A sudden overwhelming fear or anxiety that emerges right before one leaves Thailand due to the belief that such delicious dishes might not be had again for a very long time. This results in behavior that includes irrational purchasing of any and all food that passes by or that the sufferer comes across. When such attacks of Noodle Panic arise, it is best for the sufferer to be supervised by a loved one and for their wallet to be looked after. Symptoms include: an inability to keep conversation, darting eyes, perspiration, shortness of breath, a slight dizzy feeling, trembling, and the desire to spend an unlimited amount of money on food.
Origin: The first case was diagnosed on a night train on February 12, 2012 by David Domagalski. While attempting to play cards, his usually sane girlfriend, was overcome with anxiety due to the fact that she was unsure when she would ever eat such delicious Thai food in Thailand again. This resulted in a very distracted card game as countless vendors walked the train car aisle selling noodles, snacks, and beverages. Despite her lack of hunger due to an impulsive Pad Siew purchase earlier that day, she repeatedly asked David if she should buy things, to which he smartly replied no. If the person suffering from a Noodle Panic attack is encouraged, an entire budget can be blown and more food than they can eat will be bought.
When I first visited Korea, a year and a half ago, I fell in love with a dish called dak galbi. The friends I was staying with were kind enough to let me drag them to eat it every few days. I was obsessed, and upon my return to Korea, the love I have for dak galbi has only gotten stronger. Dave is now equally as passionate about dak galbi as I am. I can’t imagine anyone not adoring it.
The restaurants that serve this dish are solely devoted to making dak galbi. The tables are equipped with a large round pan in the center and a gas burner underneath. The amount of table space you have is fairly limited and it is quite crowded if you go with more than three people, but certainly doable.
Basic dak galbi consists of marinated chicken, cabbage, green onions, potatoes, onions, ddeok, and the special red spicy chili sauce they marinate the chicken in. Ddeok are known as “rice cakes” in English, but they aren’t the crispy cracker-like rice cakes you are probably thinking of. They are solid, glutinous, penne pasta shaped, flavorless by themselves, and made from rice. We always order ramen and extra ddeok to go in our dak galbi. There are different things you can add to your dak galbi order, such as cheese, but Dave and I like our typical order so much that we haven’t tried to mix it up yet.
Dak galbi is spicy, in fact it’s probably just on the verge of being too spicy for me. Because of this, it is imperative that you drink beer while you eat this dish. Water doesn’t neutralize the spiciness as well as beer does. If I didn’t drink beer while eating dak galbi, I probably would never finish the meal.
If you are still hungry after you have finished the deliciousness in front of you, order some rice to soak up the yummy remnants stuck to the pan. The staff will scrape down the pan as they stir fry the rice with more spicy sauce. I’ve only been hungry enough at the end of dak galbi to do this once. Between the beer and the main course, I’m usually much too full to attempt to eat more. Dave and I haven’t been eating dak galbi every few days, but it’s definitely hard to get through the week without having it once. We’re addicted.
Saturday was a freakishly cold day and we were trying to come up with fun indoor activities that would keep us out of the icy wind. I suggested we grab a warm beverage at the Hello Kitty Cafe in Hongdae, which we had seen before, but had not spent time in yet, and my wonderful boyfriend said yes. How many boyfriends willingly agree to being dragged to a pink Hello Kitty Cafe?! I’m the luckiest girl in the world.
I have always loved Hello Kitty. I can’t explain why, I just do. When I was little I could spend hours inside the Sanrio store eyeing all the goodies. Places like Korea are wonderful because it is perfectly normal for a grown woman like myself to adore Hello Kitty. I am currently sporting a Hello Kitty cell phone cover, which would probably be considered embarrassing at home, but is totally acceptable here.
When we first arrived at the cafe, I was a little bummed because it didn’t look like we would be able to find a seat. This seems to be a perpetual problem in Seoul, so we’ve learned to hover around seated people, eventually somebody is bound to get up. After a few minutes we snagged a table. I held down the fort while Dave got me a hot chocolate, a latte for himself, and a Hello Kitty waffle for us to share. The line to order was long, but he eventually came back with a Hello Kitty buzzer and said it would be about ten minutes.
