Pork belly and sweet potato cake

Food. Just when I think it couldn’t get any more daring than this, it does.

I’ve been really proud of my little forays into foreign cuisine. Baby octopus arms, kimchi, paneer, Thai curry, “real” ramen, gyros, African peanut soup, homemade salsa… hey, I’d even tried 비빔밥 (bibimbap-steamed vegetables with rice and egg), 만두국 (manduguk-dumpling soup), and 짜장면 (jjajangmyeon-black bean sauce over noodles) in hopes of finding things I could recognize on a Korean menu next year.

Those Korean dishes I did manage to try on my own had turned out to be delicious-so on my birthday, I wanted Korean food. My awesome parents decided to indulge my every wish (months of begging pays off!) and we went to a Korean restaurant with a couple of friends. We decided to go family style so we could all have a chance to try everything. Wealth and riches! Reviews below-and sorry there are no pictures. Maybe when I’m done with Goal #39 pictures will be possible. For now, my webcam tends not to travel to restaurants 😉

– Fried dumplings: This was an appetizer, and it had already disappeared by the time the second half of the family made it to the restaurant. Dumplings are my absolute favourite Asian food ever. So even though this isn’t the most “Korean” offering on the menu, I will be back just for this.

– Pork belly: I’d been waiting for a large group to try this with. The sweet ajumma who has been helping with my Korean pronunciation for months grilled it at the table and cut it to pieces with giant scissors. There were two types of sauce with it, but I never found out what they were called. The sauces were good. The pork belly itself was a lot more chewy than normal American fare, and something on the order of 80% fat. Like inch-thick non-cured bacon without all the salt and chemicals that make it taste good. Probably won’t go with this again unless someone else orders it.

– Kimchi pancake: Kimchi baked with onion and flour and probably some other tasty veggies-delicious. It was a little hard to eat with the chopsticks, but savoury pancakes are such a brilliant idea. Have to learn how to make it now that Mom has taken to buying me kimchi from the grocery store but making faces whenever I open the jar-maybe it’ll be less fragrant in pancake form 🙂

– Kimchi soup: Tofu and kimchi in a flavourful broth, served in a very hot stone bowl. I need to work on my wimp factor. This stuff was spicy-but really good.

– Seafood/Tofu soup: I don’t like seafood, so not being able to tell what was in this was a good thing. Again, too spicy for my wimpy taste buds but otherwise great.

– Banchan: Mmmmmmmmm, pickled radishes! Kimchi! Glazed potatoes! I think all 7 people at the table found something they liked.

– Beef and pork bulgogi: Basically what Americans think of when we think of teriyaki or stir fry. Hogged by the little brothers and pronounced good. As they had been teasing me for months by groaning whenever I brought up the subject of Korean food, this was a pleasant surprise. Must go back and actually try these.

– Sweet potato cake: A beautifully packaged and decorated gift from Korean friend. She got it from Tous le Jours (yes, we do have one in my city and yes, I will definitely be going back). Pastry chefs are amazing. I can’t imagine making edible adornments like the rosettes and crumb dust on this specimen. Cakes (and overly sweet pancakes, cinnamon rolls, donuts, white breads…) have declared war on almost every organ in my body so I usually observe the ceasefire and avoid them, but I ate this and liked it quite a bit before things started to hurt. It was sweeter and yellower than I expected (we grow different varieties of sweet potato-another thing I didn’t know).

So.

Best. Birthday. Lunch. Ever.

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