What is Moo Kata and how does it work?
Moo kata is now one of the most popular styles of Thai eating in the Land of Smiles – and probably the rest of the world. But what is it? How does it work? And why is it so popular? If you’re new to moo kata, we’ve answered some of your questions below, including how to enjoy moo kata like a pro!
What is Moo Kata?
Moo Kata, sometimes also spelt Mu Kratha, is basically a fusion of Korean barbecue and Chinese hot pot. Here, you pick raw ingredients and cook them yourself on a tabletop grill. Traditionally, the tabletop grill has a raised dome where you can cook your meats and a space surrounding the dome to cook vegetables, fish balls, and mushrooms in a broth. The sliced meat is usually pre-marinated, and the broth is lightly flavoured, so you actually only have to toss the ingredients into the pan and wait for them to cook. The meal is completed with condiments, including a number of sweet, spicy, and garlicky dipping sauces.
You can find moo kata restaurants all around Thailand. These restaurants usually offer the Do-It-Yourself dinner in a buffet-style set up for a fixed, all-you-can-eat rate.
Why is Moo Kata so popular?
Moo kata seems like a labour-intensive dinner outside of home cooking. Why would anyone go to a restaurant to cook their own dinner instead of letting professionals cook the food for them?
Well, there are many reasons why people enjoy moo kata and why this Thai-style DIY dinner is popular. It’s a fun experience, especially if you’re eating with your friends or family. Cooking your own meal invites conversations and brings people together. Since you will be busy cooking the food, you won’t have time to check your phone, so you might have a better quality time with your loved ones.
Besides the experience, moo kata is also popular because it’s affordable. Moo kata restaurants usually offer a low fixed price in an all-you-can-eat setting. It’s definitely the most bang for your buck meal you can find in Thailand.
How to enjoy Moo Kata
It takes some getting used to in order to enjoy moo kata. If you’re a beginner and you’ve never eaten in a moo kata restaurant before. Here’s a simple guide to enjoying it the right way.
Step 1: Get ready to have your entire body smell of smoke
You’ll be sitting in front of a hot charcoal barbecue and boiling broth, so get ready to have your entire body smell of smoke. In addition, your body temperature will be driven up by the heat emitted from the grill and skillet, not to mention the scorching Thai heat. Therefore, wear something breathable and drink plenty of water if you want to truly enjoy the moo kata experience.
Step 2: Pick up your favourite meat, seafood, and vegetables
Moo kata literally means “skillet pork.” However, there are many more options to choose from, so you won’t miss out even if you don’t eat pork.
The ingredients are served in a buffet, where you can pick out what you would like to cook at your table. This means that there are unlimited opportunities on how you want your meal to taste and what you want to include in them. You can find a wide range of poultry, red meat, seafood, vegetables, and mushrooms. Some of the most popular ingredients are chicken, beef, pork, and prawns. In addition, you might also find a variety of other ingredients like fish balls, squid balls, crab sticks, and soft tofu.
Since most moo kata restaurants offer an all-you-can-eat affair, you can take as many ingredients as you want. However, you aren’t supposed to leave uneaten food on your table. Almost all moo kata restaurants will charge extra for the food that remains on your table in addition to the fixed buffet price. It’s a great way to avoid wasted food. So, take as much as you want – as long as you’re sure you can eat them all.
Step 3: Cook the meat, seafood, and vegetables in the soup
The first thing you should do is toss some of the meat, seafood, and vegetables in the soup. This is because these ingredients usually take longer to cook in the soup than on the grill, Some restaurants may use plain water for the soup, while others offer lightly flavoured broth.
Step 4: Grill your meat
While you wait for the soup to cook, you can start grilling your meat. In most cases, pork fat is used instead of regular margarine for the barbecue. Using pork fat will make the grilled meat taste stronger and more delicious. Before you grill your meat, be sure to put some pork fat on the surface of the grill and let it melt. Once it has melted and left your grill a smooth and oily surface, you can place the meat and seafood of your choice evenly on the grill. If you find that the grill is sticky, simply put a cube of pork fat on the grill before cooking the meat and seafood again.
You will be given tongs and chopsticks. Make sure to use the tongs for cooking the raw meat and chopsticks for eating. Don’t eat your prepared food with utensils that have touched raw meat to avoid food poisoning. In addition, keep in mind that you should grill your beef, chicken, and pork thoroughly.
Step 5: Enjoy your meal
Once your ingredients are cooked and ready to eat, dip them in the Thai sauce (nam chim) at your table. Made from fresh chillies, garlic, sugar, and bean curd, the sauce will give you a perfect sweet and spicy taste. It’s delicious, and you won’t be able to stop eating until you’re full!
How to find the best Moo Kata restaurant?
There are tons of places to enjoy this unique dinner, but not all moo kata restaurants are the same. Some restaurants have fresh and clean ingredients. In contrast, others may offer smelly meat, wilted vegetables, flies buzzing all over the place, and unsanitary conditions. One of the best ways to find an excellent moo kata restaurant is to find one with a queue. As a general rule, a crowded restaurant typically means that the food is delicious and clean.
Of course, following the crowds won’t always mean you’ll get the best. So once you get inside a restaurant, take a second to look around and check if the buffet looks fresh and clean. Additionally, make sure that the tables are actually cleaned and sanitized after people depart.
If you’re looking for the best moo kata restaurant in the capital, be sure to check our article on the top 5 Thai barbecue restaurants in Bangkok.
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