Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Lessons in Korean food (Bibimbap Backpackers)

Bibimbap!

Over the past eight years (minus that one forgetful year I spent in Philly), I've probably been to K-Town at least a few hundred times, eaten more than my fair share of garlic chicken platters from Woorijip when drunk, and downed countless bowls of Jajangmyeon. Korean food is my jam, or my sexual awakening... take your pick. That said, while I'm more than happy to shove my hole silly with spicy-ass kimchi or to drown my problems in makgeolli - I realize more often than not, I don't know what I'm actually putting in my mouth (a serious problem for me). I've asked my Korean ex-roommate before on numerous occasions what each banchan dish is, what ingredients go into what, but he's also an asshole who didn't tell me his birthday for five years - so I don't really trust him with regards to these things. Anyway, when a friend of mine asked me if I wanted to go to a random event in K-Town to learn about the history of bibimbap, I was a bit skeptical. This sounded sort of like one of those cult tricks where they promise you punch, except the punch is spiked... and you promise to love an extraterrestrial elder being named 'Stan,' but I decided the reward of eating some sweet sweet Korean food far outweighed the downsides of possibly signing over my life.

As it turns out - the Bibimbap Backpackers are a pretty laid back and legit group of people who honestly just want to make people love eating 비빔밥 (bibimbap), which honestly isn't that difficult to do. But before getting to the money shot, first they fed us some other stuff that Korean people enjoy.

Seafood pajeon

Not unlike Starcraft, they explained that Pajeon is something dear and special to the hearts of Koreans, and is "only eaten on certain conditions relating to the weather... when it's raining, or when it's snowing, or when it's sunny." I've explained this in the past, but it's like scallion pancakes in Chinese cuisine, but with more stuff in it... or to make it even more relatable, it's like a panfried pancake, but instead of blueberries or chocolate chips... you put in chunks of squid and scallions and other savory shiz. It's not the main course, it's just to get your lips wet.

Japchae

One thing I like about Korean food over every other food - is the seemingly endless stream of appetizer dishes that are apparently all free. I've often wondered what stopped people from going to a Korean place and ordering the cheapest entree and just killing it on banchan. Aside from shame, I mean. In any case, they followed up on the pancake with some japchae (glass noodles) and mandoo (dumplings). Glass noodles probably sound pretty bland, but they're surprisingly flavorful, with an elasticity that would rival Stretch Armstrong even the next day. Again, none of this is supposed to get you off - just tasteful foreplay for the main dish.

Look at those colors

Then it hits you. Bibimbap. With a name that translates literally to 'mixed rice,' I'm not really sure what you expect. I took three things away from this session. One, this shit is the food of the royals. In the past, only kings could get their socks off with this ish. That's how sensual it is. Two, the name of the game in making bibimbap is to make your bowl as colorful as possible. What could be better than eating a fucking rainbow. If you answered anything aside from unicorns making sweet sweet love under a waterfall... you're an idiot. Or maybe I am. Third, doesn't matter what the bowl looks like after you mix it up with the fury of Zeus's libido - it will taste like heaven. Yes, maybe it looks like 'the sum parts of yesterday's leftover' according to my mom. So what? It tastes 5x better. Basically, what I'm trying to tell you is: bibimbap is dope as hell.

Hotteok

After dinner - you follow up with some hotteok (which is pronounced kinda like 'Hodor'). It's like a combo churro, funnel cake, and pancake. You have the delicious brown sugar cinnamon flavor of a churro violating your tastebuds, but with the crispy oily skin of a funnel cake, and the soft porous fluffy center of a pancake. If that doesn't get your pants tight, I don't know what will. I feel like it would be a la mode, but I don't think that's the Korean way to do things.

Mixed that shit up...

In closing, I have learned (not really that it's anything surprising) that I love bibimbap. I didn't really need a group of people to pimp the idea to me, but they've definitely firmed up any doubts that I had. Additional factoid - this program is sponsored by CJ Foods (apparently the No. 1 Korean food company), which is represented by the face of Psy. Who loves the fact that he's 'like herpes.' Awesome.

tl;dr - I went to some Korean food events hosted by the Bibimbap Backpackers (which weirdly enough are cosponsored by the company who employs Psy to sell various 'sauces'). They're basically evangelical Christians, except - instead of trying to make me love god, they want me to love bibimbap. I now love bibimbap.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

nicholas,

long time lurker. thanks for your awesome writing.

just wanted to point out - i don't agree that korean food is your jam.




it's yogurt jam.




Suin Lee said...

Hi, why didn't you let me know that you posted it!!! Now i see and i really am happy.. Your write on foods is just awesome :) Thanks a lot!

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