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Posts Tagged ‘mandu’

We are just beginning to try all the different kinds of street food, so we often point and hold up a single finger to ask for one. It seems to be impossible to order just one of anything.

When I point to a circle of mandu and hold up a single finger, the vendor nods and smiles immediately, like she knows what I want, and then puts eight mandu in a box. When Anna and I tried to order a single bungeoppang (goldfish bread, sweet waffle batter pressed into the shape of a goldfish and filled with sweet red bean paste) the woman acknowledged our single finger and then gave us four. Good thing they only cost 1000 won, or about $.83.

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Soup or sauce?
Photo by Anna Waigand

The two bowls arrived together with two large spoons. Large enough that I would call them soup spoons, but this is where Anna would begin to disagree.

We were at a Chinese restaurant on the top floor of an all electronics mall near the famous Yongson Electronics Market. We’d spent the day blowing off invitations of “camera!”, “lens!”, “Xbox!” from men at glaringly bright displays of electronics that all seemed a little to similar. The Korean food court had confused us (more on that in a latter post) and the Chinese place had a few cheap items.

I’d assumed the Chinese restaurant would have been pretty authentic considering its heritage was a straight shot across the sea. I hadn’t assumed that the Chinese food would have been Koreanized like the US has Americanized Chinese food into Chop Suey. But I guess that is like assuming you are going to get authentic Mexican food in US when you walk into a Chi-Chi’s simply because we are neighbors.

Like most traditional Korean restaurants, you get a lot more than what you order. We picked an order of steamed dumplings, (turned out to be mandu, not the Chinese dumplings I was used to) and an order of crab fried rice. We were served the standard Korean side dish of blazing yellow pickled radish with raw chopped onions we didn’t know how to eat and a dollop of black bean sauce.

And then the bowls came out. They were served with the fried rice. They were medium sized bowls each filled with maybe a cup and a half of liquid. The first bowl had a clear, warm broth with shredded cabbage and green rings of spring onions floating on the top. Clearly soup.

The second bowl looked like it had been filled with a thick black sludge saturated with pea-sized chunks of…we weren’t sure. We tasted both with the tips of our spoons. We enjoyed the mellow taste of the clear broth and were surprised by the deep and rich flavor of the sludge that was present on such a small taste. The sludge was similar in color and consistency to the black bean sauce, though with more chunks, so initially we both spooned it onto our fried rice plate mixed a little with a spoonful of rice before eating it. That was until I spooned a glob of the delicious sludge onto my plate and a larger that usual orange chuck stuck up as the black liquid slowly spread into a thin layer across the plate. I poked and prodded and then tasted. It was a chewy nugget of ham like the ones you find in good baked beans.

This is when I began to think that maybe we had been given two bowls of soup, not a bowl of soup and a giant bowl of sauce. Anna disagreed. She argued the black liquid was thick, very rich, and went great with the fried rice. All true. But then I started investigating the bowl more with my spoon and found more orange carrot and ham chunks.

I started eating the black liquid by the spoonful like a soup, which Anna thought was gross.

“It’s like you’re spooning ketchup into your mouth.”

“It’s like you’re spooning chili onto your plate and mixing it with fried rice.”

I continued to eat it like a soup, and she continued to eat it like a sauce, and we still haven’t resolved our dispute.

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