Sunday, May 13, 2007

Jewel In The Hotel

165 Tanjong Pagar Road,
Level 2, Amara Hotel,
(S) 088539
Tel: 6220 7160
N and I returned to one of our favourite Korean Restaurants recently after getting so inspired watching the Korean drama series “Jewel in the Palace”. This show is really helping many home cooks and chefs to understand the true meaning of cooking and to be able to see it as a noble profession in line with the principles of a medical doctor.
Craving for Korean flavours, we came back to Hyang To Gol @ Amara Hotel to check out other items in the menu from the ones we tasted earlier. (See post on 21st Oct 2006)
A Korean meal often starts with a different selection of appetizers and side dishes. They can range from a simple potatoes stewed in soy to more elaborate salads with fresh tuna and salmon. Our servings this time round was slight different with beautifully decorated potato salads, Kohchujang marinated radishes, traditional kimchi, pancakes, mushrooms chives salad, salmon and tuna salad. After the first nibbles, N got her Jap Chae which is Korean Fried Noodles, something she had been craving for and bugging me to cook it for her the whole week earlier. Made with sweet potato starch, these noodles were wonderfully smooth and silky, springier than your regular mung bean or commonly known glass noodles. Basically a vegetarian stir fried noodle dish, it is cooked with wood ears, fresh spinach, and carrots. The noodles are seasoned with soy, rice wine and sesame oil, cooked till the seasonings are almost absorbed and crowned with some omelet slices. A sprinkle of sesame seeds gave it a nuttier fragrance and taste on biting in.
I have always love soups that are lovingly brewed for hours without shortcuts and this often takes time and passion to do so. Last round we had the Ginseng Chicken Soup with Glutinous rice so we took in the Oxtail Soup (Kalbitang) this time round. The rich meaty beefy aromas sent the signal that the soup has been made from hours of simmering the oxtail meat not just till tender, but to the extent where a milky colour broth is obtained. There are no shortcuts for this technique of cooking and preparing soups like these can take more than 8 hours! Every spoonful of this delicious broth is so comforting with a nice meaty flavour complimented with red dates and Japanese scallions.
Grilling is very much a part of Korean Cuisine and various kinds of BBQ meats are often available with different styles of marinating. Last round we took on the beef ribs so this time we opted for the Streaky Pork Marinated with Kochujang, a fermented red chili paste. As usual with the impeccable service, the service staff grilled the thin slices of streaky pork with fresh garlic cloves, releasing wonderful aromas from the marinade over the hot grill. To balance out the spicy pork slices, I used the mushroom salad as a base to alternate the strong spicy flavours with more earthy tones and colour contrast.
Leaving nutritional issues aside, the melt in mouth tender pork slices were jerking up our taste buds with the zing from the fermented chilies. This dish also reminded me of a classic Szechuan dish call Hui Guo Rou or Twiced Cooked Pork that had similar spiciness and garlicky kind of character from the leeks used as a side ingredient. It would be very good indeed just to wrap the Kochjang marinated pork slices in lettuce leave or in between mantous (Chinese style steamed buns).
Balancing out the meats was Grilled Scallops in Soy, Wine, Garlic and Peppers. The scallops were nicely done and I was curious to pair it with a miso dipping sauce. What a wonderful discovery that was making the overall taste more umami than the marinated scallops already are on their own. The fragrant miso dip was made with mirin wine, sesame seeds and a touch of vinegar. In fact I feel that it was just good with seafood and I belief bland pieces of meat or seafood can also easily be perked up by such a fantastic gift of nature.
The meal ended with N enjoying the nice little bowls Cold of Sweet Ginger Tea with Red Dates and Almonds, believed to help in improving digestion.
I am pleased that Hyang To Gol is not just only able to survive for more than a year in this saturated restaurant market of ours, but also consistent in maintaining their high culinary and service standards.

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