Korean BBQ in Thailand

One of my favorite types of restaurants to go to in Thailand are the ones that serve Moo Kaowlee AKA Korean Pork. I’m not entirely sure if this is really a Korean dish or a Thai invention attributed to the Koreans. It seems as though I’m constantly being told that the dish I am eating isn’t Thai, but Vietnamese or Chinese or Korean. I’m sure that Thai food is influenced by all of these countries, but I don’t think Thailand is giving itself enough credit, it can’t all be from other countries.

Moo Kaowlee is kind of like the Korean or Thai version of fondue. There is a hole in the center of every table in the restaurant so that a heavy bucket of coals can be set inside (I got burned for the first time by a little coal falling between my toes last week). While you are waiting for the coals to heat up, you select your vegetables, meat, and noodles from the buffet bar in the back of the restaurant. The buffet of raw meat would make any health inspector have a coronary. Trays upon trays of raw pork, chicken, beef, and seafood are on ice for everyone to take from with tongs. The noodles are at the next station over, along with some fried appetizers such as french fries. The dessert station is disconcertingly found only two feet away from the raw meat station. You are free to take what ever you like and it is assumed that you understand that the meat shouldn’t end up in your dessert bowl.

Moo Kaowlee restaurants would be shut down by the Health Department in a heartbeat if they were to try and open in the States. If you have ever been to a fondue restaurant in America, you probably experienced the five to ten minute schpiel about how long to cook the meat for before you can eat it. They have to make sure that you have some sort of timing device, and even suggest having multiple ones since seafood and meat have different cook times. On top of all of that they have to make sure to remind you that it is hot….duh! The amount of idiotic lawsuits that would arise from this wonderful meal being served in the US is too scary and depressing to think about.

Once the coals are hot enough, a bundt-like pan is placed on top of the bucket and you are ready to start cooking. A couple of pieces of pig fat are placed in the middle of the pan and water or broth is poured around the island. Noodles, seafood, and vegetables are cooked in the water and the meat is cooked on the pork fat oiled island. The fat and juices from the meat drip down into the surrounding water creating the most delicious broth.

My only problem with the whole process is the fact that you use the same utensils to pick up the raw meat with as you do your cooked meat. Like any good over cautious American, I try to keep utensils for raw and cooked meat separated, but after a while it becomes exhausting and I usually give in to not caring.

One of my many Moo Kaowlee outings.
One of my many Moo Kaowlee outings.

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This past week I was introduced to the takeaway option of Moo Kaowlee. Someone brings the pot of coals, the pan, the meat, vegetables, and sauces to your house. The delivery boy lights the coals for you and the whole thing is set up inside your living room, with plenty of fans running of course. Once dinner is over you don’t even have to clean anything, the delivery boy will pick it up in the morning and do all of that for you! It’s fantastic, except for the smoke inhalation…

One of the best parts of eating Moo Kaowlee in a restaurant, is dessert at the end. There is fruit, coconut ice cream, and Nam Khang Sai to choose from. Nam Khang Sai is my absolute favorite Thai dessert. It’s like the Thai snow cone, only in a bowl with jelly toppings and coconut milk…okay maybe it’s not exactly a snow cone. You put shaved ice in a bowl, spoon a coconut milk and sugar water over it, add your choice of syrup flavors (I like mine without the syrups), and put all sorts of different Chinese jellies on top. It is a light dessert that goes down well in hot weather and I plan on sharing it with all of you when I get back home!

Jelly squares, jelly noodles, water chestnuts, red beans, basil seeds, and bread squares to add to your Nam Khang Sai.
Jelly squares, jelly noodles, water chestnuts, red beans, basil seeds, and bread squares to add to your Nam Khang Sai.
Making my Nam Khang Sai at the Moo Kaowlee restaurant after a delicious dinner.
Making my Nam Khang Sai at the Moo Kaowlee restaurant after a delicious dinner.
Dow operating the ice shaving machine for the Nam Khang Sai that she sells outside her boyfriends internet cafe.
Dow operating the ice shaving machine for the Nam Khang Sai that she sells outside her boyfriend's internet cafe.

In other news, I am done with my job in Khon Kaen and am staying at Dow’s house in Rangsit, which is about an hour outside of Bangkok. Tomorrow I plan on heading to Koh Chang for a week to soak up a little sunshine on the beach and do a little hiking through the jungle. I’ll be back here at the end of next week which is when my mom arrives! For those of you that haven’t heard, my mom is coming to Thailand on April 5th and then we will be off to Nepal on the 8th. Words cannot describe how excited I am to see her!

For those of you that are on Twitter, I would like you to know I just signed up. I’m not totally sold on it yet, so we’ll see how long I keep it up for, but for now you can find me on Twitter as wakeupanddance.

Thank you all for keeping up with my blog for the past five months! I can’t believe it’s been so long already. I anticipate some grand adventures in the upcoming months, so please keep reading!