Eel would certainly not have been my first choice when it comes to dinner, but I am quickly discovering that in South Korea it is common to order a group meal, and therefore a bit trickier to please everyone’s palate. Not wanting to be the new foreigner who squirms at the sight of odd delicacies, I waited apprehensively for this water snake to make its appearance at my table.
A large platter of eel marinated in an orange sauce was promptly plopped next to me. My new friend picked up a pair of scissors and began cutting the chunks of eel into more manageable sizes. With a pair of tongs she placed these over the sizzling grill, while I watched a white goo ooze out from the sides. “Just like cheese,” someone said encouragingly. Except not at all.
I picked up my pair of metal chopsticks and chose the smallest, crispiest piece I could find. One of the more experienced foreigners picked up a piece as well and gave me the best advice to get through this meal – “don’t think about the texture, just focus on the flavour.” And with that I was set. I took my first bite of eel and it wasn’t so bad. Chewy? Yes. But very tasty!
Feeling a bit more adventurous, I dipped the eel in the various sauces sitting on the table, and then wrapped it in sesame leaves for an extra burst of flavour. And then I had another, and another, and then a few more. Audrey now eats eel!
Though eel was certainly the star of the meal, I did also try some of the other dishes at the table; including bean sprout soup, greens with hot peppers, spicy grilled chicken, and a soup with ramen noodles in all shapes and sizes. (I am quickly building a tolerance for all these hot flavours!) And what better way to wash down this flavourful dinner than with my first taste of makkoli – Korea’s rice wine.
Any other strange dishes I should try?