Film and TV

A Guide to Netflix’s Midnight Asia Dishes in DFW

Oyster cake from Taipei Station Cafe in Plano
Oyster cake from Taipei Station Cafe in Plano Didi Paterno
So you’ve binged on the entire Midnight Asia series on Netflix. Now you’re hungry and curious to try all the dishes featured in each episode but can't take the long haul flights to six different countries. Who's got both money and time anyway? You're not Jeff Bezos or Elon Musk. But we’re #Blessed to live in North Texas in 2022 and we regular folk can make that trip in our cars and enjoy the treats. Even in the daylight.

Lugaw or Arroz Caldo from Manila, Philippines

click to enlarge Ulam, a Filipino pop-up, is one of your best bets for tracking down lugaw. - ULAM
Ulam, a Filipino pop-up, is one of your best bets for tracking down lugaw.
You may need a personal invitation to a Filipino home to get a bowl of lugaw (rice porridge) or arroz caldo (chicken rice porridge). Fortunately, we have people like Anna Swann, a second-generation Filipino American, of Ulam Dallas: Modern Filipino Kitchen, who puts her own spin on traditional Filipino fare. She recently did a pop-up at Sandwich Hag’s that offered this comforting dish. Follow her on the socials to find her next pop-up for this perfect balm to cold and rainy days.

You also can visit your nearest Filipino restaurant such as Kabayan Filipino Store and Cafe in Lewisville or make the drive up to ORC Filipino/Asian BBQ in Princeton. It may not be on the regular menu, but do take a chance and ask if it is on the steam table or a special.

Pav Bhaji from Mumbai, India

click to enlarge Pav bhaji at Sankalp in Plano - DIDI PATERNO
Pav bhaji at Sankalp in Plano
Didi Paterno
You better love butter to truly enjoy a pav bhaji. This bowl of spiced mashed vegetable and tomato gravy is topped with a pat of butter and served with a side of chopped raw red onions, a lemon wedge and two dinner rolls sliced in the middle. Squeeze the lemon into the gravy, mix in the melting butter and onions, butterfly the buns open to expose the crisp interior, browned over a buttered griddle. Even after you rip off a piece of bread and dip it into the gravy, it still remains crisp. Down with filtered kapi, strong milky coffee served in a stainless steel cup nested inside a bowl, which are both used to pour then stretch the liquid to create its signature froth.

Drive over to Sankalp: Taste of India along Highway 121 in Plano or Kwality Kabab and Grill by the George Bush Turnpike in Carrolton to fulfill your pav bhaji dreams.

Fried Chicken from Seoul, South Korea

click to enlarge Try the Wings of Fire at Bb.q Chicken. - DIDI PATERNO
Try the Wings of Fire at Bb.q Chicken.
Didi Paterno
The other KFC, Korean fried chicken, is no stranger to DFW. At bustling K-Towns in Dallas and Carrolton, you’re sure to find at least one restaurant out of several.

Bb.q Chicken (1827 SW Green Oaks Blvd., Arlington) serves its double-fried chicken in variations: cut-up whole chickens, wings, even boneless strips or just fried or dressed in sticky dressing that never makes the breading soggy. Bring friends to share over local beers or a bottle of Soju, Korean liquor. Then choose two to three of many flavors that range from the original golden olive to sweet and savory soy garlic to mild-spiced Gang Jeong to four-chili rated Wings of Fire.

Oyster Cake from Taipei, Taiwan

click to enlarge Taipei Station Cafe is still takeout only - DIDI PATERNO
Taipei Station Cafe is still takeout only
Didi Paterno
Taipei Station Cafe (930 W. Parker Road) is one of Plano’s Taiwanese culinary stalwarts. Crispy on the edges, doused in a sweet-savory sauce and filled with plump oysters, the oyster omelet is soft enough to be sliced with chopsticks (see photo at top). Taipei Station remains takeout only for now, but call ahead, get cash and pick up.

Should you desire a wider selection of street food as if in the Ningxia night market, Hoja Bubble Tea and Asian Street Food on Spring Creek and Alma is the place to be.

Izakaya from Tokyo, Japan

click to enlarge Chef's choice trio of appetizers at Mr. Max - DIDI PATERNO
Chef's choice trio of appetizers at Mr. Max
Didi Paterno
Walking through the doors of Mr. Max Izakaya (3028 N. Belt Line Road) is like walking into Narnia, except that it takes you to a corner of Tokyo. An Authentic Japanese Restaurant institution certified by the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO), Mr. Max has been serving the good traditional stuff for years. While there is a set menu of Japanese staples and bar snacks, order the trio of appetizers, which are chef’s choice, with an ice-cold glass of draft Asahi beer. Try the niku dofū or braised thin slices of beef and tofu, served in an iron pot to stay hot through the coldest of days.

Mr. Max is often packed during weekends, so make reservations a day before to guarantee a seat by the bar.

Moo Pla Ra from Bangkok, Thailand

click to enlarge Moo pla ra from Too Thai Street Eats - DIDI PATERNO
Moo pla ra from Too Thai Street Eats
Didi Paterno
While DFW has a generous selection of Thai restaurants, the moo pla ra on Midnight Asia is available in only one restaurant: Too Thai Street Eats (2540 Old Denton Road, Carrollton). The moo pla ra, grilled pork with fermented fish sauce, doesn't come on a stick as in the series. Instead, chunks of grilled pork and the bowl of pla ra — mashed with chilis, tomatoes and eggplant — is served on a platter surrounded by fresh vegetables: cabbage, string beans, cucumbers, lettuce and eggplant and sticky rice.

This dish is designed to be eaten with your hands, so take a bit of pork with rice and vegetable and dip it into the pla ra, then shove into your mouth to get the full-on crunch and squish, funk and heat. Round out the entire BKK experience with an ice-cold bottle of Singha beer, the country’s most popular lager.
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