Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Spice of Life

These days I'm not reading much of anything except my students' writing, but the other day I read something in the New York Times that M. had told me about - Food Raves Gain in Popularity. It reminded me of how much I loved running my own "food club" back in 2009...and how different things seem to be here in Korea compared to the U.S. I doubt that very many of the food carts that I have eaten at here (or in Thailand or Malaysia for that matter) would be able to afford the legal fees, and I know they're meant to protect the consumer, but as far as I know I have never gotten sick from eating at any of them (I did get some kind of food poisoning here two times last year, but I'm pretty sure it was from "recycled" banchan at a Korean diner, and undercooked chicken at a different restaurant).

Diversity in food offerings on the street is something that I think could improve in the U.S. for sure, and loosening the restrictions/curbing the fees would help. D.C., where I lived for nearly three years, is one of the worst - stand upon stand of dirty water dogs, egg rolls and pretzels on the Mall (the bulgogi cart at 14th and L provided some relief from the monotony, but it was kind of off the beaten path for anyone other than people who worked around there. There was also a small Salvadorean collection of food stalls in Mount Pleasant that was open on weekends). In contrast, before traveling to Thailand last December I came across this guy in my (food) research who was able to eat out at a different food stall for (roughly) three meals a day for a month - while losing weight and saving money on his electricity bill - as of March he was going to do it again (By the way, I've plugged his site before - if you're headed to Thailand it's a great resource for learning "menu Thai" - he's got some quizzes on there).

Though I've got so many things I want to write about on here (got quite the backlog), after reading this article I'm adding one more thing - Korean street food. With the exception of toast and sweet potatoes, I haven't really written a lot about the offerings here. As a preview and a way to commit to this, here's what I can dash off, and if anyone reading is curious about a particular thing I'll get to that first:

*hotteok - tastes kind of like a Korean cinnamon roll (but it's flat) -I've seen other varieties too that contain japchae or a mixture of sweet potato and Korean pumpkin
*sundae - not what you'd think; it's Korean blood sausage
*tteokbokki Rice cakes and fish cakes in a spicy sauce - an ubiquitous Korean street food - my visiting relative referred to it as "Korean Chef Boyardee" - don't know if that appeals to you or not but I can see where he's coming from...

*sausage skewers - I actually don't know what they call these in Korean but they're one of my favorites
*beondegi - I don't eat it (if you click on the link you might see why) but I would blog about it...
*hot dogs
*chicken cups - fried chicken nuggets layered with tater tots and ddeok (rice cakes) and topped with a spicy-sweet sauce
*moroccan sandwiches - an Itaewon specialty

(and I'll stop there for now...)

43 Thailand #9: Runny Eggs

Fried egg over easy with curries
at a rest stop on our way to Loei
With Easter around the corner, here I am writing about eggs that I ate in Thailand four months ago...

I love runny eggs, a newish development. Growing up I always insisted on "medium hard" (though I enjoyed everything from liver and onions to kimchi and was an adventurous eater compared to my peers, I was still kind of a finicky kid in some ways). Hard boiled was too dry and crumbly, but, without getting too macabre about it, the runny-ness just felt...wrong.

I don't know when my conversion happened exactly. It might have been while traveling in Japan, mixing natto with a raw egg yolk and eating it over hot rice for breakfast. But however it happened, now I only like my eggs drippy, otherwise they're not worth eating. M's the same way. The yolk basically becomes a condiment for whatever you pair it with.

Soft boiled eggs eaten with
End of the World Chicken
From my experiences, Thai cooks "get" the egg thing, whether soft boiled and served with End of the World Chicken, or, M's favorite, fried over easy and served over gai pad kapao (Thai basil chicken) and rice - he says he could eat this every day. His favorite was the takeout order that T. picked up for us in Chiang Mai to sustain us on our overnight bus to Khon Kaen (Unfortunately I was sick with some kind of food poisoning/stomach bug so couldn't enjoy it, but at least M. was able to...). It's a great combination that I'd like to try at home one of these days, when I get around to making my own: The creaminess of the yolk curbs the chile bite in the kapao.

(No chicken-egg jokes, please... )


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