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Asia eats, korea eats

august 1: dragon beards 101

Because my sister hasn’t been feeling well these past few days (she has a stomach virus, or something) for lunch today my family went out for jook. Jook is a cross between a porridge and a risotto – think of it as a hot bowl of bloated rice mixed with different ingredients. Jook can be either sweet or savory and it’s the most comforting of all Korean food, mostly because it’s so easy to digest. The restaurant that we went to, called JookHyang, took this comfort-food and turned it almost gourmet; almost the entire menu is made up of dozens of different types of jook.

banchan: pickled mushrooms, pickled oysters, and kimchi

sweet potatoes

radish leaf kimchi

chilled white kimchi soup

You’ll notice that most of the banchan are pickled – i.e. very tart and vinegary in taste. That’s because most jook is very bland, both in taste and texture. It can get a little dull after a while, so a lot of the banchan help cut through that thick, coating mouthfeel. Here are the jooks that we ordered; almost everyone got something different.

crab jook: savory and briny, but not with chunks of crabmeat like you'd think

shrimp jook with scallions and zucchini: a little overseasoned, but it was good nonetheless especially with the textural variety

seaweed jook with various seafood: sea algae gives it its distinct green color

algaaaaae - it looks like pond scum..

"well-being" jook: made with black beans, black rice, and black sesame seeds. yup this one was mine. it was nutty and good, but a little overwhelming in its sameness after a while though

The restaurant had a fish tank with some really weird goldfish. They were so fat, I just had to take pictures. It’s almost funny how rotund they are. I thought they were pregnant at first, but then I realized that all of them were that chubby. Don’t they look like balloons?

What I’d tell ya?

After lunch, we headed for InSaDong again. I swear, this is becoming something of a Sunday tradition. But like last time, there were things here that I hadn’t noticed before, or hadn’t taken photos of the last 2 times. That’s how great this place is – it keeps changing, rebuilding, morphing every time I go. It’s amazing how some things stay exactly the same week after week but how there are entirely new things everywhere I look.

a man playing and selling traditional korean flutes

a wire craftsman, working on his latest project

his completed works. amazing, huh? he makes all of these by hand.

spiral potato chips

a woman making takoyaki, or doughy octopus balls

a bookmaker pasting a new cover on one of his notebooks

I was also able to take pictures of how dragon-beards are made. Sorry these are a little blurry, but these guys work fast and people were crowding around the vendors. But here it is, the step-by-step instructions on how to make dragon-beard candy!

You start with a solid block of honey.

Then you rub it with cornstarch so it’s less tacky and more managable.

After the honey is nice and white, a hole is poked in it and it’s slowly stretched to form a huge ring.

Once you have a nice, big ring of honey, you dip it in cornstarch, twist, and pull. Dip, twist, pull. This process is repeated so that what once started as 2 thick cords of honey slowly turn into 4, then 16, then 256, then 65,536… Just when you don’t think it can get any thinner, the guys dips it again, making it finer and finer with every twist until it resembles silk (or I guess a dragon beard).

How cool is that?? When the “beards” are made, sections are ripped off, filled with a nut mixture, and rolled into little cocoons.

And not only are these guys extremely talented at pulling globs of honey, they’re entertainers too. You have to be, if you want to make a living in InSaDong. Each time they pull, they sing in unison the number of strands there are in the “beard,” and also do a little tapping and drumming around. What’s even more amazing is that not only do this in Korean, but in Japanese, Chinese, and English as well. Crazy, I tell you..

As we left InSaDong we passed by another green zone – I love how Seoul has one of these in every neighborhood. You can take a walk in it whenever you get sick of the traffic and it’s definitely a lot cooler by the water.

We also passed by a mural-monumentish thing on our way to the bus stop. I think it’s somewhat significant to Korean history, except I just can’t remember why..

doesn't this remind you of the lion, the witch, and the wardrobe? no?

Afterwards we went grocery shopping, but I didn’t bring my camera because it really wasn’t worth it – I’m not allowed to take pictures inside of E-Mart anyways.

I’m packing now because I’m off to a water-park/condo for the next couple of days with my family. I’m not sure if there’ll be WiFi, but I’ll take lots of pictures to post when I get back.

G’nite (or good morning, depending on your time zone) all!

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Discussion

2 thoughts on “august 1: dragon beards 101

  1. can you bring me some dragon beards? ill pay you for them. seriously they look so good!
    btw when you coming back?

    Posted by euna | August 3, 2010, 6:28 pm
  2. WHATTT. we have no nyc eating chill day?!?!?!?!
    and i think i had something like a dragon beard from russia (my latin teacher brought it in). it felt like i ate a sugary dust bunny.
    but back to the serious topic….no chill day?!

    Posted by euna | August 3, 2010, 10:14 pm

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