Shellfish on the grill! Raspberry soju in the foreground, pajeon on the left--Korean pancakes are my favorite!
Of all the countries I've been to in the world...according to my TravBuddy map it's 24% in the world and counting!...there is at least one thing they all have in common. You can buy a beer in any of them. (So obviously I haven't spent any time in any Islamic states, but bear with me.) Mind you, it's not always good beer and it's not even always cold, but it's there. (Author's note: I'm a beer snob with picky beer taste so I don't always partake in every country I've visited.) The interesting thing is, what are the locals doing when they decide to throw back some suds? Where do they go? Which situations in our global village call for a "cold one"? Tough day hearding sheep on the Serengheti? Long day pulling in the shrimp nets in Phuket?
So recently I went out with some of my friends to a beer pub that was recommended to me in Kunsan City near the university.
Shellfish on the grill, spicy red pepper sauce in the white dish.
(Another universal truth: some of the best beer pubs are near the university!) This place is called Cream Beer. My friend Chip raved about it saying it was a strange mix between beer and a cream soda. While this didn't particularly sound appealing, I'm always up for trying something new. So we ordered our cream soda, um, beer and relived our week at work. They bring out the bar snacks which are comprised of some sugary puffy things and...squid. For those of you that have been to Korea this isn't that strange. Walk into any shop and you'll see the flat dried squid the Koreans like to munch on like beef jerky--I call it squid roadkill. While this squid was definitely flat, it wasn't dehydrated, much to my relief. I consider myself an adventure eater, but I can't bring myself to ripping off a chunk of the squid roadkill with my back molars. Turns out the squid was the best part of the experience! I have to say that I didn't share Chip's enthusiasm for the cream beer. I guess I can blame that on my time in Europe where beer is an art. Any weizen would kick sand in the face of the cream beer at the beach. But, it's worth the experience. So, here's mud in your eye...pass the beer nuts or squid down the bar...and I'll buy the next round.
Me and Ally, our waitress.
I will admit I am an avid lover of food. Yes, we all need food to live...but I live to eat! As I travel to the different parts of the world I'm lucky enough to visit, I imagine myself as a 5'2" amateur Anthony Bourdain...going from one unique place to another, communing with the locals, trying the local fare (I draw the line at bugs...sorry Mr. Bourdain). My first time to Korea was a shock to the gut of sorts. After being away for two years I knew what to expect when I came back and was willing to push out my comfort zone a bit. A little spicier, a little shadier, a little bolder. While my favorites are still the quite safe beef and chicken bulgogi (marinated grilled or pan fried meat) and pajeon (thin pancakes with various stuff such as onions and octopus cooked into it), I have decided to be more daring this time around.
It's almost a necessity living in a country where you may or may not be able to get menus with English, or waiters that speak the same.
I was exceptionally thrilled at the wonderful meal I got a few weekends ago while visint the Boryeong Mud Festival. After a long day in the sun, painting on mud and splashing around in the ocean--while partaking in soju and whatever mixer we could find--we treked to a local place for some seafood on the grill. Luckily this isn't a classy joint since we were all in our beach attire and still had mud in most of our crevices. Plastic chairs surround a table with a charcoal grill in the middle. Our waitresses, Lovely and Ally, bring out a basket of random shellfish: scallops, clams, mussels. Onto the grill they go, as they pop open we liberate them from their shells and devour them with some spicy pepper paste. Heaven! Especially the scallops. I chased mine with raspberry soju. We also had shrimp which were kind of mushy--they didn't hold a candle to those little darlings in the shells. The simple seafood right on the grill or out of a steamer basket has always been my favorite. You can keep the breading, gravy, etc--I like my seafood straight up! But I digress, it was a wonderful meal with old and new friends. I even managed to make friends with our waitress, Ally. We still e-mail! You never know where in the world you're going to connect with someone.
The best part about a good meal in Korea is just what I found by chatting with Ally. If you get to know the locals, they love to show you all about their culture, their cuisine, and what makes them happy. In this day and age where Americans often get a bad rap, I like to try and show my global neighbors that not all Americans are self-centered and xenophobic, and I love to add another experience and cultural encounter into the memory book that is in my brain.