Unlike Nepal, and similar to Thailand, one of the joys of living in Korea is that there is a seemingly endless variety of food. There are lots of mom and pop restaurants that have a speciality dish that the menu revolves around: pick your meat, pick how spicy, noodles or rice… and there you have it, an often veggie loaded, fairly healthy, tasty meal – usually for well under $10.
But even with all the variety, sometimes I get a craving for something that can only be found elsewhere. Say last week when we stumbled across a “western” bar in our neighborhood. Complete with topless statuettes of German beermaids, old Texas and Tennessee license plates, and plenty of plaques displaying humorous slogans regarding beer in English. There was something on the menu that to me looked like cheese covered bowtie pasta with red sauce. Cheese! Pasta! I’m not a huge fan of red sauce, but, cheese and pasta! We also got some fried shrimp and a beer. All set.
The shrimp came out first, and they were amazing. Large, tasty, great breading: the works. Feeling satisfied and triumphant, I was excited about my first glimpse of pasta since being here. Out came the next dish, a giant plate, covered with cheese. We dive in, not looking too closely, and everyone realizes at the same time that what we are mashing between our teeth is really way to chewy to be pasta. Chew, chew, chew, chew. It’s not really going anywhere. Taking a closer look, it was yellowish/white with little nobbies all over it. My first thought was Octopus? I can live with that. I’ve eaten octopus at Japanese restaurants before. But this doesn’t taste like octopus, and why would you put cheese on such a thing?
Next theory – well, they do eat a lot of intestine and such over here, maybe that’s it. Poking around the dish some more, I find our culprit. A very distinct, nobbly, skin textured piece that very clearly shows that it is indeed part of a foot. A chicken foot to be exact. We are eating sauce and cheese smothered chicken feet. Which explains the smell when it was brought to the table.
If it had been delicious, I’m sure we would have eaten it, declawed or otherwise, but, alas, it was not. It was tasteless rubber with an odd odor. When the waitress noticed we weren’t eating it, she took it away and brought us a plate of french fries. Something the whities always like.
The funniest thing about the whole experience was how convinced my brain was that it was pasta, that I was able to convince everyone else that’s what was in the picture. Looks can be deceiving.
Video from Gourmet magazine on Korean food. I highly recommend this for people who are interested in what we are really eating over here. Really entertaining and informative video. The North Korean grandma making mung bean pancakes was so adorable. Thanks to ZenKimchi for pointing the video out.
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