Good for what ails you

Yesterday Y took one look at me and told me I looked sick and tried to convince me to go home.   I protested, because I had heard that Korean teachers had to be on their death bed before they would take sick days off.

Then, she took the potted plant that she’d given me several weeks before and told me I needed a new one.  I protested, because it wasn’t dead – just a little dry from the weekend and the flowers were spent.  Despite my protests, she took the pot and returned after lunch time with a small potted flowering tree to replace it.

This morning, I came in sounding worse than before.  She took one look at me and told me I should go home.  I protested that I sounded worse than I felt, and she tried to convince me to go home again.  After which, she produced a jar of dark honey from New Zealand and told me I needed to add it to hot water and drink it.  Later, another teacher asked if I was sick because I didn’t look too good, and again I told him I looked and sounded worse than I felt, and Y told me that I should tell everyone how sick I am – that way I will get sympathy and gifts!

After my third class, she said she was convinced I was sick because I didn’t eat good.  (she had been to my apartment for a minute and looked into the empty pre-payday refrigerator and was not convinced I could feed myself)  So she said she wanted to take me to a place with healthy food for lunch, food that would make me feel better.

Samgyetang (Ginseng Chicken Soup) 삼계탕
Samgyetang (Ginseng Chicken Soup) 삼계탕

So this was how I came to eat Samgyetang for the first time.

I’d heard about it before, but didn’t know where or how to order it.  Nor was I a big fan of pure ginseng flavor, so couldn’t imagine it.  But it was really good!

Basically, it is a whole cornish game hen.  It was stuffed with rice.  And buried in the rice were four treasures:  A whole jujube, which is similar to a fig or prune, a chestnut, a clove of garlic, and a chunk of ginseng.  The broth which covered the chicken was rather bland like all chicken soup is, but somehow the added ginseng that flavored it gave it an interesting earthiness, and green onion floated on top for highlights.  Bowls of salt, pepper, and red pepper is off to the side for you to season as you wish.

As side dishes there were: a cold cabbage salad, hot green peppers and a red pepper sauce to dip them into, some kimchi, and some massively huge cubed radish kimchi.  AND a shotglass of ginseng-infused soju with ribbons of ginseng floating in it.  It was REALLY REALLY GOOD.  I could swear it was lightly sweetened, but Y insisted it was just from the ginseng.

During lunch, one of the topics of conversations was the Western preference for chairs.  I told her we could sit on the floor – but we just didn’t know how to do that for a long time – maybe we were doing it wrong somehow.  I explained how sometimes sitting like that cut off my circulation and I would get pins and needles.  Y said that never happens to Koreans – they could sit like that for hours and hours – all day if they had to.

On the way out, we were both laughing because her legs wouldn’t work due to pins and needles.  In the car, I thanked her for the chicken soup and told her I couldn’t figure out if she was my friend or my mother.

Oh!  and while looking for the above photo, I stumbled upon the following website, which discusses some top 100 Korean dishes you gotta try and has photos of them.

So here’s his top 100, cut and pasteed from his website, but the bolding has been changed to what I’ve had already.  The ones in green mean I’ve had some other variation.  The ones in red mean they’re on my list..

001. Myeolchi Bokkeum (Stir-fried Anchovies) 멸치볶음 [photo]

002. Samgyetang (Ginseng Chicken Soup) 삼계탕 [photo]

003. Bulgogi (Grilled Marinated Beef) 불고기 [photo]

004. BulDalk (Burn-your-pants-off Spicy Grilled Chicken) 불닭

005. DalkBal (Spicy Chicken Feet) 닭발 [photo]

006. Korean Fried Chicken 치킨 [photo] (Heard this was great, but the fried chicken place near me serves portions that are too huge for a single person to eat, and it’s expensive, so I haven’t tried it yet)

