Cycle 3 – Item 321
21 (Wed) November 2012
Thai Phak Boong Fai Daeng
at Sala Thai
-Jeongja, Bundang, Seongnam, Gyeonggi, Republic of Korea-
with KHJ, PHY
Project 30/30/30: 21 of 45 (see also 45/45/45)
Throughout this November, I am challenging myself to eat 30 dishes from 30 countries over the course of 30 consecutive days.
Thailand is the 21st country.
Sala Thai is a Thai restaurant.
Phak Boong Fai Daeng is a Thai 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.
Morning glory is one of my favorite vegetables, as I recently learned to appreciate it during my travels to the Philippines, Cambodia, Laos, and Sri Lanka.
Sadly, I’d believed it to be unavailable in Korea.
This evening, when I asked the 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.
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, as well as fish sauce. But perfectly cooked to retain a bit of crisp. A rare show of exquisite vegetable simplicity that I’ve been longing for in Korea. As soon as this project is over, I’ll be going back for more, way more. And at just 9,000 won a plate, I can afford to.
Previously, I mistakenly referred to minari as the local equivalent of morning glory (see 3.293 Minari Stir-Fry), but tonight’s experience confirms that the two are different species, though I’ll maintain for now that they’re somehow related. The manager 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 chae” (“empty heart vegetable”) (a term similar to something that I’ve seen on Chinese menus in the States, possibly in reference to the same vegetable,
(See also BOOZE)
(See also GLOBAL FOOD GLOSSARY)
(See also RESTAURANTS IN KOREA)