Monday, April 30, 2007

Tagged By Lotus Eats...I Mean, Lotus Reads!

Wow, I've been tagged for a restaurant meme. I'll be discussing five favorite restaurants in my area. I don't really talk much about it, but food is right up there with reading. Just ask my scale. (One of the nice things about living abroad is giving my weight in kilos. It sounds so much better!)

I'm a little intimidated because Lotus did such a terrific job with her meme. Wonderful restaurant selections. Scrumptious pictures. And her mouth-watering descriptions! Girl, if MFK Fisher were still alive, you could make her your...well, what I should say is that she'd be begging you to teach her how to write about food.

The rules: Put your name under the name of the person who tagged you.

Nicole Tan (Sydney, Australia)
velverse (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)
LB (San Giovanni in Marignano, Italy)
Selba (Jakarta, Indonesia)
Olivia (London, England)
ML (Utah, USA)
Lotus (Toronto, Canada)
Bybee (Gumi, South Korea)

Write about five favorite restaurants in your area.
Tag five more people.

1. The pig intestine stew restaurant, Simpyeong, Gumi, South Korea.
The sign on the front of the restaurant is funny. It's a picture of a pig with both hands up to his cheeks and an amazed expression like Macauley Culkin in "Home Alone". The restaurant is traditional Korean style: Shed your shoes at the door and sit on the floor.

Even though the thought of pig intestine stew might not make you feel very hungry, I'm here to swear to the fact that it's actually delicious.

The intestine is grilled, with a bit of kidney, then cut up and mixed in a stew comprised of kimchi, onion, water and chili pepper. The stew cooks right there at the table and smells wonderful. The side dishes are more kimchi, very fresh and good, (actually, this is the best kimchi I've had in Korea, except for Pablo's mother-in-law's kimchi) slightly boiled peanuts flavored with soy sauce and sugar, and a steaming bowl of rice topped with dried seaweed, which is mixed into the helpings of stew. Chilled ice water is the beverage.

Pig intestine stew is popular as a hangover cure because you sweat while you're eating it, but you don't have to be recovering from the wicked effects of drunkenness to appreciate this meal.

The owner of the restaurant let me take about a week's worth of her kimchi home with me when my student, Dong Gyoon, translated to her that I was enjoying it so much. The next time I decide to treat my class to dinner, I'm headed back for more.

2. Korean Traditional Porridge Restaurant, downtown Gumi, South Korea.
The direct translation for Chuk is "gruel", which just sounds downright unappetizing. Someone must have tipped off the Koreans because they use the slightly more palatable word "porridge". It's made by steaming grain over a low heat it thickens into a thick liquid. Then other ingredients are added.

I'm really fond of pumpkin porridge. True comfort food, the sweetness and warmth of it hits the spot on those icy cold winter days. Pablo's a big fan of seafood porridge. It's really delicious, and with all the tasty added ingredients, it's more like a stew. Since it's a chain, Korean Traditional Porridge restaurant has a few locations in Gumi, but the one nearest/dearest to my heart is close to the bus stop downtown -- I usually grab it to go on those nights when I have to teach until a quarter after ten.

3. The Samgyupsal restaurant, Simpyeong, Gumi, South Korea. The restaurant is divided in half; you can either sit on the floor at a low table, or at a table with chairs. I prefer a table-and-chair combination, but for samgyupsal, I'd sit anywhere. There is a grill in the middle of the table. Pieces of pork are roasted on the grill. Cloves of garlic and mushrooms are brought out, so those can be roasted along with the pork. After being cooked, the pork is cut into bite-sized pieces with a pair of scissors. Wrap the pork, the garlic and mushrooms, a bit of rice and a tiny bite of kimchi up in a lettuce leaf bundle and pop it in your mouth. Repeat as necessary.

4. The "Three Ducks" restaurant, Indong, Gumi, South Korea.
This place feels like home, with buffet-style serving and tables and chairs, but the food is all Korean. The place has no ambiance or atmosphere, though; the stark surroundings remind me of a school lunchroom.

On my lucky days, they have my favorites:
1. strips of eggplant sauteed in sesame oil and sprinkled with sesame seeds
2. radish kimchi
3. sliced lotus root that's been slightly stir-fried and gently marinated in soy sauce.

Everything's delicious though -- the only thing they've ever had on the bar that I truly loathed was bbondegi, which is more than silkworm larve but not quite the completely developed silkworm, either. That middle stage, whatever it's called in English.