007. Dalk Galbi (Stir-fried Marinated Chicken and Veggies) 닭갈비 [photo]

008. San Nakji, chopped (Semi-live Baby Octopus) 산낙지 [photo]

009. San Nakji, whole (Live Octopus)

010. Sundubu Jjigae (Soft Tofu Stew) 순두부 찌게 [photo]

011. Juk (Rice Porridge) 죽 [photo]

012. Galbi (Grilled Short Ribs) (소)갈비 [photo]

013. Galbitang (Short Rib Soup) 갈비탕 [photo]

014. Shinseollo (Fancy Hot Pot) 신선로 [photo]

015. Gobchang Gui (Grilled Beef Intestines) 곱장구이 [photoOkay – I’ve had the stir-fried Kochang, but not the grilled.

016. Seng Gan (Raw Beef Liver) 생간 [photo] Euuuuw!   NOT going to have this raw!  But I have had it cooked here.  Not a big fan of liver.

017. Galbi Jjim (Stewed Ribs) 갈비찜 [photo]

018. Bossam (Steamed Marinated Pork with Lettuce Wraps) 보쌈 [photo]

019. Japchae (Clear Noodles Stir-fried with Pork and Vegetables) 찹재 [photo]

020. Jaeyuk Bokkeum (Spicy Stir-fried Pork) 재육볶음 [photo] (At least, I think I’ve had this one …)

021. Kimchi Jjim (Stewed Kimchi with Tofu) 깁치찜 [link]

022. Ddong Jip (Chicken Gizzards) 똥집 [photo]

023. Odeng/Eomuk (Street-side Fish Noodles) 어댕/어묵 [photo]  These are a lifesaver when you need a cheap, nutritious pick-me-up.  Plus the broth they give you is like spinach to popeye.

024. Hoddeok (Stuffed Street-side Pastries) 호떡 [photo]

025. GeiJang (Raw Fermented Crabs) 게장 [photo]

026. Hongeo (Fermented Skate) 홍어 [photo]

027. Gochujang Samgyeopsal (Grilled Pork Belly Smothered in Red Pepper Paste) 고추장 삼겹살 [photo] Samgyeopsal is good on its own without smothering it in pepper paste.  Grilled, it’s like thick slab bacon.  Mmmm…

028. Lotteria’s Shrimp Burger [link] Lotteria burgers are gross and over-rated.  Kraze burgers are much better.

029. Sae-u Kang (Shrimp Flavored “Fries”) 새우깡 [photo]

030. Doenjang Jjigae (Fermented Bean Paste Stew) 됀장찌게 [photo]

031. Cheonggukjang (Stinky Fermented Bean Paste Stew) 정국장

032. Boshintang (Dog Soup) 보신탕 [photo]

033. Seonji Haejangguk (Hangover Stew with Clotted Cow Blood) 선지 해장국 [photo]

034. Ddeokbokki (Chewy Rice Cakes in Spicy Sauce) 떡볶이 [photo] This is kind of like spaghettio’s. Especially with parmesan cheese on it.  Most people (westerners too) love this, but I avoid it because there’s not much nutrition in it.

035. YukHui (Raw Beef Salad) 육희

036. MiyeokGuk (Seaweed Soup) 미역국 [photo] I was told this was given to people on their birthdays.  It’s very light and yummy.

037. Mae-eunTang (Spicy Fish Soup) 매운탕 [photo]

038. Nakji Bokkeum (Stir-fried Baby Octopus) 낙지볶음 [photo]

039. Ojingeo (Cuttlefish) (마른) 오징어 [photo] had the packaged stuff, and the flavored packaged stuff, but haven’t had the stomach to buy an unpackaged one…

