Thursday, October 11, 2007

Popular Korean Noodles now in the Metro

With the growing population of Koreans in the Philippines (now considered the 2nd largest foreign community next to Chinese), it's but a natural phenomenon for Korean Foods to become popular in the country. Consequently, Korean Stores and Restaurants have began to flourish. Thus, it'll be interesting to sample some of Korea's popular noodle dishes in Metro Manila. Now, were the dishes worthy enough of our day? Read on and have a peek of our Korean Noodles benchmarking activity.


Basically, we're in the look for the best Chajang and Champong Noodles. Chajang is a black bean paste which can be served with rice or noodles while Champong is a spicy seafood noodles generously served with chilies and vegetables. Both dishes are normally offered in Chinese-Korean Restaurants. As recommended by a Korean colleague, we raded two restaurants known for serving these foods: China Castle and Pukkyong (Beijing) Restaurant. Yeah, you read them right. Chinese named Restaurants serving Korean Cuisine. You see, just by the Resto's names so much fusion have happened already! China Palace is located in BF Homes Paranaque whereas Pukkyong is in Escriva St., Pasig City (beside Global Academy Culinary School in-front of University of Asia and the Pacific).



First Stop - China Castle - Chinese Food & Bulalo. I'm not quite sure if it does sound right. Now I'm confused, what's really inside this restaurant?


Hand Pulled Noodles prepared only when needed and about to be served... So, yeah they live up to their claim of "fresh noodles" in their menu.




The many spices and ingredients that made the noodles taste delicious and different



A typical Chajang Sauce (black bean paste, onions, napa cabbage and spices)


Kan-Chajang (noodles with black sauce, more onions and vegetables). A little slimy in texture. The noodles used here is thick almost similar to spaghetti that's why they said Chajang is the spaghetti of koreans only the sauce is black instead of red.

U-dong Noodles (Noodles in White Seafood Soup); it's similar to our local Chami or Lomi

Uni Chajang (Pork Chajang; a meatier version of regular chajang)



Samsun Chajang (noodles with black sauce, shrimp, squid and sea cucumber). It has a strong sauted and wok character just like our local Pancit Canton. This one is acceptable and closer to the Filipino palate.


Special Champong (Noodles in Spicy Seafood Soup)


Regular Champong (Noodles in Spicy Seafood Soup)

Basically, the taste of these two champong noodles is the same. The only difference is that the special version has more seafoods. If you're a spicy eater, you might just love to add this in your menu list. However, there's not much deep taste or character in there, it's generally mild in overall taste with an overpowering notes of chili. Just a word of caution , whole chilies are added in the noodles which, can bite your tongue real hot! and make you sweat real hard!

Second Stop - Pukkyong (Beijing) Restaurant...


Tang Soo Yuk - deep fried breaded pork in sweet & sour sauce. According to the chef, this is the favorite among the locals. But of course don't you think it's so familiar? The dish is just plain acceptable.


Chajang Noodles (Noodles with black sauce, cabbage and onions garnished with strips of cucumber). This is a more beany version relative to China Palace's.

Jang-Ban Chajang (fresh noodles with chajang sauce, squid, shrimp and chili powder). This one has more body and better profile. Basically, sweet, spicy, beany with very subtle seafood taste.
Champong Noodles (fresh noodles with champong soup, squid, clams, quail eggs and vegetables). Relative to the first restaurant, Beijing's version is more "fishy" (sea-like profile), darker in color and less hot.


Because the gateway of many countries in the world are now widely open for some economic reasons, a great deal of foreign immigrations have likewise emerged. Philippines has its own share of this trend both ways. A lot of Filipinos are migrating to different countries making our culture be known in the world and similarly, a number of foreign minorities have invaded our country sharing with us their own. The one good thing about it, our palate also get its own take of different gustatory experiences and yeah to some extent, satisfaction.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Amazing THAILAND (Part 2 of 2)

One of the best things to try and worth exploring in Thailand is the local FOOD. The herbs and spices in Thai Cuisine are simply irresistible however, liking them might be selective and acquired unless you're an adventurous foodie. The most common ingredients used for cooking are Lemon grass, Galangal, Kaffir lime leaves, Chili, Coconut Milk and Bean Sprouts. The aroma of these herbs and spices lingered all over the place. For me, the must try Thai foods are the following:



1. TOM YUM SOUP / NOODLES


I'm so unlucky this time I didn't have the opportunity to sample this one. I have tried the Chicken and Seafood Tom Yum before during my first visit in Thailand but that was years ago already. That's why it's so unfortunate to have missed this one great dish. When you travel to this country, make sure you try this national dish.


