Written by Harriet Sleath
The MID CityBeat team has ventured into the city to find five great spots for Asian food. As Merida grows, so does the culinary choices and we are trying to keep our readers and followers up to date.
Bing Bang Kitchen
Our Mid City Beat team started out our search for great Asian cuisine with Christine Chu’s fairly new restaurant venture Bing Bang Kitchen. Christine hails from Canada but now lives in Merida with her family and started Bing Bang a couple of months ago.
It’s nestled in a cute, quiet, little spot in Chuburna, with a snazzy wooden bar and some charming little tables outside. It offers a mixture of Asian food, with influence from Vietnam, China and the rest of Oriental Asia. Christine’s husband is from Vietnam; you might notice his family photo sitting above the drinks chiller. The family recipes have been passed down to Christine and now, her sisters-in-laws frequently ask Christine for advice for their own Vietnamese recipes. The vegetables here in the Yucatan are actually quite similar to those in Vietnam due to the climate which has allowed Christine and her staff to create some truly authentic Asian dishes.
The appetiser platter is where you’ll get a sense of how much variety is in Bing Bang’s soul. This includes both pork and vegan spring rolls (both with accompanying sauces), chicken wings cooked in a soy sauce, ginger and sesame dressing, deliciously crispy shrimp wontons and, last but not least, two super light summer rolls.
One of Bing Bang’s most popular options is the Sandwich Bahn mi which is a baguette, split lengthwise and filled to the brim with grilled chicken, Vietnamese paté, pickled vegetables, cilantro and an optional egg. This is an epic sandwich. It’s basically a fancy torta bursting with delicious flavors and crunchy textures.
We also tried the pho, one of Vietnam’s most famous dishes which is, in fact, usually consumed for breakfast in Vietnam. This soup is a beef broth with noodles which has simmered for 4-6 hours. You will have a real ‘mmm’ moment when you taste this as your mouth absorbs all the flavors; cilantro and ginger being the most prominent. Even better, add a dollop of sesame oil and shirasha which is a spicy Asian sauce.
Bing Bang Kitchen is one of Merida’s hidden gastronomical delights and you can see that Christine absolutely loves bringing Asian inspiration to her tiny corner of Chuburna. When she’s not in the kitchen or serving her amazing dishes (or spending quality time with her family), she’s personally delivering her food to her customers. She delivers all over the city and if you are within 15 minutes of the restaurant it is free delivery. If you are a bit farther, she charges $30. Great option for lunch!
Need to know info:
Price Range: $
Opening hours: Wednesday to Saturday 12.00-18.00
Address: Calle 20, #115, Chuburna de Hidalgo
Contact: 999 241 9743
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/BingBangKitchen/
As you stroll down Paseo de Montejo, most likely you have seen Korean Grill and Ice Cream. It´s a large white restaurant and catches the eye of the curious passerby. It has an outside eating area where in the evening you can enjoy the view of Paseo de Montejo. Upon getting to know the owner Kay, she gives us some her and her family’s history and gives us some insight into the food and ice cream.
Kay and her family are from South Korea. As she tells us her story she admits that she has always been very outgoing and when she was young, she dreamed of exploring the world outside of the traditional Korean family. She has travelled extensively and now lives between the US and Merida. A few years ago she came to Merida and brought over 6 members of her family who had still been living in Korea. They bought an old Mexican bar and transformed it into Korean Grill and Ice Cream. Kay’s sister is the chef and she has adapted her traditional Korean recipes to incorporate the ingredients which can be found in Merida. And she has successfully created some unbelievable dishes.
Bi bam bab is a beloved traditional Korean rice dish consisting of vegetables, meat, and egg. And we understand why it’s so popular. It’s a glorious dish to behold, full of colour and a variety of ingredients. You almost don’t want to ruin the presentation! This dish is just as satisfying to eat as it is to look at; it has absolutely everything! It’s crunchy and creamy, spicy and sweet, light and bold.
We also sampled the hernul pajeon seafood pancake, stuffed with camarones and served like a pizza, both the man du steamed dumplings and the goon man du fried dumplings and so go gi jeon gol, a healthy and flavoursome beef stew with veggies and rice noodles. Our dinner was accompanied by 5 typical Korean dishes consisting of cabbage, fish cake, sweet potato, broccoli and chayote (which is a delicacy invented by Kay’s sister).
The selection of Korean teas are also worth trying. There’s many different options depending on your personal taste; ayuchacho is a citrusy tea with lemon and honey, jujube consists of small dried fruits and dung-geulle-cha is a root tea that has a deliciously earthy flavour!
A real highlight is the ice-cream. It’s not called Korean Grill and Ice-Cream for no reason! This is traditional Korean ice-cream, made in a machine that cost the family an absolute fortune to bring more than halfway across the world, almost 8,000 miles. This ice-cream looks like snow, freshly fallen from the sky at Christmas time. It crumbles on your spoon and melts beautifully in your mouth. There are different flavors but we recommend the strawberry or chocolate, delightfully light and refreshing.