040. Beondaeggi (Silkworm Larvae) 번대기 [photo]

041. Golbaenggi (Sea Snails) 골뱅이 [photo]

042. Jangeo Gui (Grilled Eel) 장어구이 [photo]

043. Jaratang (Turtle Soup) 자라탕 (won’t ever try this)

044. Bogeo (Blowfish) 복어 [photo]

045. Sae-u Sogeum Gui (Salt Grilled Shrimp) 새우소금 구이 [photo]

046. Deodeok Root 더덕 [photo]

047. BindaeDdeok (Mung Bean Pancake) 빈대떡 [photo]

048. Pajeon (Green Onion Pancake) 바전 파전 [photo]

049. Bibimbap (Mixed Rice and Vegetables) 비빔밥 [photo]

050. Boribap (Mixed Barley Rice and Vegetables) 보리밥 [photo]

051. Marinated Garlic (마늘장아찌?) [photo]

052. Patbingsu (Shaved Ice and Red Bean Treat) 팥빙수 [photo]

053. Dotorimok (Acorn Jelly) 도토리목 [photo; link] I LOVE that sauce shown in this photo – wish I could find some pre-made somewhere.  It’s really good on tofu, so that’s why I’m thinking this acorn jelly stuff might be really yummy as well.

054. Naengmyeon (Chilled Noodles) 냉면 [Water Naengmyeon (물냉면): photo; Rice Naengmyeon (비빔냉면): photo]

055. Makkoli/Dongdongju (Rice Beer) 막거리/ 동동주 [photo]

056. Bokbunja (Raspberry Wine) 복분자 [photo]

057. Soju (Rice Whiskey) 소주 [photo]

058. Andong Soju (Strong Rice Whiskey from the Andong Region) 안동소주 [photo] (I’ve heard Andong Soju is 40% alcohol)

059. Jogae Gui (Grilled Shellfish) 조개구이 [photo]

060. Haepari (Jellyfish) 해바리 (I was told I’ve had this, anyway) It’s good – refreshing – served slicked in ribbons, cold, in a vinagrette with radish, I believe)

061. Gyeran Jjim (Steamed Egg) 계란찜 [photo]

062. Corn Ice Cream [photo]

063. Dolsot Bibimbap (Mixed Rice and Vegetables in a Sizzling Stone Pot) 돌솥비빔밥 [photo]  there are many kinds of bibimbap.  This weekend I was really really happy to find my closest bibimbap restaurant served flying fish roe.  It was the cheapest one on the menu, at 5,000 won – cheaper than the vegetable bibimbap even.  But it was extra yummy.  Not only do you have the crunch of the crusty rice but you also have the tangy pop of the roe.  soooo good.

064. Mandu (Stuffed Dumplings) 만두 [photo] (Meat mandu, vegetable mandu, and kimchi mandu.)

065. Ddeokguk (Chewy Rice Cake Soup) 떡국 [photo] (I think I’m the only person, foreigner or local, who really isn’t into rice cake.  To me it’s like empty calories…they’re in everything, and I usually pick them out.)

066. Songpyeon (Stuffed Chewy Rice Cakes) 송편 [photo]

067. Hot Bar (Fried Fish Batter Street Food) 헛바

068. Shikhye (Sweet Rice Punch) 식혜 [photo] too sweet for me!

069. Any product with Green Tea in it 녹차맛 xxx [photo]

070. Gujeolpan (Nine-section Dish) 구절반

071. Yogurt Soju Cocktail [photo]

072. Baechu Kimchi (Cabbage Kimchi) 배추김치 [photo] (What most people think of when they hear the word “kimchi”.)

073. Any Kimchi that’s over 3 years old

074. Baek Kimchi (White Cabbage Kimchi) 백김치 [photo]

075. Shake-’em-up Dosirak [link]

076. Mul Kimchi (Water Kimchi) 물김치 [photo] (I love sipping the ‘broth’ of mul kimchi.)

077. Oi Sobagi (Stuffed Cucumber Kimchi) 오이소바기 [photo]

078. Ggakdugi (Cubed Radish Kimchi) 깍두기 [photo]

079. Sae-u Jeot (Salted Tiny Shrimp) 새우젓

080. Myeongran Jeot (Salted Pollack Roe) 명란젓 [photo]

081. Changran Jeot (Salted Pollack Guts) 장란젓

082. Ssamjang (Mixed Soybean and Pepper Paste) 쌈장 [photo]  I have no idea why this is on the list, since it’s in everything…

