A pretty ominous title right? Bet I got your attention with that one.
The reason I chose this title is not arbitrary – I will talk about each of these things in sequence in this entry.
On friday night I went with my co-teachers for dinner after school. We wound up in Haeundae area at a little seafood restaurant. I’m going to try my best to explain the meal I had with them accurately – bear with me.
First the table itself: a fairly standard table in Korea – round with a grill in the center under which lie piping hot coals. Placed on the grill is a bronze pot full of little cubes of butter (which melt within moments of being placed on the grill), onion and garlic. Servers bring us a plate of mussels. Imagine a clam with its top shell removed (just the meat sitting in it’s bowl shaped bottom shell). Now imagine the bottom shell being full of diced onion and garlic, as well as the meat. These shells get placed on the grill so the meat and veggies literally roast in their shell.
As they cook, much like other meats, they release juices. The juice fills the bowl-like shell and when there is enough the juice is emptied into the bronze pot. Finally, once the meat is fully cooked it is put into the pot in the center as well – the shell is now useless and is thrown out. Now we dig in, plucking juicy pieces of clam meat out of the pot (which now contains a delicious veggie and clam juice broth, boiling merrily) with our chopsticks. At this point (or maybe a few paragraphs ago) I should mention that people who don’t have a taste for meat or seafood might not want to read about this meal. After having a few drinks and enjoying the clam stew (this was only the appetizer – did I mention that?), on comes the main course: Eel. Even though it is cleaned and cut into strips it still resembles eel, and I feel a little faint as it arrives at the table, raw. We throw it onto the grill and once it is cooked we throw it into the bronze pot (which has now been filled with a delicous red sauce, not to mention all the awesomeness that was leftover from the appetizer). I have several pieces and find it absolutely delicious.
Then I feel slightly faint again as the next item is tossed onto the grill – the eel’s spines. We roast the spines, and the tail (which I learn is highly sought after – much like the turkey leg on Thanksgiving). Once the spines are cooked they are cut into manageable pieces with a pair of scissors. I find the spines delicious, but understandably hard to chew – I eat two pieces. I even got a slice of the tail which, supposedly, possesses the essence of the eel.
What a meal that was!
Keeping with the shellfish theme, the next day I visited Jigalchi Fish Market – in case you were wondering this is the largest fish market in South Korea.
What did I see you ask? Fish. Lots. Of. Fish.
An impossible amount of fish. Floors and floors of fish. Did I mention most of them were alive? Thousands of tanks of water full of all kinds of different fish. Octopus. Eels. Leaches. Lobsters. Crabs. Snails. Stuff I didn’t recognize. Alot more stuff I didn’t recognize. In fact, just when I thought I had already discovered every species of fish and every critter that could possibly reside in the ocean I turned a corner and, Oh look! More fish I don’t recognize. It was amazing. Smelly, but amazing.
We found a restaurant on the second floor and, after choosing a fish (a lively little fellow whom we named Harry – after Harry Houdini, because he flopped out of the waiters hands once or twice in his hilarious, but futile, escape attempts) we ate him. He was delicious. Oh, maybe I should mention that animal lovers should exercise caution before reading the above paragraph.
After the fish market we toured through another outdoor market, containing stalls selling all manner of things – including – batman socks! Which I promptly purchased for the low low price of 1,000 won.
Then a quick climb up a hill and an elevator ride to the top of Busan Tower. Towering roughly 130 meters above the city of Busan, Busan Tower offered excellent views in all directions – very entertaining. I took great video of the tower and the markets, which will be posted in a week or so.
Where am I now? Right! Beer. Saturday night involved a trip to Haeundae where people were gathering to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Although St. Pats is a big day in the life of any 20-something back home, here in Korea it is basically a week long affair. Western bars offer St. Pats discounts for days before and after the 17th of March – and it was one such discount I took advantage of at a bar called Wolfhound’s in Haeundae. A very fun, but very late night. I won a free T-shirt and witnessed a good old fashion american bar brawl – not one of the free-for-alls in the bar itself (unfortunately), but in the street outside the bar, shortly after I arrived. Apparently Wolfhound’s is not the kind of bar where you spit on girls – which one patron discovered the hard way in the street around 11pm last Saturday.
Hopefully you aren’t wondering this, but if you are: No – I am not refering to myself.
So, my final topic – liability.
Some of you may find it interesting that at many Korean restaurants the patrons cook their own food at the table – I know I do! The reason we don’t have restaurants like this in North America? Liability. Back home everyone is liable for the faults of others. Cooking at your own table presents so many risks – burning yourself and food poisoning from undercooked food foremost among them. In north america, if anything happened to someone the restaurant will get sued up and down and left to right. Here in Korea, if you make a stupid mistake, the blame lies squarely on your shoulders, nobody else’s. Its refreshing, I find. Good to see a country that hasn’t been spoilt by the private law system (says the guy who studied law for 4 years…). This ‘you are responsible for your own mistakes’ attitude is evident in much more than just the restaurants, and the lawyer in me can’t help but notice all the lawsuits waiting to happen (or I should say, the lawsuits that will never happen because this country is awesome). My school’s playground for example: jungle gyms so dangerous looking that I literally cringe. To be honest they remind me of the bone breakers that were on my elementary school playground when I was a kid (obviously they have all been torn down now – I’m not sure if jungle gyms can be found in any Canadian schoolyards these days). Much like the schoolyard of my youth; Korean schoolyards are miniature versions of Darwin’s theories of natural selection. Some kids make it through unscathed and some will break an arm or two, but in my opinion everyone is stronger for it. Better to let them eat a pound of dirt a year and develope the strong bones and immune systems we were meant to earn throughout our lives then to live super sheltered and then be wiped out by the super flu or zombie apocalypse we all know is coming.
So, Shellfish, Towers, Beer and Liability. I covered all of them right?
Check below for a video of last weekend’s hike (which was covered in my last entry).
Click on the video called Geumjungsan!
Thats all for now BNBers!