Sunday, December 21, 2014

Bring me the Head of John the Flounder


November 26th, 7:00 a.m.

SaraDevil: What’s on your mind?

Post: Most likely on today's agenda, point out something I want to eat and having an ajjuma kill it and bring it to me.

I’ve done a lot of things in Korea, but even I can’t say that I have done all the things you can do in Korea. There was one thing I had not done, that I had always wanted to sort of do. Granted, way back in 2002, I had ridden on a boat on the ocean with my English director, caught a fish in the ocean, than watched as an ahjussi cleaned it on the shore and served it up with gochujang. But, that was catching an fish out of the ocean and eating it. I had heard many a time of the markets where one could go and point at a fish and have someone bring it to you ready to eat. Yet, in all my time in Korea, I had never completed this particular feat.

Oh, I had been to the placed with big fish containers outside where you knew that one of those poor unsuspecting bastards was about to become your dinner. I’d had lobster in Korea more than once and was fairly sure I had met the donor before it was delivered, but I’d never actually pointed at a thing to have someone bring it to me to eat.

This, though, is what my love suggested to me would be an interesting way to have brunch. And from there, of course, we would do the shopping for the Birthday/Thanksgiving the First that would happen on the following day.

I figured “What the fuck, why not?” So we marched off on a nice, coolish (but not overly cold) morning to the local market that was not too far from her place.

“It’s right across from the Home Plus, I can’t believe it took me so long to find it.”

It was her local version of my beloved Chilsunshijang, shopping market of ajjumas and rockstar foreigners who like to eat fresh food and not pay a shit tonne of money for it all the time. Her place was more contained than Chilsung, but certainly a great market. First up, finding our way to the back to where all the fish mongers were hanging out.

“Do you know how to do this?” she asks me.

“No fucking idea.”

“I thought you had done this before?”


“Can you do it?”

“Pretty sure we can figure this out.”

At first we went up to the restaurant staging area, which–luxury–had tables and chairs meaning we would not have to sit on the floor. The ajjuma took one look at the two of us and I’m pretty sure was convinced she was about to have the worst day of her life.

But fortunately, my Korean prevailed.

Ajjuma, otokay?”

To which one ajjuma thoroughly relaxed and smiled and grabbed me and dragged me downstairs and called over her friend. She explained to me that he would take care of us, and he asked in Korean what we wanted, which we explained what we would buy. It was all pretty easy from there.

He picked out a flounder and tossed it in a basket for us, and my lady love and I checked out the basket and decided to reject his selection up looking it over. He tossed it back into the tank, for a less picky consumer, and plucked another out of the water with his long net. We looked this one over and agreed that we would eat the fuck out of that fish.

We figured while we were at it we should get some scallops, clams, and shrimp to go along with our fish; in all we loaded up with about 50 dollars worth of seafood for a meal that would have cost us three times that much in a restaurant or in the states. Then we marched back up stairs with our bags (the fish was coming on it’s own behind us) and we got a table.

I chatted with the ajjuma for a bit about who we were and where we were from, made sure that we had proper soju (CHARM soju for you people that don’t know better), and ordered the bivalves and prawns to be steamed up. We got extra sesame leaves, garlic, and gaemjang to go along with everything and sort it out; and a bit extra wasabi and soy sauce. While we were starting in on our fish, which was served up perfect for us, a group of Chinese tourists came and sat down next to us.

They were staring and watching us.

They were complaining about our ability to speak Korean.

To which the ajjuma told them, in Korean, in no uncertain terms, that my Korean was better then theirs. She spent the next ten minutes giving them pronunciation lessons while the ahjussi (who was assisting) loomed over my shoulder and watched us eat. Sadly he would not join us for soju. In all it was a swell time. The steamed food was perfect, the fish excellent, and later the hwaymultang was nice, not to spicy, served hot and boiling and was to be expected.

For the first time having food killed for me, I thought it worked out well.

1 comment:

Auntie Lolo said...

I used to work near Cicero and North in Chicago. There was a fish market near Grand and North that I went to once.

I went in there one day. "I would like a fried fish," I said, "DO you do that?" The clerk behind the counter grinned at the thought and asked me what kind. "Oh, whatever's good today," I said. I kind of had my eye on the catfish on ice, but I don't know if I trust Chicago catfish to this day. My doctor says I should limit my mobster intake.

He went over to the large tank in the corner, netted a large tilapia, and went into the back. THere was a final-sounding "thud," and ten minutes later, he came back with an incredibly delicious fried fish on a bed of tomatoes and herbs.

I should have gone back there more often. The restaurants here think Provel is a selling point.