Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Poison Poison Tasty Fish

The Ukrainian who had recently entered Korea charged me with only one task.

"I want to do thing in Korea. But not Ex-pat things."

Well, that pretty much limited everything I knew about doing in Korea, because after being an ex-pat in Korea for seven years what I know best about Korea is ex-pat things. I know where to find ex-pat comfort food, where to find ex-pat entertainment, and where to find ex-pats in general.

Granted I know Korea but it's been a while since I've explored the non ex-pat Korea. However it seemed like I was about do so I wracked my brain for non ex-pat things to do in Daegu and also things that maybe I had not yet done. A good time to kill two birds with one stone, I figure.

And so it was that I started to think about a piece of Daegu trivia that I was familiar with. An after hours fish market that is open all night long, from 10:00pm to 5:00am in Chilsung market which is just around he corner from my house. While it is just around the corner from my house I still had not been. If it did exist, this would be a very Korean thing indeed.

I call up the Ukrainian and he invites along the also newly arrived teacher from Afghanistan and the plan is to meet around Daegu station at 10:00pm on a Monday night. As the time approached I regretted it as I felt dead and deader arriving 8 on Monday and the last thing I wanted to do was go out. Instead of sulking I forced myself into clothes and stayed up until the appropriate time walking down the street to meet them at Daegu station. Monday was cold and windy. The whole damn summer in Daegu has been cold and windy thus far, but I stood in the cold and wind, played a game on my phone and waited for the arrival trying to figure out how to get to where in the market. I had a vague direction and a hope that the shop would indeed be open.

At 20 after ten the boys arrived and we trundled into a cab that I directed to the Noghyup bank at Chilsung Market. None of us wanted to walk in the wind. Being smart the Ukrainian and the Afghan had both packed for Daegu summer. A summer which has so far failed to appear. I wasn't really well dressed for the weather either, so the cab was a small mercy.
When the cab pulled down the street to the market I could see row after row of well lit cart bar and I knew we had made it, the outdoor, all night fish market at Chilsung-shijung. Perfect. I pulled the cab over and we jumped out and the Hajuma who stood standing in wait grabbed the boys and dragged them into her tent before I could get two words out otherwise.

"Where are we going?" asked the Ukrainian.

"Here, basically."

The hajuma sat us down. I confirmed that she had gooey. In Korean gooey is grilled fish and it was too damn cold and windy for hway (raw fish). So I asked for gooey and she set us up with a set menu and brought out the grill stones for the feast that was about to transpire.

If my Korean was better I might have realized that the grill we were getting had very little fish. It was in fact a clam and oyster grill. Fortunately the boys didn't mind and I had no issue with it. They food started coming and the Hajuma fawned over us. She taught the boys how to hold chopsticks and treated them like children at their first night out. We drank soju together passing the cup around so that everyone had shared. I even asked the Hajuma to drink with us. She brought us boiled muscles to go with the grilled oysters and clams. We ate. We ate more. We ate our fill on fish. She brought us several service dishes including grilled fish, dok-bo-ki, raw clam, and snails. It was something to remember.

"And we even get serenaded by our own live saxophonist."

"What the music is live?" Asked the Ukrainian.

I pointed to the sax player across the street wearing sunglasses and a red tux. "Live and complimentary."

"This is the best thing I've done in Korea so far!" He yells while downing his soju. The Korean girls eating fish at the next table giggle and introduce themselves.

"I like you," says the girl in green as we are leaving.

"She likes me!" yells the Ukrainian.

"I like Korea!" I yell back.


E said...

It's funny how you can live in an area so long and never really see or do what it has to offer. I find myself in similar situations when friends come to visit. What the hell do we DO down here in Atlanta? Hell if I know.

And +5 internets for the title to this piece. I love throwing that quote out randomly.

Tony said...

I thought I was going to read about eating blow fish sushi but still enjoyed this piece, Sara. I love reading the slice of ex-pat life you present of Korea. Makes me want to come and visit myself. Of course, I wouldn't do that unless I had someone as knowledgeable as yourself to take me around to get the cute Korean girls to tell me they like me (big grin).

Saradevil said...

Oh, you know if you ever showed up on the ROK I'd totally take you around!