I’m calling this “I just looked through my photos from that time I went to Korea (did I ever tell you I went to Korea?) and almost slapped myself for having never written about the food I ate while I was there”.
Honestly, I don’t know why this didn’t occur to me sooner. I pride myself on being able to eat A LOT of food, and I love good food. I hate crap food. It’s as simple as that. And I by no means am a food snob, what I class as good food is anything that tastes real damn good at the time I’m throwing it at my face hole. Fine dining or Mcdonald’s saver menu; if it gets your tastebuds excited get in ‘ye.
I went with the typically mildly travelled palette that you may expect from a 21 year old white gal from Northern Ireland who’s been a student for nearly 4 years. Here’s me thinking, “what on earth is my brother going to have me eating, is he gonna try and slip an octopus tentacle into my noodle soup?” I was fairly unadventurous trying spicy stuff and still to this day refuse to knowingly let fish (or sea rats, as I like to call them) past my lips. Unless you count drunkenly eating a seemingly delicious chicken goujon at my cousins wedding last weekend, which in fact turned out to be a fish finger in disguise. Slippy caterers.
Well, wasn’t my idea of Korean food totally naive?
Ill keep this short, as I’m aware many of who read this will be close friends and family who I’m sure are more than absolutely DONE listening to me talk about food, and Korea, and/or both. Ill also make it abundantly clear that I did not eat any squid, live octopus or sea penises. Yes, sea penises. I don’t even need to explain this one because they’re honestly exactly what you’d expect in your innocent mind when those words merge together. I will add though, they wriggle.
Every meal is eaten totally differently to how we eat at home in the UK because each restaurant specialises in one thing in Korea. If you want fish (dear god, why?) you go to a fish restaurant, if you want pork you go to a pork restaurant, and so on. This means when you sit down to eat with a group or as a couple it’s common to pick one big dish or a couple of share dishes and everyone eats together as an event of the evening from the same pot. I think this is far superior to our eating culture, but to be honest you can’t get a filled soda or an ulster fry in the middle of Busan, so I mean… there’s pros and cons here.
What you can get, the pinnacle of this piece, is a magical spectacle of deliciousness called ‘dakgalbi’ which I’ll admit I’ve spelt wrong so often since I returned that I had to google it just now to document it here. This is basically a spicy chicken stir fry. But what’s the fun in ‘basically’?? Let me literally give you some free food porn instead:
Firstly, the waiter brings your cuts of fresh chicken and tosses them all into the big wok in the centre of the table as it’s heated by the gas burner below. As these cook, you have the choice of rice or udon noodles (or both, we chose both). The waiter then disappears only to return with the freshest of fresh bean sprouts, onions, beans, the red spicy bean paste and leafy greens. All of these mix through together in the pan and when the meat is cooked, we eat.
To my sheer soju- induced delight, that wasn’t the experience over.
Left meatless, we still have the red paste mixed with the remaining veggies in the pan. Along comes the little Korean man with a big pot of noodles, cheese, and fluffy white rice. My sheer amazement and shock was quickly overcome when I realised I was actually about to get two meals out of this delicious combo. The udon noodles and rice merged and cooked with the spicy paste as the mozzarella melted through the food.
In conclusion; there are some moments in your life when you reach peak happiness and you’ll probably remember them even when you’re dead old and can’t face more than a yoghurt a day. (If I have anything to do with it I’ll be eating dakgalbi through a straw if I have to). One of these times was when I discovered how much of a love affair I could have with a perfect pint of Guinness. Another one of those times was in that restaurant about to get a second wind and begin a second love affair, this time with leftovers and udon noodles.