Saturday, July 14, 2012

버섯 찌개! A Korean Korean Restaurant

Bosot jjigae is mushroom stew. It's spicy and delicious and I had lots of it at my first Korean restaurant in Korea. I've been told that Korean cuisine in the US is pretty different from the real deal, kind of like a lot of Chinese places you'll find in the States are not 地道 (authentic) Chinese, just tons of MSG and pandas and stereotyped names and all. So when my American friends think "Korean restaurant", they think bulgogi (bbq beef), bibimbap (rice + everything), and kimchi, but not much else.
This is 묵 (muk, acorn jelly). Definitely something I've never seen in an American Korean restaurant before. But it was good!
I have to say that the Korean food I've been eating at the dining hall here isn't nearly Korean restaurant-standard fare, but we did have bulgogi once -- for breakfast -- and I'm getting used to the spiciness. Yet after a few days I was pretty ready to see what actual Korean food places had to offer.

So when Jeewon and Se Eun came to visit (Yay! Swatties! Friends! Bilingual friends!) tiny little Goesan, they took me to a small little place that, according to some locals, had some great mushroom stew. We took the shuttle into town and walked for a bit, asked a few people for directions, and then arrived at what I thought initially was a house. I would hardly call it a restaurant.
The restaurant was called Pyeol-mi ("Gourmet") Restaurant (식당 shikdang means "restaurant" or, according to Google translate, "noshery"). A local referred us to it when Se Eun asked for 버섯 찌개.
As is custom in many Korean households, we took off our shoes before entering, and then sat down cross-legged at a very low table, on cushions on a hardwood floor. Jeewon and Se Eun did all the ordering, and before long (we were the only patrons in the entire house) the ahjumma came out with 반찬 (banchan, side dishes) and a giant hot pot-like thing filled with a red stew and mushrooms. The pot was on a burner at our table, so soon the whole stew was boiling and smelled delicious. Definitely 맛있어요 (delicious)! 
Se Eun lifts the top off our 버섯 찌래 (mushroom stew). It was very red and very spicy, and all of the side dishes were red and spicy, too. Typical Korean cuisine!
A close-up of the jjigae. Okay, maybe it doesn't look that appetizing, but whatever, I like mushrooms.
During our meal, we talked about some of my expectations for Korea, learning Korean, Korean linguistics, and -- of course -- Swarthmore things. It was such a nice evening being away from campus and with old friends. It's a lot like the feeling I get when I get away from Swarthmore and go into Philly for an evening, but of course, it was much less glamorous than Philly (which itself isn't... okay, you get the picture). So that was my very first Korean restaurant experience. Next time, I'll see if I can order and do it all by myself in Korean!
Three Swatties in South Korea! Thanks for coming to visit!

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