fast or feast

Following my strange illness last week, which was wonderfully cleansing and slimming, has been an unprecedented amount of eating…

First the steak dinner, and the following day a meal welcoming the new teachers.  The restaurant ran the length of a hotel water-front.   One room wide, glass on both sides, it must have been 50 yards long, with stunning views of the Han and the mountains.  First sashimi, then broiled eel, then tempura’d shrimp, then stewed fish, then bulkogi, then seafood soup and oranges for dessert.

The incredibly elegant electronics teacher kept going from table to table pouring soju and chatting.  (I think the five technical teachers with their two private offices get a little lonely)  I told him he was a social butterfly, and everyone got a kick out of that expression.  It’s almost Asian in its poetry, yet easy to understand.  When I saw people leaving but my co-teacher, who lives in Seoul, staying, I had to ask her how I would get home.  So she waved me in the direction of a group of teachers already queuing to get into a van.  Good thing I asked!

I declined on the eel and only ate one battered shrimp, so managed to walk out of there still feeling human.  Most Koreans I meet are so battle-of-the-bulge conscious that they don’t over-eat during meals, but at these banquet-type functions the eating is usually epic proportions almost to the level of Roman binging…The end of the year Bar B-Q was so gluttonous I couldn’t even bear to look at it anymore and had to leave early.  I mean, I’d consumed enough meat for two at that function, and we were only through the first two courses of several different kinds of meat…I think it’s because meat is so expensive here and when it’s on someone else’s dime, you might as well eat ’til you’re sick.

Then it’s back to the school lunches with its carb-rich comfort food.  I also really like the school’s kimchi, which is very bright and what I imagine the blog reader David’s kim chi recipe tastes like.  Somehow this week I got lazy and have eaten dinner out (night school and school dinners don’t start until next week)  every night.  I really need to cut back.  Anyway, I’m taking in double what has become normal…and the pants are tight.

I did take the new bike to school Friday.  Getting to school was a breeze, except for one little slope.  Getting home was not such a breeze.  Those hills are deceptively steep, especially the last one to my apartment, and I am in incredibly bad shape..and can’t make it and have to get off…and I’m normally too much of a weenie to do anything physical, yet I imagine I’ll take the bike often because I run behind in the mornings, and cutting my time to school in half will suck me in…My gluts are not happy with me right now.

Anyway, tonight I went to the little family tofu restaurant by my apartment where I always go.  I usually order dubu kim chi and take half of it home for another meal, or I get dubu jeon gol, which is tofu & veggies stewed in a broth with a little fermented soy bean paste.  Half way through that dish tonight I eyed two bikers eating something with fresh lettuce and vegetables in it.  It looked like bi bim bap from my vantage point, only I didn’t see that on the menu.  So I asked the ajumma what it was, and instead of just the name before I knew it I had a SECOND meal being served to me.  Isn’t that the way it goes when you try to cut back?

Anyway, I am totally in love with this dish, and I’ll probably order it all the time now.  It’s called 도토리묵밥 (dotorimuk bap) and it’s acorn jelly in some broth (have NO IDEA what that broth is, but it seems vegan) dressed with fresh veggies, lettuce, and kochujang paste, similar to bi bim bap, only with all that liquid, served at room temperature.

click on the photo to see all the ingredients at a Korean cooking blog

So yummy!  I love the Korean dishes that more resemble salad.  (the one I ate had a lot of lettuce in it too)  So this is a light, low-calorie, bright dish that is zesty and refreshing.  And the rice comes on the side, so you can make it as bap-full as you want.

This is my other favorite dish, only I don’t know where to get it in my town:  It’s called 회덮밥 (hoe deot bap) and it’s basically a bi bim bap, (rice mix) but with sashimi.  I keep my mixing shallow, and then I can avoid half the rice.

I will definitely miss the food when I leave this place.  What’s sick and wrong is that a single person only experiences a tenth of what is offered, so I may never know just how good or bad it gets.  My  gyopo friend  says she’s sick of Korean restaurant food, because it’s over-salted and carelessly put together.  I wish I could experience home-made Korean food on a regular basis.  I wonder how many Korean kids do experience that these days, what with eating meals at school like I do.

Oh yeah, that reminds me – the reader David told me “poja” was the wrong thing to say when you ask to take home leftovers.  But actually, that’s what the ajummas ask me, so I think it IS the standard way to ask.  My gyopo friend says that sometimes people here think she is rude because of her American Korean.  She says that it’s kind of stuck in a time warp.  She says that American Korean doesn’t have as many pleasantries in it as contemporary Korean in Korea does, which has changed a lot in the last twenty years due to raised consciousness about commerce and customer service.  So maybe I can speculate that wrapping up your food like a present is a poetic euphemism that’s a newer usage.

Meanwhile, it seems like the white dog (who barked a lot) is missing next door at the tulli-shaped house.  A couple months ago he got a second dog, a mottled mutt, but I’ve only seen him by himself this week.  Yesterday, the ajosshi sat all day stoking the fire under his house.  Maybe he was making dog virility broth…Honestly, I don’t know how that elderly couple survives, since their farm really isn’t big enough to be commercially viable.  Also, I haven’t heard the turkey.  Moving here I was afraid the roosters would wake me up, but I don’t hear them at all.  Only around Christmas I started hearing the gobble of a turkey, and it drives me insane.  Only now that, too, is silent.  I never thought of farms in terms of sounds and the absence of sounds before.  It’s enough to make me turn vegan, only that’s really hard when you’ve got low blood sugar and you also have no idea what you’re eating a quarter of the time.

12 thoughts on “fast or feast

  1. Dotori mukbap looks good! Searched for a clear recipe in english, but couldn’t find anything (the link you posted looks informative, but didn’t translate well into something I could use). Any tips on how to make it? Assuming I can find acorn jelly….