In the meantime, I played the role of tourist taking pictures of everything. I usually feel awkward doing that, but everybody else was doing the same thing, so I didn’t feel like we were standing out too much. Dave was one of three other guys in the cafe the entire time we were there. The other two dudes fit in a little bit better, mostly because they didn’t look as manly as Dave. His furry beard and broad shoulders didn’t quite fit in with the pink, white, and red Hello Kitty decor.
We sipped our toasty drinks and munched on our waffle, as the girls around us took pictures and applied makeup with their compact mirrors. The waffle left much to be desired, but it definitely got style points. On our way out, I purchased a small Hello Kitty cell phone charm to go with my Hello Kitty cell phone case. I don’t think we’ll be going there every weekend, but I’m sure I’ll be back there again with my patient boyfriend.
See Dave’s perspective here. For directions to this glorious cafe, read my comment below.
I’ve spent three Thanksgiving holidays abroad now, which makes me a little sad because Thanksgiving at my house is the best. Yeah, yeah, your mom makes the best pie or turkey, whatever. My mom seriously makes the most wonderful food. She makes everything from scratch, and on top of making the turkey, two pumpkin pies, a pecan pie, a crimson pie, cranberry sauce, salad, green beans, gravy, and stuffing, she also makes vegetarian friendly stuffing and a tofurkey for our non-meat eating family members.
My mom rocks and so do our gourmet Thanksgivings, but as we all know though, Thanksgiving isn’t all about the food. It’s also about the family and friends gathering around a huge table and being thankful for all of the love in your life. If you have to be abroad for Thanksgiving, you have to work a little bit harder to find both the food and the company to share the evening with. Having at least one of these two things while abroad for Thanksgiving is lucky.
My first Thanksgiving abroad was five years ago while I was on Semester at Sea. We were in Spain on Thanksgiving Day, and my friends and I ended up spending the entire Thanksgiving evening in an Irish pub. I think I ate half a bag of chips that night. Not a successful turkey day because there was not a bit of turkey involved or much food for that matter, but it was filled with lots of good friends and love.
Unfortunately, my second Thanksgiving out of the country wasn’t nearly as successful as my first turkey-less turkey day. I was living in Khon Kaen, Thailand at the time, and my American buddy invited me to a Thanksgiving buffet at the Sofitel, the nicest hotel in the city. I was very excited to actually get to celebrate one of my favorite holidays with other turkey lovers! Thanksgiving night I called to confirm what time we would meet and I was informed that we had missed the dinner. They had held the Thanksgiving dinner for the foreigners the Saturday before and we had missed it! I was heartbroken. Who celebrates Thanksgiving on a Saturday?!? No turkey, no pie, and no one to spend Thanksgiving with. I ended up eating fried rice alone at one of the restaurants I frequented. It was not a good Thanksgiving.
This year I knew that I would be missing Thanksgiving again, so I made sure we celebrated before I left the home. It was a much smaller Thanksgiving than usual because not all of the usual attendees could make it in October, but it was perfect nonetheless. I figured that if I ate a Thanksgiving dinner before I departed, then I couldn’t complain about not having a fabulous holiday with all the fixings in November, little did I know that I would get to have a real Thanksgiving dinner here in Seoul too.
I really lucked out getting two Thanksgivings in one year, and the best part was that I didn’t have to celebrate in Korea alone; all of the other teachers at the school I’m working at, even the Canadians and British, partook in the festivities. We ordered a Thanksgiving dinner to go from Dragon Hill Lodge in Itaewon, which is close to the US army base (hence the availability of a Thanksgivingtake-away meal). For around one hundred bucks, you get a meal that serves ten to twelve people, as advertised. The package includes a turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, vegetables, mashed potatoes, gravy, and a pumpkin pie. Altogether for fifteen of us, including the cab fare to pick up the meal, it cost around eight dollars per person. Not bad for a Thanksgiving feast.
Concerned that there wouldn’t be enough food, we each brought side dishes. I made my mother’s delectable cranberry sauce, so even though I was away for Thanksgiving I still had my mom there in a way. Others brought mashed potatoes, two extra pumpkin pies purchased from the always reliable Costco, a broccoli pasta dish, scones, rolls, sweet garlic bread, and spring rolls. We had our feast in the gym of the school, each of us seated in the tiny kindergarten chairs making our glasses of wine and beer seem slightly sinful.
