Elwood 5566

A Man of Habit – Onigiri

Posted in Uncategorized by 노강호 on February 3, 2011

the onigiri logo

I’m a man of total habit! I eat the same evening meal for up to six months at a time  and can map out the last few years  and corresponding seasons in Daegu by the restaurants I’ve frequented and the meals ingested therein.  For the first six months I ate boiled pork (보쌈) before I started using a pork kimchi stew (김치찜) restaurant which is right next to my one room. I ate there for almost nine months. Next, it was the turn of pork cutlet (돈까스) but I didn’t stick to the same menu and flitted as my mood took me between pork cutlet filled with cheese or the curried version. In the area I live there are far too many restaurants that serve pork cutlet and an absence of Chinese style restaurants so during this period I ate the same meal in various locations including a very nice Japanese style restaurant that served the cutlet chopped on plain rice and topped with a raw egg.

pork cutlet (돈까스)

Next, I discovered ‘Mr Big;’ not really the place to experience Korean cooking and they have some very naughty additions which I usually avoid: almost English style chips served in the German manner, with mayonnaise, sausages that are almost like bratwurst and the most enormous battered onion rings made with real onion. I spent a good six months dining on their nasigoreng before moving onto carbonara.

carbonara

When I arrived back in Korea after my 2010-2011 winter vacation, I ate carbonara in Mr Big and felt sick. Six months of eating it every evening had killed the passion and so I moved down the menu onto their pork cutlet which is very nice as it isn’t reconstituted and is made from a whole slab of real pork.

I generally read books during my dinner and if a recall one, I also recall the dinner that generally accompanied it: Robert Heinlein’s, Farnham’s Freehold, Rocketship Galeleo and Farmer in the Sky were all accompanied by nasigoreng while Dickens’ Hard Times was definitely carbonara. Their cabonara isn’t a totally Italian creation as I ask for it lazed with chili and the little burn it creates on my palate convinces me I’m not squandering my Korean experience. My current reading is Ben Bova’s, Venus and it quite suits a fat pork cutlet.

an array of sam-kak-bap (삼각밥)

Lunch times aren’t so restricted, often I cook a simple Korean meal or I eat kimbap (rice-roll) but recently I’ve been rather hooked on the new Onigiri (오니기리) store that has opened near my school. Onigiri is a Japanese ‘snack’ rather similar to sam-kak-bap (triangular rice) which is wrapped in toasted laver-bread and has a small filling. You can buy plastic moulds in supermarkets to make them at home and you can even buy even pre-cut laver-bread which wraps the rice in both a layer of laver and an outer layer of plastic to keep it fresh.  However, I’ve never mastered the procedure and can’t be bothered to follow the comic like instructions on the packet. These sam-kak-bap however, like the standard shop bought snack, are really snack size.

sam-kak-bap moulds

my local onigiri’s menu – eat in or take-away

The onigiri variety are more substantial and two definitely comprise lunch. Made to order, there is a choice of about 12 fillings including tuna and mayonnaise,  kimchi,  cheese, flying fish eggs and and tuna, and myeolchi (small dried fish) with walnuts and sesame oil. Onigiri are definitely worth trying and would probably be a hit back in the UK making a change from a boring lunchtime sandwich.

onigiri

two of my favourites: tuna-mayo and cheese, flying fish eggs and tuna

dried anchovy, walnut and sesame oil…mmm…and relatively healthy

And if you’re the least interested in breakfast, I make tofu bean-paste stew most mornings but sometimes I could kill for an unhealthy English breakfast of fried bacon, bread and egg.

Creative Commons License

© 林東哲 2011 Creative Commons Licence.

A Squirt of Fusion

Posted in Comparative by 노강호 on September 22, 2010

So scrumptious.....roast pork and roast potatoes

Every now and then I like a little blow out, partly as I love food and secondly, because I miss food associated with British culture. Unfortunately, few Korean foods fulfill the requirements necessary to satisfy the cultural preferences of my British palate. Flour, potato, oil, butter, bread, milk and cheese,  plus copious quantities  of meat, are  missing from most Korean meals.  Though I love Korean food, most can be described as ‘just…’ (그냥), meaning  okay, satisfying, but not scrumptious. Of course, this is just my personal opinion and some waygukin may actually think a few bean sprouts chucked in boiling water compares to  delights of Thai, Tom Yum or New England Clam Chowder.

bean sprout soup (콩나물 국)

I have attended a number of ‘feasts’ in Korea and find the word as much an exaggeration as  is the description ‘delicious.’  All too often Koreans will describe something as ‘delicious,’ but the moment your hypothetically offer them a choice between what ever the topic is and a Big Mac, and the Big Mac usually wins. Ironically, the Big Mac isn’t even a delicious example of a hamburger. Yesterday, one of my students told me he ‘loved’ bean sprout ‘soup’ (콩나물 국) and that it is ‘delicious’, but considering the boy is a little chubby, I suspect if it were a choice between bean sprout ‘soup’ or fried chicken, he’d choose the chicken. The Korean ‘feasts’ I have experienced could only be deemed such if you were on the brink of starvation, which is their possible origins, and comprised of the typical ‘just’ category foods such as: seaweed soup, five grain rice, and various kimchi. Sorry, but when you’re told your going to a ‘feast’ and your fed boring ban-chan (side dishes), it’s a bit of an anti-climax.

For most of my life in Korean, my cultural urges lay dormant and I find great satisfaction and pleasure in Korean cuisine but every so often I feel compelled to satiate deeper cravings and will seek out possible alternatives.

Pizza, unless it’s from Pizza Hut, Dominoes or Vince is usually disappointing; the cheese is that stretchy crap with no flavour. I once ordered a pizza with the cheese piped in the crust but when it arrived saw it was a ‘well being’ version. I order pizza so infrequently that when I do want one I don’t want ‘well being.’ Worse, the cheese had been made healthy by adulterating it with sweet potato. When Koreans make a pizza, the final touch always seems to involve squirting it with an assortment of gunk and sweet mustard and jam like sauces are all in vogue. And the final insult to any pizza, a perversion, are fruit toppings. Vince Pizza, which actually makes a fairly okay pizza, makes one topped with fruit. In Korea, with toppings such as bulgogi and sweet potato, often subsequently squirted in sweet gunk, the pizza is the epitome of fusion food.

cheese-less cheese

A pizza squirted in sweet gunk

Occasionally I like a sandwich though mayonnaise is always a requirement as this replaces the lack of butter. However, I have to keep  a close eye out as my local GS25 occasionally adds jam to a ham, ‘cheese’ and salad sandwich.

Corn Dog, isn’t too bad until it’s dunked in sugar and squirted with tomato sauce.

Pork Cutlet, don-gasse (돈까스) is one food that often quells my urges. This food originates from Japan where it is  called tonkatsu but considering the German influence on Japanese 19th century society,  I wonder if its origins are Germanic. Tonkatsu first appeared in Japan in the late 19th century and is similar to jagerchnitzel and Wiener schnitzel. It has been further fusionised by the addition, in the center,  of that stretchy cheese-less cheese, and often, on the edge of the plate. an adornment of tinned, diced fruit.

Don-gasse (Tonkatsu - 돈까스) Recipe link via photo (in Korea)

Korean style - 돈까스

Ironically, if I’m absent from Korean food for too long, I begin to suffer a  pon farr like yearning for kimchi, and more unusual Korean Fayre.

Creative Commons License© Nick Elwood 2010 Creative Commons Licence.