I know my last post was also about food, but I’ve been exploring the food stuff things here as well as doing some home cooking. And I’m a bit obsessed and addicted to food so I can’t help that it’s on my mind a lot.
First off, a night in the town – Wednesday night to be exact. DL and I had both noted the supreme dominance of couple culture here and, both feeling awkward about sitting down to dinner alone, decided to save the shame on both sides and share a meal instead.
My co-teachers had also planned to go out with me Thursday night so I could meet another foreign English teacher from Canada who teaches nearby, and when asked what I wanted I wholeheartedly said KOREAN BBQ.
When DL asked what I wanted, despite the fact that I was going for it Thursday night, I wholeheartedly texted KOREAN BBQ. (Or maybe he brought it up first. Anyway, I was down for the good self-barbie times).
So we decided that we’d meet up in shinae (downtown near where I live) and seek out a KBBQ place. Rumour had it there were heaps to be found.
At least, that’s what sneaky liar Rumour had to say.
We searched and couldn’t find. We wandered past sushi shops, fast food burger places, general noodle/rice dish restos, a plethora of coffee places, and even an ambiguous “self-serve” bar, which we assumed, but were uncertain, must be some kind of buffet place. Sushi and self-serve had our interest, but the Neanderthal in our bellies was craving meat.
Lightbulb street at night! So pretty. Ended up wandering past here looking for KBBQ.
I said I remembered walking past a place that looked like it had grill holes in the tables back a few streets down and we figured, “Hey why not?” so we tracked it down.
Probably the fact that it was empty should have been a harbinger, but it indeed did look like there were metal lids covering grills in the table and we decided to take the risk.
“It’ll be a food adventure!” I said with my elementary-school-teacher enthusiasm.
So we sat down and settled in.
First thing we noticed as we were brought menus, moist towels and appetizers was that the grill was not a grill at all, but rather a metal lid that opened to a seemingly functionless hole in the table. Bahhhhhsheeet – but hey, menus are here and why not enjoy these delicious appetizers?
Shit, menu doesn’t have pictures and it’s all in Korean. DL can’t read Hangul at all, and while I can, the things I was sounding out for us were completely unrecognizable from “bulgogi” or “topokki” or “bibimbap” or other various traditional foods we’d learned about in Korean class.
That’s okay, let’s just say anything with dwaeji gogi (pork) and we’ll choose according to price. Food adventure, remember?
Upon hearing our request (did we even say it right??), our waiter pointed to a column of food and seemed to recommend one dish in particular. We nodded with enthusiasm and a few minutes later were given a strange looking dish that looked somewhere between red chicken nobs and the curls of an earlobe and outer ear.
The ambiguous dish. Note the metal circle beneath: it leads to a hole. Also note the toilet paper in lieu of napkins…
Well, nothing like a food adventure! Just pop it in your mouth and –
Oh boy. The texture. This is weird. This is very unavoidably weird.
The taste was fine, it really was – but the texture was somewhere between the cartilage at the end of a chicken wing and a piece of chewing gum. And it crunched. I came to the conclusion that we’d probably ordered pig heart, but we both decided, being very white people unaccustomed to meat diversity, that it was better not to ask.
We ate it all, but between the modest serving size we’d split, our solid cravings for KBBQ, and the increasing desire to get the sensation of the rubbery muscle out of our mouths, we thought we’d find somewhere else to have dinner part two.
DL remembered a place he’d gone where you cook your own chicken stew – not KBBQ, but not too shabby I soon discovered! In fact it was absolutely effing delicious!
Fall-apart-in-your-mouth tender chicken, rice cakes, and soooo much spicy red pepper sauce. Note the presence of napkin dispenser.
We got a bottle of soju and orange juice to wash it down and stayed til closing. A good turnaround for an adventurous start to the night. We agreed, at some point, to try out that self-serve joint too – for science , if nothing else.
Next day, I went out for KBBQ with my co-teachers and the other Canadian – let’s call him BC. So after the previous night’s issues finding a KBBQ, I was extremely curious where they might take me.
TURNS OUT (who’d have thought) THEY’RE ALL ON KOREAN BBQ STREET. Yes, the street is called Korean BBQ Street. Well, technically it’s called samgyeopsal, so our missing it wasn’t entirely our fault, but it’s still named after the dozen or more competing KBBQ restaurants lining this one street. (Apparently it was first created as a tourist trap, but it never took off so there are just heaps of delicious places for the locals instead).
Anyway, I forgot to take a picture during, so all I have is the aftermath:
But as you can see, it’s half similar to what it’s like in Montreal, and the other half is all authentic. You had a bunch of side dishes – everything from whole-nappa-cabbage-leaf kimchi to seaweed salad, to soup, to stew, to radish, to sprout salad, to pickled peppers, to fresh hot peppers, to straight up pickles (pickled to achieve a very French Canadian taste). It’s also served with lettuce and sesame leaves, which apparently is the traditional way to eat it – folding the meat, kimchi (which you barbecue), sauce and radish into the leaf with a little bit of julienned&vinegretted vegetables and eating it thus.
The meat is only pork, I think – but it’s the equivalent of uncured bacon, so I’m not fussed. You get scissors and cut it up as it’s cooking so it’s in convenient bite size pieces right off the grill, and barbecue it up with onions and black mushrooms. Heaven. Truly.
But the food adventures continue in my kitchen!
Inspired by having decent food for once, I decided I’d make an effort in the kitchen. The result: Quiche in a Coffee Mug.
I’d come across the recipe off an imgur post ages ago – basically a bunch of different awesome things you can make (blueberry muffins, chocolate chip cookies, chilaquiles…) in a microwave for a snack/breakfast. I have a blackened banana and remembered there was a recipe for banana bread like that, and so I looked up the pictures and it got me craving quiche in the meanwhile until I find vanilla extract.
Had to change up the recipe a little bit – used bulgogi ham instead of prosciutto, used corn bread instead of bagel/French bread, added garlic (figured it’d give me the spicy kick the chives and mustard would have otherwise…plus I have heaps of garlic), and used La Vache Qui Rit cheese instead of cream cheese to great results. I would make this again in a heartbeat. So easy, so fast, and ridiculously smackering.
After work today, I went in search of the vanilla I needed for the banana bread. Sadly I didn’t find any – I was warned before I came it’d be tough to find – but I did find the authentic vanillinzucker – vanilla sugar – that my Omi uses to make vanillakipferl, so I’ll be attempting that this coming Christmas!
On the trek up to find the oh-so-elusive vanilla, I was feeling pretty hungry and decided to try some street food, since I’ve been too shy to go up to many venders. I’d seen tons of stalls selling these fried fish-shaped dough things I imagined were savoury fishcakes, and figured once and for all I wanted to see what they were. For only 1, 000 won (less than $1CAD), I could get 3.
Upon biting into it, and getting over the piping-hot-my-mouth’s-burning reaction, my senses had to reconfigure themselves around the fact that instead of savoury, this little fishy was sweet. The outside was almost a waffle taste. And what’s this? That inside? Is that – custard?! Omg a vaguely cheese-flavoured custard in a waffle fish.
Then I was back home. I figured I should eat some vegetables after such fishy decadence, so I cooked up a nappa cabbage soup with garlic, bulgogi ham, and Korean vermicelli.
My first homemade soup! Kind of cheating since I used chicken cube flavouring but shhh, I still configured it from scratch.
And hey, does anything matter when you have a mug of soju and orange juice to go with it?