16 Feb 2010

Plastic Food and Eating Instructions

Posted by PastryPrincess at 13:04
I finally have internet on my laptop, woop woop! ;) I felt bad neglecting my little baby i.e. my blog. It's strange how much it's grown on me already! Although I won't be posting any new recipes during my time in Oz - except for when I have too much time and post stuff that I've made or eaten a while ago and believe me, there's plenty! - I will write about food I try down-under and just generally what I get up to.

Let's begin with the itty-bitty Korean culture and food I experienced on my trip. I flew with a very good Korean Airline and so they served traditional Korean food on the flights (or beef steak, always beef steak), which I happily ordered because I've never really had any before. Funnily enough they gave us these little brochures with instructions on how to eat our food and even though the second dinner was more entertaining, I only kept the first little leaflet.
The dish was called Bi-Bim-Bab and it was a bowl of mixed vegetables, rice, minced meat, spicy red pepper paste, sesame oil and quite hot Kimchia and fruit for dessert. I didn't expect this spiciness in plane food which is usually quite bland, wouldn't you agree? I was happy enough to eat the Korean meals because they were a lot lighter and probably healthier than the European options and I always find you feel stuffed when you keep eating but not moving during flights. Despite the fact that I walked around, stretched and did gymnastics every now and then, those flights were loooong!
I can't remember what the second dinner I had was called but it was kinda fun to eat. You took a big salad leaf, filled it with nutty bean paste, beef in sauce, rice and Kimchi and then rolled it up into a ball. Which was easier said than done, particularly because we hit turbulences every single time a meal was served and I often made quite a mess...ooops. One dish was quite hard to stomach though and that was seafood and rice for breakfast at 4 in the morning, eeekkk. Too much rice for my liking and I can't say I'm all too keen on anything fishy when I've just woken up!
 When we landed in Seoul Incheon I went straight through customs to do one of the advertised sightseeing tours and I had set my eye on the 4-hour one to Seoul. I had never imagined I would ever go to Korea but there you go, you never know what's going to happen! Unfortunately most of the tours were cancelled due to the bad winter weather and there was only one left that went to Incheon. I obviously decided to do it anyway because it was definitely a better option than hanging around the airport for seven hours and there were other people my age, which made it more fun.
I can't say that I saw anything particularly nice or very interesting on the tour ... and the weather was kind of a downer, but at least I got to go to a Korean food market. We also visited an old palace made of small wooden houses that were surprisingly modern for the age they were built in and drove over a brand-new, 21 km long bridge. Yeah, I know, not so impressive. The ferry ride was fun nonetheless because our lovely tour guide had bought crisps to feed the seagulls with and jaysus, those were some crazy birds! We had a jolly good time feeding them because they went crazy for the food and would grab it out of our hands while flying by in rounds. It was mighty entertaining and a bit scray too, in a Hitchcock "Birds" kinda way. I saw a grown Korean woman sing, clap, dance around and squeal with joy when she fed them. ;)

 We didn't get to spend much time at the food market but it was enough for me to walk around and I saw lots of strange things. Of course the food was very different to what I'm used to but the way it was displayed unvoluntarily made me think of food poisoning... There was plenty of dried fish and people frying and preparing different dishes of which I don't know what they were.
The fish on the clothesline is supposed to be fresh by the way... it smelt fishy alright - not a good sign!
I do have to say that the dried Korean red peppers looked nice and I wouldn't have minded buying some to take home and cook with but I knew Australian Customs would never allow them onto their soil, strict as they are!
Would you know what any of this is?! ... Neither did I but it was somewhat intriguing. One of the most fascinating things I saw were these snails though, if that's what they are. There were tons of them in a big bucket of water and they kept spitting water out of their tentacles which looked very interesting. I've eaten snails as part of a seafood platter in France before and my sister's just recently found them in her Paella in Spain... but somehow I can't say they turn me on food-wise, if you know what I mean! They're just too slimey for my liking.
The tour guide told us we could pick a snack she would then buy for us and after having seen the market I think it's safe to say that we were all the slightest bit scared albeit it just being spicy chicken in the end which didn't differ much from any other old sticky fried chicken all over the world. I'm very glad I didn't get food poisoning though and I felt very brave biting into my undefinable piece of chicken - others weren't as brave!
Basically anything could have been hidden under the sticky marinade and the texture of the whole thing wasn't exactly the most appetizing but other than that I expected something a lot more exotic. I often feel like that these days, maybe I've become too hardy in general. One thing I know for sure though, is, that I would never eat umbilical cord like my seat neighbour on the second flight had without knowing in some godforsaken country... And I pride myself with trying just about anything at least once but there's a limit to everything!

Back at the airport I made the discovery that all the nearby restaurants advertised their menus by showing exact plastic replicas of their dishes and I found that very peculiar and funny. I mean, come on, there were even pizzas, burgers and pasty dishes on display in case you didn't know what they were like! Which could actually happen, spoken from a Korean point of view, but then again they'd know what their own cuisine would look like, wouldn't they?! I really want to have plastic prawns now or a sushi plate as bric-a-brac for my sushi-crazy sister. What a cool thing to have as decoration in your living room and you could say, hey, it's traditional Korean art! Hahaha. ;)

I did get to see actual Korean culture though at the Culture Centre at the aiport where people were dressed in traditional Korean dresses, played music and danced. 

I was made play a little drum and was given it as a reward, which was pretty nice and would have made for a nice souvenir had I not ended up leaving it on the plane because I was once again too scared of Australian Customs! You'll agree if you've ever watched Australian Border Security on tv which they were actually filming when I got to Sydney Airport and had to go through what felt like 10 different inspections where they even x-rayed your check-in luggage and where you can get fined 100Aus$  for still having the apple you got on the plane in your bag! Scary.
Hopefully I'll get another little drum on my trip back though... and take on Eurpean Customs if need be!

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