Mookata (Rotterdam, Netherlands): Korean BBQ and Chinese Hot Pot in One Delicious Spot

THE STORY

Sometimes I’m not a fan of the Instagram and Facebook algorithms. I get weird recommendations, like for a club I’d never go to or nude-colored heels because I searched for them once for a wedding. But every once in a while, the algorithm strikes gold.

That’s how I learned about Mookata.

Mookata Restaurant Rotterdam Nederlands Korean BBQ Chinese Hot Pot asian food asian craving flat lay

But let’s backtrack a bit - what is Chinese Hot Pot? It’s not something I had never experienced, but I saw a bunch of Hot Pot restaurants throughout the States when I visited recently.

There is a pot of broth warmed on the table, and then various ingredients are added to it: fish cakes, pork belly, noodles, napa cabbage, marinated beef, fried tofu…it’s unlimited options and bottomless servings (well, at least at Mookata it is, for 2 1/2 hours).

I, however, had overlooked the Hot Pot aspect of it and was excited enough just for Korean BBQ.

Mookata Restuarant Rotterdam Nederlands Korean BBQ Chinese Hot Pot side dishes asian craving

Mookata is long, spacious restaurant right on the Hofplein roundabout. The Ramen Marauder and I sat at a four-top table, and considering how much food we ordered, I’m glad we did!

I’d say “Asian Fondue BBQ and Grill” is a pretty good way to describe the dining experience. First, you pick your broth, toppings, and side dishes. I initially thought we only ordered once, but you can keep ordering toppings and side dishes as you eat. (The cost of the food is just the per person price, which varies depending on the day.)

They will then turn on your burner and warm up the broth. When your first round of toppings arrives, you’ll add a cube of lard onto the grill, and once it’s oiled, you can begin!

Mookata Restaurant Rotterdam Nederlands Korean BBQ Chinese Hot Pot noodle bowl pork belly fish cakes marinated beef asian craving

THE REVIEW

Our soup base was chicken broth and our sauces were teriyaki, crispy chili oil, and sweet chili sauce. Of all the “Fondue and BBQ” options available, we tried Thai fish cakes, pork belly, Korean BBQ chicken, beef sweet BBQ sauce, usuyaki (a thinly sliced beef), bamboo shoots, baby corn, don don noodles, udon, and Chinese cabbage. We also ordered the Vietnamese loempia, curry triangles, spicy soya cucumbers, and spicy potatoes (they did not have the sichuan beans when we went).

When the food comes out, it’s all in tiny bowls (which I love). It doesn’t seem like much, but the grill and the broth fill up fast with all your items. And while it starts as a slow process, you eventually won’t be able to keep up with how much you need to cook versus how much you’re eating.

But that’s part of the fun: trying all the different options and cooking with friends. We ordered three rounds of food before we were comfortably stuffed.

Mookata Restaurant Rotterdam Nederlands Korean BBQ Chinese Hot Pot asian craving chili noodle pull

Considering we cooked the food ourselves, I was happy with how it was prepared. At first, I wasn’t sure we’d be able to relax and converse during dinner because we had to cook the food.

I realized, however, that I was overthinking it. You just put the “fondue” items in the broth, and then tend to your grilling meats while you talk. Once everything is cooked to your liking, you compose the perfect bowl of bites.

We cooked and ate and talked and ate and cooked and ate and talked some more, and before we realized it, nearly 2 1/2 hours had passed.

Mookata is a great spot for people who want Asian food, but aren’t sure everyone in the group will want Asian food. Plus, for those who aren’t good at splitting bills, the math here is simple: the per person cost (26,50-28,50€ depending on the day) plus your beverages. And keep in mind: this is an all-you-can-eat price for 2 1/2 hours.


Mookata Asian Fondue BBQ and Grill, Pompenburg 652, 3011 AX Rotterdam, Nederlands, +31 (0)10 210 80 26

Maru Restaurant (Brussels, Belgium): A Small Korean Restaurant That Might Be Your New Favorite

THE STORY

I spent a weekend in Brussels because I wanted to see Janelle Monae. It was self-indulgent, but also a birthday gift to myself.

I also knew this would be a great opportunity to try a few Asian restaurants, since lately The Asian Craving has been mostly about restaurants in the Netherlands.

Naturally, I looked up ramen spots. It’s an easy Asian cuisine to research in a city, and the ramen spots that pop up in a search are dependably good. But ramen is a streak I’m trying to break.

And so somehow, due to the incredible Instagram algorithms, I learned about Maru.

Maru Restaurant Korean Food Sea Bream Brussels seafood kimchi pickles spinach daikon steaks

The first picture that was on their feed when I looked at their account was of a green tomato kimchi. The following pictures were all just as intriguing, and so I added it to my list.

The restaurant had maybe 12 tables, including the tables outside, and seated maybe 30 people at once. When I arrived, there seemed to be one table left, and so I sat down. A waiter came over and asked if I had a reservation. I didn’t, but they were kind enough to let me stay.

