Myeon)

Coincidentally, the featured photo is framed almost exactly like one taken yesterday.  

Namdaemun Market ("sijang") is a market place.  A neighborhood in itself (i.e., Namchang-Dong), the largest of its kind in Korea.  Comprises a sprawling labyrinth of small alleys, connecting buildings of various sizes, crammed with tiny stalls, though some vendors have storefronts directly facing the alleys, others hawking their merchandise from carts.  Clothing, kitchenwares, toys, eyeglasses--I've been getting mine at the same place for over 20 years--beauty products, electronics, souvenirs, foodstuffs, military surplus, contraband (i.e., goods smuggled from the US base commissary/PX), whatever.  Located in the heart of downtown, under the shadow of Namdaemun ("Great South Gate").  

Back in the day, it was the ultimate shopping destination, perhaps up until the late 80s, when department stores and large-scale supermarkets began to proliferate throughout the city.  Nowadays, with mega-retailers in every neighborhood (e.g., E-Mart), Namdaemun Market is largely a place for old people and tourists.   

In the evenings, and all day Sundays...

... when most of the merchants are closed for business...

... food carts/tents set up along the alleys.  

We settled on this one for no particular reason.

All more or less the same in menu choice and quality, each place typically offers various seafoods and meats, including innards, usually stir-fried in a spicy sauce (tip: if unsure of what to order, just point at something, and the cook will take care of the rest), plus skewers, japchae, gim bab, jeon, and ham hocks... well as more traditional street food items, such as boiled mussels, odeng, sundae...

...and of course ddeokbokki.

Whereas each cart/tent will certainly vary in terms of quality and taste, I don't think that anybody, seller or buyer, cares that much.  Other than maybe some local merchants, probably 95% of all customers are one-shot deals, either locals grabbing a quick bite while running a random errand--exactly what happened to us--or tourists nibbling out of curiosity, so I doubt that repeat business is an issue.  I'm not even sure if the same cart/tent sets up in the same place every time.   

That said, the ddeokbokki here was quite good, done in the Myeong-Dong style that I like (see generally 4.092 Myeong-Dong-Style Ddeokbokki) (Myeong-Dong, the modernized shopping mecca for tourists, is one neighborhood over).

The prices were surprisingly cheap, about half of what similar dishes would cost at cart/tents on the outside, maybe so as not to scare off tourists, maybe because the portions come smaller?

The simpler items were priced on par with the outside.

5.083 Mul Naeng Myeon

-Cycle 5, Item 83-
29 (Sat) March 2014

Mul Naeng Myeon


at Samwon Garden

-Sinsa, Seoul-

with Family and Dad

The Prodigal Son Returns to Get Documents, Day 1.

The World Health Organization Regional Office for the Western Pacific has seen fit to offer me a full time job.  I've accepted.  At the end of April, after wrapping up my current consultancy contract, I'll be staying on in Manila.  Technically, the post is for a Temporary Appointment Professional (TAP) on a 5.5-month contract.  5.5 because, well, certain employee benefits begin to accrue at 6.0 (I wonder if ILO offers the same kind of deal).  The short term also allows both parties to gauge whether they're mutually satisfied by and want to maintain the relationship for a longer term.  So, in mid-October, if all goes well, the contract may be renewed to a fixed-term post of 2 years.  

At Samwon Garden, the only restaurant that the entire family can agree on, every time (see most recently 4.308 Mul Naeng Myeon).

Fine with me, I could get my post-flight bowl of MNM (see generally 4.295 Pyongyang Mul Naeng Myeon).

More specifically, I'll be Technical Officer of Health Legislation.  The first position of its kind in WHO (as far as anyone is aware).  The focal point for providing technical support to countries throughout the Region in assessing/developing/implementing/surveilling their domestic legal frameworks on health matters.  Holy crap, that's quite a daunting task.  I hope that I'm up to it--we'll see in 5.5 months.  

 Taking after his old man in so many ways, MNM is his favorite food.