2. PAD THAI NOODLES


Pad Thai Noodles (stir-fried rice noodles or glass noodles with onion chives, bean sprouts, shrimp, fried egg and peanut); sweet, tangy with strong peanut taste. The authentic Pad Thai has more garnish than noodles. The bean sprouts are bigger but with no earthy taste unlike the Philippines' version. The contrast of sweet and zesty character of the noodle dish made it more appetizing. This is really my favorite in Thai Cuisine! In the restaurants, it is normally served with additional fresh onion chives, kaffir lime fruit, bean sprouts and banana blossoms.
3. RED CURRY (Pork)


The creamy taste of coconut milk blended with red curry paste makes this dish sumptuous, I can't help but ask for more.

4. GREEN CURRY (Chicken)


This dish is basically the same as Red Curry. It's also made of coconut milk, kaffir lime leaves, thai basil leaves and curry paste. Only this time it's the green colored curry paste that is used. Taste wise it's also appealing.

Other interesting foods I find are these Thai desserts called LAR and CHAN.


LAR - a dessert that is made only in the Southern part of Thailand. It's made from coconut sugar and tastes like sweet wafer.


CHAN (meaning layered), is a steamed delicacy made from tapioca starch, coconut, pandan juice and sugar. It's similar to our very own sapin-sapin. Sweet and tasty!

What I find real intriguing in my food hopping activity are these colored rice. Aside from the usual white, there's also brown, reddish orange, yellow and blue! Due to the languange limitation, I didn't get the ingredients used in coloring the rice. At any rate, I think I wouldn't dare trying any of them. I wonder where they get the color pigment, especially for the blue one.

Another fascinating sight is the Thai Noodle Cart. It's a good D-I-Y Food concept. You choose your own ingredients and your own kind of taste. The food being prepared right in front of you made it even more interesting. By the way, it's quite common to find dumplings, meat and seafood balls in Thai noodles and soup. The best type of noodles for me is Hofan, it's suitable and tasty for both soup and dry application.






Aside from Food, the next best thing to do in Thailand (which most travelers look forward to) is of course SHOPPING! Thailand has a very convenient mode of transportation thus, going places is not so difficult to do. Most of the BTS (Bangkok Mass Transit System) stations are connected to the shopping malls and commercial arcades. All you need is a map, a well conditioned feet and you're all set! Depending on your needs and interests, try to maximize your time on the places you really want to visit. Here are some of my suggestions:

1. PANTIP PLAZA




Pantip is the biggest IT Plaza in Bangkok known for housing electronic goods at reasonable prices. It's a 5-storey building that boasts of a huge selection of electronic stuffs with great bargains. You'll find computers, laptops, printers, digital cameras, cellphones, video cams, audio players and other hardware and software accessories. Just to give you an idea on how cheap the products can get here, my colleague bought a Canon Powershot 650 for only Baht 11,900 (Php 15,470). A laptop cooling pad which costs Php1,200 at a computer shop in the Philippines, only costs Baht 490 (Php637). Flash drives cost Baht 630 (Php819) for 2G and Baht 1,200 (Php1,560) for 4G. MP3 Players cost less than Baht 1,000 for 1G. I also found good bargains of branded laptops, the price difference will range from 20 - 30% less than the Philippines. However, make sure to scout the stalls first before making a purchase as prices of some goods are not standardized.

How to get there: Take BTS (Sukhumvit Line) and exit at N1 Ratchathewi Station. Head to Petchburi Road, Pantip is at the right side of the street near Indonesian Embassy. From Ratchathewi exit, you may opt for a taxi or Tuktuk if you're not willing to walk and you want to reserve your energy for shopping.

