Sunday, March 18, 2012

Furthest Reaches - Food

Koreans are explicitly linked with their food. It is inseparable from Korean identity. I was talking with a group of my students about Korean food, telling them how much I have enjoyed every meal I have had since arriving. "It is all good, not a single dish has been bad to eat," I said. And strangely enough they replied, "Thank you." Even if they have not made the food themselves, Koreans are very proud of their national cuisine.
It is distinct, with it's selection of pickled vegetables and side dishes. I can't really give you a full guided tour of the best dishes of Korea (I am still discovering half of them, and the ones I have had I do not always know the name). Often enough, I just enter a restaurant and order what looks good. And trust me, it is all good.
Restaurants are literally everywhere! Walk two feet and try somewhere new.

Places to eat are plentiful. Though in my town, Pyeongnae, everything is Korean food. This is great if you want amazing local cuisine (less so when you are dying for something a little more familiar). But eating out is cheap. And I mean significantly cheaper than buying groceries and making it yourself. With a large filling meal, plus drinks, for two costing around $10-15, it is hard to not spend every night cruising the hundreds of little mom and pop restaurants.
Soups, noodles, fried dumplings in a rich spicy sauce.

When eating out doesn't work for you on a busy schedule or a need for something that doesn't come with a pile of kimchi, then it is off to the markets. There are convenience stores (I live above one) or supermarkets. You can take a cab to a larger town to visit the megamarts, or in the case of last week, go to a traditional market. Of course I have no clue how to cook half the things we saw at this outside market of fish and vegetables. But for amazing street food and really cool stands of the freshest catches, there is no where else to go.
mounds of octopodes
squid, eels and rays. no idea how to cook them, but I bet it is amazing.
 And of course the most intimate solution to the eating problem is cooking at home. Whether it be attempts to create your own Korean dishes or entertaining aspirations to make western dishes using a small Asian kitchen, limited supplies and a lack of the usual spices and ingredients. But so far, pork spaghetti and a green pumpkin ratatouille were rather successful.
Making mandoo at midnight
And while my mornings are filled with Korean Fruit Loops or eggs and toast, lunches and late-night dinners are an adventure in unique cuisine, new tastes, or just trying to recreate familiar ones.


Christi Powers said...

What an incredible glimpse into your new world. I love your sense of adventure. Remember when shark fajitas was trying something unique and different? Keep pushing the limits of your culinary escapade. The pictures are wonderful!

Anonymous said...

Hi Jeff! I am a friend of your mom :) I enjoy reading your posts, and this one reminded me a little of how I felt when I moved to New Orleans. Everyone wanted me to eat the food and love it. It was the first question people asked me! The markets you photographed look a little intimidating to me. Are they really fishy smelling? I am very impressed with your willingness to jump right in to the culture. Good luck! Jamie N.

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