The most exciting event of the year has finally came to fruition. No, I’m not talking about Christmas, though I am excited about that too. It’s the long awaited opening of one of New York’s favourite street foods, Halal Guys on Saturday December 17th! Now being a blogger sometimes has its perks as I was lucky enough to be invited to give it a try during their soft opening phase. I first fell in love with the delicious foil bowls of chicken and rice goodness when I was in New York last year. In fact despite all the amazing goodies I devoured on the trip it was one of the most memorable meals. Not long after my return from NYC Jil’hal Bros opened up their own version of the NY street food here in Seoul and I have been a very frequent customer ever since. However I have still hankered after the original so am pleased as punch they are here too, especially since it’s in Itaewon!
I have let it be known on numerous occasions that Chinese is my absolute favourite food in the whole wide world, or rather western style Chinese. Don’t get me wrong, I love the food in China, the Chinese in Korea, not so much. My obvious favourite is how we do it in England, but sadly I can’t see that catching on any time soon so for now I’ll stick with American style which is pretty damn close.
Hours is a brand new restaurant that has opened up in my old stomping ground HBC. When I visited at the weekend it was still only in its soft opening phase but I honestly just couldn’t wait to give it a try. The restaurant is pretty small with seating for about 12, but the menu is of a pretty decent size with a good mix of appetizers and entrees. They also have a nice array of alcoholic beverages available too.
The first thing we had to order was TFB’s favourite, Kung Pao Chicken (16,000). I was hoping for some crispy chunks of chicken in a light batter but unfortunately the chicken was just fried with the skin on. It wasn’t bad, I just prefer it when it is battered. The chicken, veggies, and sauce were still pretty good anyway, it had a nice balance and was not too spicy. However I make a pretty damn amazing version of this myself at home so I’m not 100% sure if I would get it again.
The next dish we ordered was the Beef with Broccoli (18,000). I really enjoyed this a lot. There were plenty of generous strips of tender beef in an overly Chinesy tasting sauce. It just had that flavour that you can’t replicate at home, I’m assuming it’s MSG, but who cares when it tastes this good!
My dining buddy wanted to try the Crab Rangoon (8,000). I don’t think we have these in the UK, but I’m always down for anything deep fried. The middle was filled with a cream cheese crabby dip like stuffing. They were fine if you just ate them and didn’t think about the flavour too much, but I can’t say I was bowled over.
After seeing how good it looked at the next table over, we had to try the General Tso’s Chicken (15,000). The sauce was really good, like plate licking good. We don’t have this dish in the UK so I can’t say how authentic it is, but it was like a slightly spicy sweet and sour. The chicken did look crispier from afar and I was hoping it would be in a kind of batter like the Kung Pao is at home, but again sadly not. However I spoke with the owner after we settled up and she told me they plan to roll out the full menu this week or next, which includes all of the battered dishes I’ve been longing for like sweet and sour pork, and orange chicken. Hopefully I shall be satisfied upon my next visit.
Lastly we got a Chicken Fried Rice (8,000). It showed up at the end of the meal when everyone else was pretty full, but I managed to power through and finish it. Not as amazing as a special fried rice from my local Chinese at home, but it will do. We got a look at the noodles as our neighbours ordered it, and I thought the rice looked like the better bet of the two.
Although I didn’t love the food as much as I had hoped I’m still thrilled to have a place like this in the neighbourhood. As I mentioned they were still in their soft opening phase during my visit, so I’m looking forward to going back once the full menu is up and running. The prices are a touch on the high side for me to really order everything that I want to try, but in the UK Chinese is food is often operating as a take out service and not a restaurant which lowers their running costs considerably. The dishes are fairly priced if you compare them to similar Thai places in Seoul though. While they do have take out boxes, I think if you are looking for the cheap and cheerful option to gorge upon at home then it’s best to stick with Panda Express.
Hours is located at 41 Sinheung-ro, Yongsan-gu, Seoul. To get there take a train to Noksapyeong Station (line 6) and come out of exit 2. Walk straight until you reach the the left hand turn by the kimchi pots. Walk straight past Bonny’s, Phillies, and Casablanca. Hours is just a little further up on the left hand side. For more information you can call them on 010-27680658.
In our neighbourhood we are never short on new places to eat, but these days with the ever spiralling rent costs it’s rare to find cheap eats. When I heard about Ryo-In-Shikdang opening from my fellow food blogger Soju Sunrise I was eager to give it a try as it fit the bill and the budget.
