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!