They don't seem to get many foreigners in this particular restaurant, because we always draw stares when we walk in. Also, some of the customers can be a little bossy. Once, I didn't mix my curry and rice together immediately (I was crunching on some lotus root) and a woman came over, grabbed my chopsticks and mixed it for me. Another time, I put salad greens in a bowl meant for soup, and one of the workers came over and told me about myself. Since those two incidents, I've strived to get a table slightly away from others and with my back to the wall, so no one can sneak up behind me like the impatient curry lady. It's a longer walk to the buffet table, but that's okay. Despite the drawbacks, I really do enjoy eating there.

5. Vietnamese restaurant, downtown Daegu, South Korea.
I went here with my friend Heather and some other expats after we saw a production of Mamma Mia. Everything was delicious, but above all, this place has got the most incredible lemon chicken. Incredible sounds too weak. This lemon chicken was a poem, a symphony, a dream, tantric sex (not that I'd know anything about that last thing) and all things sublime. I regret that my table manners are so stubbornly ingrained. I wanted to pick up the empty platter and lick it perfectly clean. By the shadow that crossed Heather's face, I knew she had to be thinking the same thing.

I don't know who to tag! Who's been tagged? I'll just extend an invitation to everyone.

Would anyone like to talk favorite places to have dessert? Much as I love Korean cuisine, they're a little weak on end-of-the-meal treats. A can of Coke's a wonderful thing, but it'll never mean dessert to me.

Back to work on my review of How To Cook A Wolf...


Bookfool said...

Ewww! I think I could do without the pig intestines! It was fun reading, though. You should take a photo of the sign and post it. :)

Nicole said...

ahn neo hase yo!! Wah finally someone from Korea did the tag!! haha thanks for doing the tag..I was in Korea just last year..and the food was terrific!!!

p/s do you mind putting my name in the tag list? I started the tag...

Anonymous said...

Ahnyeongseyo~ (I guess this is the only word I can pick up from the Korean shows)

I must say, even without the pictures... you describe the food well enough.

I wanna try the pig intestine... but without the kidney :D

the sitting on floor fact makes things feel just so homely~

tanabata said...

They all sound quite interesting but I'm with bookfool about the intestines. I'm pretty squeamish about innards though. The Japanese have a hotpot of intestines and stuff and I just can't bring myself to eat it. I also can't eat much garlic so I'd never survive in Korea I think! Too bad cause I do like the taste of kimchi, just can't eat it. :(

Bybee said...

I'll be headed that way tomorrow & I'll try to remember to pack my camera along.

Your blog makes me hungry. Loved the pineapple tarts! Thanks for starting this tag, but if my blog morphs from a reading blog into a food blog, I know who to blame now!

Sitting on the floor's really not my thing, but the food is so distracting, I forget after a while.

Oh, now I want to try that hotpot! What's it called in Japanese? Next time I visit Japan I'll try to find it.
I really like garlic, but I found out that there are limits to my love. In "Comfort Me With Apples" Ruth Reichl wrote that if you eat enough garlic, you can get this kind of stoned trancelike state going. Well, that sounded good, so I bought about a half-pound of garlic cloves, sauteed them and had them for dinner with a little wine. At 3 the next morning, I was jerked out of a sound sleep by my stomach, which was giving me about a half-minute's warning to make a mad dash to the bathroom. Not one of my better ideas!

Lotus Reads said...

Hi, Bybee!

THank you so much for doing the tag! Sorry I'm late...I was travelling over the weekend and only got in late last night.

Thank you for the wonderful introduction, *blush*, but my pick of restaurants seem so bland compared with yours! I've been dying to read more abut Korean food and you have satisfied my curiosity.

You know, I have always loved porridge and after reading what you have to say about Korean porridge I have a hankering to go in search of some at one of our Korean restaurants here in Ontario...I might go with Pablo's favorite, the seafood porridge. Will let you know if I'm successful.

And I had to laugh when I read how Korean people will come up to you and indicate to you that you're not eating the food like it should be eaten. We were in Seoul for a night on our way to Seattle a couple of years ago and at a tradtional Korean BBQ restaurant, the owner insisted on mixing my food and feeding me with chopsticks, it was hilarious!

Loved reading your tag, Bybee, many thanks!

tanabata said...

Bybee, it's called 'motsu nabe'. The main version is with pork intestines but it can have other variations. Since it's a nabe(hotpot) it's more common in winter but there's probably somewhere that serves it all year. Be curious what you think of it.

Anonymous said...

What an interesting collection of restaurants! Reminds me of an Anthony Bourdain episode. :)