Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Eel, etc

I survived my first two days of being a puppy momma! Kimchi is getting used to my apartment, and I am getting used to having a baby puppy in my apartment. I have never felt so loved in my life, the way she waits for me at my front door, just wiggling on the floor in excitement to see me (because she’s too excited to even stand up, the little darling). It’s adorable, really. She likes to sit on my feet when I’m making dinner, she needs to play for AT LEAST a solid hour when I get home, and she likes to fall asleep snuggled up on my lap. What a little sweetheart!

But on to gushing about something besides my baby puppy, Korean food! (Although I suppose the two are kind of related… As my coworker Dave so keenly pointed out, “You know they eat Kimchi in Korea, right?”… thanks Dave…)

This past weekend provided a number of opportunities for sampling new and quintessentially Korean foods, which was fantastic! I would have to say Korean food is one of the most unique (and delicious!) cuisines I’ve ever tried. Flavors in Korean cooking are developed from the seemingly strangest places and are inherently meant to be strong. There’s no such thing as a bland dish in Korea - - How could there be when the basis of their culinary perspective comes from the combining of fermented foods, hot pepper paste, and seafood? Everything about Korean food is so foreign, but ohmygoodness, it is soooooo good!

Friday night, Alex convinced me to try one of his favorite Korean foods, eel. You read that right, I’m talking about eel like the slimy-looking electric thing, but without the electric part… truly one of those animals I never imagined myself eating (kind of like kangaroo, camel, and dingo, I guess…) until it was sitting in front of me (although not on a plate per se, since the concept of each person having their own separate plate is definitely not the Korean way, rather you share the communal excess of side dishes with everyone at your table, reaching your chopsticks across the table to get to the kimchi and bean paste for your galbi, with no individual plate to speak of).

But Korean side dishes are a post for another day. I’m talking about eel, and it was just delicious! It was surprisingly succulent and moist (sorry almasicr…), especially when paired with the eel sauce, red bean paste, and yellow radish (another Korean staple) laid out on the table. The eel was actually a little sweet, and definitely unlike any seafood I’ve ever tried before. The restaurant itself was cool too, it looked exactly like every other family-owned Korean restaurant, where the interior atmosphere matters nothing and your eating experience is based solely around the people sitting at your table and the food. What a shockingly foreign, yet brilliant idea! We could tell Westerners were a rarity in this particular restaurant, the servers going to lengths to explain exactly how to pair side dishes and even having the nerve to sneak forks (!?!?) onto out table unbeknownst to us. They were so friendly, though, and I can’t wait to go back there in the future!

Moral of the story, if you live in Korea, give me a call and let’s go get some eel! If you live elsewhere, fly to Korea immediately, and do the same.

Enough about eel. On to Sunday’s 참치 찌개(Chamchi Jjigae). Chamchi just means tuna, and Jjigae means boiling hot soup, literally put on the table boiling vigorously. It’s served with a bowl of 밥 (bap, rice) to eat with the soup to make it cool enough to eat, but a lot of Koreans eat it straight from its boiling hot state. (I, on the other hand, took literally a half hour to get through the bowl.) It was delicious, though. I’m pretty sure the flavoring in the soup comes straight from the kimchi in it… it’s a simple enough soup, basically just kimchi, water, and canned tuna, but somehow the Koreans know how to make it taste wonderful!

What a fantastic weekend for new Korean food, (even if it is bizarre and obnoxiously hot)! I'm going to miss it dearly back in the States!

- Christine -

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