Here's another post that I wrote for the WorknPlay website in Korea. This time the topic is sundae but we're not talkin' ice cream. It's pronounced more like "soon-day" and tastes more like... um... oh, just read on!
All right, perhaps I'm a food wuss. And yes, I need to be more open minded. Like the time that plate of fiery-hot chicken feet was placed in front of me at the employee dinner and I made the excuse that it was too hot for me. Well, maybe it was, but actually it was just too... "feety." Today I knew lunch was going to be a tough one when my co-worker IMed me that we were going to a sundae guk restaurant.
Ah sundae, Korea's version of the blood sausage. I had it a couple of times before with tteokbokki. A couple of pieces here, a whole lot of deliciously spicy tubes of rice cake there. They actually were kind of good together. But having sundae, front and center, boiled in a soup? Oh, I didn't know if I could handle that.
Our large group made its way over to the sundae eatery a bit after noon. Wow, the place was packed! Oh, too bad, I guess we'll have to…. Then a table for four magically appeared. I considered joining the other half of our lunch bunch that were going down the street for donkas (tonkatsu) but instead pulled off my boots and settled onto the cushion that the ajumma (older woman) had placed for me. She seemed friendly and rather amused by my presence.
The banchan (side dishes) were quickly set out in front of us, followed by boiling caldrons of soup. I searched through my serving with a spoon, finding various pork parts ("mainly stomach"), leeks and green onions. The star of our meal had settled to the bottom of the bowl. Rin scooped out a couple of hers and allowed them to cool on her metal rice bowl lid. I watched her dip the pieces into her serving of pickled baby shrimp before eating them.
Okay, maybe I'll try that. I dipped a piece after letting it rest for a bit and then took a bite. The casing was considerably tougher than in my past sundae experiences. I then chose to bite out the filling, leaving a pile of empty casings next to the bowl. Yep, lovely.
Spooning through my lunch, I ate select pieces of pork, realizing all the while how ridiculously picky I was being. Earlier in the meal, my coworkers had noted how Koreans eat every part of the pig: the feet, the ears, the head. And here I was, acting so ungrateful for what was set in front of me. I ate as much soup as I could, submerging spoonfuls of rice into the broth and scooping up vegetables.
At the end of the meal, my leftovers were considerably chunkier than my dining companions, although I did manage to get the soup's level down. The ajumma was actually impressed at my effort and mentioned to my coworkers that she had a couple of American customers that really liked the dish. I pictured a table full of enthusiastic, "extreme food" loving men....
No, I'm grateful to be included in these real Korean culinary experiences. I've discovered so many food gems that I hope to track down when I return to my country. While I'm here, though, I think I'll free up my cushion at the sundae guk restaurant for one of its true fans.