Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Soju Bombs, Not Just for Hipsters

After our second day of training we were whisked down the street from our school and led to a small (by American standards) restaurant, a raw fish house. Our shoes came off at the front door and we were led through the small dining room to a private area behind thin walls. There we sat at a table with the other teachers; Korean, Canadian, and American. I am not one to complain, and I won't now, just know that traditional Korean tables (the ones just a foot or two off of the ground) are not Shane friendly.

The low table, surrounded by yellow/gold pillows sat on by teachers, was already dressed with so many dishes
that I thought dinner was served. There were several bottles of Hite Beer, Coca Cola, Cider (7Up), and several bottles of Soju. The bottles were surrounded by a collection of small glasses for sharing the beer and shot glasses for the Soju. Several small plates of food were around the table that had several important pieces of the meal to come. Garlic, hot peppers, and water chestnut shared one plate while lettuce and sesame leaves shared another. There were plates of octopus around and small dishes of what seems to be the most important ingredient in Korean cooking, red pepper paste. Each place setting had a warm/wet towel, a small plate, a large soup spoon, and two metal chopsticks.
A custardy soup made with water chestnut and (possibly) oysters was the first dish brought out to us. It was devine in texture and taste. Next, three different large plates of raw fish were brought out to us. This is not sushi, not anything like it. Slices of several types of white fleshed fish came out on th
e plate each slice about one inch by two inches or near to it. It was not really my thing. It was so tough and chewy and didn't have a ton of flavor. But there was soy sauce and red pepper paste to help make up for the lack of flavor in the fish.
I found much enjoyment in wrapping the octopus inside the lettuce leaves with a chunk of garlic and a smack of red pepper. That was very good. Next to come out was kimchi. It is like a spicy-fermented type of Saurkraut. Rose likes it more than I do, but i'm learning. After the kimchi was kimbap. It was like a sushi roll with crab and kimchi inside of it. After that was a delicious salad made with pear and cucumber. After that, was the drinking.
Mr. Won is the big boss at our school. He had me come sit with him at the end of the table and we drank Soju and beer together in what he called So-Mec and he asked me about many things. Eventually I got drunk enough that I sang an Ein Prosit, which was a little out of place in South Korea, but it still felt right to me.
After that, we left, and that led to an even bigger adventure, one which Rose will tell you about, Nori Bang.


  1. Sounds like the fish you ate is similar to Japanese sashimi, or cuts of raw fish. Though some of the non-fish sashimi (octopus, squid) is quite tough, much of the fish (tuna, salmon) is quite delicious.

  2. Michael-- can I put your blog on the blogroll above?? Thanks for the comment!

  3. Hi Michael, I'd say it was only similar in shape. Sashimi (if i'm correct) usually has rice underneath it. But there was no rice at this meal, which is kind of surprising. Also, there was no salmon or tuna to go around, which would have been delicious. It was some sort of a white fleshed fish. It was very tough, and was not high on flavor. I thought the octopus was delicious, and I would have it again anytime.

  4. Hey Rose and Shane -

    Rose - feel free to list my blog. I'd be honored!

    Shane - you might be right about sashimi. I actually think I've had that kind of fish before, but don't know what it was (perhaps I don't want to know). You're right, not flavorful and too much chewing. Such strange and wild textures with raw fish. I can only imagine what you are experiencing - much more variety and excitement from good old Ginza's on Odana! :-)