Sunday, January 25, 2009
Happy Lunar New Year!
We spent a very happy evening with our Korean friends, who graciously cooked us a meal that took them almost 2 hours to prepare. It was really fun watching someone else in the kitchen, though I felt sympathy for them trying to cook in an unfamiliar space and not knowing quite how to ask for some things. At one point they mentioned they needed beef stock for their soup, but couldn't find it so they just used some "spices." I showed them my Wyler's beef bouillon cubes and they were quite impressed, exclaiming they had never seen anything like it before. Well, it's not really beef stock but it's sort of close. I was puzzled at first by "bowels" and "barsamic" but quickly figured out they needed "bowls" and "balsamic" vinegar. It was amazing to see them at work - making this food for them was a combination of love for their traditions (which they are missing out on this year while away from home), art, care for appearance as well as flavor, and memories of watching their moms in the kitchen on New Year's at home.
I don't know the name of the pork dish we had, but it was marinated in a bulgogi sauce with pear and apple, and was utterly delicious. The fried zucchini and vegetable cakes with dipping sauce, and the homemade kimchi, were all so yummy and by the time we were ready Sam was quite hungry so he downed a lot of zucchini. The tokk-guk (rice cake soup) was also really good, and now I know some tricks to making it that I did not find online...seaweed (rats, I forgot to write down what kind it was, a new kind I had not seen) and fried eggs on top. We also learned about a rice punch (shikhye, with rice grains in the bottom) and sweet cinnamon drink with persimmon and ginger that was heavenly (soo jeong gwa)- and since it is a New Year's tradition, now we will have to get some of that every year. Oh how good it is to have someone to guide me through the maze of the Asian market.
After dinner we played yut nori, a Korean traditional game played at New Year's. I had read about that but never seen it. Any game that involves throwing sticks instead of rolling dice was bound to be popular with our kids. Alex played along for a while and I tried to refresh my hazy memory of a few Korean characters and grilled our guests as to the pronunciation of those devilish vowels. It was really very fun -simple enough to learn quickly and with enough surprise and strategy to keep it interesting. I am going to have to figure out where I can buy this and make it a Lunar New Year tradition.
A great night. Thank you so much, Mira and Hyejin, for celebrating with us. Wishing all a very happy Year of the Ox.