I went to Korea! And now I’m a few days behind in blog posts. So while I’m on a train for the next hour or so heading back into Tokyo I’m going to try and catch up.
I admit I’m pretty ignorant when it comes to Korean food – beyond galbi and bulgogi and bibimbap and kimchi-laden tofu soups I don’t really know what’s what. So, I don’t profess to know anything at all about what I’m talking about here (if you know more please enlighten me in the comments!). Without doing a bit more research I doubt I can accurately describe exactly what I had. It was all very good though.
But anyway, it had been 21 days since leaving New Zealand. I was with my friend Momoko who’s studying Korean in Seoul. She took me to this place to eat ddeokbokki, though I really had no idea what we were about to eat, or what any of the food was called. Nevermind. Momoko’s Korean is great. I followed her lead.
We scratched down our order on a little slip of paper and put on the aprons hanging on a hook behind our table. Not long after, a waiter came to our table with a big wide pan full of a fiery red stew-like concoction that we cooked over a little gas burner at our table.
The way it works is this: you sit down, there’s a little pad of paper with some optional ingredients, you tick what you want, they put it together in the kitchen, you cook it at your table. So we got a bunch of things: mussels, prawns, squid, cheese, these chewy, mochi-like rice sticks, cellophane noodles wrapped in nori and fried, and of course some noodles.
It was delicious. It wasn’t very spicy, despite the scorching shade of crimson, but it was full of flavour and probably salt and MSG. As the sauce bubbled away, everything took on that sort of warm, hearty stew-like flavour, strands of melted cheese worked their way into every mouthful. The seafood was succulent, the fried nori-noodle things a bit weird, the rice sticks indulgently chewy and wholly addictive.
And the noodles? I’m not sure what these are called. (I could look it up, but no internet access as I write this.) Clear and slightly chewy, slightly thicker than spaghetti, they started to get almost gluey towards the end when we’d overcooked everything a bit (forgot to turn off the burner), but they were really satisfying, absorbing the slight tingly heat from the sauce.