The main purpose of this visit back home--yes, Seoul will always be home--is to retrieve various supporting documents, such as academic diplomas, birth certificates for the kids, etc., as well as family registries, available at the neighborhood government office, requiring me to be here on a weekday during business hours, which is a good excuse to stay through Monday.

In Korea, many convenience stores offer tables for customers, who can bring food (e.g., street food, which abounds in Oksu (see for example 3.164 The Trinity)) but usually buy drinks (e.g., beer) from the store.

 What I miss most about being away is hanging out with my kids...

 ...and making sure that they're properly groomed.

5.082 Feta & Olive Skewers

-Cycle 5, Item 82-
28 (Fri) March 2014

Feta & Olive Skewers


by WHO WPRO Cafeteria


-Ermita, Manila-

with various WRs, CLOs, and WPRO staff

One of the biggest events of the year at the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for the Western Pacific (WPRO) is the annual week-long meeting of the WHO Representatives (WRs) and Country Liaison Officers (CLOs) from the country offices around the region.  

It's such a big deal that we have both welcome and farewell receptions.

Tonight was the farewell reception.

The food wasn't particularly noteworthy overall.  

However, I did appreciate the presentation of the feta & olive skewers, each consisting of a toothpick with a black olive half, a cube of cucumber, a cherry tomato half, a piece of feta cheese, a green olive half, and a piece of basil, all stuck into a long cucumber cut lengthwise in half (kinda wasteful of the cucumber, though).  

I may order this dish, as well as some of the others that I saw throughout the week at coffee breaks, for our Consultation on Overweight, Obesity, Diabetes, and Law.

[At the time of this writing, a couple weeks after the official post date, the consultation has come and gone--talking of Michaelangelo--and so I know that the ordering of the food, not just for the reception but also for the refreshments during the coffee breaks, doesn't go quite as planned.]

Earlier that day for lunch, at Golden Fortune Restaurant, a Cantonese joint, which I'll discuss in a post someday soon, I had roast duck noodle soup, as per pre-flight SOP (see generally 5.024 Egg Fuyong with Scallops).  

Flying back to Korea later tonight.  See you on the other side.

5.081 Home-Cooked Spanish Cuisine, Home-Cooked by a Spaniard

-Cycle 5, Item 81-
27 (Thu) March 2014

Home-Cooked Spanish Cuisine, Home-Cooked by a Spaniard


by CAL

at her apartment

-Ermita, Manila-

with CAL, ME, KK, TL, C&JR, and other colleagues

CAL invited some people from the office over to her place this evening for dinner, which she would be preparing.  

CAL is Spanish.

I was totally geeked out to be one of the chosen few.  For me, the occasion would be the first time eating home-cooked Spanish cuisine, home-cooked by a Spaniard.   

In her home...

a Spaniard cooking...

...Spanish cuisine.

Gazpacho is a Spanish soup.  Consists of tomatoes and other veggies (e.g., onion, garlic, cucumber, bell pepper), traditionally ground smooth with a mortar and pestle, now typically blended in a food processor, along with various spices and olive oil, served cold.  A classic.

Tortilla de patatas is a Spanish omelette.  Nothing to do with the tortilla of Mexican cuisine. Consists of eggs, potatoes (patatas), onion, cooked in a deep pan with olive oil, resulting in a thick cake, cut into smaller cubes prior to serving.  Also a classic.

 For starters...

Semicurado (what it said on the packaging) (3.0) + sliced baguette--okay, I suppose, though I'm not much of a cheese plate person.

Paleta Ibérica de Bellota Loncheada (3.5)--best of the bunch, sweet meaty flavor, not too salty, nice texture.

Paleta Ibérica Cebo Loncheada (3.0)--essentially the same thing as above, but a bit drier in texture, less flavor.

 Cabecero de Lomo (3.0)--much meatier but a bit gamy.

Tortilla de patatas (3.5)--the heartiest omelette that I've ever tasted, the potatoes really pumping up the volume; I should try to make this myself.

