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3.055 Baguette Sandwich: Dry-Cured Ham with Romaine

-Cycle 3, Item 55-
29 (Wed) February 2012

-Spanish-
Baguette Sandwich: Dry-Cured Ham with Romaine

2.5

by me

at JH & KH's home

-Oksu, Seoul-

With Cho JH, Kim KH, Lee HS, Kim IT, Choi SW, Yong I, Jeong D, and Dominic

Somewhat excited, somewhat disappointed, neighbor JH called me with news that she had scored a whole jamon. Alas, when she'd sampled some the evening before, not knowing how to cut it or prepare it, the resulting bits and pieces of greasy/gamy meat had fallen far from expectations. If I were to come over and take over, we could invite the rest of the gang and make a party of it. I packed my knives and headed over.

Here's what the ham looked like when I arrived, after they'd hacked away at it with a dull chef's knife.

In essence, dry-cured ham is a whole leg of raw pork that's been drained of blood, salted for a couple months, washed, dried, and left hanging for at least 9 months and up to 2 years until thoroughly done. Most famously, it's called "jamon" in Spain and "prosciutto" in Italy. The meat is tough and dense, thus requiring it to be shaved paper-thin, making it smooth and silky. While the taste of a given ham depends on various factors, including the curing agents used, the specific drying process, the time of aging, as well as the pigs themselves, the meat generally has an intense pork flavor, salty and sweet, lean yet rich--some might say "gamy" or even a bit "fishy." Very expensive, an authentic whole jamon from Spain, for example, weighing around 7 kg, yielding around 4 kg of meat, sells for $1000 to $1500 on the internet, about $25 per 100 gm (incidentally, almost exactly the price of that bullshit hanwoo (한우) from a few days back (see 3.051 Stone-Grilled Chadolbagi Sushi).

after carving out a chunk...

JH's thing was a locally-produced dry-cured ham. It was made by Andong Bonghwa Chuksan Nonghyeop (안동봉화축산농협), an agricultural collective in Gyeongsangbuk-Do that packages the ham under the brand name Coresciutto (꼬레슈토) (see Coresciutto's webpage for "Andong Prosciutto"). Their promotional materials claim that the ham is made in the tradition of jamon and/or prosciutto but doesn't provide any specifics. At just 200,000 won, it was worth a shot.

the chunk...

Never having worked with anything remotely similar to a whole leg of ham, I was at a loss about what to do when I first laid hands on it. For starters, it was huge, the biggest piece of animal that I've ever handled in my life, much too large for a single unexperienced person to tackle alone without a stand to stabilize the thing, so I needed someone to hold it steady while I went at it. Also, the skin was so thick and hard that I was unable to shear off pieces directly. So, I used a serrated bread knife to saw through the skin, then a filet knife to carve a sizable chunk from around the bone and sinew within, and finally a sashimi knife to remove the skin and slice the meat as thinly as I could. It was the most food-related fun that I had in years.

the shavings

As for preparation, I took a simple approach and just made small sandwiches with the baguettes wedges that Jinhee had bought for the occasion, along with mayo, dijon mustard, cracked black pepper, fresh lemon juice, sliced onion, romaine. The pepper and lemon and onion helped to balance out the pork flavor and give the ham a lively pop. Though I have very limited experience with dry-cured hams, this one seemed pretty good to me, certainly good enough for sandwiches.

3.054 Bagel Sandwich: Turkey Breast & Provolone with Romaine, Sprouts, and Capers


-Cycle 3, Item 54-
28 (Tue) February 2012

-American-
Bagel Sandwich: Turkey Breast & Provolone with Romaine, Sprouts, and Capers

2.5

by me

at home

-Oksu, Seoul-

solo

The bagel was over 9 months old. It looked okay, tasted okay--which I checked first with a tentative nibble after popping it in the toaster for a couple minutes--and I didn't suffer any ill effect the following day, so I'm assuming that it really was okay despite all that time semi-frozen in the back of the meat compartment of the fridge. I don't know if it has to do with some inherent property of bagels or if the bakery at E-Mart, where I'd bought it in May 2011, uses a lot of preservatives.

I still have three of them left.

3.053 Deep-Fried Wings in Obaltan Dressing


-Cycle 3, Item 53-
27 (Mon) February 2012

-Korean-
Deep-Fried Wings in Obaltan Dressing

2.5

by me

at home

-Oksu, Seoul-

with Wife and Dominic

At Obaltan (오발탄), where we had dinner yesterday, they marinade their offal in a delectable sweet-sour soy-based dressing flecked with mild red chilies. Upon request, they'll provide more on the side as a dipping sauce.

