June 1, 2008 4:51 AM


No, not maggots, I'm talking about the palatable kind (I've been reading a bunch of O. Henry, hence the language of the title). I've had the opportunity to enjoy much good, honest home-made Korean food here. My grandmother is a wonderful cook (although evidently my mom didn't pick up much from her), and I've been gratefully enjoying her hospitality. Korean food isn't just kalbi or bulgogi. Korean BBQ is more for special occasions. No, most traditional Korean food is more similar to kimchi, the sharp fermented cabbage stuff. It is possible to summarize most of Korean cuisine with one word: "pickle." A typical Korean meal has rice and many small dishes (banchan). You pick and choose what you want. It's different from Chinese cuisine, which as my friend Brandon Jue puts it, is "a big steaming pile of food on a plate."

It's interesting, because Cantonese and Korean cuisines arose from the same fundamental problem: How to prevent food from going bad. The reason why most Cantonese food is so hot (temperature-wise) is because the area is so hot and humid, food can go bad quickly. Thus, everything is cooked really hot to destroy any bacteria. Korean food is designed to be preserved for long periods of time. In the winter, there are few vegetables, so everything is pickled or fermented, to blow any organisms into oblivion. I read a restaurant review in a restaurant (it was framed on the wall), in which the write referred to Korean food as "the earthiest food in the world." How about that?

Note: I've become more proficient with chopsticks (lack of use in college atrophied the appopriate muscles), even with the thin metal chopsticks. Chinese chopsticks are these long pieces of wood or plastic square in shape, kind of like a small, long block. Korean chopsticks are thin conraption of metal, the bane of my Chinese friends. Whatever,they're just too lazy to learn.

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