We landed in Incheon and sailed through customs. The employee at passport control was brusque and possibly hungover. Or maybe just ticked that her gig forced her to hang out at an airport at 4:30 in the morning with people who smelled of feet, cabbage and stale wine.
I’d never met my uncle or his family before. Sueng and his son Jong-woo stayed up all night to make sure they were able to pick us up from the airport. Their family was, in a country that prides itself on its hospitality, masters of the form. (We can talk about the scotch-drinking marathon later. Sweet Lord.)
This, my friends, is not a typical Korean breakfast by any means. This is something a master of the Korean kitchen spends a whole day preparing and executing flawlessly. I mean, for reals. If my mother wasn’t still alive, I would say that it was the finest example of Korean home cooking I’ve ever had. That might be the vacation talking, but those two big dishes of meat in the center were superlative examples of the Korean-style braised short rib dish called Kal Bi Jihm. The smaller dishes you see – the dishes/garnishes known as banchan – were also wonderful. Spicy salads and marinated vegetables and a whole lot of subtlety in flavor generally found lacking in the cuisine – my aunt is a PIMP. We’ll be tackling Kal Bi Jihm and banchan in another post.
But for now – gaze upon the awesomeness. And wish that you were me.