After the meal was over the girls talked over the leftovers while the boys played some form of football/basketball, reverting to the traditional Thanksgiving roles. We divvied up the leftovers, put the wine and beer bottles in the recycling, and moved the kindergarten tables and chairs back to the classrooms where they belonged. Tomorrow the kids will be none-the-wiser about what their teachers were up to the night before. Although nothing comes close to mom’s Thanksgiving dinner, this year’s was as close as a Thanksgiving abroad can get.
I’ve noticed that foreigners in Thailand get stuck in a rut when it comes to food. I can’t help but roll my eyes every time someone orders another Pad Thai. I’ve eaten with people who ask for Pad Thai for lunch, dinner, and then lunch again the next day. I find this sad and absurd because Pad Thai is usually cooked poorly where tourists eat. No one should eat the same thing over and over again while traveling because there are so many other yummy dishes out there waiting to be tried. Part of the problem is that people just don’t know what to order, so here’s a few dishes you can eat, other than Pad Thai, while in Thailand or at a Thai restaurant at home.
Som Tum is one of the most popular dishes in Thailand. I have yet to meet a Thai person who isn’t obsessed with this dish. Som Tum is made with shredded green papaya, garlic, chili peppers, fish sauce, sugar, dried shrimp, tomatoes, and long beans. All of these ingredients are put in a mortar and pounded a few times with a pestle to release the juices, and then served with a side of sticky rice.
I prefer Som Tum Thai which is sweet, has peanuts, and isn’t very fishy. If you don’t mind a fishy flavor you should give the Som Tum Blah a try. This version is very popular and has tiny crabs and more fish sauce in it. Som Tum is sold in restaurants and by street vendors, so you can pretty much pick some up everywhere. This dish is an absolute must while in Thailand. If you are afraid of spicy foods, just remember to ask for only one or two chili peppers.
Tom Yum Goong
This is the most famous Thai soup. If you get into a conversation about Thai food with a Thai person, they are inevitably going to ask if you’ve tried Tom Yum Goong. So try it!
Tom Yum Goong is a hot, spicy, and sour orange soup. The base is a stock flavored with lemongrass, kaffir limes, fish sauce, and chili peppers. Inside the soup you will find prawns (goong) and mushrooms. You don’t have to love this soup, but since it is such a staple in Thai cuisine, you at least have to taste it once.
This is my alternative to Pad Thai. It is my favorite noodle dish in Thailand. Pad Siew is made with flat wide noodles, a soy based sauce, and broccoli. I think chicken goes best with this dish, but pork or tofu are usually options as well. I always introduce new comers to Thai cuisine to Pad Siew, and have yet to get a bad review of it. If you are craving noodles, try this instead of Pad Thai. Please!!
This is a spicy dish so beware. Pad Gapow is made with chicken, basil, chili peppers, sugar, garlic, and fish sauce. It is typically served with rice and is one of the only spicy dishes I consistently order. I recommend getting a beer with this one; it tends to thwart the burning sensation a bit.
Pad Pak Boong Fai Dang
I never knew I could love a vegetable dish so much until I tasted Pad Pak Boong. This dish translates directly to Fried Vegetable Morning Glory Fire Red. You are guessing correctly if you think it might be a bit spicy. Pad Pak Boong doesn’t always have to have the fai dang (red fire) in it, and it probably won’t if you are a foreigner ordering it. Thai people know that our tolerance for spicy peppers is far below theirs, but let your server know if you want it spicy or not, just in case.
Morning glory is also known as water spinach for us. It isn’t wide spread here in the United States, but is wildly popular in Asia. I miss it greatly when I return home, so while I’m in Thailand I order this whenever I can. The morning glory in this dish is stir fried in a brown soy based sauce, which I recommend eating with some sticky rice to soak up the delicious sauce.
There you have it: five alternatives to eating Pad Thai! After trying these dishes you probably won’t want to go back to eating Pad Thai. Happy Travels!