  2. Sorry – I grouped the letters wrong – should be: dotorimuk bap. (I corrected it above) You should be able to find it at Uwajimaya near the tofu or at Paldo World near the tofu.

    Here’s one recipe I found:

    says it uses anchovy stock – I think this must be what I had – you buy the anchovies dried and just add a few to boiling water to make the stock – they have containers (like giant tea balls) you can buy so you can easily separate the fish from the stock when through.

    But actually, now that we know it’s anchovy stock, putting it together from that original photo/blog link I posted seems pretty slam dunk. It looks the most like what I had – only there was some very crunchy fresh lettuce(?) in it as well.

    And that one or two photos which are not individual ingredients looks to be sliced kim chi, green onions, sesame seeds, salt and pepper.

    And here’s another recipe which says it uses beef stock

    Here’s a video on how to make the acorn jelly and then make a salad with it, which is also yummy but I like the dotorimuk bap better. Acorns have toxins in it (tanins) but somehow in the process of making the jelly it gets removed.

    another recipe – this looks like the acorn jelly salad on the side with hoe (pronounced hwa) deot bap as the main dish. Ran it through google’s translator, it survived translation pretty well…|en&tbb=1&ie=UTF-8

    Acorn jelly just served in slices w/ soy sauce sesame seed oil green onion, chili pepper (& some other ingredients I know not what) sauce is often served as banchan. If you do a search for acorn jelly, this is the recipe that always comes up.

    There’s more to look through, but it’s 1:30 am and my first day back teaching tomorrow. Good luck! I should try to make this too…


  3. you can say, “pojanghae juseyo.”
    포장해 주세요
    wrap it up, please!

    이것 (this; the ㅅ is silent here) 포장해 주세요.
    Ee guh pojanghae juseyo.
    please wrap this up for me.

  4. Thanks!

    Usually the dialog goes something like:

    me: (pointing at remaining food)
    ajumma: Poja?
    me: nae.
    ajumma: (something in Korean)

    This is how we manage to never learn Korean…because it’s possible to get by without it.

    I only wish the menus all had pictures…and there are too many dishes that don’t fall neatly into my food glossary (that fell apart after only a week due to the crappy binding) and too many things I want to eat that I don’t know how to track down.

    The neighbor’s turkey lives, unfortunately…

  5. me: (pointing at remaining food)
    ajumma: Poja?
    me: nae.
    ajumma: (something in Korean)

    so good.

  6. You’re too easy…

    Hey! You know that first dotorimuk bap photo link website looks awesome. I think it’s a cooking school, and they give away some of their recipes on-line, which survives translation enough to figure out what they meant.

    It would be worth checking out. Wanna learn to cook? Maybe some things your mom doesn’t make?

  7. It is! The one thing I don’t like though, is sometimes you get it and the fish hasn’t defrosted fully…I don’t know if this is every place that does not have fish tanks or if it’s only been at the places I’ve been to which are more fast-food-like.

    I’m guessing most places would store it in their kim chi refrigerators, which are colder than normal but not freezing.

    Actually, I don’t see why dishes like this aren’t served more – It could be made in different combinations, and in a way it’s better than sushi, as the fish doesn’t get handled at alland your mouthful is not dictated by whoever prepared it.

  8. Went and had the dotorimuk bap again today to try and ascertain the ingredients, so here’s my forensic recipe:

    – Make a pot of rice

    – Boil some anchovies in water
    – Strain out the anchovies
    – Add a splash of soy sauce (don’t make the broth dark!)

    – Blanche the acorn jelly in water to cover
    – Strain and rinse with cool water
    – Slice into half inch lengths

    – Slice some kimchi into strips and cut across into bite-sized pieces
    – Chop up some green pepper, red pepper, and scallions
    – Add some sesame seeds, red pepper flakes, black pepper, a tiny bit of salt and a tablespoon of SUGAR
    – Mix all together with a TINY bit of sesame seed oil

    – Slice a few scallions into bite-sized lengths
    – Chop some lettuce into bite-sized pieces
    – Slice some laver (Korean oiled sheets of seaweed)into skinny strips

    – In a bowl, put the acorn jelly on the bottom
    – Add a ladle or two of the anchovy broth
    – Put one small dollop of kochujang paste on top, in the center
    – Arrange the lettuce, scallions, and kimchi mix on top
    – Over that sprinkle lots of the sliced laver
    – Decorate with a few more sesame seeds

    Serve with a bowl of rice, and bowl of the extra plain anchovy broth and a bowl of the extra sliced laver, so the diner can add or subtract to their own taste.

    This recipe I ate did not include sliced fried egg or brined radish or carrots, though those are certainly possible.

    NOT Korean, but I think it would also be great with some sliced beets…

  9. Wow, I am famous. You mention my name not once but twice. he he. I will still stick to my first explantion. There is a difference between 싸 주세요 and 포장해 주세요. Ask Jane to ask her professors at SNU. Another simple way of making muk recipe is to slick muk into bite size pieces and add brown or apple vineger, sesame seed and oil, hot pepper flake, dash of soy sauce, and gim (sea weed cut in small pieces). Toss them all together and you have a great banchan or cold food for those hot Korean summer days. You can also make refreshing summer soup like gazpacho using muk. If you want, I can post the recipe. bon appetit 맛있개 드새요.

  10. Thanks! Vinegar. Always forget about that. The summer soup sounds interesting…is it like the dotorimuk bap?

  11. Yes very much like dotorimuk bap. We also make something similar using only cucumber and yes I do agree with you about Korean dishes that resembles salad. They are so good but then again I am bias because I think the best food in the world is Korea. :)

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