Wednesday, 31 January 2018

I got (south coast) Seoul

The Ewing has to endure a lot when we go out to eat. Sure, she gets taken to some fancy restaurants and some trendy bars, but she also gets taken across trading estates in Rotherhithe and down dodgy alleyways in Birmingham. Yes, I know, some people may also consider this a positive. Despite the downsides, she also gets the enlightening pleasure of my company during dinner. Again, some people may also consider this a positive….

So, while 2018 may be the year of finally giving my wife an easy life (just kidding, that would be boring) for our final meal out of 2017 we headed to the inauspicious Bournemouth suburb of Charminster, for Korean food, where I promised to be on my very best behaviour.

To drink it had to be the classic rice lager, Hite, which is sweet and fizzy and pretty devoid of merit as a beer, but makes a great accompaniment to bold and spicy Korean flavours. I wanted the Ewing to chose the cinnamon punch, so I could drink it, but she went with the coconut water, complete with chunks of young flesh that get stuck in the straw.

Things started promisingly with some fried dumplings stuffed with kimchi (of which I could have easily eaten several dozen more) and, even better, dduk bok gi, a dish of fish balls, mixed veg and rice cakes stir-fried in a chilli sauce. 

Mercifully, Korean rice cakes aren’t the cylindrical blocks of dust that people nibble earnestly on before destroying a multipack of Quavers, but are cylindrical and chewy - which may not seem like much of an improvement, but are strangely moreish and a great vehicle for the fermented gochujang chilli paste, of which I can’t get enough.

It also made an appearance in my main, a dish of oh sam bulgogi, marinaded pork and squid, stir fried with spring onion and  served on a sizzling platter with a side of sticky rice. Currently pork and cephalopod is my favourite surf and turf combo (although, ask me tomorrow, and I’d tell you scallops and bacon) here both types of protein were expertly cooked as so to remain sweet and bouncy; the squid, particularly, like perfectly coiled springs of joy.

Possibly the zenith/nadir of the Ewing’s experiences as a lapsed blogger’s wife came when the waitress bough her main course, the salmon bibimpab.

Bibimbap, if you weren’t aware, as my wife wasn’t despite my wordy explanation - I should have clocked she wasn’t listening when I saw the glazed look, but I get that a lot, so it’s hard to tell - is a mix of rice, vegetable and protein (usually strips of beef), topped with a raw egg and a squirt of chilli sauce and served in a furiously hot stone bowl. The contents are then quickly mixed with chop sticks to cook to egg/meat and mix in all the crispy bits at the bottom of the dish.

It was a beautiful vision when first bought to the table; a cornucopia of bright julienned veg and perfect cubes of marinated salmon, crowned with a glowing egg yolk; sadly there’s no evidence of this, as our helpful waitress was very keen to jump in and assist the Ewing. This look of abject fear on my wife's face in the above photo, was upon her realising that I had missed the money shot. By all accounts it was very tasty to eat, but you’re going to just have to imagine what it looked like. Here's a picture of the, slightly less photogenic, miso soup instead.

NB – while my wife looks semi-petrified in the picture above, I can assure you was happy to capture an action shot; after I’d stopped laughing.

We also enjoyed some complimentary banchan - pickled or fermented vegetable dishes served with rice - that included broccoli alongside the more familiar beansprouts and kimchi. A surfeit of deliciousness (or as delicious as cold, slightly vinegary broccoli can be) that meant desert defeated us, even after trying to persuade the Ewing for a full five minutes that she really wanted the black sesame ice cream. With two spoons. Somehow, she resisted my charms. 

That aside, I must still have some appeal, as she’s already agreed to our next round of eating adventures. As Thackeray so astutely said; Despair is perfectly compatible with a good dinner, I promise you.

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