A friend introduced me to Korean cuisine last night...and I found myself thrilled to make the acquaintance.
I like to think myself open to new cultures and tastes. But the Orient sounds like fish to me, and...well, I'm a beef-and-chicken girl. I sat down prepared to politely pick at the dizzying variety of small dishes placed in front of me (a combination of foods I would never consider putting together—like eggs and cabbage?) and maybe take a full bite of the beef and rice and enjoy that familiarity at least. But I have a no-fail weakness for spices and herbs. Despite myself the smells that rose from those garnish dishes set my tongue sniffing like old Trusty, and I had to resist the urge to lower my nose to both my dish and my friend's and take a full whiff. I dug in with as much polite forbearance as I could (I was not alone, after all), trying to maturely mask my gnawing curiosity.
What an experience! The meat was seasoned with toasted sesame seeds and green onions (it was beef, not fish), the rice sticky and perfect for chopsticks (my second-favorite utensils). The blend of foreign flavors and spices set my taste buds tingling, and I layered my dish with sautéed zucchini, aged cabbage, bean sprouts and sesame-flavored black beans all in delicately flavored sauces. Even the eggs were excellent. What a pleasant surprise to learn how much Koreans use vegetables in their cooking. I've tried for years to make vegetables taste good enough to palate, but these people make healthier eating effortless; this may have been the first time I took thirds of any sort of vegetable. Finally, a restaurant meal that satisfied both my fanciful tastes and my I'm-trying-to-be-disciplined cuisine options!
Needless to say, Korean is newly on my foreign-cuisine-to-cook-when-it's-been-a-long-week-and-nothing-interesting-promises-to-happen list (should I admit I'm looking forward to getting bored next week?).
Now, if I can just work up the sand to be really authentic and try it with fish... (ugh, spine curls!)