Monday, June 15, 2009
Stinky Tofu Stew (Lunch with My Friends)
I was invited to lunch by my best friend Catherine, along with Imelda (one of my English tutorial students) and a couple of women from Catherine's church. We went to this traditional Korean restaurant that specializes in set menus. The rice served with the set menu is barley rice or called "boribap" (rice and barley grains cooked together).
Here's Catherine and Imelda. Catherine has been my closest friend for several years now. She's a veterinarian and specializes in poulty medicine. Imelda was referred to me by a Filipina friend for English conversation studies. Imelda runs a private dog shelter and she was the one who gave Buttons (our adorable Yorkie) to us to adopt.
Catherine's church members (busy preparing their boribap bowls). They helped identify most of the dishes that were served in our meal. They were interested to see my reaction to the Chongukjang stew that is one of the side dishes served. The latter is made out of "natto" or fermented tofu beans. It has been describeda s a funky mixture of old sweat socks marinated in cabbage juice with a sprinkle of sewer gas.
The boribap bowl. I love barley rice. There's a certain nuttiness to the flavor of the rice, added by the barley. I was surprised that the boribap was given to us in a large mixing bowl. Then one of the ladies pointed out the ceramic bowls for us to put the rice in.
This is called "keran jjim" which is literally Egg Stew in Korean. I love this steamed dish, with some restaurants' version that comes with fish roe on top.
This spicy mixed green salad came with small snail meat. It was a pleasant surprise and gave a nice chewy twist to the spicy-crunchy salad. Even if it added a nice burn in my mouth, I keep going back and getting bites of this wonderful salad.
The namul or veggie side dishes. The key is to take small portions of each mound and add to your rice bowl. You then add a little red pepper paste (gochujang) and mix everything up. The mounds (starting on the upper right, going clockwise) are eggplants slices, soybean sprouts, braken and spinach.
The cooked cabbage and raw green chili peppers are to provide a nice crunchy contrast throughout the meal. Imelda showed me how to dab a little mixed seasoning paste (I shall delve more on this later) on the cabbage and then eat it. It was wonderful! I am still intimidated by the chili peppers since some can be fiery hot even if they are green.
The chongukjang stew. Oh yes, it did um, reeked but it was tolerable (for me). My husband would have fainted or gagged. The first taste was not bad. Then I saw Catherine add some to her rice bowl and mixed it up. I did the same and ate a spoonful. It was great! I begged my friends to teach me how to cook it and Imelda promised to show me how to make it.
Here's some seaweed laver (wrapper cut into strips) to sprinkle over the rice and some lettuce if one wants to wrap up the rice in it. The mixed seasoning paste here is made up of soybean paste, red pepper paste, garlic, sesami oil and some sugar. I love this seasoning, especially on grilled korean barbeque meat.
Pickled slices of radish. There are about a hundred ways that Koreans pickle radish. There's the tiny raddishes complete with their leafy tops, huge radishes that are bigger than my thighs, cubes of radishes in spicy sauce and even slices of radish in clear pickling liquid. I love the last one the best.
Lastly, here's a shot of my bowl and some more veggie dishes. The one on the farthest right is made out of peeled sweet potato stalks. I swear I will learn how to prepare this dish as it is so simple but taste so delicious.
It was a wonderful lunch with good friends and good conversation. I heartily recommend this restaurant in Icheon City to whoever wants to try the Boribap-Chungukjang experience