WOW it has been a long time for an update from me in Korea. I thought that I would throw my two won up here since Karena has been having some computer difficulties. Hopefully all of yall that follow her blog for running and eating enjoy this little tangent.
Christmas was pretty much a blur here in Gunsan. My crew and I worked up until 23-Dec. Since it was the season of giving, I presented each one with a nice plastic bottle of Jinro Chamisul sojo.Now these bottles cost me about 3000KRW (18000KRW total, or about 15.73USD) and is enough akahol to get you feeling good. The look on the GS25 cashier's face was priceless as I plopped my overflowing basket of soju on the counter. With six bottles in tow, she probably thought that I was out for a long night drinkin. My guys loved the soju and I had to keep them from twisting the caps off the bottles that morning...haha...that would have led to an unproductive day of work. I also decided to let the guys all knock off for the weekend at around 300pm. They all had to travel back home (most are from the Seoul area) so I knew that they had a long drive ahead. As for me, I had a nice day of work to look forward to the next day.
Christmas Eve was nice. I spent it in the office doing laundry, shopping at the commissary, and eating a nice Popeye's three-piece dinner for lunch. For Christmas, I decided to venture out into the wild and explore the town some more. I figured that with the holiday there would not be much traffic on the roads so it would be okay for me to look and drive at the same time. I drove down to the beginning of the Saemangeum Seawall, which starts just northwest of base. The South Korean Government is in the midst of creating a free trade zone and "green city" around the new port area. There is a ton of construction in the area and even a new fish market. That place was packed on Christmas. There were also a few restaurants that looked open and had fish tanks in front. I wanted to stop and have a look, but it was coooooold, windy, and rainy. So I did not stop the car to wander around. The cold has been one unfortunate part of Korea that I have had to experience. It prevents me from actually getting out of my car, walking around, and exploring. After all, I spend eight hours a day outside during the week...I think I deserve a little holiday from the cold. So, I kept driving until I got to the Alice Hotel. This place was on the recommended lodging list from base, so I knew about it, but I didn't know they had a restaurant inside. So I parked in the garage and wandered up to find an empty restaurant overlooking the water. I could see maybe 200 yards, which was enough to see fishing boats bob up and down in the waves and watch sea birds dive underwater and surface with their meals. For Christmas lunch, I decided on a bottle of OB and the fried pork cutlet topped with fried kimchi and diced seafood. The cutlet was smothered in Japanese curry sauce and was exceptionally delicious. I liked how the tangy and spicy kimchi was pan fried with the little bits of squid and shrimp and then placed on top of the large pork cutlet. To round off the meal, the chef topped the whole thing with some sort of cheese. I probably could have eaten two! Sorry that I don't have pictures of the meal, but that is Karena's job and I'm not yet used to eating and clicking. The rest of Christmas holiday was spent talking to family and exploring the city via car. When my subs came back on Monday, they had a great surprise for me....they wanted to treat me to dinner for my birthday. Well thank you guys. I had a choice of Korean BBQ, Korean-style seafood and one last choice that I can't remember now. Growing up near Annandale, VA I am well aware of Korean BBQ, but I have never tried Korean-style seafood. Boy was I in for a treat. On Tuesday night, before I left for Okinawa, my guys picked me up and took me took me to the famed Gunsan Seafood hotjip. There, I was treated to a raw seafood feast of royal proportions. The place is great and I will probably go back once more before I leave. You walk into the first floor (the restaurant is seven stories tall) and all you see are fish tanks storing all the tasty (and non-tasty) seafood items you can eat. There are fish of all types, crabs, mussels, shrimp, prawns, lobsters, clams, squid, octopus, etc, etc. When we got to our table my guys decided on a mix of cooked and raw preparations. The first presentation was two types of raw crab. One in a soy-garlic marinate and another, I believe, was yangnyeom gejang (which you can see in the wikipedia link). There was also raw sliced prawn marinated in a warm oil/curry powder mixture (I think) and raw sea squirt, and raw sea cucumber. Instead of eating the fish raw like sashimi, my subs showed me to wrap it in a cabbage leaf with a bit of red bean paste, chili paste, or other condiment of my choice. We also had raw skate which I knew enough to stay away from (skates are chock full of uric acid which turns to ammonia almost immediately upon death). There was salted and dried mackerel and these delicious mussels that were covered in some sort of cheese/crumb mixture. We also had raw tuna, salmon, and a grilled herring. All were delicious though I had trouble with these skinny metal chopsticks that we use over here. Every once in a while the waitress would come by and present us with individually made clams or mussels that were stuffed with kimchi or other delicious toppings. We also had two plates of raw fish that easily numbered over 100 pieces. Then at the end the waitress brought out two soups, one mild and one spicy, made from the leftovers of both fish. I really am doing a disservice to the food here. This post should be accompanied by pictures of everything that I am describing because Google is not helping me much right now. I did manage to capture one of the stars of the meal: Sannakji. Ah yes, raw wiggling octopus served in sesame oil and sliced hot peppers.The dancing octopus is in the center. The chili crabs are in the front, and moving clockwise we have the cheese topped mussels, soy crabs, and sea cucumber (orange/yellow) and sea squirt (clear). I was very excited to try the octopus dish, but it proved especially hard to grab with my chopsticks. Those darn suction cups kept sticking to the plate. Even the Koreans were having a hard time with them. In the end, I had to resort to pushing the octopus to the edge of the plate with chopsticks and then grabbing it with my fingers. It was a fun food to eat...not much taste except for the sesame and peppers. Everyone got a good laugh as I tried to down one and a little suction cup held on to my tooth. There I was, sitting at the table with a tentacle flopping about. Eventually I won my battle with the tentacle and it went down the hatch. It is a unique experience to consume something that is still functioning. The sensation of the little suction cups on my throat and mouth were fun. If any didn't accept their fate, well then we raised our glasses of soju and gave them a shot of liquor. Ah yes, there was tons of soju, I think we each emptied a bottle and a half. Good stuff and I think I impressed my guys that I was able to handle it so well. I'm sure they expected to have to carry me out. NOPE! It was a great dining experience and I was glad to share it with the people who I have worked so closely with over the past two months. We have even agreed to start going to dinners once or twice a week since their hotel is around the corner from mine. I am glad for this because now I won't have to rely on pointing to pictures and hoping for the best. For now I will leave yall with a shot of us taken right in front of the in-floor fish tanks. In the next couple of days I will write about my triumphant return to Okinawa. My buddy and his wife were gracious enough to take me in for a nice four-day vacation from the cold.