One of my favourite foodie finds from last year was the chicken and rice from the Halal Bros in NYC. Then rediscovering it here in Seoul was the cherry on top of the cake. If you’ve yet to try the gloriousness that is chicken and rice, then you need to head on over to Jil’Hal Bros pronto. Since opening their first store in Cheongdam last summer, they have become insatiably popular and have since opened a second store in Hongdae. Meaning I no longer need to travel to Gangnam to get my fix, and trust me this stuff is more addictive than crack!
The menu is the same as the original store, tender slices of lamb or chicken over rice with salad, sauce and pita, or kebab like wraps (4,500). As much as I liked the wraps they are fairly similar to those at half a dozen or so restaurants in Itaewon, so they don’t interest me as much. However the chicken over rice is epic (6,500). It’s insane that something so simple could be as highly addictive as it is. TFB prefers the lamb (7,000) but sometimes I’m greedy and get both. In fact whilst I’m being honest I get two chicken and one lamb! Only the combination of three boxes can satisfy my crazy cravings!
The restaurant in Hongdae is pretty tiny but has bar style seating for about 5 if you want to eat in, they also have a couple of sodas and such forth. But whether you eat in or take away this is one treat that you need to try. Clearly the store is doing well and my wish is that they will soon open a store in Itaewon so I can eat it everyday until i grow tired of it and move on to my next obsession! But for now the new Hongdae store will do.
Jil’Hal Bros is located at 153-3 Donggyo-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul. To get there take a train to Hongdae Station (line 2) and come out of exit 3. Walk straight out of that exit for maybe 100m and then turn left. Jil’Hal bros is just along this street on your right hand side. For more information you can call them on or check out their facebook page. If you are lucky enough to live near to Hongdae you can even get it delivered!
One of the standouts on my trip to New York this year had to be the chicken and rice from the Halal guys street cart. Nothing fancy but those delicious giant foil containers filled with chicken, rice, salad and pita bread rocked my world and they were only a mere $7 dollars, I just couldn’t get enough. Anyhow I put the deliciousness that was chicken and rice behind me after making my own a couple of times and realizing that I would never quite strike the right balance of flavours. When one day out of the blue one of my most diligent and well sourcing foodie friends discovered Jil’Hal in Cheongdam and once again all was right with the world.
This is a delicious little treat I whipped up for dinner last week. It was a crazy busy day so I needed something quick. I had picked up some fresh chuck steak from the foreign food mart in Itaewon the night before and wanted to use it on something new. Chuck steak needs to be cooked slowly to get it nice and tender, but it was far too warm for stew so a hot sandwich seemed like the perfect idea. I sliced a couple of onions and threw them into my rice cooker along with the steak, a pinch of thyme, and a couple pints of beef stock, then set it it to cook and walked out the door. When I came home 6 hours later I was treated to the most fabulous smell ever. I sliced open a couple of crusty bread rolls I had picked up on the way home, slathered on some melted cheese, and had the onion sauce for dipping. It was incredibly delicious and beyond easy. I often use my rice cooker when I’m short for time, as you can just throw in everything raw and come home to a ready cooked meal.
This cake is pure wicked indulgence. It’s a rather late tribute to the most chocolatey time of year, Easter. I wanted to share a dessert type cake which I would have eaten on Easter Sunday if I hadn’t been dying of a hangover. While I wanted to make it with the intention of Easter, this is a cake that can be eaten at any time of year for any occasion. Everytime I look at it I just think of the Bruce Bogtrotter cake from Matilda, although like Brucey I would not falter half way through eating it, despite the unbridled richness. To make it extra special I used an entire jar of nutella on the frosting because, why not? If you want something nutella-y you might as well go the whole hog. I made the cake in the rice cooker, just because I find it easier and they always come out moist, but the cake can just as easily be baked in the oven if that’s what you prefer.
Day 2 in NYC was just as exciting as my first. I got up early in the morning and took a visit to Stiles farmers market. The quality and cheap prices of the fruit and vegetables were amazing, I’d love to have something like this in my neighbourhood in Seoul. Everyone talks about how expensive New York is, but there are definitely bargains to be had if you look for them.
On my last iHerb shop, I treated myself to a bag of wild rice. Frivolous I know, but I just thought what the hell, treat yourself! It’s so much healthier that its white counterpart, and it has a nuttiness and flavour you just don’t get with white. I was in somewhat of a quandary on how best to use it when I hit upon an enchilada bake. I quickly whipped up my own tasty enchilada sauce, and threw in some leftover Costco rotisserie chicken (which I am obsessed with by the way), black beans, extra veg, and leftover cheese and bing bam boom, dinner was served. Both the Fat Boyfriend and I agreed it was one of the best dinners we had had in ages. With some sliced avocado on top, and a wedge of lime it was a damn good Wednesday night dinner. There were also plenty of leftovers for the next night too, which I find a highly desirable quality in a weeknight dinner!
