Now That's Tasty!

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Raw de'fish'ient

Living in a land where sushi means "sashimi", I've been disappointingly stymied from one of my most favourite fillers due to a seemingly disproportionate disconnect between abundant quantity and market price.

I frequent several local sushi joints, at minimum once a week, back home. Over the past 15 odd weeks, however, I can tally the amount of tobiko, tuna, unagi and the overly infrequent salmon that I've ingested on one severed, 4-fingered hand.

Given the ubiquitous nature of sushi to the Toronto restaurant landscape, it pains me deeply to think of how fresh and frequent the short-haul shipments of flounder and red snapper fly around these parts, while prices remain unstomachably high.

I have managed to find an almost decent excuse for chirasi (raw fish and fresh vegetables on sushi rice) but the hunt is still on for the perfect catch.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

I dream of meat

Last night I dreamt that someone was cooking me a feast of grilled salmon, roast beef, oh, and of course, roast duck. Quite the odd amalgamation, but I woke up salivating and in a hot sweat. The aromas and flavors were on my tongue as I was jarred from sweet slumber to the realization that my plate would remain empty and that my apartment has no oven.

Roast Beast that I cooked up last year when I was living in Whistler...those were happy times

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Is it Friday yet?

I know it's not polite to gawk, but I just can't help myself
Midweek slump, and all I want is a juicy piece of rump.

I've raved about shu maai, dumplings and the perfect bowl of soup, but truth be told, there's nary a thing that could suppress my never-ending appetite for a quality piece of beef; Mercado Brazilian Steakhouse, in Apgujeong, will satisfy (if only temporarily) the most monstrous of appetites and the most discerning of palates.

My boy, Alan carving up the rump

What has become a pay day tradition amongst my crew and I is just another reason why I am always itching for my cheque to come through. If you've never experienced a proper Brazilian BBQ, this is as good a place as any to start...and if you don't manage to make it out alive, a fitting end for any carnivorous creature. Not to be sexist or crude, but if you are a man, and your wet dream doesn't include any of the following then kindly check your purse at the door, sir: all you can eat...meat...on a sword. Oh, and it's slowly roasted over a pit of open flame. The only way this meal could get any better is if table-side service was provided by Victoria's Secret models. "Three more bacon wrapped fillet mignons would be lovely, Giselle! And, please do tell Heidi that her rump was divine! Simply melted in my mouth..."

An outside cut of rump steak
Ok, enough of my uncouth fantasies. All hyperbole aside, Mercado's serves 100% imported Australian beef of the finest quality; from succulent rump steak, bacon wrapped fillet mignon, sirloin, veal and garlic steak, to bone sucking chicken legs and bloody good chicken hearts! Sided by beautifully colored coleslaw, velvety mashed potatoes, garlic rice, sauteed veggies in oil and expertly tailored, hand-made chili sauce; I don't think I could ever utter an unfavorable adjective about the calibre of the food, nor the quality of the service. This place is on fire!

Payday couldn't come sooner.
Bacon wrapped fillet mignon
Nice rack!!

Monday, 20 June 2011

Dim Sunday

It finally happened...

A few staples were noticeably absent, yet, it was there, on my plate, in the freshly steamed dumpling-y flesh! Delicate, hand crafted har gow (steamed shrimp dumpling), velvety and sweet soup dumplings, soft char siu bao (BBQ pork bun), and shu maai 'oh my' (pork and shrimp dumplings).

My baby's back.

Soup Dumpling with chili oil
Soup Dumpling

La Table

Shu Maai

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Close-up Collage

I'm no macro-magician, but I've always been captivated by the ability of others to display so much depth, feel and intricate detail in a limited frame. 

Here are a few of my favourite close-up shots that I've taken in Korea thus far:

Monday, 13 June 2011

Over the Double Rainbow, there's the Triple Patty

Camping on a deserted island called Se Seong Bong Do, two hours off the western coast of Korea...but we're not eating like we're stranded...
Triple Patty, Triple Cheese = Triple Sweet
This was the first of many fun, food ventures for the weekend. We dug up clams and fried them in beer, salt and pepper, packed down freshly fired fajitas, made a breakfast of banana pancakes and hot dogs, and boiled up buckets of spicy ramen noodles. We decided against eating the raw starfish...for its sake.

We're the campers you all love to hate...mind you, eating in such a manner did necessitate carrying a 70-pound cooler a kilometer out to our private beach. Some things are worth a little effort.

Friday, 10 June 2011

On the go Epiphany

In transit on the Seoul subway for the first time with a bulky tripping pack...I think I've finally pinpointed why everyone in this country is so damn skinny; it goes beyond vanity and broaches necessity.

What has become a favoured saying of mine, and a constantly repeated mantra of reassurance while herding myself through the neverending crowd that is Seoul proves to be true once again...

"In Seoul, you only move as fast as the person in front of you."

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Getting Fried

The duk bo gi stand has once again solidified itseld as one of my most beloved aspects of Korean cultural cuisine...and I hit the jackpot with one particular vendor in Busan over the weekend.

The tasty, spicy and textural cacophony that is duk bo gi (boiled rice cakes in chili sauce), along with odeng (scewers of boiled fish cakes) in a salty, spicy fish broth, and the all important and ever tempting mountains of fried treats (shrimp, octopus, stuffed chilies, kim bap, peppers, dumplings, potato pancakes, and the list goes on) keep me in constant flux between my cravings and my creeping coronary...should I continue to indulge to such an uninhibited extent.

