Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Tomatoes & 'Red Days'

While I know that the tomato is technically a fruit, and the small ones ARE called 'cherry' tomatoes, I will never get used to seeing them served as a dessert here.

In the ready-to-eat section at E-Mart, right next to the green salads, they have stocked fruit salads: one little compartment of sliced strawberries, one of grapes, and one of cherry tomatoes. Then there's the mixed fruit salads, which contain any fruit you care to name, plus cherry tomatoes floating around whole in the medley. Mind you, they are very attractive, with their bright red colour and smooth skins - all the appeal of a berry but less costly AND less squishy. One can see a certain rationale behind this.

Today at the teacher's cafeteria they were being offered in small bowls (exactly five to a bowl, counted out meticulously), for 'afters'. Sometimes we get peaches (five segments), pears (ditto), or the little yoghurt drinks (looking like expensive face washes in their little bumpy bottles with the peel-off caps, but today it was tomatoes. I saw a couple of sidelong glances when I hacked each of mine in half with the soup spoon (it was that or chopsticks. Western implements are provided on the blue-moon occasions when 'Western food' is offered at the caf...) and sprinkled salt on them...

By way of interest, I'll give our menus for today and tomorrow, as they are quite typical. Our lovely assistants (Jay-son in our office, Ji-su next door) take turns translating them for the benefit of the few of us who don't read hangeul as fluently (and who wouldn't know what 'Tong-Dae-Mae U-Dang' was even if we did. 'Hot Spicy Frozen Pollack Soup', apparently. Never mind...) It's given exactly as they typed it up for us, so enjoy!

Thursday, April 5

spinach bean-paste pot soup
cereal (rice)
seasoned & simmered chicken
seasoned miyoek seaweed & lemon
beans cooked in soy sauce
a currant tomato

stir-fried rice and haeisu sauce
clear noodle soup
vegetable, sweet-and-sour pork
roast bun (dumpling)
seasoned pickled radish

Looks good, doesn't it? I was particularly happy to see that nothing was described as 'spicy' today; when a Korean takes the trouble to make a note of it, that generally isn't a good indication for wimpy Northern European palates like mine. (Ok, so the Dutch get excited when they put too much nutmeg on their boiled green beans. So what? Some of us actually are FOND of our tastebuds...) However, I should have taken warning from the 'seasoned', as the primary seasoning which this cafeteria employs, despite their rich Korean culinary heritage, is gochujang.

(For the uninitiated among you, gochujang is red pepper paste, used liberally throughout the country but especially at the Myongji Teacher's Cafeteria in Yongin...) It gets rather disheartening when one stares down at the row of warming pans in the cafeteria to see a solid line of red: the main dish of chicken, pork, 'beef stew', or fish has been soaked in a red pepper sauce - the green vegetables have been shaken with red pepper flakes till they are coated (including, on more than one occasion, the fresh salads and lettuce leaves) - the side dishes are usually kimchi and chigae made with gochujang - and the soup is solidly red with the same substance.

On 'red days' I usually get a bun and a carton of milk at the students' variety store. Ah well, at least I'm losing weight at a consistent rate! I call it "The Gochujang Diet" - simply don't eat anything with red pepper paste in it. However, I have to say that the 'beans cooked in soy sauce' were delicious, and I'm looking forward to the tangsu-yok (sweet-n-sour-pork), which is always good, for supper tonight...

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Anonymous audrey said...

Wow, you better teach Katherine to like gochujang! Thanks for sharing the for seasoned seaweed, all I can say is - better you than me! ;)

We're finished painting the first half of Steven's room, and hope to move all his stuff over to that side this weekend.

Audrey & family

PS How about a post from Bryan?

April 5, 2007 at 7:09 a.m.  
Blogger Alembyc said...

Audrey: Hey, I keep hinting that the family would like to hear from him. I think he either doesn't quite believe me (thanks! Now I can point to your comment and go 'See? See? See!) or he's too lazy to find out how to log into Blogger and type in a post (good thing he never reads the comments either!)

Oh, and I'll try to get more pictures in soon.... promise!

April 5, 2007 at 7:56 a.m.  

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