Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Korean Culinary Carousal, Part III

I've always hated the word "snack" (I hate the phrase "SNACK ATTACK" especially, bleh). Obviously, I hate "snack's" grating "ACK" sound, but then there is also the sad image I get in my head when I think about snacking--people, alone, indulging in their gluttony, too busy to sit down and have a real meal with their friends.I also associate snacking with people getting that orange Cheeto© dust on their saliva-coated fingers and then wiping the dust everywhere. Double bleh.

Which is not to imply that I haven't partaken in my fair share of snacking here. Koreans are snack-crazy, in fact, meaning I snack more here than I've ever snacked in my life. At school after a class passes a test (which occur about once every month), we are allowed to throw a "snack party," where everyone runs to the 7-Eleven across the street from my school and buys bags of chips/sugary drinks/packages of cookies and chocolate. There's a distinct etiquette to snack parties here, the chief rule being that you must split your bag o' snack down the side and lay out the entire contents to be shared with the rest of the class. That's right, even the class nose-picker is entitled to a portion of your snack.

While the standard potato chips/Hershey's chocolates/Coke fare found in most American gas stations is pretty standard over here, there's one uniquely Korean snack over here which I've grown quite fond of...오징어채 (oh-jing-ah-chaey), or dried, processed squid.

The array of dried marine products over here is awesome. Dried squid is the most popular--there's all kinds of squid parts sold over here...whole dried squid, soft white bits of squid, chunkier, more jerky-like parts of squid. Spicy squid, mild squid. There are few things more amusing to me than to watch one of my kids at a snack party, mindlessly gnawing on a whole, dried squid tentacle...sometimes they'll just suck on the thing, letting it hang out of their mouth, looking like some kind of monster has just decided to leap down their gullet and they couldn't care less..and in fact, rather enjoy the beast's salty deliciousness.

One thing that I've griped to many people about is how deeply in denial we Americans are about our food. When we eat beef jerky, we think about how it's brown, it's chewy, it's salty and a little bit sweet: we don't think about it as dehydrated cow muscle, because there's not even a picture of a cow on the package, and as consumers we might be made a bit uncomfortable to think about our food as having once been alive. I appreciate that in Korea, when you buy dried squid, there's no doubt about what you're eating. I mean, look at this:

My favorite dried incarnation is peanut butter roasted squid. It's sweet, it's salty, it's chewy, and there's no pretense as to what I am/am not eating: there's a little cartoon squid and peanut (holding hands, AWWWWW) on the kind that I buy.

You can get it pre-packaged (as I often do) at convenience stores, or you can buy it off the street, which is probably better taste-wise.

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