In hindsight it seems utterly rediculous, however, at the time I felt as though stopping for a shrimp...or 5 at every passing was not only reasonable, it was necessary. After all, when and order of duk, 2 fish scewers, 4 shrimps and 2 stuffed chilies leaves a negligible W3,000 blemish to the pocket book, its tough to resist. Not to mention the fact that I was forced to cross paths with the stand en route to any and every major destination during my stay. Alas, I managed to amass a respectable 6 visits in a mere 2 days.

My stomach was loving me, my heart and liver...maybe not so much.

I tired to propose to the lady who runs the stand...I don't think she understood me

Friday, 3 June 2011

High times: Part 1

Another benign week has begun and I'm trying my best to ride out the butt end of another brief few days of jubilant escapism. ...that week began two Mondays ago, and I'm still struggling to catch up with myself. 'Real life' moves along, while 'real good life' is all too infrequent. It seems easiest to think of how little time we are able to spend on the things that mean the most to us, when we are forcibly caught up in the moments we'd rather part with, or avoid entirely. I digress; back to the weekend, of two weekends past.

This 'weekend' took me to the rugged peaks of Mount Seorak (Seoraksan), nearby to the northeastern coastal city of Sokcho. Formerly part of North Korea, up until the end of the Korean War, Sokcho is famous for the majestic mountains of Seorak National Park, stuffed squid, and some wicked good fried chicken. If there's more to the story of Sokcho, these are the more important matters, in my book anyway.

Of course, like every good tale, we begin with an ominous weather report; Saturday calls for 9mm of heavy rain, with a gracious bottom coat of 3-5mm of precipitation beginning Friday night, followed by a 2mm shellacking continuing into Sunday morning, just to seal the deal. Did I mention this was a hiking trip? With soggy expectations we set out to the Seoraksan Tourist Hotel for a restful Friday evening (i.e. only a 6-pack of Cass and a 2:30am E.T.B.). It was the general consensus that we should do our best to ascend as early as possible in hopes of avoiding the most torrential parts of the day (expected to begin in the mid afternoon).

7:00am and we were ordering our $12 bacon and eggs breakfast at a large, unoccupied restaurant at the base of the mountain. I was in a surly mood because after a 4 hour nap, the advertised menu options on my breakfast special were entirely unavailable. In fact, I was shut down more times than the fat, crater-faced, smelly, drunk, moron with a mullet at the senior prom. "No tomato juice." snarks our amiable Korean hostess. I request the apple. Still no go. Orange it is. "Meat?", she inquires. "Sausage, please.". "No. Bacon". "Alright then ma'am, what else shall I be having for my breakfast?" I don't think I said that last part out loud...not that she would have understood me anyways. My over easy eggs came sunny side up,  my hashbrowns consisted of three solum tater tots sprinkled on the plate, I received coffee instead of tea, and it was only the last two items that separated my breakfast special from the $7 bacon and eggs option. Oh, and of course the fact that I had a choice of meat...right...

7:30am The rain had evaded us, at least for the time being. It knew it's presence was not welcome in our company. As I stepped outside into to the fresh dew of the morning and glared up at the jagged brown peaks that towered over us in every direction, my mediocre meal was all but forgotten. To retreat from the concrete swamp that is Seoul and to find yourself in such a place as this, was polarity at its pinnacle. The air tasted sublime and didn't seem to be killing me with every inhale. Wildlife was melodically performing their morning routines. And as we set off on our trail it became apparent that we were to be trekking along a crystal clear, boulder laden river for the duration of our first leg. Too bad the food is shit, or I might never leave this place.

13 kilometers and roughly 4.5 hours into the hike and we've crossed bridges, clambered up steep rock sections and stopped to take far too many pictures. It's hard to resist a photo-op when you're awestruck at the invasive beauty of your surroundings at every eyeshot. We now find ourselves but a few klicks from our original point of departure and the impending precipitation is doing little to discourage the crew from pursuing one more 4-km jaunt up an unimaginably steep forest trail so we may reach a cave with some sort of indentation where spring water flows that's supposed to add a year to your life with every sip. Life tends to follow a pattern whereby enjoyable exploits significantly decrease your life expectancy, so this seemed like a pretty novel idea. This small cave, only about 10 meters deep, also contained a modest Buddhist shrine and a monk on site who I'm pretty sure lived up there, at least for the time being, probably protecting the shrine and waking up to the most unbelievable sights each day from his 1,500m perch. Even when the rain started to pour down and eventually soaked us to the bone, this was well worth the walk. A little cloud cover was hardly enough to damage the staggering views from the peak. After putting in the work, we were without a doubt reaping the rewards, as we were able to to eye-fuck every peak, valley, crack and crossroad in sight. Thanks, also, to a generous gift from a fellow hiker, who stopped us specifically to give us this liquid offering, we made a ceremonial toast to the mountain maidens from a can of fine makgeolli (Korean rice alcohol), likely reversing all positive effects from the spring of life and restoring our livers to their normal laborious life.

As we made our way back to the base we were now sopping, shivering, yet seriously high spirited. A quick stop for a much improved meal of Pa-Jeon (fried Korean pancake with a flour and egg batter, with squid, green onion, peppers and cabbage) and a few soups and it was hard to do much but sit back and sigh.

Safely situated under a tent, filling our empty bellies with warm comforting food, as the weather turned torrential. We'd overcome the elements and emaciated any ill expectations. I suppose it's only when one is apathetic to the option of anything going wrong, that the eventual outcome always sides in ones favour.