The weather in Seoul is like Chicago right now – and April rain is frequent. The walk from the house to the sushi spot Uncle Seung treated us to dinner at threatened a downpour, but we managed to stay dry. The restaurant’s modest rooms, heady with the scent of ocean, were cozy and filled with families and businessmen already half in the bag by the time we sat down.
My uncle brought along a few examples of Korean Riesling, and I will admit to some skepticism, after hearing horror stories of westerners duped into ordering wine in a culture unused to its appreciation or consumption – but the bottles we had were off-dry, bright, floral, and according to the label, less than eight bucks.
If only that was the only surprise of the evening.
Course after course came out of the kitchen – sea cucumber, squid, crab, tempura, and three trays of sashimi big enough to make this diner groan in weary, delirious bliss.
And then the Nae Jhang came out.
Abalone is rare and a delicacy and the folks in Asia eat it like they were stoned and it was a burrito. It is dense, like beef, but supple, like the fattiest tuna, at the same time. It’s delicious.
The nae jhang – not so much.
The digestive tract of the abalone is supposedly fought over among initiates for its unique textures and tastes. Let Uncle Theo tell you know – those people are fucking nuts.
The little nae jhang touched my tongue, and it bore the briny sweetness of a good oyster. But about halfway down my gullet, something happened.
The sac, containing what ever little sea creatures it had been noshing on when harvested – burst.
This is supposedly a good thing.
I’m not a squeamish eater – but friends – I’m avoiding this in the future.
Also probably going to be avoiding the Gae Mul, too. I still haven’t been able to figure out what sort of sea creature it is – but I will tell you this:
When they brought out the dish – the little critters were still moving.
We could talk about the fish eyeballs – but I actually liked those.