Before you freak and and think I’m a monster for eating 산낙지 (Sannakji), otherwise known as live octopus, let me tell you something: it’s not really alive. Well, it’s alive when it gets to the table, but then the server chops it up into bite-sized pieces. The pieces squirm around for about 20 minutes afterward.
To avoid any life-threatening consequences, you need to make sure to soak the tentacles in sesame oil and chew carefully.
I would write more, but I think the video says it all.
It amazes me that I’ve been here for a year and a half and am still discovering new dishes.
Last night, my friend Yong-Kyu took me to dinner in the Konkuk University area. “I want to take you to a restaurant I like, but I am nervous,” he said. “It might be too spicy. And if you don’t like it, my feeling is bad.”
I rolled my eyes. “Young-Kyu, it’s me you’re talking about. I like everything.”
Lunar New Year isn’t until next week, but that hasn’t stopped the parents from sending celebratory goodies for the past five days. Well, I shouldn’t say goodies; more like goody. There’s only one way to celebrate the Korean New Year, and it’s with tteok (떡).
Dotorimuk is basically mashed-up acorns that have been turned into Jell-O and dressed with soy sauce and sesame oil. It’s a very popular side dish in Korea, particularly among hikers…not so much foreigners.
Except for me, that is. I love this stuff. I pray for it to be part of the day’s school lunch. I cross my fingers that it’s served with dinner. I sometimes have dreams where I high dive into a pool of it, then paddle for hours with my mouth open until every drop is gone.
I spent the majority of Saturday afternoon in bed, pants unbuttoned, my sweater smelling of roasted duck. I wore an evil smile on my face.
I had finally tried the dish I’d been eyeing for a year and a half: a roasted Korean pumpkin, stuffed with yakbap (glutinous rice sweetened with honey or brown sugar, mixed with chestnuts, jujubes and pine nuts), on top of a whole roasted duck and caramelized onions.
My obsession with this dish started the week I arrived in Seoul; though I remember it like it was yesterday…
A broken ankle, snow on the ground, Facebook status updates on various Christmas activities. A year and four months in Korea, and I’m really missing home. Thankfully, I know just what to do (or eat) when the homesickness strikes: Budae Jjigae and Samgyetang.
My foodie friend Megan Greenberg scoffed at the idea that I would gain weight on anything other than Gruyère and flan during my recovery. The thought of eating school lunches and Lara Bars while wearing sweatpants for a month and a half made her reevaluate our food-based friendship.
I understand where she’s coming from. Hell, I’d much rather be eating large servings of Mexican custard and $15 grilled cheeses. But the fact is, I live in Korea. And Koreans don’t do cheese.
Fully prepared to start checking off the items on my Korean Food Bucket List, I set off last Sunday with my friend Jason and a piece of paper. I had written down a few dishes I thought I could easily find in my neighborhood. But after walking around for 20 minutes, I realized why I hadn’t checked them off sooner. I definitely need to do a bit more prep work.
Back in the U.S., if someone were to suggest duck for dinner, I would decline; assuming they had an expensive craving for French fare. However, when a friend asked me to join them for BBQ duck in my neighborhood (Jangan-dong) tonight, I didn’t think twice.
Korean food isn’t fancy. It’s not presented on pristine plates. It’s not drizzled with colorful purées or rich sauces. Meat is served as meat, vegetables as vegetables. And the cost reflects the simplicity. In fact, I can’t recall a meal in Seoul ever costing me more than 15,000 won (less than 13 American dollars). Tonight was no exception.