Tuesday, May 10, 2011

My new favorite meal...

A while ago, I posted about a dinner hosted by work to honor the foreign teachers that have recently left, and I described a meal of sam gap sal, shabu shabu, and spring rolls. However, I forgot to bring my camera. Well, since we had today off, Rich and I and a few friends decided to enjoy last night with a trip to the ol' "grill some meat wrap it in a spring roll and put it in your mouth" restaurant (Can you tell we don't know the real name?).

And I brought my camera! To be honest, I was a little too excited and busy to take a lot of pictures, but I shot a few, just to be sure.

As you can see, Katie is excited for the meal as well. From this photo you can see Katie dunking her rice paper in water colored pink by beets. In front of her is the gigantic tray of vegetables that we were given to fill out spring rolls with. The selection included cabbage, carrots, cucumber, sesame leaves, onion, beets, and soy bean sprouts. We also were all given a tray of dipping sauces to spoon into our rolls or dunk them in.

Here you can see our friend Joe dunking the shabu shabu meat into the boiling cabbage broth. The meat is cut so paper thin, it cooks to perfection in ten seconds flat. Around the pot with the cabbage and shabu shabu in it you can see the flat iron where we grill the sam gap sal. This is angled down, so that as you cook the meat, the excess grease will run off. Also, this time we were given another type of meat that tasted subtly of bacon and it was very very tender.

This meal is one I would describe as a marathon, not a sprint. First you grill the meat and eat the shabu shabu, then construct your spring rolls. Then, the cabbage in the broth is eaten. Then, the waitress will bring buckwheat noodles to add to the broth which cook for a few minutes before you can fish them out and eat them. THEN, the remaining broth is used to cook a small amount of bonjuk (rice porridge) with yellow rice, scallions, and an egg. And finally, food coma.

I already know that I will miss Korean food, and food culture, dearly when I leave. The flavors are so varied and surprising to my palate. Things are tangy, spicy, and salty here. There's always something new for us to try.

Going out for a meal often includes a type of do-it-yourself aspect, such as this meal. Instead of being served spring rolls with grilled meat and vegetables, we made them. Sharing a meal becomes a true event.

Not only is there always great conversation, but there is active participation in the meal itself. Someone grills the meat, turns it, and cuts it into bite-sizes. Another person may make sure no one's beer glass runs dry, which is a major faux pas. Another may serve the soup to everyone and pass it around the table. Eating is not a passive exercise of putting food on your fork and swallowing it, but a process of making it yourself. Sure, there are plenty of places where they will serve you a big bowl of something, and your only job is to just eat, but there are as many other places that will give you the winning ingredients for an amazing meal, and let you take the credit for it. Maybe it's the cook in me, but I love these types of active meals.

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