Sunday, January 9, 2011

Andong Market... a "Foodie's" Heaven!

I really enjoy Korea partly because I can pretty much guarantee that I can walk home with a funny story at least once or twice a week. Here is an example: the other day Danny and I and 2 friends from South Africa got on a bus to travel 2 hours to another city and the bus driver made it a point to walk to the back and forcefully tell only us, "NO HAMBURGERS!" Apparently Westerners are just known for bringing hamburgers wherever they go and making a mess! Anyways, that has nothing really to do with today's topic except to prove that Korea is full of funny experiences!

So today while I share what a Korean market is like, I will add in a funny experience I had while walking through the market. As you can see above, in a Korea market you can find lots of seafood, as well as different fruits and vegetables. This story highlights the lovely silver fish that you can see in the middle of the picture. While my family was here, actually, we were walking through the market one day, showing them the delecasies of Korea. All of a sudden, we got stopped by this gentleman:

He was a VERY friendly guy who was extremely excited to tell me that he was in the army and worked with different Americans while he served his country. In mostly Korean, and in a little broken English, I got the gist that he LOVES America and anyone who has to do with anything American...which is how I ended up with 2 of those silver fish in a bag. He liked me soooo much that he insisted that he buy me 2 fish (which is actually a really nice gift for a stranger being that the fist cost almost $10 a peice). I tried to tell him that I really didn't need the fish, but he wouldn't take no for an answer...which is why I later had to call my coteacher to help me figure out what to do with the fish.

Mrs. Byeon came straight over and proceeded to gut and behead the fish right in my kitchen sink. I called her really hoping that she would actually take the fish OFF my hands, but she also insisted with a lot of garlic, these fish would turn into a delicious meal.
As you can see I had the treat of watching fish guts spill into my sink as the fish watched me back, and I was still wondering how in the world I was going to cook these fish. Even though Korea is surrounded by a lot of water, most of Korea is not really known for having great or really fresh seafood. So there we have my funny market experience which will guide us into the real focus of this post: what a Korean market is really like.
Colorado is just catching on to the whole "farmer's market" thing so I have really LOVED being able to see food in a new light when it is sold at a market. Andong has "market day" every fifth day so getting fresh fruits and vegetables is easy to do. The street is packed with woman pulling their wire carts behind them and older Korean ladies (such as the one above) usually wearing any number of different flower or plaid prints and trying to sell off their week's stock.
I know there is no method to their madness, but really it seems like as the style of combining different patterns became more popular, older Korean ladies took it a little too far ; )

The streets is full of huge packs of garlic, never-ending piles of cabbage, and 10 different kinds of crazy looking mushrooms.

I feel like even though it takes a little more time to walk from stall to stall to buy my weekly fruits and vegetables, I love to see all the different things available and the colors of the whole scene are fantastic.

Things are truly seasonal in a "real" market so it seems like every week something has disappeared and a new, exciting food has replaced it. These yellow melons where everywhere this summer.

Like I said before, the fish isn't something that I am keen to buy because it isn't the freshest thing around. There are tons of stalls displaying their piles of fish, and let's just say the smell coming from them isn't always so appetizing.

You can see shark, octopus, crab, munk fish, sardines, and so many other kinds of seafood, but I think, by far the scariest fish is the long silver ones. I don't know their exact name, but their bulging eyes and sharp teeth kinda scare me!

Another interesting site in a Korean market is the dteok (Korean rice cake pronounced like "duck"). I only had experience with rice cakes you would get in the supermarket at home that are crispy and crunchy, but Korean dteok is totally different. These sticky masses of smashed rice covered in red bean or pumpkin or nuts is what they consider dessert. If my students have the option of a lollipop or dteok, they will almost always choose dteok. I still haven't found a love for them, but I've got another year to keep trying!

And of course the market wouldn't be complete without a large supply of every kind of kimchi imaginable!
Danny enjoys eating what I bring home, but I know that he doesn't enjoy walking around the market as much as I do. I have found that it has increased my "foodie" passion because it makes me feel more connected to the food I eat (yes, I know I'm a dork ; ). What better place to be a part of the community than in the traditional market!?

Of course there are definite perks to being able to run (or drive) to the grocery store... oh how I miss the cereal aisle, and being able to buy avocados, and the little mist machines that rain down on the produce... but for now I will be happy with my Andong market : )

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