Thursday, October 18, 2007

Bulgogi at Lau Pa Sat

Yesterday my friend Onkar and I were in the Raffles Place area when hunger pangs struck. We had the choice of either the upscale Boat Quay, or that magnificent hawker center at Lau Pa Sat a short walk away. Lau Pa Sat won; not a difficult choice for the likes of us perennially stony-broke.

On the way, we stopped by at a little shop called Baguette, which described itself as a Vietnam-inspired deli. They had some interesting items on the menu - pork noodles, Bánh Mì (Vietnamese baguette sandwich), Soda Chanh. Unfortunately nothing vegetarian, which created problems for Onkar. I decided to try out a snack nonetheless. Something called 'Chicken on a stick', selling for a Dollar and a half.

This turned out to be about three or four chunks of chicken on a thin bamboo skewer. Like a Satay, except that the meat pieces were a good deal bigger, closer in dimensions to the Tikka one gets in Delhi. Its taste was quite different from either, though. They used a peanut-based sauce, slightly sweetish. What they added to it I have no idea, but it made for a flavour I had never encountered till then. Really, really good - I plan to go there again as soon as possible!

Arrived at Lau Pa Sat, Onkar was mighty relieved. About the first stall we saw was not only called Dosa Deli, it even advertised itself as Pure Vegetarian. And they have a strange system of payment. "We trust you - pay what you think is fair" or some such guff. Onkar's conscience goaded him into paying seven Dollars for some Roti and Sabzi. I guess that's how it makes for a viable business proposition; for every smart aleck who underpays, it gets several anxious customers who pay extra out of abundant caution.

The Korean stall I went to had no such hangups. It offered several types of plated meals, with the prices marked out clearly. I decided on the famed Beef Bulgogi selling $6.80. A longish wait ensued; Onkar had finished half his meal by the time it was ready.

Now I had an idea that Bulgogi involved grilled meat, onions and stuff, served dry. What they gave me could be a regional variant. The meat, onion and all were placed in a large bowl with a lid, and covered with so much stock it seemed more like a stew than a grill. It came with a little bowl of Kimchi, and a helping of rice.

And the stuff was literally boiling hot. The phrase "bul go gi" translates as "fire meat", and this number sure lived up to its name. The meat scalded my tongue so badly I had to let it go, poke around with my chopsticks, blow into the bowl, then sit around awhile and hope for the best.

Once temperatures had subsided somewhat, the stuff was delicious! The meat was the juiciest I have tasted so far in Singapore. Minimal spicing and allowed the meaty flavours to predominate. Apart from onion and a few shards of some green vegetable, the dish also contained some chewy white noodly things, quite nice. And the broth was simply divine. It was very balanced, strongly but not excessively tasting of meat.

And oh yes, there was hardly any oil used in the preparation, apart from the fat melted off the meat. As a result, it was light on the stomach even though the quantity given bordered on the huge.


Anonymous said...

hey this time taste some vegeterian dishes and wirte about them with their address. this description of food shows ur enjoying there man.

ys said...

Hmmm, nice to know the various lengths ppl go to make palatable dishes. Keep writing!

panu said...

can i please drool??

Takaikundu said...

Very nice description. What you ate at the Korean place is probably bulgogi jungol. jungol is a kind of korean hotpot, where various veggies and meats can be put in a boiling broth. It is actually quite good. Do they sell black goat jungol? just curious....