2. THE PLATINUM





Platinum Fashion Mall, is a shopping center next to Pantip Plaza. If you're looking for wholesale prices of clothings, this is the place to be! Wholesale here means minimum of 3 pieces, not bad at all! There are a lot of shirts, kids apparel, ladies wear, bags and other fashion accessories inside the mall.


3. PRATUNAM CITY COMPLEX




Just across Platinum Fashion Mall is the Pratunam Complex. This establishment is all about clothings! Lots and lots of shirts and all types of clothings at affordable prices. This is actually an older version of Platinum, that's why you will find more fashionable items in the later mall. But if you mean clothing business, you might want to drop by at Pratunam. Better yet, check the Pratunam Market which is located at the back of the City Complex beside Baiyoke.

4. SIAM PARAGON


Siam Paragon is the newest, largest shopping mall in Bangkok. It houses most of the popular high end brands. It also has a nice english bookstore - Kinokuniya. The newest tourist attraction in the city is likewise found here, the Siam Ocean World. For a good aquarium and sea creatures experience, Ocean World is waiting for you. And what a good timing we had for our visit, the mall is on sale! Thus, whether planned or not, I managed to get some great buys. These Lacoste Shirts for kids were on sale for only Baht 903 (Php1,174) and Baht 1,112 (Php1,445) for adults size. The price is more than 50% cheaper than in the Philippines. The Lacoste messenger bag below, I got it for only Baht 1,000 (Php1,300). However, it was not purchased from Siam Paragon. I bought it from the factory outlet - Thailand Best at SriRacha (near Pattaya). I heard there's also a factory outlet at Bangkok, you have to check it out! Brands like Lacoste, Guy Laroche, Arrow, Naturalizer, Wacoal, Absorba, and many more are sold at real affordable prices. The only limitations are of course just like any other depots, styles and sizes. But I tell you, it's still worth to chance upon your luck. You won't get out of the outlet empty handed.







To go to Siam Paragon: Take BTS (Sukhumvit Line) and exit at SIAM. Just a few walks and you're already at the entrance door of the mall.


5. CENTRAL DEPARTMENT STORE (BANGNA)





If you happen to stay in BangNa (30-45 mins away from Bangkok), Central is the most popular department store in the area. It offers a wide array of choices from local brands to international ones. I was overwhelmed at the kids section. There were a lot of kids stuff on sale. I found some items of Pigeon and Enfant brands which were not being sold in the Philippines. The wooden toys under the brand of Plan Toys are also cheaper. These two items cost Baht 1,130 (Php1,472). I think in the Philippines you will only get one item for the same price.




6. CHATUCHAK & MBK


Chatuchak is known as the best and the largest bazaar in Asia or probably even in the whole world. Thousands of stalls can be found here selling all kinds of things, practically anything that you can think of. If you're looking for goods with rock bottom prices, this is your kind of market. However, due to its location and size a whole day should be alloted. More so, considering that it's only open on weekends from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm, you really have to make a special time for it. Besides, a visit to Chatuchak will require real good stamina as shopping here may become too exhausting with the ambiance and the number of visitors flocking the area.


How to get there: Take BTS (Sukhumvit Line) and exit at N8, Mo Chit Station. Chatuchak is just a walking distance away.


MBK (Mah Boon Krong) Center, the lifestyle shopping center of Bangkok. It's an 8-storey building that can be a good alternative to less comfortable outdoor markets for great bargain shopping. This is my best pick for a place to buy those Thai novelties and delicacies at affordable prices. Simply the place to be for getting your pasalubong! This is the mall where asking for discounts is not considered taboo. However, since most merchandise are imitations (especially for leather goods) you must have an eye for quality. Some items I bought here in my first two visits didn't last long. In terms of durability, some hand bags are even inferior than those made in China.


How to get there: Take BTS (Silom Line) and exit at W1, National Stadium. Use Tokyu Department Store as your gateway to MBK. If you're using Sukhumvit Line, exit at SIAM and walk through the bridge going to National Stadium.