Having taken home the remaining half-cup in a take-out container, not knowing at the time what for, I deep-fried some chicken wings and, on a whim, tossed them with the dressing. Not bad, sort of like sweet & sour chicken.

3.052 Grilled Yang and Daechang

-Cycle 3, Item 52-
26 (Sun) February 2012

-Korean-
Grilled Yang and Daechang

3.0

at Obaltan (오발탄)

-Nonhyeon, Seoul-

With Wife, Dominic, In-Laws,
and Brother-in-Law's family

On the Wife's birthday, we went to her favorite restaurant to eat her favorite food: grilled daechang (대창) at Obaltan (오발탄), which I raved about in a prior post (see 2.290 Grilled Daechang).

Yang (양) is a type of beef tripe. Specifically, it's the rumen, the first stomach, also referred to as "blanket/flat/smooth" tripe. In Korea, yang is usually scrubbed clean and marinated in a soy-based dressing and grilled over coals (as here). Raw, it has the look and feel of raw chicken breast; cooked, it turns firm and chewy, maybe a bit rubbery, somewhat like cooked squid. Although yang that hasn't been properly processed or stored can give off a stinky odor, yang done right shouldn't really taste much like anything beyond the marinade--it's more about the texture.

Happy Birthday, Wife!

While the restaurant specializes in both yang and daechang, and both were on the grill, I opted mostly for the former throughout the meal. I like daechang okay, and the one here is the best that I've ever had, but it's so heavy and fatty that I have to be in the right mood for it, which I wasn't in. Also, my cholesterol is borderline, so I figured that the tripe would be relatively better in that regard: I would estimate, though without much conviction, that daechang has approximately 300 mg of cholesterol per 100 grams, compared to about 150 mg in the yang. Alas, nutritional values aside, the daechang is definitely superior in terms of taste.

3.051 Bullshit


-Cycle 3, Item 51-
25 (Sat) February 2012

-Korean-
Bullshit

2.5

at Wooga (우가)

-Hoengseong, Gangwon-

With Dominic, the Ka and Shin families

2nd Retreat with D's Former Daycare Families, Day 3 (see previously 3.050 Spaghetti with Provolone...). 

Wooga is Korean beef barbecue restaurant.  Located in Hoengseong (횡성), a region famed for hanwoo (한우) (Korean beef).  The name literally means "cow/beef (woo) house/restaurant (ga)."

We stopped by for dinner on our way home.  One of the dads in the group had been there before and raved about it and insisted that we have our final meal there.

In sum, the dining experience at Wooga was simply funny at best, possibly fraudulent, certainly farcical, but any f-word would suffice, the point being that the whole thing was categorically foolish. Though I'm hesitant to devote too many words to it, it was all so ridiculous that I should share the highlights.


Early on, the first sign of bullshit was the 2-week reservation, long-advanced reservations virtually unheard of anywhere in Korea, much less at a beef joint in the countryside. I realized that it was bullshit when we arrived to an otherwise empty house at 7 PM on a Saturday evening.

The celebrity Wall of Fame notwithstanding, various internet blogs suggest that customers are generally polarized, regarding the owner either as a genius or a douchebag.

The bullshit began in earnest as soon as we'd sat down. I ordered beer. No, the owner explained, due to the anesthetic properties of alcohol, even a sip of beer would deaden the taste buds and minimize the full sensation of eating his beef, so he would regretfully have to refuse until at least the first course had been properly enjoyed.


The first course, in terms of neither content nor amount, wasn't up for negotiation: it was ribeye, however much that the owner determined would be sufficient for the assembled party.

The top cut appears to be a sirloin strip, not a ribeye, something I should've pointed out at the time but thankfully didn't.

But before we got to the first course, he launched into a bullshit lecture about the science behind tasting food, and about tasting beef in particular. Some of it was rather innocent, just not especially insightful or appropriate in a room full of starving people and served only to showcase his not-particularly-impressive culinary vocabulary, like how taste is generally categorized as the obvious sweet, sour, bitter, etc., while the glutamate-something-or-other in beef contributes the lesser known umami component. Some of it was argumentative, perhaps even mildly insulting, like how marbling is a prized quality in beef, but fat is not a flavoring agent per se and merely makes the meat more tender and even masks true beef flavor, such that anyone who extols the virtues of marbling has never actually tasted really good beef. The lecture, likely the reason for the reservation requirement, to ensure that there's enough of him to go around on a given day, reportedly lasts only 40 minutes under normal circumstances.