Maru Restaurant Korean Food Brussels Asian Craving

The menu itself is simply yet chaotically designed. Its section titles seemed to be illustrated by hand (entrees, beverages, sides), but the menu items appear in a typewriter font with possibly hand-stamped elements.

Upon first glance, the menu didn’t seem to offer what I expected, but then again, what did I expect? I went into this restaurant without looking at their menu online, or with any idea of what I wanted to eat. As a person eating alone, any BBQ seemed out of the question. But as a person eating alone, I could also order whatever the fuck I wanted and not worry about whether another person would be willing to share it.

Maru Restaurant Brussels Bruxelles Belgium Korean Sea Bream seafood fish

THE REVIEW

I ordered the sea bream. Not what I would consider standard Korean fare, but most Asian cuisines prepare fish in a way that European cultures don’t – whole and with clean, intense flavors. Unless the fish is small enough to be fried and eaten whole, many Westerners tend to eat fish filets, rather than the entire fish. (I know, not all Westerners.)

The sea bream came out, cut in half, served with thin daikon steaks on a bed of chopped leaks and soy sauce (or were they green onions?). It was also accompanied by kimchi, spinach, pickles, and rice.

Maru Restaurant Korean Food Brussels Sea Bream pickles kimchi spinach daikon steaks Asian Craving travel

Every bite was such a delight. The light saltiness of the daikon melted with every bite. I’d pinch a healthy piece of fish onto the rice and savored the combination of flavors and textures. I’d cleanse my palette with a bite of kimchi, pickles, or spinach, just to enjoy the fish again. It had been a minute since I had eaten a whole fish with bones, but it’s not a skill easily forgotten.


Maru Restaurant (make reservations!), Chaussée de Waterloo 510, Brussels, Belgium 1050, +32 2 346 11 11

Why Brazil's National Museum Fire is Tragic and What You Can Do to Save Its Knowledge

JUST A STORY

In light of the recent museum fire in Brazil, I find myself reflecting on the concept of collective memory, and I believe it is fitting to my mission with The Asian Craving. And it starts with Cambodia.

What do you remember learning about Cambodia?

Collective memory is one of the reasons Cambodia is at the top of my list of countries to visit.

In the late 1970s, Cambodia was ruled by the Khmer Rouge, a communist party headed by Pol Pot, who would be remembered as one of the worst dictators in modern history.

During their time in power, they destroyed nearly all record of Cambodian culture and history by eliminating books and people, but also by allowing their national museum to fall into disrepair. And when the country started to rebuild, there was no one left to teach the next generation about Cambodian culture – 90% of artists and performers did not survive the Khmer Rouge.

Arn Chorn Pond Cambodian Living Arts Ted Talk

I learned about this in depth in my human rights law classes, but the documentary The Flute Player has left an incredible impression on me. It follows Arn Chorn-Pond, who was a child during the Khmer Rouge’s reign and was brought to the United States as a teenage refugee, and tells the story of his mission to bring music and art back to Cambodia.

His foundation, Cambodian Living Arts, focused on saving “endangered performing art forms and rituals.” Music was passed on via oral tradition, not written, which has made it quite an obstacle to revitalize the arts. Nearly 20 years after the organization’s creation, it now works to support careers in the arts with scholarships and fellowships.

After learning Chorn-Pond’s story (and discussing the film in class), I felt (and still feel) an obligation to learn more about Cambodia, from history to art to cuisine. Prior to my university class, I did a project about Pol Pot in high school, but beyond that, I know very little about Cambodian culture. Chorn-Pond wants people to know Cambodia for its art and culture, not the killing fields.

And so I ask again: what do you remember learning about Cambodia?

Follow up question: what do you remember learning about Brazil?

Museu Nacional Rio Brazil Museum Fire

After witnessing the news of the Museu Nacional burning, I implore you to learn about and experience Brazilian culture. Visit their website and choose a topic to study further. If you can, visit Brazil (and not just for Carnaval). Learn about found photographs from the early 1960s and the story they tell about Ipanema before the world learned about Bossa Nova.

If you aren't passionate about Brazilian culture, at least try the food. It might change your mind.

If you have come to this website, you likely believe in the power of food. You believe cuisine is the gateway to developing passionate curiosity. You believe that the only way to truly experience a culture is through your gut, and you care more about the dining experience than a restaurant's rating on any website.

And if that's not enough motivation, remember that the whole world has lost pieces of its own history to this fire. Like many museums, Museu Nacional documents the history of humanity. There are possibly samples and specimens lost to the fire that could have explained the entire history of you.

Not everyone can travel to learn about cultures first-hand, but we do have access to libraries, global news sources, international media databases, and, best of all, restaurants to teach us more about cultures beyond our own. Even so, you can learn about your own country's history and culture the same way.

Please just take the time to learn about any culture that isn’t yours. Take the time to learn anything. With so much art, physical records, and oral history disappearing due to accidents, natural disasters, and war, we are losing invaluable information about humanity. Be part of it. Contribute to the collective memory.