Saturday, 16 January 2010 by coco
Greeting from the slob of the century with a day off! You should see my apartment - cookie boxes I cant read and empty bottles of milkis and orange juice everywhere. Im in a scruffy not working zen, Legally Blonde just came on cable with voice-overs.
For those who don't know I am living in Ulsan, just outside of Busan - basically I now live in the coastal hippier mellow regions of South Korea and in Feb will be doing alot of pop-cultural travel between here and Seoul. I am also 2 hours away from Fukuoka Japan by boat (FYI Fukuoka is my hometown Manukau's sister city and when I was 12, the Manukau City Council had me represent South Auckland as a 'promising youth' kicking off my love for Asia. They definitely didn't have a crystal ball adolescence-wise but hey, thanks!) I really like the vibe here. There is a huge river at the back of my apartments and the local skyscrapers are all casually pushed up against mountains which I really like, its like a thrifty Asian Monaco.
So i thought I'd drop another culinary bomb on you.
Have been watching Korean food television, utter kitchen pornography OBSESSED.
Mellow old ladies (ajuma) run circles around their hotter younger spikier co-hosts who are only put in there to sex the shows up a bit (totally uncalled for when you see the amazing shit these doddery mums are making). Cuisine here is all about creating a selection, creating it quickly and it has to be HOT. I loved spicey food before, but once you go spicey here, i dont know if you can ever really go back. i better have a spicey friend or 2 when i get to Berlin just sayin. On these cooking shows they make it look like all you need is a deadly knife and a pot, they make everything look delicious but so easy. Korea has a respect for soup that I didnt get previously but now am totally tuning into.
Tonight i went out and grabbed a standard $5 meal which when I weigh up the experience with the price, is always enough to seduce me for life. Included was a super spicey beef soup, and dumplings that we made ourselves (fresh cabbage, onions, bean sprouts and lots of Gochujang ie. the Korean hot sauce slathered with almost everything. Warning: it is addictive, raises your metabolism and is not for the faint-hearted). Naturally all meals are served with banchan, the experience of what feels like thousands of tiny side-dishes. Restaurants will bring out cold pickled radish of every colour, shape and cut (these often help cool down the gochujang and robust kimchi) seaweed, potatoes, sprouts in sesame oil and seafood infiltrates these side-dishes subtly, sometimes with a thinly stewed squid on the side or anchovies being tucked into the kimchi paste.
At my Hagwon (english school) there is the mind-blowing aspect of everyone being able to order food anytime while we teach. Everyone eats constantly as it is a huge sharing and feasting society (no one needs to teach Korean kids how to share, their luch times are generous touching moments that'd make a Hallmark card or Anne Geddes puke).
Delivery is not just a sloppy burger or pizza slice (although admittedly alot of kumara/sweet potatoe + sour cream pizza does get ordered). This is anything. I order dolsot bibimbap a bit, dolsot means stone pot and bibimbap is a signature Korean dish. It is rice, vegetables and meat with a raw egg that fries itself when one stirs it in against the hot stone. On top of that, the sesame oil which lines the bowl will cook the rice until it is crunchy and golden. (We leave these dishes in a metal suitcase for the mysterious delivery men to collect later, its like 'The Saint').
In junk food news, I saw a hot dog stand and froze the other night while shopping, both metaphorically and literally. I swore this hot dog (stick format) had croutons fused to it. I stepped closer in my bundled-up glory to see, and while local hipsters and old men were eating the standard skewers or shu-cream fish (a dessert of crunchy waffles shaped like fish with custard inside sold only in sets of 3) I had to taste it for myself. What I got was a vertical chip butty. The outside was cubed hot chips, the batter was infact a toasted slice of bread all encasing the sausage which was of the high-end wurst variety.
When it comes to the language not so much, but when it comes to the food - this country understands me. Heres a photo of one of my favourite students Billy as a touching closer.