Cycle 4 – Item 123
8 (Wed) May 2013
Poonim Phat Phong Kari
at Sala Thai
-Jeongja, Bundang, Seongnam, Gyeonggi, Republic of Korea-
with W and DJ, Mom + Dad
The poonim phat phong kari at Sala Thai was marginally the best that I’ve tried in Korea thus far, though it too failed to realize the dish’s true potential. The soft shell crabs were lightly deep-fried to a nice crisp; even better, the crabs weren’t completely smothered in sauce, leaving most of the pieces still crispy throughout the meal. The egg curry was well-balanced in terms of sweet and spicy but wasn’t as rich as it should be (not enough egg, not enough coconut cream?). At a whopping 43,000 won, up 4,000 won from last November, it was also more expensive than at other places; I wouldn’t say that it’d be worth the money on any given day, but perhaps on special occasions.
Like on Parents’ Day. Happy Parents’ Day!
Speaking of price, these Thai restaurants overcharge for the dish to take advantage of customers so happy to see soft shell crab in Korea that they’re willing to pay a premium for it. The market value of soft shell crab is actually dirt cheap in Korea because it’s not popular with the mainstream. On a camping trip to the west coast a couple years ago, while looking around a nearby wholesale seafood distribution center, we encountered a vendor trying to unload a huge bag of soft shell crabs, maybe as many as 50, that his partner had accidentally caught; I can’t recall the amount of the offer, but it was practically nothing, maybe as little as 10,000 won. Though tempted, I didn’t have the means to deal with that many crabs, so I declined. Funny, the guy was like, “I hear that soft shell crabs are popular in some other countries, but I can’t understand why, because they don’t taste very good.”
Come to think of it, I suppose that soft shell crabs aren’t that great flavor-wise. They’re about texture, and only if cooked properly.
(See also GLOBAL FOOD GLOSSARY)
(See also RESTAURANTS IN KOREA)