083. Kalguksu (Hand-cut Noodle Soup) 갈국수 [link] (I think this is the dish my first volunteer wanted me to try, but it wasn’t summer so the restaurant didn’t have it yet)

084. Ramyeon (Ramen Noodles) in a Tin Pot 라면

085. Entire Hui Meal (Korean style Sashimi) 회 [photo]

086. Gimbap (Seaweed Rice Rolls) 김밥 [photo]

087. Jokbal (Pigs Feet) 족발 [photo]

088. Sundae (Blood and Noodle Sausage) 순대 [photo]

089. Yeot (Traditional Korean Candy) 엿 [photo]

090. Naengi (Shepherd’s Purse) 냉이 [link]

091. Kimchi Jjigae (Kimchi Stew) 김치찌게 [photo]

092. Budae Jjigae (“Army Base” Stew, traditionally including hot dogs and Spam) 부대찌게 [photo] (they serve this to the kids sometimes)

093. Agu Jjim (Stewed Monkfish) 아구찜 [photo] (What they look like before being cooked.) (I might have had this at school?)

094. Haemultang (Seafood Soup) 해물탕 [photo]

095. Nurungji (Hot Water Mixed with Rice Scrapings in a Stone Pot) 누릉지 [photo]

096. Sujebi (Rustic Dumpling Soup) 수재비 [photo]

097. Janchi Guksu (Thin Noodles in a Seaweed Broth with Condiments) 잔치국수 [photo]

098. BungeoBbang (Goldfish-shaped Stuffed Pastry) 봉어빵 [photo; link] (these are sold near my school, so an easy one to take care of)

099. Raw Ginseng or anything with Ginseng in it 인삼 [photo]

100. MakHui (Chilled Sashimi Soup) 막희 [link]

OK.  The links in this one post of his are a goldmine:  I’ve only scratched the surface and discovered ZenKimchee; food as extreme sport .  Sounds like a website my daughter would like.  Has interviews and recipes in it as well.  I’m not sure I agreee that these are the top 100, but I thought it would be fun to see what I’ve eaten or not.

Oh – and Myung-Sook, it looks like I’ve been having Nurungi, not Shikhye every day.

5 thoughts on “Good for what ails you

  1. I’m sick as a dog myself–have been for a week, blowing my nose and coughing up stuff–and none of my colleagues has even offered me a kleenex, let alone delicious Cornish game hen soup. Don’t look now, but it sounds like you might have some real friends there.

    Amazing food photos. YuuuuUM.

  2. yes, I agree – and I’m sorry you’re sick too! I’d give you some kleenex…I have a year’s supply given as a house-warming present.

    this morning there was a package on my desk, a pullitzer-prize winning novel for me to read during spring break. the thoughtfulness is a worry sometimes, since I know I’m not equally as thoughtful…

    it’s 4 am, so i’ll write more about this complex topic (yes, it is!) tomorrow.

  3. You will love yogurt soju, since you love those little frozen yogurt-drinks “Milkys”. Molly took me to a place in Oakland’s K-town where you can get yogurt soju in pitchers. Unfortunately she was there last month and there was a shooting. In order to leave she had to step over a kid who’d been shot in the face…

    I love to try new foods for many reasons, but I’ve gotten over the bragging rights and the food-or-other-sensual-experience as novelty that shows like No Reservations or Bizarre Foods endorse. But I do want to add that many foods we consider normal staples are considered bizarre and disgusting by millions: CHEESE, for example…. Show a slice of expensive, European funky cheese, flowering with blue-green mold with an “earthy” aroma to most Asians and they’ll look at you like you’re crazy!!!

  4. Nah, I’ve said many times that these aren’t the TOP 100. It was tough to narrow down what got cut out of the list. But by trying all 100, you get to better understand the many aspects of Korean cuisine.

  5. Hey! Honored you stopped by.

    So what ARE your top 100?

    Mostly I need help in what SINGLE PEOPLE can order at restaurants – a person can only eat so much bibimbap!

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