What is this I’m eating?

It’s amazing how many adventures come from very normal things. Like eating dinner.

I just got back to Korea 5 days ago. What’s the best way to get over a vacation, especially when you’re jet lagged? Go on another vacation of course! So I did, with my fantastic boyfriend that I missed very much.

Hold your horses, I’m getting to the food. First, some background material.

We went to Jeju, a volcanic island off the southern coast of Korea. Jeju is famous for a few things- black pigs, mandarin oranges, seafood, and many tourist attractions. First, to whet your appetite, let me tell you a historical story about Jeju black pigs.

We went to a traditional village while on Jeju. There, I learned all kinds of traditional Korean games, crafts, and old ways of farming. Perhaps the most difficult to wrap my mind around was the location of the latrine. Really fancy pit toilets were always located next to the pig pen. I hope you can’t see where I’m going with this because I want to surprise you: the pigs ate the poop! In turn, the pig poop was used as compost. The pig compost is put on the fields, which grows the food that the humans eat, which brings us back full circle. Nothing wasted. Oh, by the way, they’re called black pigs because of their color- not because of what they eat. Now before you’re grossed out, remember that Jeju black pigs are famous… because they’re really delicious. But these days the pigs have a different diet. Thank goodness because I ate black pork, and it was delicious!

For the next adventure, we’re going to head into the deep world of the ocean. Which is appropriate because we spent some time in the ocean before eating our dinner. I usually ask YongHyun what he wants to eat for a few reasons: (1)He knows what’s famous in the region that we shouldn’t miss out on. (2)He knows all the food names advertised on the restaurant windows. (3)He’ll eat more than me. So when he said he wanted to go for raw fish, I went along for the adventure. But it was a bigger adventure than my inexperienced sushi self was prepared for. I might have known when I saw tanks of fish outside the restaurant, including these guys.

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This is where I need your help. Who knows their little sea creatures? Let me know if any of our food looks familiar. Including those in the tank. We ate them.

YongHyun treated me to a traditional full course Japanese dinner. I’m going to try to use as few words as I can and just describe the pictures so you can experience the meal like we did!

This was the first plate they brought us:

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See that long, reddish food in the bottom right corner? It was moving. I ate it. It was chewy. So was the octopus, which is next to it along the bottom. The raw fish in the opposite corner was so delicious with soy sauce and wasabi- typical dipping sauce for sushi. The shell creature above the fish was soft and tender. The shrimp was delicious, but I didn’t eat the head like some die hard seafood eaters would. And see that flower? It’s a carrot. Next to the flower on the left is a small, chewy and tough ocean creature. It might have been cooked. Oh, and in the top right corner is fish skin. It tasted like nothing but had the texture of fish skin. I confess, I didn’t try that orange thing. It just looked slimy. But I’m proud to say that’s the only thing I didn’t try the whole meal! That about sums up my knowledge of this plate. What are those things?!

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With this, were little crabs, with the body about the size of a quarter. As per instructions, I ate the whole thing and crunched it shell and all. It was pretty good but hard to put the picture of the cute little crab out of my mind whilst crunching.

Next, we got a couple of plates together.

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Straight raw fish. Delicious.

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That same creature that was swimming outside is now at the top of this picture- on a plate. Underneath was ice to keep it cold.
More fish on top of rice, and kimbap- I think it had pork in it, not fish.

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Crab drowned in soy sauce. It had a good flavor, but too mushy for my taste.

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This was the last plate of the second course. I have no idea what anything here is, but it was all pretty bland. Which is why it came with it’s own strong dipping sauce of marinated onions.
I thought we were finished. Hahahaha, was I wrong.

Course 3 was the cooked course. This came out sizzling.

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Here you can see the shells, and when the shell is peeled off, you can see the creature upside down:

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I was a little apprehensive to eat it, and I even said it looked a little bit like a snail. But since it had been cooked quickly, the outside was crispy and the inside was like a mussel in texture. It was probably one of my favorite things of the whole meal.

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To continue with the cooked course were two fish. This one was sweet.

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This one was a little salty. Both favorite.
Also with the cooked course was donkas, or pork cutlet that is breaded with panko and fried. There was also tempura shrimp and sweet potato. These two things we didn’t finish because they’re greasy and not as special as fresh seafood. Plus I was stuffed at this point, but still eating. There was a soup too, but I didn’t eat much of it. It had vegetables and fish in it, with a spicy broth. I was too fixated on the two cooked fish to pay much attention.

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Last came the rice. The bowl it’s served in was hot, and fried it to a nice crisp at the bottom. I love the crunchy rice at the bottom. Those little orange things? Fish eggs. They kind of “pop” in your mouth. Like toned-down pop rocks. The rice was delicious.

Did I say last? I guess dessert doesn’t count. I was too full to take a picture, but there was patbingsu to eat. I think it’s Korean… anyway it’s shaved ice with sweetened condensed milk. Like a snowcone but better. Then, it’s topped with sweet red bean paste and sometimes rice cake and fruit. This one had pineapple and some other fruit, and the little rice cakes tasted just like marshmallows.

There you go, folks. Full course Japanese meal almost entirely from the sea. Yummy!

Don’t forget to guess at the identity of the dishes!

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