Friday, October 21, 2011

Korean Culinary Carousal: I Would Like Some Sticks WIth My Chicken, Please

The other day I had this dish--누룽지백숙 (noo loong ji bek sook) with some co-workers at official school lunch.

Though it looks like a big pile of vomit, it was actually extremely delicious--chicken slow cooked until the meat was falling off the bone, mixed in with deliciously goopy, risotto-like rice seasoned with big pieces of ginseng, jujube fruits, and big pieces of mysterious sticks with big thorns on them. I asked my co-teacher where the sticks were from and she said "a tree". I have seen these sticks for sale before in the market near my house...I imagine they have some sort of medicinal value.

I find that Korean food often looks like a big mess of revolting things, but is really quite delicious. As a Westerner accustomed to neat salmon filets/symmetrically sliced vegetables/soups without big pieces of wood in them, if I close my eyes and just eat it, Korean food generally tastes way way way better than it looks.
For instance, this looks like rancid cheese, but it's actually deliciously spicy 비지--tofu with pepper paste mixed in.

What about 된장 찌개 (dwenjeongjjigae)--the Korean equivalent of miso but much much much more smelly, almost like feet? It's delicious, but not exactly pretty.

Finally, there's the holy grail of nasty looking things that taste delicious--추어탕.
It is made with loach fish, which are ground to a paste and mixed with peppers. Gag. But, it doesn't taste fishy at all thanks to copious amounts of black pepper. Still, definitely not the most appetizing thing to look at, even if you aren't aware of what it is actually made out of....

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