Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Eating Live Squid

Hi Friends!

The foreign language department recently went out for a department dinner. We went to Garak Market, a massive wholesale seafood and produce market. I had previously driven past it before, it's enormous and looks fairly overwhelming. Jamie and I have never ventured there as a tourist destination so it was exciting to be taken into it by my co-teachers.

I've been told you can buy produce there, but we only wandered in at the seafood stalls. Near to the venders is a vender resturant area. It pretty much consists of benchs all crammed into one area with signs hanging from the ceiling to tell you which vendor will be serving you. It looked confusing and not so friendly for those of us that haven't put as much effort into learning
Korean as we should have.

My co-teacher, Mika, had called ahead and we had a table all set and ready to go. The kimchi, baby seafood pancakes, tiny steamed clams, quail eggs, and soybeans were ready for our consumption the second we sat down. Shortly afterward, the waitress came over to ask us to come and choose our fish. I walked over with Mika and we chose the fish that looked most aggrieved at their situation so as to put them out of their misery more quickly (that and the price were the main considerations). We chose bass and cod. We were going to eat them as hweh, Korean for raw (and DELICIOUS!).

As we were waiting for the fish to be sliced and diced we were given MORE tasty treats. Lots of things from the sea. Everything was delicious! Super fresh. So fresh it was, infact, still moving. Here's a little video:

Yes, the raw (practically still alive) squid is delicious.

After all the raw fish and lots of other dishes we were given the rest of the fish in a soup with rice on the side. This is common with any meal in korea. After you are finished, you order soup and rice. Mika tells me the rice helps to settle the food in your stomach.
The soup was SPICY and hot! When you order the soup (any soup like this) , it comes practically boiling but just to make sure it says bubbling, you'll get a burner on the table so that your mouth knows no rest from the spice and heat. That just makes it more great. There were lots of unrecognizable things in the pot of hot but an equal amount of things that I knew. There was: fish heads, fish intestine (surprisingly delicious), turnip, bean sprouts, tofu, red chili pepper, fish eggs, potato and others. Since we had a fair amount of raw fish from earlier left over, we threw that in as well and flash boiled it. SO GOOD!
In the front is the raw fish, the center is our "rest of the fish" chigae (soup).

To be honest, I was full before the raw fish even got to our table. Every traditional style meal in Korea always starts with me thinking the same thing: Look at these tiny plates. I'm going to go home hungry. Every traditional style meal in Korea ends with me thinking the same thing: I have never eaten so much food in my life. And now they're giving me MORE RICE?!
I always forget that the plates are tiny but they are never allowed to be empty!

I love eating. Everyday I'm thankful that we are not picky eaters (thanks to mom and dad keller and mom and dad Lyon for not allowing that)!

Well, I hope you all enjoyed this latest post.

Take Care!

Interesting side notes about the raw squid:
It tastes super fresh. Obviously.
No, you can't feel it squirm in your mouth.
No, the suckers don't stick to your cheeks.
Yes, they DO stick to the plate.
Yes, the head and eyes were included in the plate and Yes, I avoided them.
I have heard experiences where the whole squid is put on a plate and people just snip off a piece as they want to eat it or just bite off a tentacle. I'm glad we didn't do that. I'm not certain I'm brave enough to kill my own food yet. And certainly not brave enough to torture it. I imagine it could live though losing a few tentacles.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Snacks at school

Hello Friends!
I have a fun little school snack experience expanded into a talk about Korea culture. Enjoy!

In Korea it's common to share everything you eat. At the dinner table, people all eat from one main dish. You'll have a small plate in front of you to avoid slopping red chili paste onto the table, but it's rare to pile things there so you can eat from it. This sharing of food at the dinner table carries into the everyday process of eating snacks. If someone has a snack in their office, they will share it with you-even if you aren't there when they are eating it. I've come back from class to find a small pile of nuts at my desk or a quarter of a slice of cake. I have seen students break up one piece of hard candy to share with friends and adults split a tiny 6 oz drink with the person sitting next to them.

So, more often than not, if you're going to have a snack in your office, you'll bring enough to share. Which means that there are often snacks in my office. When people plan ahead and bring a big snack you get all nature of exciting things. I was once given a frosting sandwich. Yes. That's right. It was toasted white bread with white butter frosting as the filling. More often I'm given a tiny sweet potato or piece of fruit. Often someone will buy a cake and bring it to the office to share.

If someone is bringing in a Korean snack it's usually ddeok. Ddeok is any form of rice cake. (do not picture puffed rice in a round flatish form) Ddoek is glutinous, chewy, and heavy and it is THE go-to food for Korean snacks. (it's also pretty good) If someone is giving gifts to the whole school, they will give ddeok. If someone is bringing something that is not western in style for a snack, they will bring ddeok. I think one Native teacher has a ddeok count of 17. She's been given ddeok 17 times this semester! Most westerners like ddeok, but not to the extent that Koreans do. I can eat it once in a blue moon, but not once a week. More than once a month is pushing it.

Ddeok is usually given as a gift or for some special affair so, usually, snacks are a western variety. Chips, cakes, breads, sweet potato (kidding about that last one). Sometimes, however, aside from the usual snack like a tiny sweet potato or a cake someone will make something. Like I said, snacks are usually a western variety so if someone is making something unique they will make it from "western" style things. There's lots of western food in Korea, but in general it's new to the culture so people do fun things with it when they are making it. Like the frosting sandwich.
Jamie has a great snack to share. One of the teachers in his school brought a platter of little finger foods for people to eat. I'll leave you with the list of delicious that she brought in:

  • dainty open faced tuna sandwiches topped with whipped cream and a dehydrated grape
  • crackers topped with ham, "bugles", orange, and wafer cookies
  • bread, topped with a cracker, spam, chili sauce, and orange
  • cracker topped with ham, whipped cream, and chocolate
  • Cracker, slim strips of cheese, two small cubes of bread, a slice of cucumber, sprinkled with crumbled tortilla chip
  • bread, ham, whipped cream, pickle
One of the plates was garnished with what looks like loose candy.

Until next time!