Sunday, February 3, 2013

samgyetang (Korean chicken soup)

Well folks... I did it!  I ate my first Korean meal on the floor of a traditional Korean restaurant!

Talton took me to eat Donkey Kong... oops!  I mean samgyetang (pronounced something like this: som-g'ya-tong).  I know it's silly, but before eating here, I couldn't remember how to say samgyetang for the life of me!  So I just kept saying, "We're going to eat Donkey Kong."

Another thing I love about where we live is that so much is within walking distance!  Seriously, I don't get in a car to drive anywhere but maybe once or twice a week, and one of those is to the grocery store....and I could totally walk there if I wanted to BUT since I walk everywhere the rest of the week I do take advantage of my sugar daddy giving us a lift.  ;)

This samgyetang restaurant is within 5 minutes of our condo, right along the Haeundae beach road (it's the white sign with red letters right in the middle of this picture).

These three signs were outside the restaurant. Talk about tootin' your own horn! ;)

Here we go!
You can sit outside on these tree trunk stools to eat if you want.  Pretty cool looking!
First thing: shoes off!
I was so proud (and amazed at how well he did so) of him for ordering "one bottle of Coke please" as well as the ease he showed when ordering the meal and extra rice.  That's my hubby, people!  He has picked up quite a bit of the language from his coworkers, and he tries to teach some of it to me too.  I just love this man!

Because this restaurant only serves one thing, the samgyetang in 3 slight variations, the food comes out immediately after you order it....along with the many side dishes (we had three types of kimchi with this meal along with onions, peppers, and chili dipping sauce which is pretty good).  It was boiling hot...literally.

Don't worry about sitting on the floor, because the floors are heated y'all!!!!!!!!

Samgyetang is a whole chicken in this bowl that is stuffed with rice, onions, figs, ginseng, and spices.
a small slice of ginseng

The chicken is so tender that it literally falls off the bone as soon as your chopstick touches it.  Awesome!  You can either eat it out of this bowl it is served in or ladle some into a smaller bowl.

They give you a second smaller bowl for the bones and pieces you don't eat so they're not floating around in your bigger bowl.  It ensures that you can find every piece of chicken and all the rice in the bowl so none goes to waste.

side note: I accidentally swallowed a tiny bone in the midst of gobbling up this tender chicken....I hope I'll far so good 24 hours later. ;)

Then there's this.  Um, I don't know what it's called, but I do know that it's put on your table at the beginning of the meal along with all the other food and two tiny cups to drink it from.  Having been so brave to come here in the first place (if you know me, you know that I branched wayyyyy out of my comfort zone to try a new foreign food) and having eyeballed that liquid for the duration of my meal, I decided to go for it, you know, just to see--for the experience.
pardon the's hard to take a picture and pour at the same time, man!
 My tongue no more than touched it before I put it down!
 Holy moly!  That stuff tastes like gasoline!!!

When it was time to leave, I felt something...or maybe I should say I didn't feel something.  I didn't feel like the odd man out for eating there.  I didn't feel like a visitor.  It's kind of weird that it wasn't weird to eat there.  Nobody stared at us and talked.  They were all just eating their soup, like they didn't even notice these two lone Americans eating amongst them.  It was awesome to feel like we belonged....rightly so considering we've lived here for 9 months now.  We'll go back again, and I can't wait to take others along too!

And just when I wasn't feeling like a visitor, I pulled out my camera like a tourist and started snapping away!

The shelves and wall at the front of the restaurant were lined with these jars full of all kinds of different things.  For those of you worried for me, all of these ingredients were not in what I ate least I don't think they were.  ;)

Here are some of the jars up close:
Here we have deer antlers and broad bellflower...
 acacia and cherries...
 pine needles and hot peppers...
 & cucumber and milk vetch root.

After leaving the restaurant, we walked through the market to pick up some fruit and cute tacky socks for some special people back home (by special request from these special people...hmmmmm....Will it be you???  I'll be mailing them tomorrow!).

We came to a vendor where the line was out the door.  In front of this restaurant, this lady stands by the tank full of eel and prepares the eel to be cooked.  Look at her face!  She had a great smile!

She was eating up all the attention with everyone watching her gut these eel, throw them in a bowl, slap some of that red sauce and garlic (from those two bowls in front of her) on top of the raw eel, and send the people inside to wait on their bowl of eel to be cooked for them.  Now that's what I call fresh.

Sound appetizing???  Then you MUST watch these two videos.

The first is the lady picking the eels out of the tank (I just loved watching those guys squirm...and by guys I'm talking about the grown men in front of the eel tank!).

The second video is of this awesome adjuma gutting the eel.  It's not for the faint of heart, so if you don't like gross stuff, don't watch!  I, however, thought she was so entertaining and so freakishly amazingly great at her job that I couldn't resist videoing it.  She takes the eel out of the bowl, pokes one end down on the table with an ice pick or screwdriver (not sure....but it looked like that kind of tool) so it can't get away, stretches it out, slices it down the middle in perfect symmetry, scoops its insides out, and plops that baby in the bowl ready to be cooked.....all in like 10 seconds flat!  So gross but so cool at the same time!

Naturally after watching that, we went for dessert.  :)  After stopping for ice cream where we did it the Korean way and shared one bowl of chocolate ice cream with two spoons (you often see them sharing one drink with two straws), we decided it was time to call date night a success and pick up the munchkins from our friend's house.

We got home just in time to catch the fireworks show that we're so lucky to have front row seats to every Saturday night.

It's times like this night where we're truly immersed in another culture that I'm reminded of how cool this experience is.  This was definitely one of my favorite Korean nights so far.

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