Friday, August 7, 2009

Patbingsu

What do you think has been the weirdest thing I've eaten in South Korea? Dog meat? Raw fish? Blow fish? Eel?

Or while we're on the topic of food, perhaps you are wondering if I'm ruffling East Asian feathers with my vegetarian diet while I'm over here...if I am still being a brave veggie warrior in the face of an alphabet I don't understand (for now, anyways), a meat-centric society, and co-workers who are constantly offering to take me out for free Korean BBQ.

Well, (somewhat) sheepishly, this brave veggie warrior has been taken down by Korean blugogi, much like a swift taekwondo kick to the head.

I can already feel this post starting to take a kind of an asshole-y, soap-boxy tone as I try to defend myself, so I'll keep my rationals down to a short list, sparing you a pages-long, self-righteous rant:

1) Korean meat, for the most part, is sprinkled sparingly throughout a dish--shreds of pork in the rice bowls bibimbab, bits if tuna in the sushi-like gimbap. Unlike the servings of meat in the U.S., (chicken breasts the size of your face, a rack of ribs three times bigger than your own) Korean servings of meat are generally of a healthy portion.

2) From what I can tell, most of Korea's food (meat included) is produced from within Korea. Not mention, many Koreans are so rabidly nationalistic they actively seek out local products (my friend Irene ordered beef at T.G.I. Fridays because it came from Korea, as she showed me on the menu where each ingredient's origin was identified...what an revolutionary concept!) Local meat = less environmental impact, which is why I became a vegetarian in the first place.

3) On that note, I am not a vegetarian for the ethics of being a vegetarian. I think (sustainable) agriculture is an ancient, respectable process, and that it is not cruel or unnatural to kill beasts raised for food as long as you treat them with care/respect while they are alive. That said, I do not know much about Korean agriculture and whether it is sustainable or not...perhaps I am eating feedlot beef here, and I do not know it. This is something I aim to learn about, of course, and perhaps it will influence my diet here in the future.

That was longer than I intended it to be. Sorry. Back to the odd food question at the beginning.

The weirdest food I have eaten here is called Patbingsu. Behold a stolen photo:

It might look normal, but I assure you, it's hella weird. My version did NOT have the big blob of ice cream on top, but it did have shaved ice, powdered sugar, red beans, Frosted corn flakes, and raisins, which was all mixed together in a bizarre explosion of texture and strange flavor combinations that can only be described as inexplicably tasty. Maybe it was because I was drinking, but I found it delicious.

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