If there's a place I'd be going after a stressful day and anxiety from work,it will always be Chung Mi Rae Korean Restaurant in Timog, Quezon City. I wanted to keep it a secret to the world since my first time in 1997 when my Korean students back in college introduced me to this place. Years have passed, owners changed, decors have changed like how my own life had changed but I still managed to lead my limpy feet back to Chung Mi Rae. It could probably be that I have met my first boyfriend here or that my best friend Lori Ann Hampton had left a memorable imprint in my heart always saying those Korean manuscripts/signs on the wall are grocery lists.
It could also be that homey ambiance with chairs that keep changing every year or the staff that keeps on making me smile with their antics or it could have been the food that I kept appreciating.
It could also be that their homey Korean way of treating guests and the food they serve that brings me back to those happy memories. They'd start serving you ice cold water which is more of Barley Tea (Bori Cha) which you'd find common in the ref of all Korean homes instead of water. Good for the kidneys and good for digestion, it should prep you enough to indulge on what Korean dinner should be. Korean meal should always consist of numerous side dishes (Banchan) prepared earlier and stored in ref reheated and served in small plates to compliment the main dish. King's court (like those shown in Korean epic dramas)would require more than 50 side dishes but a normal Korean home will serve more than 8-10 side dishes. Since they had pre-cooked the complimentary side dishes, the customer would just have to choose what dish would serve best with the variety.
sweet pickled garlic clove
sweet and spicy dried squid strips with peanuts and sesame seeds
Kim or Nori (seaweed wrapper)
they call this Korean authentic mountain vegetable (tastes like pickled asparagus)
kimchi-spicy pickled cabbage
Koreans I've observed through the years prefer soup (Doenjjang Chige-Fermented Bean Soup or Kimchi Chige-kimchi soup) but since it was my call that night to uplift my spirits after I declined my promotion to MT2, I chose what I have loved eating in Chung Mi Rae for years- Sam Gyup Sal. I thought it was also best introducing Korean food to a former student who's also now into blogging since eating Sam Gyup Sal lets the diner choose his/her own topping of choice from the side dishes using lettuce or parilla leaves.
Chung Mi Rae's Sam Gyup Sal is served with complimentary lettuce and parilla leaves, raw onions and peppers, sesame oil with salt and ground pepper and Ssamjang (thick spicy paste used for Sam Gyup Sal made of doenjang or fermented bean paste, gochujang/thick pepper puree, sesame oil, onion, garlic, green onions and optionally brown sugar).
Sam Gyup Sal is just grilled thin strips of bacon eaten the Korean style of getting a leaf and putting different toppings from the side dishes.
It could be that I was given the freedom to choose what I wanted to wrap in those lettuce or parilla leaves that gave me the thought I was in recluse every time I visit Chung Mi Rae. In more words to describe it, the experience to choose what you want to enjoy and actually enjoying it with your hands and silver metal chopsticks and that homey ambiance always left me happy all the time. An order of Sam Gyup Sal for three years had not managed to changed at Php750(good for two). We paid only what was indicated in the menu and their sticky Korean steamed rice at Php80.
The surprise of Excellent French Vanilla Ice Cream cubes dessert (free!) came and since Robelle was too happy, she requested another flavor.
Voila, we were given another couple of ice cream blocks for free! I've always been happy at Chung Mi Rae not just because you can request for more helpings of the side dishes and other complimentary stuff but because they have always been homey and friendly with their service and their variety. I've slowly regained my smile and laughter after a recluse at Chung Mi Rae Korean Restaurant and I will definitely visit again to satisfy my cravings for Ttokpokki (sweet and spicy rice sticks).
For more information:
Chung Mi Rae Korean Restaurant is located at Timog Avenue Quezon City in front of Shell Gasoline Station across Boy Abunda's Food Republique. Call 02) 372-7200 for reservations and inquiries.