Sunday, October 18, 2009

More old style Korean culture with Mr. Son

This weekend was relatively quiet. I spent Saturday morning trying to remove the fixed cup in my new bike's bottom bracket shell. On Sunday, I spent the day selecting records for a new DJ mix. Then in the evening, Mr Son called...

He had gone fishing that afternoon and brought back a bucket full of fish and another bucket of snails. He invited me to a friend's restaurant where they were working on turning the fish into dinner. When I arrived at the restaurant, I went out into the back courtyard. Two men were squatting by a drainage grate. On closer inspection, I saw that they were gutting the fish. They had just started so the majority of the fish were still alive, shifting about in a bucket of rock salt. The men were running their thumbs up the belly of each fish. The force would reverse the innards out of the fish's anus. I did not see them use knives at any point during the gutting process.

After gutting, the fish had to be descaled. The men did this by repeatedly rubbing the fish with rock salt and rinsing them down. When the fish were gutted and cleaned, the men moved on to cutting the vegetables and heating up water. An aluminum pot filled with small snails was already boiling and was ready for seasoning. Another burner and pot were set up for the fish. At this point, Mr. son explained how the fish would be cooked and eaten. Our meal would consist of two soups. The first would be snail soup. The second would be the fish soup. Traditionally, the kind of fish we had are boiled, mashed into paste, and then boiled again. Finally, greens and spices are added and allowed to cook a little more.

When everything had cooked down, we ate. The snail soup was excellent. The flavor of the snail soup was completely new to me. The fish paste soup was much hardier than I had expected. Rice was also served and everyone mixed some into their soup. Mr. Son produced some kind wild berry liquor that he made himself and, of course, Soju was also served. Eventually, the wives and children of some of the men showed up to join us. Having entire families at the table really transformed the meal into a kind of community event. It made me think about how different food culture and food preparation are in the United States. I think this is one of the few meals I have had where the main ingredients were gathered rather than raised. The simplicity of the meal has definitely raised my interest in more traditional food dishes and preparations. Until next time...

Friday, October 16, 2009

Some panoramic shots

This is a shot I took while in Soraksan last weekend. Take note of the color of the leaves on the left. Autumn is the most popular time to visit the mountain because of the change in color.

This is the inside of my favorite bar, Rush. Bars in Korea are pretty different from bars in the USA. Rush is one of the few western style bars. They often have live performances and the crowd is very mixed. Rush is known for great long island ice teas.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

hanging with the guys

Recently I have had more opportunities to spend time with my students outside of class. I really like these occasions because they allow the students to get more comfortable around me. These chances have also been great for building rapport with both the students and the other teachers.

Two weeks ago, our school had a school wide physical fitness exam. All of the students spent the morning going through a long set of body circuit tests. Here you can see the sprinting and sit-up events.
This past weekend, I went on a day hike to Soraksan mountain. The hike was organized by the school as a kind of disciplinary measure for the biggest trouble makers at school. I went along with the hopes of getting closer to some of the toughest students. I was successful, and I think the benefits are already showing in class. We ended up having a lot of fun, despite how crowded the trails were. Here are some of my students.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Paper making

I recently went to a traditional mulberry paper factory. Koreans use the fibers from mulberry bark to make a variety of products including conventional paper, wall paper, flooring, clothing, and insulation. In this video, you can see the factory worker sifting fibers to make a single sheet of paper.

The screen in the previous video is suspended from these bamboo springs...

Here, paper is being applied to hot plates for drying.

Eating dog

Last weekend, Mr. Son took me out for dog. As it turns out, the best dog restaurant is located across the street from me. We met there and were seated. The dog was already out on the table. Traditionally, dog is prepared in two ways. For lunch, leaner sections of meat are eaten in a soup. For dinner, which is what was in front of us, dog is served in thin slices. The slices are taken from the outside of the dog, with the outer layer of fat and skin left in tact. Koreans are very fond of fat, and it is not uncommon, when eating meat, for a dish to be more fat than meat. In the case of dog, the hair is removed by letting it burn off during the cooking. This leaves little follicles in the outer layers of fat, and it also gives the meat a certain odor. To help fight the odor, the dog slices are arranged around a crock of dog soup that is kept at a boil throughout the meal. You eat the dog slices with vegetables that get added to the soup. These include green onions, mushrooms, and sesame leaves. My guess is that, between the vegetables, the soup vapor, and all of the chili pastes that come with any Korean meal, the burned dog hair smell is blocked out.

I ate about half of the plate of dog, along with the dog soup, and some dog kidney and liver. It was not bad, but I'd say, it is an acquired taste.

Meat Truck

This truck was pulled up outside of my local grocery recently. Koreans are definitely not squeemish people.