If you intend to shop in Thailand, you might want to schedule your trip at the end of the month. This is the period where most shopping malls go on-sale. They also have this so called "Happy Hour" promo. Happy hour is the shopping hour/s where shoppers get additional discounts on top of the discounted price. Normally it's from 12:00 o'clock to 2 in the afternoon and from 6 pm until closing time. With all these choices, there's no doubt Thailand is indeed a shopping haven! And for that, a trip to this country will always be amazing!


Friday, October 5, 2007

Amazing THAILAND (Part 1 of 2)

It's almost a week since I arrived from Thailand and I know that this post is long over due. Apparently, it took me a while to get things back to normal for both work and family. I was out for such a short span of time yet I missed my kids so much! I just realized how attached I am to them. Probably so much that the moment I boarded the plane I almost wanted to head back home and take my kids with me. From that moment, I know I was not made to be an OFW material. But since there is work that needs to be done and a professional career to look into, the best thing that I can do is to make up for the lost time when I get back and so I did.
Although the schedule was a bit tight for work, I still managed to get some interesting finds from this amazing country. The photo above is one of the many bigger than life sized-images inside the Suvarnabhumi (su-wan-na-poom) Airport. Indeed it lives up to Thais' claim of having a nice, real big airport. I heard it's the second largest in Asia next to Hongkong and boasts of one of the tallest traffic control towers in the world. The old airport, Don Muang is now being used for their domestic flights. We spent most of our time in Chonburi, a province located in the eastern part of Thailand, approximately 1 1/2 hrs away from Bangkok. It's a quiet, countryside that is considered by the locals as a good place for a weekend getaway. As we passed by the tollway from the airport to Chonburi, my eyes caught this ad of an upcoming show of Ripley's Believe it or Not - "Quick Change Artist", the dazzling magical illusion of the quickest costume change talent", isn't that interesting? Truly, Thailand never ceases to come up with intriguing, innovative entertainment.

The many streets of Thailand are normally lined up with Rolling Food Carts such as this one. From grilled to fried, from dry to soups, from plain and simple to exotic, this food cart has so much to offer. However, even a slight adventurous spirit didn't rule me to try this grilled toads, would you?


Generally, Thai Cuisine tastes great, no contention on that. The interplay of spices is more than delicious. What's even better is the balance of the nutritional resources in their food. Most of their dishes consist of vegetables and seafoods. Contrary to Filipino Cuisine, it has less of the fried, meat and fatty kinds. No wonder it's very rare to find overweight Thais.


What's a visit in Thailand without seeing an elephant huh? Incidentally, this elephant makes its regular walk along Chonburi City every night. The rider sells something to people on the street.


My colleagues and I dared to eat in one of the rolling food carts along the street. We just selected that where we felt our stomachs will be safer. Not to mention about the overall sanitary condition of the place, the food is good and affordable. Just enough to satisfy an empty stomach and a discriminating palate. The following photos showed our most preferred dishes and those we thought we can duplicate at home.


Fried Crab Balls with sweet and sour sauce, yummy!

Soft tofu (bean curd) with pork and vegetables. The onion leeks and coriander gave an exciting kick to this soup. It's really tasty!

Fried Fish (forgot the name) but tastes like Tilapia; clean and flaky.


The look of a Street Kitchen, if I may call it




The best pork satay I've ever tasted so far. This is really superb! The peanut sauce blends well with the grilled pork as well as the cucumber salad that goes with it. Simply scrumptious! Some of my colleagues can consume 40 sticks of this in one sitting. I guess that's enough proof of how tasty this one is!





A normal sight in the street restaurants; you pick your ingredients, your way of cooking and voila! you have your food hot off the fire.




The photos below show the typical Thai breakfast repertoire. These foods are offered in the Service Apartment we stayed at. Don't they look appetizing? A plate will only cost around 35 Baht (P45). Generally, I find the food in Thailand relatively cheap. A filling sandwich in 7-eleven store will cost 10 Baht (P13) and a coffee good for 2 servings for only 20 Baht (P26). Thais are so blessed to have an abundant supply of agricultural commodities and a wide array of commercial food products. Visiting their supermarkets and groceries is a delightful experience. If not for the chili and the biting hotness, Thai Foods will have my vote for the best Asian Cuisine.



Read Part 2 of this post here.