However, it extended in excess of an hour once I started to challenge him after the bullshit got out of hand. With respect to the correct doneness of beef, his line of reasoning went as follows, paraphrased here, but originally laced with pseudo-scientific nonsense: (a) the flavors in any uncooked food are inert; (b) cooking opens up the flavors; (c) further cooking intensifies the flavors; (d) if the flavors are agreeable to begin with, then those flavors intensified are even more agreeable; (e) therefore, well-done beef is optimal. As analogical evidence, he cited rice: uncooked = inedible, steamed = edible, burnt = heavenly; also, he noted that raw vegetables are never consumed without supplemental dressings or dipping sauces, thus reinforcing his position on the necessity of cooking. He went on to say that people who take their beef rare do so only because of tenderness, fearing that well-done will result in a tough and dry texture, a problem that his perfectly aged beef is immune to. When I attempted to counter on various points--for example, that I could concede that cooking did intensify certain flavors but not that intensity was necessarily preferable--he turned red, probably not accustomed to so overt a challenge on his home turf, and accused me of being a contrarian; after all, having been in the business for over 20 years, wouldn't he know the real deal?

At the core, the bullshit was centered on his aged beef, so highly self-touted. He claimed that he had studied all the different techniques throughout the world--again, with a lengthy discussion about dry vs. wet aging, the exact temperatures and humidities involved--but dismissed them all and developed his own secret proprietary system. He claimed that famous chefs from around the globe beg him on a regular basis to allow them to work at his restaurant, for free, just for a few weeks, so that they can learn from the master, but no. Anyway, whatever the process, the beef at Wooga was good, but not noticeably better than any other 1++ hanwoo that I've had elsewhere.

The owner, simultaneously cooking and spewing bullshit (note the laser temperature gun in the background)

Even after the lecture, the bullshit wasn't complete. (1) He assembled a pair of portable gas burners on the table and topped them with stone grills, explaining that other restaurants relied on the smokiness of charcoal to conceal their otherwise faulty beef.  (2) He busted out some sort of laser temperature gun and made a big show of reading the tops of the stone grills several times until they had achieved the ideal level of heat.  (3) He placed the ribeye slabs onto the grills and moved them around a bit with tongs, explaining that only aged beef won't stick on a hot surface.  (4) He cut the ribeye into various sections, explaining that each part demonstrates a different flavor profile that should be tasted separately to appreciate the differences.  (5) Once everything had been cooked to well-done, he set the pieces aside, explaining that the tongue is a delicate organ capable of sensing the full spectrum of flavors when the food falls within a narrow range of temperatures, as close to 13 degrees centigrade as possible--you know, like red wine--thus requiring the meat to cool down before digging in. Meanwhile, the children were, in some cases literally, crying in hunger; the adults weren't so far off.  (6) When he was finally ready to dole out a piece of well-done-cooled-down beef to each of us, he insisted that we sprinkle a bit of salt on top rather than dipping the piece into the salt, explaining that the salt crystals get crushed when dipped into, which therefore means something-or-other-I-wasn't-paying-attention-by-this-point. Holy fucking crap, what a joke.

The ribeye, cut into various parts.

I can look back on it in amusement now, but I wasn't laughing at the time. I kept thinking, as the pile of bullshit continued to grow with each step, that it couldn't possibly get any worse, but it did.


The one redeeming factor was the second course. After the mandatory ribeye, we were gratefully left alone and permitted to order either more ribeye, cooked by ourselves to our own liking, or--the only other item on the menu--an unusual dish consisting of pan-grilled chadolbagi (차돌박이) (see 2.298 Pan-Grilled Chadolbagi) over vinegared rice with wasabi. The sour vinegar and spicy wasabi provided a nice contrast to the fatty slices of beef. I was sorely tempted to inquire as to why the owner would deign to offer a cut of beef so laden with fat and then combine it with such flavors that threatened to overpower his preciously pristine beef, but I held back.

In the end, the final tab was complete bullshit: 496,000 won for 5 adults and 5 kids.  Most of us could've had more. The ribeye alone was 28,000 won per 100 grams. (By contrast, our grocery bill for the preceding 6 home-cooked meals came out to just under 480,000 won.)

