Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving in Korea: Food Tribulations Part 5. Or is it part 10? 15? I've lost count.

Thanksgiving is ideally spent eating an indulgent calorically awesome meal with family. In the absence of family, friends can provide excellent dining companionship. In the absence of food inspiring a Thanksgiving-worthy meal, Thanksgiving just isn't Thanksgiving.

Cooking a Thanksgiving meal without an oven is more than daunting, it's impossible. No turkey? No stuffing? No pumpkin pie? A lone bowl of mashed potatoes is not enough. We decided to forgo any attempts to cook on Thanksgiving and left ourselves at the mercy of what Cheongju has to offer. After very little discussion (what options did we have to discuss?), we opted for ginseng chicken at the mountain fortress. We first experienced the ginseng chicken after our last hike to the fortress and agreed it was our best option for food that was remotely holiday-esque. Nostalgia for great meals of the past and some sense of American pride prevented us from being wooed by burritos or Subway sandwiches.

After a short hike up to the fortress wall and a leisurely walk around, we settled onto blue plastic stools at our family restaurant of choice. We ordered the ginseng chicken, along with some tofu and pajeon (a Korean-style pancake with vegetables and squid), and initiated the Thanksgiving tradition of sharing what we're thankful for. Tedd, Chris and I quickly identified a common cause for gratitude: each other. Life in Korea would be far less enjoyable without these good people. I, for one, need sympathetic ears so I can bitch about the food. And unless you've been subjected to kimchi and random brown roots at practically every meal, it's hard to fully commiserate. Lucky you!

We were enthusiastic about the tofu and pajeon, but were heartened that the whistling of the pressure cooker signalled a more satisfying main course. In order to make the ginseng chicken seem more glorious, I'll whet your anticipation (or pity) with pictures of our side dishes. Take that mashed potatoes!

Should you be impressed that random brown roots come in two varieties? No, we certainly aren't. We don't eat any of this.

We think these are nuts, but they could just be hard beans. It's hard to tell.
Hurray for a vegetable you'd find at a farmer's market back home!

Some kids think kimchi is an international delicacy. Funny, right? They're serious.

I'll take a wild guess and say that this is incredibly spicy. I can't tell you any more about it. As with the other side dishes, we pushed this to the edge of the table to serve as a chopsticks rest.

Are you ready to see the main course? We were.

The ginseng chicken was served in a large pot, set on a portable gas stove to keep it hot, and was accompanied by a communal plate of rice. The server distributed bowls and small dishes of salt and cut up the chicken with kitchen scissors before leaving us to feast.

Rice with chestnuts and ginseng root

The highlight of our Thanksgiving meal: delicious! flavorful! but not quite the same as a homemade turkey dinner.

Dessert: For the Love of Pumpkin Pie

After lunch, we took the bus downtown and decided to see if one of the better cafes had anything resembling pumpkin pie. Lo and behold! Pumpkin mousse cake! It sounded potentially satisfactory but was beyond disappointing. We tried.


Blogger Ellen said...

"Should you be impressed that random brown roots come in two varieties? No, we certainly aren't. We don't eat any of this."

Hahaha- Haley, this is the funniest thing I've read in weeks! Excellent Material!!!
Miss You!

11:49 AM  
Blogger Mary said...

i love your blog. so funny. very witty.

10:32 PM  

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