 Seafood & pork rice (3.0)--technically, as CAL explained, rice can only be classified as "paella" if it's cooked in a paella; even where the ingredients are essentially the same, the rice won't develop the same crust on the bottom; here, the rice was cooked in a pot, so it's not a paella; in any case, it was excellent, the saffron making it taste like a paella, though, yes, admittedly, the rice wasn't crispy.

Beyond expectation, the food was amazing.  For starters, she laid out plates of different hams and cheese that she'd bought and brought from Spain--the real deal.  She then made tortillas, gazpacho, and seafood & pork rice--a complete meal.  Hands down, the gazpacho was my favorite dish of the evening: the tomatoes bright and zesty, perfectly balanced, the sea salt sprinkled on top providing bursts of flavor with each bite.  But everything was awesome.  Thanks, CAL!

To up the odds of being invited back, I gotta hurry up and invite people over to my place, including and especially CAL--in public health, this what we call a "targeted intervention"--for some home-cooked Korean food.  Dinner party karma.

My contribution--for obvious reasons, pink champagne is welcome on any occasion; I'm now going to keep a bottle on hand for just this kind of thing.

5.080 TERRP 37(1.34) Arya: Arya Shishlik

-Cycle 5, Item 80-
26 (Wed) March 2014

Arya Shishlik


at Arya (Robinsons Place)

-Ermita, Manila-

with M Kim

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 37th restaurant in the series, the 34th from the 1st floor.  Outer Pedro Gil Wing.

Previously covered restaurants (for installments 01-10, see post 11(1.11) below; for installments 11-20, see post 21(1.18) below):

- 11(1.11) Feb 5 / Wendy's (American) (see 5.031 Baconator Mushroom Melt) / 1.0 / $

- 21(1.18) Feb 24 / Ya Kun Kaya Toast (Singaporean) (see 5.050 Chicken Sa Po Fan...) / 2.0 / $

- 31(1.28) Mar 17 / Jollibee (Filipino) (see 5.071 Garlic Bangus) / 1.0 / $
- 32(1.29) Mar 18 / UCC Café Terrace (Japanese) (see 5.072 Zha Jiang Mian) (Chinese) / 2.5 / $$
- 33(1.30) Mar 19 / Uncle Cheffy (Western) (see 5.073 Cream Dory Meunière) (French) / 1.5 / $$$
- 34(1.31) Mar 20 / Kenny Rogers Roasters (American) (see 5.074 Roast Chicken Plate) / 1.5 / $
- 35(1.32) Mar 21 / Sakae Sushi (Japanese) (see 5.075 All Day Sushi Buffet) / 2.0 / $$
- 36(1.33) Mar 25 / Racks (American) (see 5.079 Racks Baby Ribs) / 2.5 / $$

Ladyboy hooker in hot-pink pants--just saying.

As usual, empty when I'm there.

Arya is a Persian restaurant.  Budding chain, currently 4 locations in Manila, including 2 in Robinsons Place, 1 inside, 1 outside.  Extensive menu includes most of the classics (not that I'm capable of identifying the classics), from salads and sandwiches, to curries and kebabs.    

Most main dishes overpriced at around 400 to 500 pesos.

With shawarma wraps generally costing less than 100 pesos throughout the neighborhood, the mid/upper 200-range prices here suggest supreme confidence or cluelessness. 

The food was mediocre.  The lamb shishlik--unlike MtG's version (see generally 2.310 MtG Shashlik with Roast Pepper Salsa)--was lightly/sweetly marinated and--unlike other shash/shish that I've encountered (see for example 3.302 Plov)--the meat wasn't skewered but grilled on the bone.  Accompanied by roasted/blackened tomatoes.  Nothing to rave about, certainly not award-worthy.  The other dishes that we ordered weren't much better.  

I might go back, if only because Arya has a second location on the 2nd floor, but I'm not really looking forward to it.  

Shirazi Salad (1.0)--waaaaaay too salty.

Fish Curry (1.5)--curry was okay, but the fish was dried out, obviously cooked in its frozen state without thawing.

Pita Bread (1.0)--okay at first, but hardened after a few minutes, obviously microwaved.