3.050 Spaghetti with Provolone in Beef Meatball Mash Sauce

-Cycle 3, Item 50-
24 (Fri) February 2012

-Italian-
Spaghetti with Provolone in Beef Meatball Mash Sauce

3.0

by me

at Holiday Inn (Alpensia Resort)

-Pyeongchang, Gangwon-

With Dominic, the Ka and Shin families

The plan had been to eat out on the 2nd evening of our trip, but the logistical realities forced us to stay in. The pasta--a simple recipe currently a favorite in my repertoire (see 3.035 Animal Pasta in Pork Meatball Mash Sauce)--had been scheduled for lunch today but ended up being dinner. The adults had spaghetti while the kids had animal pasta.


I still can't get over how cute and awesome it is to see my kid on skis.

3.049 Pan-Grilled Scallops and Smoked Duck

-Cycle 3, Item 49-
23 (Thu) February 2012

-Korean-
Pan-Grilled Scallops and Smoked Duck

2.5

by me

at Holiday Inn (Alpensia Resort)

-Pyeongchang, Gangwon-

With Dominic, the Ka and Shin families

2nd Retreat with D's Former Daycare Families, Day 1.

In Korea, a popular type of accommodation for vacationers is the time-share condominium. It's referred to as "condo" (콘도). Ranging widely in size and quality, a typical condo is pretty much exactly like a typical apartment: living room, bedroom(s), kitchen, bathroom(s), balcony. Prices also range, of course, depending on size and quality; here, we shared a 3-bedroom suite for 2 nights at 505,500 won, which was significantly cheaper than a hotel, not counting the cost of the membership itself. As far as I'm aware, condos were initially built in and around ski resorts. Now, they're everywhere.


The biggest benefit of staying in a condo, and the thing that sets it apart from a hotel, is the kitchen. At a minimum, the kitchen will be equipped with: refrigerator, rice cooker, microwave oven, gas range, kettle, 2-3 pots of various sizes, frying pan, chef's knife and cutting board, scissors, ladle, spatula, chopsticks and spoons, glassware, bowls and plates of various sizes. Guests often pack additional gear, such as a tabletop stove and grill for Korean BBQ. Most condo buildings or complexes have fully stocked supermarkets on the premises, with everything from instant noodles to raw meat and fresh vegetables. Not only do guests prepare their own meals in the kitchen for the obvious reasons of convenience and cost (though of course it can be more of a hassle and more expensive), some find it simply more fun to stay in and play house (these would be people who otherwise don't live together and don't have to cook everyday back in the real world).

For various reasons, the most important of which was capability, I took it upon myself to buy all the groceries and do all the cooking for a 2-night-3-day trip with 3 families consisting of 5 adults and 5 kids (the wife had to stay behind due to health concerns). We'll be saving a lot of money, and the quality is assured, not to mention the logistical convenience, but it means that I'll be in the kitchen for most of the time.

3.048 Mul Naeng Myeon

-Cycle 3, Item 48-
22 (Wed) February 2012

-Korean-
Mul Naeng Myeon

2.5

at Woo Lae Ok (우래옥)

-Daechi, Seoul-

with Wife, Dominic, Mom & Dad

In various Korean dining situations, a staple is served at the very end, and only at the end.  For example, at a barbecue restaurant, after the meat is said and done, a customer will finish off the meal with a bowl/bite of mul naeng myeon (물냉면) (MNM) (see generally 1.188 Mul Naeng Myeon; most recently 3.010 Mul Naeng-Myeon).  The customer may ask for the noodles at any time, of course, though the server would likely do a double-take and ask to confirm that the request were being made for now, not later.  Family-style broth dishes, such as jeon-gol (전골), are often completed by sauteeing rice in the remaining liquid after the main ingredients have been consumed (see most recently 3.034 Bulnak Jeon-Gol).  The term "siksa" (식사) literally means "meal" in general but refers figuratively to the noodle or rice in these contexts, thus signifying the importance of that final morceau. 

Several years ago, as part of some academic conference here that was attended by numerous overseas guests, I was at a banquet dinner consisting of over a dozen dishes.  Each was brought out one at a time and preceded by a short explanation in English from the server.  When it came time for the siksa--a small bowl of fried rice or noodles--he began, "And now, for the main course of the evening...," prompting everyone in the room to gasp/groan in disbelief.

