Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Korea and FOOD

Whether it's late at night and you're a bit drunk, or it's 10am and you've got a hankering for a waPPLE (waffle) Korea never ceases to surprise my taste buds. Unfortunately, I've gotten into a groove of going to the same places and eating the same things, but none-the-less, it's been delicious!

It means something different in every country, but the basic idea of meat over fire is the same-same everywhere. About 2 blocks down from us is the expat popular "Pig Place". It was introduced to us as the "Pig Place" and therefore we will never actually learn the name of this establishment. In Korea, restaurants serve one type of animal, i.e the "Pig Place" the "Duck Place" and the "Beef Place". We've found that in Korea is actually cheaper to eat out than it is to cook at home. When you go to a barbecue joint you usually pay 9,000-12,000W ($9-$12) a person and get a million 반찬 banchan (side dishes) including 2 salads (one as a salad, and one to put into your wrap) a soup, kimchi, some form of eggs, and a number of other random little tidbits depending on the place you're eating and the season. 

Mmmmm... Soju.

I'm a fan of the sauces you dip your meat in. The farthest plate are hot chili peppers. Just one pepper per meal will burn a new hole in your body. The middle sauce is garlic, and the closest sauce is a spicy sauce.

Handsome man mid bite.
Upon ordering a man whose sole job is to keep the coals burning comes out carrying a stone pot filled with red hot coals. Your 반찬 comes and you instantly dig in. I've gone to several different types of Barbecue places, but they are all generally the same... EXCEPT this one place we found at 4am in the morning that had a moat around the outside of the grill where you pour egg around to cook while your meat barbecues. Drunken finds are often the best ;-) I digress... After eating your 반찬 and letting your meat cook you cut up the meat with scissors, throw some garlic on the grill, and wrap your meat up in lettuce. This is the thing that I love the most about Korea, you don't find carbohydrates at every turn. Don't get me wrong, I would kill for a burrito with some sour cream, but health wise I never feel guilty after eating a Korean meal. Here are some pictures of our favorite "Pig Place".

Duck... Duck.... Duck...
 Another favorite place of ours it the "Duck Place". It's a bid odd of a story though that goes along with the "Duck Place." The first time we ate here we went with 4 other teachers. Koreans don't know how to handle that many foreigners at one time and often stare at us and get flustered because they don't understand our Korean pronunciation. Anyways, the owner comes over to us and sits down with us and just stares at us while we talk for awhile. She speaks very little English, but mustered out enough to ask if we were English teachers and for a business card. Of course being English teachers we don't carry business cards so we gave her our bosses business card. She picks me out of the bunch and asks me to write everyone's name down on the card. When we pay, we find out we were getting a discount. SCORE! About 2 weeks later Carl and I come by ourselves to eat. The lady instantly recognizes me and sits down next to us bringing us free cook and rice nectar(and yes, it tastes awful). Her husband speaks a little more English than she does so we found out the real reason for the discounts and free stuff. They wanted me to teach their children private lessons... I've known since before I arrived in Korea that private lessons are illegal since I am here on a work visa, but many foreigners do it here because you can often make good money doing it. For 2 hours the Duck parents feed us too much food, stared at us, haggled prices and hours with me, until there was nothing I could do but say yes. I felt awful about it because in reality they weren't willing to pay me what the going rate is and I knew that with our job I just wouldn't have the time. (Leave for work at 8:15a back home by 6:30p ish) That whole night I wrestled with what I did. I agreed to something I didn't really want to do and didn't have the time for. The next morning I wrote a nice heartfelt note and plugged it into google translate. I'm sure it didn't come out exactly how I wanted it to seeing how things are often missed in translation, but when she read the letter and saw my face she understood that I meant well. She gave me a big hug and kiss and sent me out the door with some more rice nectar and asked me to please come back to the restaurant. The food was too good not to come back... I always forget to take pictures, so here is an article written about our beloved "Duck Place" http://gwangjublog.com/1496?category=18

Shabu Shabu

육수 pre vegetables
o.m.g the vegetables... the VEGETABLES!!!
O.M.G. Heaven in a pot... Seriously... Shabu Shabu starts out as a 육수 (which strangely is translated into gravy) but it is basically a broth. You shove massive amounts of vegetables into this bubbling broth. Bean sprouts, mushrooms, grass (I don't know the officia lname of it, but it's like a bitter tasting grass) cabbages, and various leaves. After the vegetables are cooked you add thin slices of meat. The next step depends on what type of Shabu Shabu you are at. We have "Spicy Shabu Shabu" where you take the vegetables and meat and dip it into soy sauce with wasabi, and then there is "Lotte Shabu Shabu" (because it's located in Lotte Mart) At "Lotte Shabu Shabu" you take rice paper and dip it into this mystery hot pink liquid which softens the rice paper. You then fill your rice paper with the meat and vegetables. But watch out! If you close up your rice ball too quickly you're going to put a fire ball of steam into your mouth! You then dip the rice ball into your choice of sauces (Oil, Peanut (which is ammmmmmmmmmaaaaaaaazzing) and spicy). After about three courses of this vegetable and meat combination you think you're just about done right? Wrong. There are still two more courses. Your 육수 has now become a broth of yummy goodness from all of the vegetables and meat that have been cooked down in it. You then add noodles to the pot. O.M.G. This comes to a nice little noodley soupy mush of wonderfulness. What? You say there is ONE MORE COURSE!?!?! Yes. Now you add some egg to the liquid to cook up and then rice with seaweed and chopped vegetables. Depending on how much liquid you have left in your pot it can be a rice mush or a rice soup. Either way this part is filled with so much flavor. Here is where I'm going to blow your mind. For two people to eat this massive amount of food it is only $20. The same price it would cost you to eat an overcooked steak and potato at Outback. Shabu Shabu is probably my favorite thing to eat here in Korea. All the vegetables send me into a healthy food craze!!!
Ball of <3
the amazing peanut sauce in the middle
Ok. Bad photo. But this is pre-wrapped


Ok, because of the way the Korean language is pronounced, they do not have an "f" sound. "H" also turns into "h-eeeeeee" Therefore, coffee is pronounced "copee" or "copy". I feel for the Koreans sometimes that listen to me speak or order. You can get two kinds of coffee here in Korea. The instant tiny cups of crap. And the heavenly Starbuck-like cups of yummy goodness. Of course these large-eeeeeeeee cups of coffee come at a Starbucks price, but sometimes you just need some of the good shit. As I sit here at my Angel-in-us (no, it's said Angelinus) drinking my "coPEE" and eating my "waPPle" I truly appreciate Korean food. Do I miss American food? Sometimes. But on nights that I am given a choice I'd rather opt for Korean food. :-)

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