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Asia eats, korea eats

july 15: mercury poisoning…?

After breakfast Thursday morning, my family and I headed out to YeoUiDo, the business district of Seoul.

cookie cutter businessmen. it's actually a little frightening.

This city is actually a little island off the coast of Korea that’s been transformed into an economic and political mecca -almost all the buildings here are skyscrapers and business offices. The central government building is also located here, as well as 2 broadcasting stations (MBC & KBS), so all kinds of important people are always coming and going through YeoUiDo (i.e. senators, singers, actors, etc.). That means that YeoUiDo is always bustling with people, and with so many potential customers a lot of restaurants have been built here. My dad’s close friend actually owns one of these eateries, and that’s where we were headed to.

But we ended up getting there a little early, so we took a walk around the “Central Park” of YeoUiDo; it’s an amazing park. It has everything from barefoot paths, exercise areas, basketball courts, and ecological centers. My family arrived there just around lunch time, so it was full of businessmen and women bustling about during their lunch breaks.

one of the biking paths in the park

After a while, it ended up being too hot in the park so we just ended up heading for the restaurant.

my dad and his buddy

Being special guests = free food! And this place has some of the best Korean-style sushi in Seoul.

Here’s what we were served:

meeyukgook with clams added

sesame oil, gochujang, and dwenjang for dipping

sashimi ssam, with kimchi, seaweed, garlic and peppers wrapped in ggehneep

conch-like mollusks, broiled in a cast-iron pan

GIMME SWEET BRINY SHELLFISH FLESH!!

seafood and veggie stew, made from uber-tender fish. i literally slurped it off the bone.

various banchan: kimchi, ohdeng, anchovies, mungbeans

ssam #2, the house specialty: semi-dried mackerel wrapped in the ssimilar toppings

By the time we were done eating, my stomach had been stuffed way past its capacity. But the guy kept on giving us free food, so how could I resist?? It turns out that I ate mostly veggies, so I digested it pretty quickly.

Right outside the restaurant, there was a guy sharpening knives. It was really loud, but pretty cool.

flying sparks!

After our feast in YeoUiDo, my family headed for the market in ITaeWon, which is also known as the Foreigner Street. During the Korean War, this is where a lot of the U.S. soldiers stayed, so even today you’ll see a lot of un-Korean people roaming the streets. It’s probably the most diverse place in Seoul, and the stores reflect this city’s history – there are a lot of brands from overseas, but also a lot of bootlegged stuff. My mom and dad were exploring a bit, but it was getting a little too sketchy for me and Calynn, so we made a beeline for the nearest Paris Baguette and ate a bingsoo to cool off.

paris baguette bingsoo = UNDERWHELMING. bleghh

It might look pretty, but this was one of the worse bingsoos I’ve had in a while. All of the ingredients came from a can: the lychee, the red bean, even the fruit cocktail. The ice cream wasn’t even legit ice cream: it was a block of foil-wrapped vanilla ice cream chopped in half and plopped on top. WTHECK? Totally not worth my money – the one I got there other day was a million times better. The only good thing about it was its size – it was a perfect serving for 2 people.

After my parents were rescued from the dark alleys of the ITaeWon bootleg handbag trade, we headed to GwangHwaMun for another one of my dad’s friend’s restaurants. This is another important city in Korea, the heart and center of Seoul’s culture.

the times square of seoul? maybe?

When Seoul was first founded, GwangHwaMun was where it all started – everything else was built around this city. Once we got here,  we had some more time to spare so we went to the famous Lee Soon Shin and Seh Jong Dae Wang courtyard.

the famous bronze statues of the turtle ship guy and the alphabet dude. and InWang Mountain.

the courtyard, it be busy

Because it’s the summer, they have a bunch of fountains periodically shooting water in front of the Lee Soon Shin statue. And on a hot day like Thursday, that’s pretty much asking for kids to go frolic in the water. Yup, lots of little boys and girls, weaving in and out of the fountains. They made good photo subjects, so I took pictures. I’m telling you, it was camera-usage practice, not pedophilia.

children running about

ready, set, go!

this guy was practically swimming in this little rivulet of water

AWWW

splish, splash

run, little boy, run!

water bender...?

big kids joined in the fun too

Ahem. Like I said, all in the name of improvement. Once we were done relaxing by the courtyard, my dad decided it was time to head for the restaurant. On our way there we passed by another very significant, courtyardish lawn place:

the place where they hold protests. & watch world cup games.

The restaurant where we ate dinner at was also a sushi restaurant, although this place served more Japan-based fusion cuisine.

literal translation: sea dream

We only had to wait for a bit before my dad’s college friend came in and whisked us off into one of the private, tatami-matted rooms. From there we were served a whole slew of Japanese seafood courses.

crudites and pickles; these were refilled throughout the course of the meal

abalone jook (blandly savory, like all good jook) and puree of mountain yam (weirdly slimy...)

spinach and tomato salad with a gelatinous balsamic vinegar dressing

assorted sashimi platter

various mollusks: sea cucumber, crab, abalone, octopus...

grilled platter: shrimp, fish, and ginkgo nut & garlic skewers

a very fishy broth

grilled eel glazed with a spicy teriyaki sauce garnished with raw ginger and greens

spicy sauteed onions and scallions served atop a steamed fish

squirming, wriggling squid tentacles! sprinkled with sesame oil and served with cucumber

tempura basket: shrimp, edamame, and red bean balls (reminiscent of boong uh bbang)

After all this we had a choice of:

rice, egg, seaweed, scallion, sesame seeds, and roe served in a hot stone bowl

Or:

maki hand-roll: sushi rice, cucumber, and roe

Then for the last savory course:

clams in a clear soup: refreshingly light

dessert: pineapple & watermelon

And finally:

kumquat tea: sweet and citrusy, but bitter and weirdly alcohol-y

Whew. You can imagine how full I was after eating such huge meals 2 times in a row. Bloated doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt afterwards. I’m lucky that you walk so much when you’re in Korea; otherwise I’d have to be rolled around everywhere.

My family took the bus home after our seafood feast; I washed up and lapsed into a food coma as soon as I stepped into the apartment.

And that’s what happened Thursday. Whew, I’m exhausted (I’m finishing this at 1 AM Korea time), so I’m gonna end it here for tonight. Hopefully, I’ll have the next Beijing post up soon, so be on the lookout for it!

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