Anyway, where the aforementioned barbecue restaurants are concerned, I've decided henceforth to order the siksa right away, be it noodles or rice or whatever.  Getting stuffed with red meat is never a good thing, especially for someone with elevated cholesterol.  Regardless, I've always felt that Korean food tastes better with a starchy carb along the way to provide balance.

bulgogi

Woo Lae Ok is a landmark Korean restaurant, arguably one of the most popular in history, even to this day.  At the main location, customers line up at all times of the day for a table.  The fare is regarded as generally northern by classification, though the flavors are somewhat southernized in execution.  On my first visit, to the secondary branch, I found the food to be okay but disappointing, solid but nowhere as good as it's reputed to be.  I'll reserve further comment for when I've tried the original location downtown.

Happy birthday, Mom!

3.047 Rotisserie Chicken Quarters

-Cycle 3, Item 47-
21 (Tue) February 2012

-American-
Rotisserie Chicken Quarters

3.0

at Costco

-Yangjae, Seoul-

solo

Upon moving to Korea in 2003, I would visit Costco at least once a month, not only to shop for groceries and other miscellaneous products that were unavailable in mainstream markets but sometimes just to drop by for a slice of authentic American-style pizza. Back then, the empty warehouse seemed limited mostly to expats and people who'd lived overseas. On occasion, a newbie customer would ask me, pointing at a bottle of, say, capers, "What are those for?" In the past year or so, ever since the locals figured out what to do with things like capers and realized that they could be cheaply purchased in bulk at Costco, the swarming masses have made the place intolerable. From 10 AM to 9 PM, an hour after opening to an hour before closing, at any of the locations throughout the city, the line of cars waiting to get into the parking lot stretches into adjacent neighborhoods, prompting the city to install additional traffic signals and erect barriers to maintain order. The Yangjae location even has a shuttle bus to a remote parking lot to accommodate overflow. Once inside, the lines at the registers are interminable, as if customers were shopping in preparation of the impending apocalypse. Forget it.

For the first time in over 5 months, I risked a trip. I timed the visit to 9:30 PM, thereby avoiding the crowds but leaving me with a scant 30 minutes to get what I needed. We were out of liquid laundry detergent and paper towels. Also, along with 2 other families from Dominic's daycare, we're scheduled for a 3-day ski trip later in the week, the plan being to prepare most of our meals in the kitchen of our residential-style hotel suite, a plan that falls entirely on me to design the menus and buy the food, and then transport and cook it--dinner, breakfast, lunch, breakfast, lunch, as well as beverages and snacks in between and booze and anju (안주) late at night, for 6 adults and 5 kids--so Costco seemed like a good start. At 10:05 PM, I swiped my credit card in the amount of 699,040 won, an all-time single-stop grocery-shopping record for me. At 10:06 PM, I received a call from the wife, who had seen the charge via linked text message on her phone and wanted to announce that she would be killing me when I got home.

Doesn't really look like 699,040 won's worth of stuff.

3.046 Steamed Cod in Cream Sauce with Shiitake, Paprika, and Sprouts

-Cycle 3, Item 46-
20 (Mon) February 2012

-Sui Generis-
Steamed Cod in Cream Sauce with Shiitake, Paprika, and Sprouts

2.0

at Allen Hall (Yonsei University)

-Sinchon, Seoul-

with various members of Yonsei University Graduate School Department of Medical Law and Bioethics

In keeping with my tradition of trying to maintain some semblance of quality and control at buffets, I usually construct a simple "dish" with a select few of the better items being offered (see for example 1.152 Smoked Salmon Salad with Tomatoes in Balsamic Vinaigrette, 2.249 Smoked Salmon with Artichoke Hearts and Capers). Salad components, especially fresh vegetables that haven't been mangled in the process of mass-production, work well in this regard.


For the 15th anniversary of the department's founding, various members of Yonsei University Graduate School Department of Medical Law and Bioethics, both faculty and students, past and present, gathered to celebrate. Yay!

3.045 Shrimp Fried Rice


-Cycle 3, Item 45-
19 (Sun) February 2012

-Korean-
Shrimp Fried Rice

2.5

by me

at home

-Oksu, Seoul-

with Wife and Dominic

Lately, whenever I make fried rice with Korean medium-grain rice, which is a bit wet and sticky compared to the long-grain rice used in Chinese or Thai food, I initially sear the rice by itself in a hot pan with oil to drive out the moisture and separate the individual kernels. This not only makes the resulting fried rice fluffier, but it also adds a nice charred/smoky flavor, similar to the flame-licked taste of a proper fried rice made in a wok over a roaring fire in a restaurant kitchen.

