24 August 2008

A Culinary Tour

There were other memorable things about this weekend but the food that took the headline. Koreans love to eat out. Sometimes I think that there is one restaurant for every Korean. Another concept at work is the neighborhood theme: restaurants tend to specialize in one type of meat or even a single dish, and entire neighborhoods often contain many of the same types of restaurants. Seaside areas tend to have blocks devoted to nothing but hoe (pronounced "hway"), the freshly killed raw fish that is a Busan specialty. Other areas are full of galbi or sampyopsal joints. There are areas devoted to Chinese cuisine, like Busan's Shanghai Street.

This weekend we returned to a sushi bar I have come to love in nearby Dongnae. It is an all-you-can-eat conveyor belt type place that serves up the best sushi I have ever had. On this occasion I stuck my camera on the belt and sent it around. This is actually the second time I have done this at this place and, given the Korean aversion to being photographed, it is not a popular thing with a lot of people. But I really wanted to do this, so I did it. The first time I did it (last weekend) I accidentally erased the file. This week I had to do it twice because the first time the card had formatting issues. I reformatted, losing everything I had stored, and did it again. By this time everyone in the place was thoroughly disgusted with me and the camera and when you watch the film you can see this. I can't hardly stand to watch it. But that is the price you pay for great art. The film is at the link below and, again, is best viewed in "high quality" if you have the bandwidth.

"Sushi Bar." http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=6jb1bgQGYBQ

On Saturday night Yujin and I decided to go to see a movie and have dinner down at Somyeon, which is a large shopping area I have mentioned before. (A note on the name situation: there is a lot of leeway in the Anglicization of Korean names and words in general. I am switching to a more current method with all names from now on. And Yujin and Minha are easier to type.) We went to the theater to get a ticket and were not pleased to find out that the film we wanted to see didn't start until 11:00 PM. Four hours away. We decided to wait and see what the evening brought. Usually we would have had some beverages but I am off the sauce because of the antibiotics (which are working nicely by the way, thanks for asking) so we walked around looking for a place to eat. We found a dak galbi restaurant and went there. Dak (chicken) galbi is chopped boneless chicken and vegetables braised at the table on a huge cast iron plate. It is marinated in a red pepper paste and more of the paste (about one cup it looked like) is added with the vegetables. Ours came with "assorted seafood," which turned out to be clams, octopus, and shrimp. It was delicious. Like most galbi, it is served with lettuce to wrap it up in and a variety of sides to put in there with it. The only problem was that it was hot. Very hot. It was one of the hottest things I have eaten since I got here and that is saying something. Infernal. I could eat it, but I had heartburn immediately and as soon as we left we went directly to the 7-11 next door and bought drinking yogurt (peach) and drank that down. This relieved the heartburn and did a lot I feel to mitigate the aftereffects. I will go there again and the next time I will drink yogurt before and after.

We ended up hanging around in a Pizza Hut watching the very exciting end to the Olympic baseball finals in which the Korean team narrowly defeated Cuba. I was extremely conflicted at first (I love Cuba) but found myself rooting for my newly adopted country as if it were my own. After the movie it was late. The subway and all the buses were shut down but there was a line of taxis waiting outside and we grabbed one and got home quick.

The next day we went on the eastern route of the Busan City Tour. I have gone on the western one twice and can say that I thoroughly enjoyed it. The eastern route, which goes to two museums and two beaches, on paper looks like the much better of the two. Not so. I have avoided in this blog saying anything bad about my new home and when possible have avoided saying anything when that was possible. In this case let me just be brief. The Busan Metropolitan Museum was founded in 1978 and this is where it has remained. The main gallery is due for an update. It has some beautiful things presented in a rather dated way. One thing I saw that I did find fascinating was a set of old maps drawn with pen and ink on scrolls. What I saw surprised me. Dongnae, the area we had lunch in yesterday, is the original town location. This is maybe two or three kilometers from the ocean. In fact, Busan had been called by that name until as late as 1910.

We had planned on staying there for two buses worth but took the first one to Gwangali beach to find some food. We had it in mind to have bulgogi, which is prepared much like the dish before except without the pepper paste and beef. The pan came out loaded with all kinds of meat and four kinds of mushrooms and two kinds of onions and clear rice noodles and thinly sliced beef and there were some peppers but I got most of them out of it when nobody was looking. It started bubbling away and after a short while it was done and it was really good. We were hungry and ate most of it.

We had planned on getting on the bus and going to BEXTEL, the Busan museum of modern art. But when we caught the bus it was one of those luxury ones with three seats per row that lean all the way back and to make a short story even shorter we both fell asleep and woke up back at Busan station. Our tour was over. That is ok. We can do the last two-thirds of it some other time. The Busan City Tour is a great rainy day activity.

Put her on the train and went home and fell asleep again. I am up in the middle of the night working on this. Work should be fun today. We are having Olympics in the morning for the little ones.