16 August 2012

Korean broiled mackerel and seaplant set lunch

In June, work took me to Seoul for a week.  You can bet I took the opportunity to visit some places that I'd missed on my trip there last summer!

Besides seeing Chandeokgung and Jongmyo (hurray for getting to see a UNESCO world heritage site!), I had the chance to spend a morning at Gyeongbokgung, a palace with extensive beautiful gardens but buildings sadly destroyed over the centuries and now in various stages of reconstruction.  The cool, overcast weather was a welcome relief from the soaring temperatures even at that point in early summer, and I had a lovely time walking through the gardens and seeing some of Korea's national treasures, like the chimneys of Amisan.

Afterwards, I stopped by a little restaurant tucked away in a quiet corner near the Samcheong-ro and Sajik-ro intersection and enjoyed a fantastic 해초고등어 (haecho godeung-eo) set lunch of broiled mackerel and fresh sea plants (plus the customary assortment of kimchi and side dishes).  Wow, that meal was definitely one for the books--I'd say it ranks among my top favorites from the whole summer I've spent here in Korea.

The ajumma serving my meal showed me how best to enjoy the food.  First you place a wide piece of 쇠미역 (soi-miyeok, seaweed) on the plate and add a dab of 전어젓갈 (jeon-eo jeotgal, salted and fermented shad paste), then a few pieces of 꼬시래기 and 톳 (kkosiraegi and tot, delicate types of seaweed), followed by a chunk of the 고등어 (godeung-eo, mackerel).  Then you roll it up with your chopsticks and eat the bundle in one satisfying big bite!

Such a perfect lunch after a long morning of walking through the Gyeongbokgung palace and gardens!  Munching on the healthy vegetables (both from land and from sea) and the deliciously savory broiled mackerel, I sat there in peaceful contentedness on my floor mat at the low table--shoes off, of course--and I couldn't have been happier.  Well, perhaps I could have, with the addition of a few select loved ones to share the joy of the meal with me!

Since none of you were able to sit down to the meal together with me, I made sure to ask the ajumma all the details of what was on the table, so I could tell you about it.  Here's what was for lunch!

If you're ever in the neighborhood, check out Restaurant "HaeWooRi" (해우리) at 대한민국 서울특별시 종로구 중학동 14.
This 해초고등어 (haecho godeungeo) set lunch was 11,000 KRW.

10 August 2012

I haven't forgotten

A couple weeks ago, I ended up being generously provided with an apartment in Busan to use as my home base in East Asia.  While I've thoroughly enjoyed my work travel, it really does feel good to have a space to crash and feel at home in between jaunts!  One of the first things I did after getting settled in the apartment was to go grocery shopping and then cook myself a meal.  After eating out of restaurants for longer than I ever imagined I ever would, it felt a little strange to be back in a kitchen.  But the kitchen I have here is quite lovely, and fortunately, I haven't forgotten how to cook.  (I'm only partly kidding on that last bit.)

Having been eating either Taiwanese or Korean food for almost every meal since the end of June, it was a little hard though to cook something "Western," so I pulled out one of my go-to dishes, a fried rice with onions, carrot, cabbage, and egg.  Except this time, I changed it up using barley instead of rice and adding chunks of meaty king oyster mushroom and one of my favorite vegetables, soybean sprouts (콩나물).  Delicious!

I made so much that I ended up with plenty of leftovers.  So for breakfast the next day, I treated myself to what you see here: a plate of fried rice, plenty of crispy, salty, sesame-flavored 김 ("kim," or seaweed laver), and, the crowning touch, some beautiful kimchi that I picked up at the Shinsegae Food store that just opened up in my apartment complex.  Yes, kimchi at breakfast is seriously one of the most awesome things about life here.  Oh, and the views aren't bad either.

Views in and around my new neighborhood.

The guy at the kimchi counter was such a help--probably amused by the foreign girl wanting to buy kimchi, but I've got to tell you, it was item #1 on my shopping list that day.  Trying out my very limited Korean, I asked for a few different types, and, whether it was out of fear that I'd not really like it and regret my purchase, or out of pride as the kimchi-maker, he made sure I tried each one before buying, telling me to say "ah" and then personally popping the kimchi straight into my mouth.  He also made sure I understood that he made the 배추김치 (Napa cabbage kimchi) only 3 days before and the 총각김치 (chonggak kimchi) 1 month ago.  Very important details here, you know!

After weighing out and pricing the kimchi I had ordered, he tucked in a few extra pieces as "service" (meaning "on the house").  I ended up getting a couple other items on that same trip as "service," but if you had seen the grocery bill, you'd realize they could definitely afford it.  With prices like what they charge, it's much cheaper to just go out to eat at a restaurant!

연근들깨무침 (yeon-geun deulkkae muchim)
Crunchy lotus root, cucumber, and carrot slices in a creamy deulkkae sauce.  One of the side dishes I was given as "service."

Something I've come to love about grocery shopping in Korea is how the staff here say "lass es Ihnen schmecken" whenever you pick something out from their grocery department and add it to your basket.  Okay, so they don't literally say that, but they do say something in Korean that means the same thing: "may it be tasty for you."  I can understand it when they say it, but I don't know how to actually say it myself.  Any of you, my readers, know what they might be saying?  I often feel like a baby, learning language first by listening comprehension.  I suppose if I continue to live in Korea, after a couple years maybe I'll be able to start speaking!  Who knows...

Sorry I haven't got a recipe this time...but just fry up the ingredients I've listed up above in a little sesame oil, and season to taste with soy sauce.  And (though it's more Chinese-style than it is Korean), I like to use a little oyster sauce for the saltiness, and black pepper for some kick.  Absolutely fantastic when you wrap up a bite of it in a piece of kim!