3.044 Bibim Bap

-Cycle 3, Item 44-
18 (Sat) February 2012

-Korean-
Bibim Bap

2.5

by me

at home

-Oksu, Seoul-

with Wife and Dominic

The essence of bibim bap (비빔밥) (BBB) is the combination of namul (나물) that comprise the dish (see generally 1.043 Bibim Bap). Namul is any kind of stringy vegetable or vegetable julienne that's typically parboiled or lightly sauteed then seasoned with sesame oil, soy sauce or salt, pepper, and often minced garlic. In one of my prior posts, I noted that BBB always seems to taste "kinda the same" due to the overpowering flavor of the gochujang (고추장) sauce, as well as the additional sesame oil liberally poured on top of everything at the end, regardless of the main ingredients (see 1.269 Bibim Bap). Still, a proper BBB represents a combination of certain flavors and textures--earthy/tangy/sweet/spicy/bitter/chewy/crunchy/soft--each derived from the individual namul involved.


The mix presented here, conveniently ready-made and on-sale from E-Mart, hits most of the necessary notes. Clockwise from bottom left (in main photo above): bean sprouts, shiitake mushrooms, spinach, doraji (도라지) (bellflower root), gosari (고사리) (fernbrake), and radish. I would say that the first 3, or some reasonable substitution thereof, such as a different green for the spinach, are essential. Preferably, I would've included zucchini in lieu of the doraji, which I find to be a bit too medicinal. Overall, the namul had been prepared somewhat bland, but, as always, the gochujang and additional sesame oil made up for it. At 3,486 won, an excellent bargain for the package, which was enough for 2 (the photo shows 1 serving).

On his own blog, Seoul Food wrote about BBB as follows: "... When I think of bibim bap, I think of leftover day. It's when Korean moms feel too lazy/tired to cook or set the table, so they just throw all the banchan into a big bowl with rice and a dollop of gochujang. ... I'm pretty sure that's how it was invented. A Korean wife got lazy one day and just like that, the dish was born. ..." (see Seoul Food's post "Bibimbap is Overrated"). 

With all due respect to Seoul Food, I disagree on several grounds. While it's certainly true that BBB at home is often assembled with whatever happens to be on hand, given that most Korean refrigerators are stocked with a variety of namul at any given time as banchan (반찬) (side dishes for rice), I wouldn't characterize the situation so pejoratively or dismissively as one involving "leftovers" (not that there's anything wrong with leftovers). And even with everything available, getting it all together is no less labor-intensive than, say, making a sandwich or a salad. Also, the work required in preparing each namul in the first place, whether intended for BBB or otherwise (see 3.018 Bibim Bap), whether in a home or in a store or in a restaurant, is extremely time-consuming, so I definitely wouldn't call it "lazy" (not that there's anything wrong with lazy).

3.043 Intermezzo Sandwich on Sourdough


-Cycle 3, Item 43-
17 (Fri) February 2012

-American-
Intermezzo Sandwich on Sourdough

1.5

by me

at home

-Oksu, Seoul-

solo

When I was an undergrad at Berkeley, my perspective on the sandwich was transformed by an experience at Cafe Intermezzo, a local landmark. Until that moment, I'd mostly regarded sandwiches as convenience items at home comprising whatever bread and meat and cheese happened to be on hand, maybe lettuce, along with a swipe of mayo. But then I tasted a sandwich at Intermezzo that included turkey breast, swiss cheese, avocado, sprouts, and mayo and dijon mustard, on their signature honey-wheat bread. Try as I might, I can't recall or imagine how such a sandwich had fallen into my hands, the combination of components being so alien and unappealing to me at the time. I'm wondering if perhaps I'd just sampled someone else's order, though even that action would've been wildly out of character. In any event, a single bite made me realize that sandwiches could be extraordinary, even mind-blowing upon the synthesis/synergy of seemingly incongruent ingredients.

I tried to recreate that sandwich here but failed in every respect. The turkey, not enough. The edam, too strong. The avocado, not quite ripe. The sprouts, which I'd chosen for the color, too bitter. The bread, Fog City International Cafe's otherwise outstanding sourdough (see most recently 3.041 Grilled Cheese & Sun-Dried Tomato Sandwich: Edam/Sourdough), which I pan-grilled in butter, too greasy and crunchy for what is essentially supposed to be a light and airy sandwich. Oh well.