Kay tells us that, in Korea, you sit down, talk, drink and eat and this is what she and her family are trying to convey here at Korean Grill and Ice-Cream. It’s a sociable way to eat and you can easily spend your entire evening here enjoying incredible Korean food.
Need to know info:
Price Range: $$-$$$
Opening hours: Daily 12.00-22.00
Address: Paseo Montejo, #470C, Centro
Contact: 999 291 7250
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/koreangrillandicecream/
Our story of Casa Thai started as an endearing love story. Husband, Jorge from Merida, and wife, Supulak from Thailand, met years ago while studying in Mandarin in China. They did not speak each other’s language so were therefore forced to get to know each other in Mandarin. Slowly a love grew between the two of them. After their study ended, they each went back home, however, they could not bear the distance. They eventually reunited, moved to Mérida, got married and are now the proud owners of Casa Thai, one of our favourite places to eat Asian food in Mérida.
Casa Thai is tucked away in Colonia Florida, but it’s worth seeking out. It’s rather easy to spot due to the large, golden Buddha which sits on the roof and a superb mural of a striking elephant in a henna-style pattern on the wall. Inside, you’d be forgiven for thinking that you’re actually in Thailand, in Jorge and Supalak’s living room. There are photos of Thailand in frames all over the walls and the Thai music in the background makes you feel like you’re just listening to a local radio station.
The menu is delightfully intriguing as the descriptions of some the dishes are wonderfully vague. Many of the ingredients are listed as ‘other condiments’ or ‘ingredients imported from Thailand’. For us, this was not a problem. One doesn’t always need to know all the different herbs and spices and condiments to enjoy the flavours. In fact, we could argue it’s more enjoyable this way.
And there is just So. Much. Flavour. The combination of herbs and spices in each of Supulak’s home cooked dishes is exquisite and this creates a perfect balance of sweet and savoury seasoning. The curry is a particular highlight as you have to search far and wide for a curry across the Yucatan Peninsula. The fried rice with shrimp, or khao phad goong in Thai, is incredibly good and the fried chicken salad, lab kai tod, is absolutely bursting with flavours of lime, coriander and chillies. In Thailand, all dishes are made to share. At Casa Thai, not one dish is the same and sampling the diverse and exotic flavours of each is by far the most satisfying to sample the cuisine.
I’ve been lucky enough to travel to Thailand, India and Nepal and this is the real deal; the tastes of the ginger tea, the freshly cooked rice and the spicy curry took me right back to my travels in Asia. It’s very clear that Jorge and Supulak have put their heart and soul into Casa Thai and they’ve definitely achieved their mission to bring a little spice and variety to their neighbourhood.
Need to know info:
Price range: $$
Opening hours: Monday to Friday: 12:00-16:00 and 19:00-23:00. Saturday 13:00-17:00 and 19:00-23:00. Sunday 13:00-17:00
Address: Calle 17 #280, Colonia La Florida
Contact: 999 920 2633
Pho MX (CLOSED)
PhoMX has two locations and the one we visited was where Younghee’s Kitchen−a much loved Korean restaurant−used to be. PhoMX is the first all Vietnamese restaurant here in Merida. It was quite the talk of the expat part of town and so our team decided to go check it out.
The quality of the food here is truly exceptional. The spring rolls, made from hydrated rice paper, finely sliced pork, two different types of lettuce, rice, mint and coriander are deliciously fresh, extremely tasty and gracefully presented, plus the peanut sauce is great. Their most decorated dish is the pho especial, which is basically Vietnam in a bowl. The meat in this soup is actually cooked raw but it is sliced so thinly that when the broth is added, it cooks almost instantly. One of our favourites was the crispy noodles. This dish has everything you could want, vegetables, chicken, shrimp, squid and pork – all delicately sliced and placed on a bed of crispy noodles.
Accompanied with a te verde passionfruit and you’ve got yourself an epic meal. This fruit-filled beverage is absolutely gorgeous. Alternatively you could try the iced coffee which is a very strong coffee mixed with condensed milk. This balances the flavour and gives it a tiramisu-like taste.
For dessert, we recommend the strawberry (or mango, when it’s in season) tapioca. This is a light and fruity bowl of coconut milk and cassava mixed together to create a heavenly smooth postre. It’s surprisingly not too sweet and is the perfect end to your Vietnamese experience at Pho MX.
The staff are super friendly, welcoming and eager to explain their menu to you. Our videographer Tin spent some valuable time with the chefs in the kitchen and came away feeling like he had got a real sense of what they are trying to achieve here; healthy, top quality, traditional, Vietnamese food. What’s great is you can really see this for yourself.
Pho MX has created something really special here (and at their other establishment on Avenida Andres Garcia Lavin No. 336). Their aim is to produce nothing less than perfection in both appearance and flavour through top quality ingredients and attention to detail. It’s an absolute pleasure to dine here.
Need to know info:
Price range: $-$$
Address: Calle 33D x Avenida Reforma, #498, Colonia Garcia Gineres
Contact: 999 374 2136
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Pho.Mexico/
Photos taken by Harriet Sleth
Video by Tin Castro