This one is from the archives. I nearly finished this post over a year ago, but before posting it I came down with extreme food poisoning. I’m nearly positive that my food poisoning didn’t come from this dining experience, but from some bad pork in my dinner later that day. Despite that fact, I never returned to this piece until today because it still made my stomach turn just thinking about the events of that evening. That being said, bon appétit!
There have been several meals throughout my life that I remember vividly and recall with not just a sense of nostalgia, but with a passion for how delicious and perfect they were. The classically perfect Coq au Vin in Paris. The tempura battered and fried cinnamon ice cream drizzled with chocolate and raspberry sauce in San Diego. Kobe beef that melted in my mouth complemented perfectly by thinly sliced crunchy pieces of fried garlic. And lastly, the mind blowing shrimp burger at a McDonalds in Japan.
Which of these doesn’t fit in?
If you know me at all, you know that I’m a bit of a food snob. My mother was a chef and is a fantastic cook, so how could I not grow up to be a food snob?! Seeing an item on my list of most memorable and mouthwatering meals from a fast food chain, especially one like McDonald’s, should baffle you. But I must put this on my list and I’m sure if you would agree if you tried it.
The burger patty was made from whole shrimp, not ground shrimp, which instantly gave it more points, perhaps because you knew you were eating real shrimp, not some fake McDonalds shrimp concoction. The shrimp were arranged into a patty form, which was then battered, rolled in panko and fried. The patty was put between a hamburger bun and we enjoyed it with some classic McDonald’s French fries.
This was consumed after a few drinks, mind you, which may have added to the tastiness of it, but I remember that I couldn’t have been more satisfied with it. Not only that, I was completely fascinated by the fact that something so wonderful came out of a McDonald’s! I have spent my entire life avoiding those golden arches and by chance happened upon what may be one of the best things they’ve ever sold.
Ever since that night, I have always hoped that I might encounter that magical Mickey Dee’s Ebi Fillet-O (AKA shrimp burger) again. I even looked for it during a late night French fries run to a McDonald’s on Koh Samui in Thailand, but it wasn’t there. I had given up hope.
But this past weekend fate tapped me on the shoulder and my dream of eating another shrimp burger without having to go to Japan was renewed! I was sitting on a fairly empty skyline train in Bangkok allowing me to have a perfect view of one of the TVs where a commercial for the new KFC shrimp burger was played. It was a sign. I knew I had to go to a KFC and investigate.
This morning I was told that I didn’t need to come to school, so I went to the mall in hopes of sitting in some air conditioning for a few hours and to eat lunch at KFC. Yes my friends, I sought out a fast food restaurant, a completely uncharacteristic decision.
I strolled up to the KFC timidly, not wanting to commit myself to eating there until I was sure they had my elusive deep fried goodness. Once I found the picture on the Thai menu above the cash register I then had to determine how to order it. I haven’t ordered a burger in Thailand and wasn’t sure what to say, so through a combination of pointing and repeating the word goong (prawn) to the two of the five cashiers, I was able to successfully order my burger. I decided to go all out and order the burger, Pepsi, and fries combo meal, which set me back 95 Baht (~$2.70). When in Rome, right?
It was ready in no time since there were at least fifteen people working in the restaurant, which was about as many customers in the KFC at the time. I went to the ketchup and sweet chili sauce dispenser where there was a girl who pumped some Ketchup for me into a little plastic cup. After giving me my ketchup, she took my tray from me and asked me where I would like to sit. I was shocked, what a luxurious dining experience at KFC! I give the service a 10.
The burger did not qualify as a 10 unfortunately. But I guess when you have such high standards, how could it? The patty was greasier than the one I had in Japan and just didn’t have the same flavor. It just wasn’t what I had hoped it would be. Maybe if I had had a few drinks it would have been better, but I’m pretty convinced that the McDonalds version was superior whether you are drunk or sober. I guess I’ll just have to wait until I go to Japan again to eat my tasty fast food.