Much to my utter shock, in doing some background research, I discovered that Cafe Intermezzo burned down last November (see The Daily Californian's article "Raleigh's, Cafe Intermezzo destroyed by fire"). Reports don't say whether the owners plan to rebuild. Oh well.

3.042 Agu Jjim

-Cycle 3, Item 42-
16 (Thu) February 2012

-Korean-
Agu Jjim

2.5

at Masan Agu-Jjim (마산아구찜)

-Sinsa, Seoul-

with Wife, Dominic, and the Ka family

One of my all-time favorite dishes (see generally 1.333 Agu-Jjim), alas, the wholly apparent spice factor prevents us from having it too often, what with a 4.5-year-old in tow, this being just the 2nd time in the 2-year-plus history of the blog.

The sauce at this restaurant, however, somehow, was mild beyond belief. It was so mild that we wondered whether the chili had been genetically engineered to eliminate any trace of heat or the chili had been replaced with something else but supplemented with red food coloring. It was pretty good, notwithstanding the disconcerting sensation of seeing all that red yet feeling none of it. I actually don't like food to be overly spicy, but spicy food should be spicy at least a little. That said, if one wants this dish but can't handle the heat, then this is the place.

3.041 Grilled Cheese Sandwich: Edam with Sun-Dried Tomatoes on Sourdough

-Cycle 3, Item 41-
15 (Wed) February 2012

-American-
Grilled Cheese Sandwich: Edam with Sun-Dried Tomatoes on Sourdough

3.5

by me

at home

-Oksu, Seoul-

with Wife and Dominic

On this second go at a sandwich that I created on the fly almost exactly 2 months ago today (see 2.345 Grilled Cheese & Sun-Dried Tomato Sandwich: Provolone/Wheat), I've come closer to perfecting it. The concept remains essentially the same: a grilled cheese sandwich with sun-dried tomatoes. But this time, I used sourdough from Fog City International Cafe (see most recently 3.033 Hearty Beef Stew in a Sourdough Bowl), bread that I recently described as "the best bread that I've ever had in Korea" (see 3.015 Clam Chowder in a Sourdough Bowl). Pan-grilled in a dab of butter, slowly over low heat, with the lid on the pan, the sourdough transcended the ordinary. On the outside, it morphed magnificently gold and crisp, not brittle and flaky like typical toast, but chewy and firm. Awesome. On the inside, it became warm and squishy, as if the heating process had burst open dormant pockets of moisture within. This was especially astonishing as it had been sitting refrigerated in a ziplock bag for a week. Bob, Fog City's proprietor and baker, once remarked: "Due to the fact that we use home-grown yeast, the breads have remarkable keeping qualities." Indeed. In terms of taste, the tanginess of the sourdough paired nicely with the tart tomatoes while providing balance to the richness of the cheese. The edam was okay but a bit too cheesy; the previous provolone was better for its mildness. Definitely a signature dish, though I'm still grappling with an appropriately grandiose and ludicrous name for it.

3.040 Chicken Kebab

-Cycle 3, Item 40-
14 (Tue) February 2012

-Turkish-
Chicken Kebab

2.5

from Kebab House (Yongpyong Resort)
[take-out]

on the bus

-Pyeongchang, Gangwon-

solo

When it comes to the milestones in my son's life, the feelings that I've experienced have generally been somewhat prosaic thus far. The first time holding him in my arms, I failed to register any of those emotions that other parents seem to describe with such obvious inevitability, like a rush of rapture, a profound this-is-the-greatest-moment-of-my-existence epiphany, an overwhelming sense of resolve to fulfill my duty as a father. The same was true of his first locution, his first consumption of a solid comestible, his first perambulation, his first matriculation at daycare, his first recitation of the printed word, his first defecation on the pot, his first clandestine observation of porn, his first independent preparation of a meal. To be sure, I'm proud and relieved and fascinated by it all, but only on an intellectual level.

His middle name is Jet for good reason.

