Korean Delicacies

Who doesn’t love food?  Eating is a primary reason for many people to travel and Korean cuisine happens to be incredibly diverse with hundreds of dishes to try!  The best part is that each meal comes with a handful of 반찬 banchan (sides) that accompany whatever you order so you always get to taste a few treats.  Living in South Korea for a year I’ve sampled the lot but still have tons more to try.  Have you tried any of these, which was your favorite?

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Soy Sauce Crab Stew ( 간장게) at Kwangjang Market (광장시장)

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Actually I don’t know what this is. Its an internal organ based on what the vendor was saying and my Korean coworker insists its from a fish. You can find it at Kwangjang Market (광장시장) and let me know!

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Kimchi Baby Crabs ( 김치 아기 게) at Kwangjang Market (광장시장)

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Kimchi Banchan/Sides 김치반찬 ) at Kwangjang Market (광장시장)

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Kimchi (김치) at a North Korean style Restaurant in Sokcho (속초)

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Dried Squid (Ojingo 오징어) in Sokcho (속초)

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Dried & fermented school of jogi (조기/yellow croaker) at Kwangjang Market (광장시장)

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Fresh Crab (게장) at Sokcho’s Fish Market (속초 수산 시장)

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Fresh Crab (게장) at Sokcho’s Fish Market (속초 수산 시장)

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Bacon and bugs

Have you ever eaten bugs?  I had a couple termites in Costa Rica but never anything like last Friday night.  The evening started after work when we walked to a barbeque joint near some of my coworkers’ apartment.  It was picked because of their hanging trays out front and since they served giant slabs of bacon!

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The meal began with the usual banchan (sides) coming out; we had a sprout salad, red paste, salt and a miso style soup.  The grill lay in the middle of the table with a giant bronze tube above it.  Around the rim of the grill they cracked a few eggs, roasted some garlic and onions & peppers in a red sauce.

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The waiter prepped the grill with a slab of bacon fat which brought a deliciuos smell to the table as we cracked open the first few beers.  It had been a rough week at school with paychecks being delayed and worries about the school’s longevity rising every day.  All this and its only my second Friday here; it was past time for some brews when suddenly a miracle happened.  No, bacon didn’t shoot out of the bronze tube like my coworker insisted, but it did arrive on our grill giving some sizzle to the tantalizing aroma erupting from our meal.

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Before long our server had flipped and cut the bacon, scrmbled the eggs and told us (in Korean of course) that we could dig in!  Using chopsticks to procure our greatest desire we made bacon, egg & veggie wraps with the lettuce.  It was fantastic and just what we needed.  Another round of beer and a few more slabs later we were ready to figure out the rest of our evening.

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After a brief discussion we decided to hang out at the Han River; I was assured there was a great view of the city and we could have an inexpensive evening with beers from a nearby convenience store.  We wandered past a Korean market before embarking on my second public transit trip.  This time I got to use my own Popcard and transfer from the bus.  The public transit here is quite extensive and usually very efficient; except when your popcard doesn’t scan because its too close to a credit card.

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A few stops later we were within sight of the Han.  The lights of Seoul on the far bank provided a beautiful backdrop while we set up a few blankets and got some music going on my tablet.  A few friends join us as our group grew, now including 2 Koreans.  The beers were flowing as we discussed food, music and more when someone asked if I’d ever eaten bugs.

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When in Rome, right?  I told them about the termites I shared with a tour guide in Costa Rica and found myself walking back to the market with Sejun where we grabbed a few more beers and a cup of silk worm larvae.  He ordered the brown ones . They looked like poop and I quickly learned that while Koreans don’t have the same sense of humor as us and rarely get our sarcasm, they have a huge comedy culture surrounding poop.  We all laughed; I stabbed my first bug and crunched away.

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Sejun and I were alone with this challenge, the rest of the foreigners thought they tasted terrible and smelled worse.  Spearing a few more, we ate them one by one.  They had a strange taste but were meatier than I expected.  The texture reminded me of a crunchy protein shake mixed with something that came out of the wrong end of a hot dog plant.  Se Jun informed me that Koreans will often “drink” them out of the cup. I took a few gulps and chewed before admitting defeat.  They were alright, if I’m ever starving in a post-apoclyptic Seoul I know where to get some solid nutrition.  But, seeing as how North Korea hasn’t invaded again, I think I’ll stick to meals without baby bugs for now.

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