Friday, September 30, 2011

Going Down to K-Town

Sorry for the brief hiatus – I am back on Long Island, permanently as far as I know (long story) and will be attempting to get work in NYC in the near future. So posts will probably be even less frequent than they have been and not as interesting. Apologies, but I can offer you two more LA posts, mostly photos of a couple of events I attended last weekend.

First up, the LA Korean festival at Seoul International Park in Koreatown (or K-town, as it’s affectionately known) Saturday evening. It’s a four-day celebration of Korean culture, but to me it looked more like a giant flea market, with over 200 vendors selling everything from perfume to electronics. 

I was more interested in the one long tent filled with food purveyors. Most of the signage and labeling was strictly in Korean (Caucasians were the distinct minority at this festival), so a lot of the time I had no idea what something was and could only guess by sampling or asking (which proved difficult, not because of a language barrier so much, but because at any given moment there were at least a dozen other people also reaching for samples, usually while shouting in Korean).

I confess to being almost totally unfamiliar with Korean food, but after sampling a few of the stalls, one word comes to mind to describe the general flavor: pungent. Almost everything I tried was extremely strong-flavored, not necessarily a bad thing, but a few of the things I sampled definitely would have done wonders for my sinuses had I had a head cold. Fiery red chili pastes abounded, sold in big jars or mixed into various banchan, such as kimchi of which there were bucketloads:

Most of the food laid out for sale and sampling were things like the fermented cabbage, preserved for adding to other dishes or using as condiments. People munched on dried seaweed and an endless variety of little dried fishes like they were eating potato chips and peanuts at a ball game.

 This one landed in my belly, bones, eyeballs and all! Hey, when in Rome…

I actually kind of liked the fish, even if they were a bit prickly and hard to chew. I didn’t like this one so much though:

Gut of hairtail, anyone? Or how about some frozen crab (I think that’s what it was), the piece of which I sampled was still partially frozen.

Not sure if that was intentional, but it didn’t make for a very pleasant eating experience.

I did, however, enjoy the steamed rice flour buns filled with (possibly) sweet potato:

 And these glutinous dumplings, sort of mochi-esque, which they called potato and rice dumplings (I’m casing that’s what the casing was made from) and which tasted like they had hard-boiled egg yolk inside:

 At the hot food tents I learned that Korean food is not very vegetarian friendly.

 It is, however, very, very smoky.

If you aren’t afraid of not knowing exactly what you’re eating, you can partake in griddled dumplings

Fried things on sticks with a spicy BBQ-type sauce

And various pancakes and other dumpling-type dishes. 

If you are afraid, just go for the grilled corn on the cob.

Simple but tasty. If your stomach bothers you from all that spicy, fishy food, pick up some herbal tea, of which there were many different types being sold:

 Or a cup of warming soup filled with veggies, pork and possibly tofu.

 An interesting experience to say the least, definitely good for branching out. Coming up next: massive amounts of chocolate!

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