Neither of the photos in this post were taken by me. I can’t remember who took them though…
I don’t like tomatoes. My dad constantly makes fun of me for this. I also don’t like salad or avocados. Hard boiled eggs and Mayo are two foods that I actually fear. The smell of canned tuna turns my stomach instantly, and help me God if you put ranch dressing on my plate. The silly thing about this list is that the foods I hate and fear aren’t very exotic or threatening. They are ordinary foods that most people have probably never given much thought to. It’s all rather funny because I can’t seem to stomach eating these perfectly normal foods, yet I purposely sought out a restaurant that serves live octopus here in Korea once I found out about it.
Last night my friends and I went to a makgeolli restaurant in hopes that I would get to try the special octopus dish they serve. Makgeolli is a type of Korean rice alcohol served at specific restaurants in large teapots along with a few dishes of food that they choose for you. The bigger the group, the more exciting the food. We made a point of inquiring about the chance of getting a plate of live octopus and ended up getting three!
The live octopus was cut with scissors above a plate with seaweed, green onions, and tasty oil. The tentacles still wiggle and writhe after being cut, and turned out to be quite difficult to pry off the plate.
Surprisingly, it wasn’t very weird having a moving piece of octopus in my mouth. One piece attached to my tongue briefly, but other than that most of the octopus tentacles stopped moving upon arrival in my mouth. My friends seemed surprised by this. I guess I have a good mouth for eating octopus. You still can’t get me to eat canned tuna, though.
Why a person who has had rotten knees since birth would look at a map and decide that they would buy a ticket to Nepal and go trekking is beyond me, but that’s what I did for some reason. It didn’t really occur to me until a few days into my first trek that it was an odd decision. As I slowly descended down some massive granite steps on the side of a very steep hillside, I paused for a moment to analyze the situation. I was bracing myself with my two bamboo hiking sticks, deciding whether it felt like someone was hammering a four inch nail into my knees every time I bent them or whether it was more like my cartilage had been replaced with barbed wire, and I started to question how the hell I ended up there.
I made my mom, our guide, and our porter walk ahead in hopes that if nobody saw my struggle, then maybe it wouldn’t feel as difficult. I felt weak and pissed off at myself. Who the hell did I think I was? I should know better than this. I know my knees and I should therefore know my limits, shouldn’t I??
My knees have always been fickle and I know that, yet there I was, halfway down a massive hill somewhere between two small mountain towns and the only option was to keep going down. I felt so stupid for thinking that I could do a six day trek. Tears were starting to well up in my eyes, which made me even more frustrated with myself. We all should know what we can and can’t handle. But although I may know my limits, I seem to like to push them, I guess because if I don’t then I’ll never know what I’m really capable of, which I suppose is how I ended up on the side of a steep hill in Nepal.
Obviously I survived that trek and believe it or not, I sent myself on a second one!
The first trek I went on was the Naya Pul and Ghorapani loop in the Annapurna region. Unfortunately, it’s getting close to the monsoon season so the views were pretty terrible, but we did get to see a few of the magnificent mountains one evening. I did the trek with my Mom, our guide Tika, and our 15 year old porter, who we nicknamed Ironman because he could carry our massive backpack with no problem at all.
My second trek was in the Langtang Region bordering Tibet, which was absolutely stunning. The monsoon starts later there, so the views weren’t obstructed with clouds and haze. The hike was easier than the previous trek, but because I’d already spent six days torturing my knees the week before, I had a pretty hard time going downhill for two days out of the seven day trek. I also decided that I would buck up and carry my own bag, which my doctor would probably smack me upside the head for doing. Luckily once my knees started to fail me Tika (my wonderful guide) carried my backpack for me.
We had planned for one rest day in the middle of our trek where we would visit the local temple and yak cheese factory, but the Type A side of my personality kicked in again and I found myself climbing up to 4,700 meters for a better view of the mountains and glaciers. I was happy to find that I had no problems acclimating to the altitude, but my knees complained the whole way down.
When we returned to the teahouse after our little hike, we decided to go in search of some tumba (pronounced toomba). Tumba is made by boiling millet, adding a goats hoof, and storing the mixture in a plastic bag under your house for at least fifteen days, the good stuff is stored for about three months. Once you are ready to drink it, you scoop out the millet, scrape of the mold, and put it in a massive cup. To drink it, you pour hot water over the millet and sip up the alcoholic liquid. It’s fantastic for cold weather.
