Today’s Paris post is dedicated to my unashamedly cheenapok, Asian-to-the-core husband, K. There will be no photos of me preening or going goggle eyed over food – so leave now if you wish -dramatic voice-
It all started when K put his food down about six days into the trip and announced that he was not going to eat ANOTHER BITE OF BUTTERY, RICH, OR ROASTED French food. No more boeuf bourguignon. No more steak frites. No more escargot, and heaven forbid, no more potatoes.
He crossed his arms, eyed me mutinously, and waited for my reply.
“But .. but.. I don’t think there’s Asian food in Paris,” was my feeble rejoinder.
Obviously that was not true, and an Iphone with at least four excellent Asian food recommendations was flung in my direction.
After some careful planning, we decided to head to Paris’s Japanese and Korean quarter in search of either a steaming hot bowl of ramen or maybe some hearty bulgogi barbecue.
The first night we went was a freezing, rainy Friday. The cheery doors of Ahssi beckoned, and before we knew it, we were hustled into the restaurant by a well-meaning Ahjussi who babbled on to us non stop in Korean.
Not wanting to be rude, I responded in some passable but very honorific Korean that we would like a table for two. After which he patted me even more heartily on the back and said something along the lines of “OH, YOU’RE AMERICAN BORN KOREANS!” #koreanfail.
One thing I can do in Korean is order like a pro – e.g yell very loudly over the din for more pork more rice and please, some tea.
So here’s what we got !
From left: Soondubu Jiggae (spicy tofu stew), Ddokbokki (spicy rice cakes with odeng), and Pork Belly BBQ
I must say, I didn’t realise how much I missed my rice and my spice until the first sip of that spicy rich peppery tofu stew followed by spoonful of pearly, perfect Korean rice. I think I moaned a little. I know I closed my eyes and was speechless for a few seconds – before I dug in big time.
My husband managed to hold himself back to smirk knowingly at me, vindicated in his knowledge that he was right, before dumping his entire bowl of rice into the pork belly pan and stuffing his face.
For a minute there, we were in a HOF in Seoul, Hite beers in hand, not in St Anne in Paris. Sure, I wish the tofu had been silken, I wish there had been spam in the ddokbokki but the pork was just perfection. Fatty, paper thin rashers of pork flash fried on a hot pan and smeared in a peppery oil – I honestly hope that my last meal will be something like this, because I know that pan of pork helped K and I brave a thunderstorm in the dark to return from Opera to the Champs Elysees with only a flimsy umbrella for protection.
Here is smirky happy husband, who quickly snapped a photo of the pork before mad wife advanced with flashing chopsticks.
So if you’re a homesick and hungry Asian looking for sustenance and a taste of home, please try Ahssi – you won’t be disappointed – down to the smiley “Annyeonghikaseyo” from the Ahjussi when you leave the restaurant that will temporarily warm the cockles of your foie gras laden heart.
14 rue Thérèse, 75001 Paris
Metro “Pyramides” or “Opera”
We spent all night dreaming about rice, clearly, because when K and I woke up the next morning we unanimously agreed that our Asian bellies were not satisfied – nu-uh not at all and we needed to head back down to St Anne again – this time to try the famous gyozas at Higuma.
The queue, my friends, is crazy. Which is why being the kiasu couple we are we went down 45 minutes before opening time and found 5 groups already ahead of us. And then felt better when within five minutes, another 10 groups were waiting behind us.
Higuma is a no-frills, canteen style Japanese eatery – the floor is tile overlaid with rubber mats at the slippery parts, the kitchen is open concept to say the least, with Japanese chefs yelling out orders and frying noodles right in front of your face, and you will leave smelling like the ramen and gyoza you ate.
So – was it worth it?
YES – just the gyoza alone were to die for.
They were perfect, idealized specimens of gyoza. I ate 10 in one sitting and wondered if I should order more.
The gyoza filling was moist, porky, crazy tasty and enveloped in a perfectly crisp dumpling skin which was chewy on top and addictively crispy on the bottom. Dipped into a saucer of vinegar mixed with pepper oil, it was perhaps the best gyoza I have ever eaten – and trust me, K and I ate our way through the gyoza circuit in Tokyo. It’s simplicity done right – and there is often nothing better.
The only way I improved the experience was by ordering a bottle of coke light. The fizz, the sugar! -grins maniacally-. Don’t be a purist – if you come to Paris, you MUST try Higuma’s gyoza ! And don’t order less than two orders per person because you will regret it.
For mains, K had a giganormous 12 euro bowl of cha shu ramen and I order the noodle yaki with seafood.
Both were great – the ramen soup stock (we went for tonkotsu pork bone), was rich, oily and hit the spot. The noodles were slightly stodgy but we weren’t complaining – just slurping everything down. The cha shu was melty and not too fatty.
The noodles, too, were excellent. Still steaming and full of smoky wok-hei (wok’s breath), tangled with super fresh rings of squid and crunchy prawns – it was like something from your favourite cze char stall, complete with little blob of black fungus on the side. The lady boss watched us eat with a fond expression – clearly there has been no lack of miserable Asians stumbling in and practically crying over her food.
Go early, before opening, because, like I said, the queues can kill, especially when it’s raining out. NO ONE leaves the line. Go find out why!
32 bis rue Saint-Anne
Neighbourhoods: Palais Royal/Musée du Louvre, 1er