2 cups of rice
4 cups of water
400g of tomatoes (or 1 can)
1 tablespoon of cumin
1 tablespoon of oregano
1 teaspoon of paprika
1 teaspoon of garlic powder
1 teaspoon of onion powder
1/2 a teaspoon of chili powder
2 peppers (any colour)
5 spring onions
3 cloves of garlic
A handful of cilantro (고수)
1-2 cups of leftover cooked chicken (or 2 breasts)
1 cup of black beans (cooked)
A great big handful of cheese
1. If you are using dried beans you will need to soak them the night before then simmer them for about an hour. If you are using canned, you can just add them in step three. Cook your rice, using the 1 cup of rice, to two cups of water method. I find this works perfectly with brown or wild rice. The rice shouldn’t be mushy, but cooked until it has still got a tiny bite, as it will cook a little more in the oven.
2. While the rice is cooking, make the enchilada sauce by roasting you tomatoes with the garlic for 10 minutes with a little olive oil then blending your tomatoes with the herbs and spices.
3. Finely chops your spring onions, peppers, cilantro, and any other vegetables you wish to throw in. When the rice is cooked, mix in with the vegetables, shredded chicken, beans and enchilada sauce. Put the whole lot in an oven proof dish and top with cheese. Then bake at 200 degrees Celsius for another 10 -15 minutes, or until the topping is golden brown. If you have it, serve with avocado, lime, and sour cream.
Last week I learned it’s not always wise to judge a first impression. I was invited to go back and try Mi Casa again after the owner read my last review. Since my visit over a year ago, the chef has changed and the menu revamped. With Spanish chef Manuel at the helm, the manager assured me that things have improved greatly since my last visit and I would not leave disappointed.
The menu is chocked full of all the classic Spanish dishes. As well as all the tapas you could ask for they also have a burgeoning selection of wine and cocktails. I had to, of course, start with a sangria (13,000).
After the complementary bread and aioli. The first dish we tried was the Gambas al ajillo (19,000) King prawns fried in olive oil and garlic. They arrived on a plate that was sizzling! The king prawns were plump and juicy and the garlic was well cooked without being overpowering. A nice start to the meal.
Next up was the Patatas Bravas (15,000). This was the dish that I had the most problems with last time. Patatas Bravas is simple and classic dish and any Spanish restaurant worth it’s salt should get this right. However the first time I was presented with potato chips and a dipping sauce. However all my fears were washed away when this fabulous plate was put in front of us. It was exceptional. In fact this was the best patatas bravas I have ever eaten. Every element was perfect. The potatoes were crisp on the outside and soft and full of flavour in the middle. The tomato and white sauces were delicious. We devoured this plate in about a minute. It was so good I would have licked the plate clean. And if we didn’t have a paella coming I would have ordered another.
We also had to have a try of the Calamari Frito (18,000). Deep fried baby squid with saffron. The calamari rings and tentacles were lightly seasoned and crisp. There were also a few pieces which were battered that we really enjoyed. The citrus oil that accompanied them was nice, but we would have preferred some more of their amazing aioli.
Berenjenas Relleras (18,000) Eggplants filled with meat, tomatoes and cheese. I love egg plant so this dish just popped right off the menu. The the meat balls inside were good, the egg plant was juicy and the sauce delicious.
If you are anything like me, you can’t go to a Spanish restaurant without trying the paella. At Mi Casa they have a variety of different types but we ordered the Arroz Del Monte (39,000) Saffron chicken, chorizo and pork paella. This was a meat feast of a dish filled to the brim with thick slices of choirizo, plump pieces of pork, and chunks of juicy chicken thighs
As you can see we really enjoyed it.
Things have definitely changed for the better since my last visit and I left a very happy customer. The prices may seem expensive to some but the quality of the dishes demands it. Mi Casa is the perfect mid-range priced restaurant thats perfect for a date or a special evening with friends. The atmosphere is elegant and classy and they have a fab lounge upstairs for you to drink the night away in.
Mi Casa is located in the alleyway behind the Hamilton Hotel right opposite, My Thai China (see my review here) 119-21 Itaewon-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, Korea. Call them on 02-790-0063 or check out their facebook page.