Things You Should Make To Eat, No. 2
(This one goes out to seoulbrother, of course)
(and if you’re looking for No. 1, look here)
If you have ever talked to me for more than five minutes, here’s something you know about me: I am obsessed with Korean food.
You, with your Kogi BBQ truck and your newfound love of tofu stew, you may love Korean food. I’m sure you do, and I encourage it. But I’m not talking love. I’m talking obsession. I’m talking the kind that has little Korean ajummas clearing off a table in the back of a shop to bust out a Hibachi grill and make me homemade kalbi after hours. I’m talking the kind that has an ex-pat friend living in Seoul telling me: “You know more about Korean food than any waeguk I know.”
I think it’s genetic. I get it from my mother, most certainly. Not my father, as he’s always complaining there’s too much garlic in things. My mother can eat foods of spiciness beyond all belief. I like spiciness to a degree but prefer garlic. Best of all, I prefer the proper balance. If you are like me, and you like spiciness and garlic, you will love Korean. Not all dishes are spicy but they can be. Most, however, feature garlic. And few are vegetarian. They all have at least some fish in them, and usually meat.
Korean food is the kind of food that comes right out and gets in your face and kicks you in the balls. If you are a woman, then it kicks you in the lady balls. While you can get fancy with it, for the most part it’s not prissy, and it doesn’t mess around with a lot of delicate, artful presentation, timid flavors, or with things pretending to be something they’re not. There will be some serious flavors and there is probably going to be some squid or some meat. But once you get beneath the initial assault, the one-two punch of GARLIC! SPICE! you will find nuance. You will look at all those people who say Korean food is basic, peasant-y, with its stinky cabbage kimchi, and you will smirk knowingly. You will have experienced the vast array of flavors and textures and delights and then you will breathe on them and they’ll asphyxiate.
And the wonderful thing is: once you are accustomed to the joyousness of all these flavors and textures, you will see how comforting they can be. A hot summery night? What else do you want besides BBQ – and the added cooling crunch of herbs and vegetables is a stroke of genius. A cold winter’s afternoon? Few things are cozier than a steaming bowl of bubbling hot tofu stew, the silken tofu soothing your tired, fussy soul.