Witnessing Dominic ski for the first time, however, made my heart flutter with pure joy. While the plan for Yongpyong Resort had originally entailed sledding or just playing in the snow, he suddenly declared a desire to try skiing, much to our surprise. Where physical activity is concerned, until now, Dominic has taken after the yellow-bellied men on his mother's side; for example, a motorized tricycle that rolls at the breakneck speed of 1 kph, he's too afraid to ride it, a cautious temperament that I attribute genetically to his maternal grandfather, who drives 10% below the speed limit with both hands on the wheel at the 10/2 o'clock positions and frantically implores with bone-shuddering anxiety that I do the same whenever he's in a car that I'm driving. But apparently, the kid has some of his old man in him after all. After a single lesson, he was on the slopes and snowplowing like a champ. It was beautiful. I couldn't stop screaming from the elation, exhilaration, exultation, exuberance, euphoria, ecstasy. I can't remember ever being happier.

He was so adamant on skiing to the very last minute that we didn't have time to eat dinner before catching the bus back to Seoul. Fortunately, at the last minute, I ran across a stall selling kebabs to go, which turned out to be pretty good. 4,500 won.

An actual Turk (or so I assume).

3.039 Hanwoo Lady Burger

-Cycle 3, Item 39-
13 (Mon) February 2012

-Korean-
Hanwoo Lady Burger

* * *

at Lotteria (Yongpyong Resort)

-Pyeongchang, Gangwon-

With Wife and Dominic

The Hanwoo Lady Burger features a patty that's a combination of ground beef and bits of rice cake. That's right, rice cake. The beef was Korean beef (hanwoo). Together, the texture of the patty was disconcertingly crumbly-chewy. The official website refers to the concept as "fun." I thought it was weird. Indeed, I don't know if the name is supposed to imply that the item is a chick thing, or that the beef was sourced from a female cow. 4,600 won.

Now on Day 3 of The Plan and a Half, in Yongpyong Resort without a car at our disposal, the food court was as far as we were willing to go.

After dinner, Dominic had his first noraebang (노래방) experience,
where his first requested song was "Welcome to the Jungle" by Guns 'N Roses.

3.038 Bok & Dodari Hoe

-Cycle 3, Item 38-
12 (Sun) February 2012

-Korean-
Bok & Dodari Hoe

* * * *

at Pado Hoe-Jip (파도 횟집)

-Gangneung, Gangwon-

With Wife, Dominic, Cho JH, Kim KH, Kim IT, Lee HS, Yun YH, MtG, Noh SJ, Yong I, Jeong D, and Choi SW

As mentioned in yesterday's post, the plan and a half was supposed to include some sightseeing in the interval between lunch and dinner. That's what I'd been told. After rendezvousing with the others sometime after 1 PM, we ate a quick lunch and proceeded directly to the beachside neighborhood where the restaurant for dinner was located. We strolled along the sand for a few minutes, it being too cold and windy to endure for any longer, loitered in an ocean-view coffee shop for a few hours, then shuffled into the restaurant around 4:30 and demanded service. Apparently, the beach is the only thing worth seeing in Gangneung.


Anyway, dinner was one of those overpriced multi-course extravaganzas, featuring a whole bunch of appetizers and side dishes prior to the main event, that always leave me wishing that they'd serve a bit less and charge a bit less (see generally 3.031 Steamed Lobster). Here, the main event was sashimi (회) (hoe) of two kinds: blowfish (복) (bok) and ridged-eye flounder (도다리) (dodari). The blowfish was good, delicately sweet and pleasantly chewy. One combined platter (as shown in the photo), intended to serve about 3-4 people, cost 150,000 won. I could've done without all the other crap, if they'd reduce the price by even 10,000 won.

all-purpose dipping sauce: sesame oil/seeds, gochujang, garlic, chilies


banchan: sliced chilies, sliced garlic, gari, wasabi, minced garlic, rakyo


more banchan: stir-fried anchovies, bean sprout namul, seaweed namul, pickled oysters

dried anchovies in soy sauce, deep-fried fish roe, salad with dressing, smoked salmon with fish roe mayonnaise


red snapper nigiri sushi, raw oysters, sweet pumpkin mash, boiled trumpet shells

NUTS!


In Gangneung, supposedly, copious amounts of seaweed wash ashore, where it's collected by local restaurants themselves and made into miyeok-guk (미역국), such as this; indeed, we encountered the soup at every restaurant that we'd been to, including yesterday's clam joint.

some kind of raw fish topped with gochujang and laver

roast gingko nuts, deep-fried squid

broiled pike mackerel

assorted shellfish sashimi: abalone, shrimp (boiled), squid, sea squirt, sea cucumber

fluke braised in soy-gochujang sauce

Every sashimi meal in Korea ends with a soup dish made from the bones of the fish,
most likely spicy maeun-tang (매운탕), such as this.