Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Enjoying Stinky Socks Stew

Well not actually... I had Chongukjang today. Some foreigners find that the heady aroma of Chongukjang (or fermented soybean paste stew) comparable to the wonderful ripe odors of unwashed foot covers and rotten cabbage. But for those who like the stew (like me) it is like a delicious aroma at par with a ripe durian (which makes my mouth water while drives most sane people away).

Jane, a student at the Church where I volunteer teaching English, invited me to lunch today. She heard that I love Chonjukjang stew and took me to a renowned Korean restaurant which specializes in serving it. The name of the restaurant is Weh Halmoni Jip which literally translates into My Grandmother's House. I like this restaurant, it has a nice homey feel to it.

Coming into the place you will see a lot of antiques, old Korean furnishings, knickknacks, dust gatherers, what-nots... It covers the walls of the restaurant and adds a special turn of the century feel to the place.

There's old ceiling tiles accenting the top part of the wall. Old brushes for calligraphy on another. Even a Dali-esque wooden sculpture that doubles as a coat hanger.

There's various little ante-rooms that one can choose if they want private dining. But there are also sit-down areas with tables or little korean tables where one can eat korean-style (meaning cross-legged on the floor). And right in the middle of the main dining area is a huge kiln which is kept burning during the winter.

Before the food was served, I took a picture of my student Jane and her two adorable girls - Sunny and Anne. Sunny is a 4rth Grade student while Anne is 6th grade. Jane works at a local elementary school (Ogap Elementary School) and is a choir singer in our church. I like her cherry personality and zest for learning English.

And then they served our appetizer - Tofu with Fried Kimchi.

Next up was the Chongukjang stew. It is served in the customary stone bowl. This stew I loved. It was earthy, filled with chunks of zucchini, onion, chili peppers and a chockful of soybeans. It also had squares of soft tofu.

And they served my favorite part of the meal, the Banchan or the side dishes. Of course it contains various kimchi (cabbage, radish slices, and non-spicy radish). There was also braised spinach, mushrooms, hot chili peppers, salty fried anchovies and stewed beef with quail eggs in soy sauce (this was a little bowl of heaven!).

We had a great meal and it was time to go. The cashier/manager was a friendly guy who greeted all the restaurant patrons warmly like they were long-time customers. I think most of them are. We saw about a dozen groups that came in and out while we were dining. I snapped some more pics of the restaurant before we left.

And here is a happy picture of us, full and happy with our meal.

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