We had found some tumba the day before, so we knew we could find it again. It’s pretty difficult stuff to get this time of year because it is too warm outside to make it. We didn’t have anything else to do that day since the temple and yak cheese factory turned out to be closed, so we decided to take the rest of the day off and get drunk. Tika and I went to a tiny little teashop and each ordered our own tumba. The shop owner and her two friends were in the shop gossiping and eating dry flour and salt in between sips of salty Tibetan yak butter tea. After a few hours, it went from just being Tika and I drinking, to at least fifteen other guides, porters, and foreigners drinking tumba and roxy, eating dried then fried yak meat with timor (the most delicious peppercorn on earth), and singing all the songs we could think of. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend an afternoon.
The trekking was fantastic, despite the pain. Now I know that I am in fact capable of walking long distances,as long as I”m going up not down though, which makes all of the pain I experienced worth it. If any of you are planning on coming to Nepal to go trekking I have a few recommendations and guide book corrections.
The guide books are wrong about prices for almost everything. A good wage for a guide is around 15USD a day and for a porter it’s about 12USD per day. You can do treks on your own, but you’ll learn a lot more about culture and see a lot more wildlife if you hire a guide. I expected to do most of the trekking without a guide, but quickly came to realize that almost everyone here hires a guide and does so through a tour company. If you hire a porter, make sure that the company has a limit for how many bags one porter carries. More than two massive backpacks or duffel bags for someone around my size is cruel, so make sure to ask the tour company what their policy is before you book a tour with them. And lastly, if you need a good guide, my guide and new friend Tika is absolutely wonderful. He comes with my highest recommendations. He’s by far one of the most fantastic people I’ve met in the past six months and I feel like he is part of my family now. So please, please, please ask me for his information if you are planning on coming to Nepal.
I’m back in Kathmandu, which is where I’ll be for the next week. I’m booking a ticket today to go to South Korea on the 8th to see my friends Bobby and Will who are teaching English there. Words can’t even describe the high I get from being able to make a decision to jet over to another country a week before I want to leave. I feel so free! There will be at least one more post coming this week, so keep checking the blog. I’d also like to give a big thanks to my dad for publishing and editing my last blog post for me since the internet at my hotel is too slow.
Alright, here’s a post for all you foodies out there. One of the teachers invited me over for a little cooking lesson after aerobic dance yesterday. Megh Tiew and her sister taught me how to make Gang Jewt Kai Nam (Lightly Flavored Soup with Egg) and Pad Taow Oo (Fried Tofu). Both of these are easy to make and aren’t spicy. I’ve written down the recipes, but since they don’t use teaspoons and tablespoons to measure things out, I am guessing on the amounts, so don’t trust them one hundred percent. Here are the rough recipes and a video of my cooking lesson. Bon appetit!
Gang Jewt Kai Nam
6-8 small cloves garlic, chopped
2-3 cups water
1 cucumber, sliced
handful sliced onions
handful torn lettuce leaves
about one teaspoon powdered chicken flavor
about one tablespoon (maybe more?) mushroom sauce
about 1 cup seasoned ground pork (optional)
Heat oil on high. When hot, add garlic. Be careful not to burn the garlic. Once fried, remove garlic from oil. Set aside.
Fry two eggs in remaining oil. Once cooked, remove from wok. Set aside.
Add water and cucumber to the wok. Cover and let cook for a couple of minutes.
Place spoonfuls of meat in water with cucumbers. Cook for a couple of minutes while stirring.
Add remaining vegetables, powdered chicken flavor, and mushroom sauce. Stir. Cook for a few minutes.
Add fried garlic and eggs from earlier. Cook for a few more minutes.
Serve with rice.
Pad Taow Oo
8-10 small garlic cloves, chopped
1 package of tofu, cut into 1 inch squares
about 1 or 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
about 1 tablespoon mushroom sauce
1/3 cup water
about 1 teaspoon sugar
about 8 green onions chopped into 2 inch long pieces
Heat oil on high. When hot, add garlic and tofu. Fry for a couple of minutes on med-high heat.
Add oyster sauce, mushroom sauce, sugar and water. Stir. Cook for a couple of minutes.