Lunch in Korea

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foto by Jill Smolin (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

I have a friend who travels the globe teaching production people how to use 3D cameras.  This week she’s in Korea.  She sent me these thoughts about lunch there.

From Jill (who also took the photo):

Apparently wealth is measured in numbers of side dishes – This was a Bill Gates lunch.
There were 3 tables of 4 of us all pushed together. The servers wheeled out these enormous tabletops covered with bowls.  Then they slid these entire tabletops set with the lunch you see, over our tables….so we had 3 complete sets of lunch.

Each of us had a cast-iron pot of rice with a few wonderful starchy beans on top.
You take your rice, put it in your bowl and recover the rice pot.  On the table was every manner of vegetable, marinated in vinegars, chilies, paprikas, garlic, garlic, garlic.
Cabbages, bean sprouts, green leafy everythings, shrooms, lettuce, seaweed, a vegetable I didn’t know: maybe a leaf of some kind (very rubbery).  There was an entire raw crab you pretty much drank.  Then there were: headed mackerels, some poached fish in something red, pork, beef,
rice pancakes, noodles (all kinds of glass, different widths, different sauces).
Oh and, tofu soupy stuff you put on your rice and red bean soupy stuff you put on your rice.

So when you’re done eating all that stuff, you’re meant to pour water into the remnants of your rice bowl, maybe adding some of the tofu or red bean stuff, but I broke the rule and ate the bottom of my rice. sacrifice that crunchy deliciousness to hot water?  I think not.

The other remarkable thing is that the Koreans eat with really long chopsticks and a spoon.

You kinda eat w/the spoon w/your left hand (by the time they’re done smushing everything up, you can’t pick up anything with those chopsticks), but you use the chopsticks to reach across the table to whatever you want. and you do everything with them, bone your fish, snatch a bean, eat.  There is absolutely no rule about multi-dipping.  Everyone does it… take a bite, take a sip, go back in for more. so freaking refreshing.

What a treat.