Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Hanguk eumshik; Hanguk-aw

Posted in In DC, Korea at 6:22 pm by graceandpoise

Today I had Korean food for the first time since . . . well, since Korea.  And boy, was it good.

You see, the cafeteria at work is fine and all that, but it lacks a certain je ne sais quoi.  One goes there because your stomach is rumbling so much it’s interrupting your important meeting, and you need to put something in it to shut it up.  One does not go there because of any desire to actually eat the food.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s not despicable – it’s just not good either.  Maybe that’s what happens when you’ve got just one cafeteria, and it doesn’t really have to compete against anything…

So today, on a whim, I decide to check and see what food trucks might be in the neighborhood.  Some days, this area gets no love, but today I was lucky.  These guys were quite nearly at the front steps of our building!  So of course I HAD to try it out.

I figure, while I’m at it, why not break out my now-very-limited Korean language skills?  So I walk up to the truck and say, “Regular bulgogi hana juseyo.”  Yeah, that surprised ’em.  I was even able to dig up the words for “yes” and “no” when asked if I wanted salad and kimchee.  (Yes, even after four years in Korea and India, I’m still a spice wimp.  That’s okay with me.)  Then, greetings, pleasantries, money, and a carton of food duly exchanged, I’m on my way before they can ask me anything more complicated in Korean.

I slink quietly back to my office with my prize like a lion who knows it’s got a choice piece of gazelle and fears the others will try to steal it.  And I dig in.  Plenty of rice, with savory, warm, comfort-food bulgogi on top, the juices from the bulgogi seeping down, flavoring the rice with their goodness.  Okay, yes, the pieces of meat could have used a little less fat/gristle – but it wouldn’t be “authentic” without that, so it’s forgivable.  And there was a salad with a very zingy dressing – almost too zingy if eaten alone, but a delightful counterbalance to the warm and hearty notes of the bulgogi and rice.  Yum.

Now, if only I could find a place in DC that serves Myongdong kalguksu, my return to Korean favorites would be complete…

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