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!


jenchilee said...

I'm guessing they are saying, 'Mashitge deu-seh-yo'... Sorry I don't have Korean on this phone keyboard but the first word would mean 'deliciously' and the second would be the (polite) way of saying 'eat' if that makes any sense... Does that sound right?

Susan Lindquist said...

Oh, what a neat adventure you're having! I remember the first few times I went shopping in Germany when we first moved there ... so stressful until I learned that 'butchering the language' can sometimes be the greatest compliment to the native. Yoou show respect when you try to speak to people in their own language and not rely on them to do all the work ... best of luck blending in and finding your way in Korean culture, dear!

I look forward to your next slice of life!

erica said...

Hi Susan, thanks for the note! It's so nice to hear from you. :) Yes, isn't grocery shopping the best (and most fun) way to learn a new language? Take care!

beyondkimchee said...

Erica, are you traveling in Korea now?
I was always impressed with your knowledge in Korean food and how much vocabularies (food related so far) you know. Hope you are having a great time.
Korean is hard language to learn to native English speaker but it is so much easier if you understand the culture.

Holly @ Beyond Kimchee

P.S: For some reason I can't leave comments with my Namely URL on your post.

erica said...

Hi Holly, yes, I've been living in Korea this summer! I've been here almost 2 months and will be returning to the States in a little bit, but work will likely take me back out here soon again. It's been so much fun getting to learn more about Korean food and culture first hand! :)

I've been enjoying reading your posts and learning from you, too, the past couple of years!

The Church Cook said...

So glad to know that you have a beautiful space you can call your own, Erica! German and Korean expressions :@jenchilee is right, direct translation would be "eat deliciously!" Though it's so difficult for you to blog your created recipes, I love reading about your travels and food you encounter! So your blog seems to expanding to more adventure and your repertoire of exotic recipes bigger! Fun! Take care of yourself and know that you have many friends who love and think of you. Hugs....

erica said...

Hi Kay! Thanks so much for your note--it really does me good. As fun as it is embracing life in Asia, I do miss friends and family being a part of my life, so it is wonderful to get your loving note. :) Work has kept me so busy, but I will try to keep posting more tidbits of my adventures!

Anonymous said...

LOL, I tried to figure out what your wrote but if what they are saying is what you wrote, I have no idea!

Busan! I'm watching Golden Time which is set in Busan and it took me the longest time to get used to the accent... I guess it's Korean version of country? Maybe if you're hearing it in Busan, it's something customary there b/c watching GT, I'm realizing that they do say things sometimes VERY differently.

Also, Korean is so hard to speak b/c of all the different versions, too, the banmal versus jondaemal. But I don't know if non-Koreans know that "jondaemal" has like 2 or 3 versions, too! I'm always so impressed at how quickly you pick up on things.

Like Kay stated, it seems like you're having quite the adventure!

erica said...

Soyon, you're right about the accent--I am sometimes surprised by the way things are pronounced in Busan, but I thought it was just my lack of knowledge about Korean language pronunciation in general! Guess I was actually picking up on the regional accent differences!

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