Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Just a few things that make me happy

... and one that makes everyone say WTF - North Korea. The latest in it's crazy crazy search for whatever the hell it is that it thinks the world owes it. I mean, it's not like the South has been a paragon example of peaceful tolerance either, but suddenly throwing a tanty at an annual military exercise, killing someone, injuring dozens of others (including civilians) and basically forcing a bunch of people out of their homes? Honestly.

Although I have to admit, I did find it slightly amusing that they apparently faxed through their 'cease and desist' :)

Ok, so onto a cheerier topic.

 FOOD! I do love it. Some of the great food I've had recently has included hanjeongshik (한정식) or a traditional Korean banquet meal with bulgogi (불고기 - marinated BBQ'd beef) and some spicy barbequed pork in Cheollabuk-do after hiking as mentioned in the last blog. It was pretty good - almost made it worth the bunged foot I ended up with! Hanjeongshik, to give you a brief summary, usually involves a couple of central dishes (like the BBQ'd meat) and a tableful of side-dishes, as well as a communal soup. The side-dishes that you get with every Korean meal can contain anything from vegetables to seafood, to meat, to pickles, to tofu, to eggs, to fried bits and pieces, to salad - anything and everything! - but in hanjeongshik are usually all traditional foods and also often try to use as much local produce and specialties as possible, so every hanjeongshik restaurant is different. The one that we had in Cheollabuk-do was delicious, as you can see by the picture, and had quite a lot of fresh seafood as well as about twenty side-dishes and four types of kimchi. One table of this was between about four people, but realistically it could have fed six.

The next food adventure was last weekend in Busan at Gwangalli beach with my friend JP and his boyfriend Jun-Ki. Busan is Korea's 2nd biggest city and biggest and busiest port, so it is naturally famous for it's seafood, and in particular it's sashimi. Jun-Ki was craving ojing-o (오징어, squid) sashimi (called hwae or 회 in Korean) so we spotted a likely looking restaurant that looked quite popular on the eight floor of one of the fish market towers and headed for that. Fortunately for us, the lift was really busy so we decided to walk up, and JP and JK both being smokers, when we struck up a somewhat puffed conversation with a Korean guy on the stairwell charging up the stairs with two heavy buckets full of water and fish from downstairs, he immediately sensed the opportunity to entice us into his restaurant instead on the 5th floor. We opted for the mixed hwae platter and some additional ojing-o for JK and it was great! Even better, part of it was nakji (낚지) or octopus sashimi, which is cut up alive and directly served to your table.
JP eating nakji

As my sister might remember, we'd seen octopus cooked alive before (in a stew with a glass lid) but I'd never tried it like this so I was curious. Nakji hwae is cut up into smaller pieces so it doesn't try and strangle you from the inside out, and you usually dip it into a spicy gochujang (고추장, chilli sauce) paste and scoff it. Of course, the whole time this is happening, it's trying to cling to your chopsticks or escape, so it's not a meal for the absent-minded. But it was delicious ^__^

Cost? 104 000 won (~$90) for the three of us, which included a couple of bottles of soju and cider. So in all, about 35000 won each for a great dinner (with great company!:) ).

But this is not to say that there isn't delicious food in Cheongju! (Cheongju is the name of the city where I live). One of my favourite indulgences is fried chicken. Koreans LOVE their chicken! It's commonly eaten with pickled white radish and beer, and often sold by random vendors on the beaches of all places. Koreans also love home delivery - practically everything is home delivered here, and I mean home delivered, not just mailed for you to pick up whenever. This includes the usual groceries and furniture, but also shoes (:D) and even in my case a USB stick for school. No kidding! When I needed one at the start of the year, one of the teachers called up the textbook company and asked demanded one. They told me that the person bringing it would try to bring it to me at school, but if not, he'd just bring it to my house!

half yangnyeom, half fried chickeny yum

But anyway, back to the food. So food is also pretty cheap in Korea, with foreign food being a bit more expensive. Chicken falls into this category, but it's still worth it and of course you don't have to go anywhere to get it - as long as you have a phone, you can sit at home like a fat slob demanding as much fried grease as you like. It also comes in four main types - fried, garlic, yangnyeom (양념, kind of meaning 'savoury' or 'condiments' I guess) or ganjang (간장, soy), all of which is delicious. My favourite chicken place is called Jjo-a Jjo-a (쪼아쪼아) which I think means "good! good!" Whatever it means, it's the bomb, and doesn't leave you feeling dehydrated, (extremely) greasy or with a slight MSG headache like a lot of places, and even better, comes with crinkle cut chips! O_O!!! If happiness were a potato, it would be crinkle cut chips (preferably smothered in gravy, but this is a good second). I don't normally eat a lot of junkfood like this these days, especially since I haven't been hitting the gym with my foot, but seeing as it's that time of the month at the moment and I've been craving chips for two days, I felt ordering it was justified. Delicious boxload of enough chicken to last me for about three days for only w14000 (~$12).

Oh and one last thing that hasn't made me happy yet but I hope that will soon: miniature hedgehogs. I WANT ONE!!  saw them at Homeplus (a kind of mega-store like K-Mart meets Woolworths) with the gerbils (which I'd also never seen before) and the fish, and I happened to pass by as one of them was standing on its friend to drink water from the water bottle in its cage. You who know me know that I have limited cutesy tolerance but ...OMG! THESE ARE THE CUTEST THINGS I HAVE EVER SEEN! Dare I say it? Even cuter than ... Floss???? Maybe not quite :) But still pretty cute. And made even cuter by my students, who call them "hedgepiggys" or "hedgie-hoggies" ㅋㅋㅋUnfortunately, the only animals you can bring into Australia are pretty much just cats, dogs, birds and horses, so hedgehogs are classed as illegal foreign imports. And I don't want it to die or just dump it somewhere when I go because a) I have a soul and b) I actually like animals, so unless I can find someone I trust to adopt it when I'm gone or quarantine laws change, I guess I'm hedgehog-less for the moment. But I still want one.

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