족발

WHAT IS THIS. 

PIG LEG! Boiled for hours and hours in a restaurant-peculiar broth, seasoned, steamed, lean and free of grease and oil, it swept me away unexpectedly delightfully. Mmmmmmpiglegs. And, as basically every other Korean traditional dish, there is so much for your health to love, this time in the legs. There’s goodness for the pregnant mothers, the raging alcoholics, the puberty-hitting children… I won’t elaborate, though. The one that relates to young people the most would be COLLAGEN. This is why Korean women most appreciate this dish: improved elasticity of the skin. (Funny how I avoid all forms of “pork” in the states, huh?) The heaping plate of pig leg very much resembled how Peking duck is presented at Chinese restaurants. Pig leg, however, is much leaner and cleaner.

Prior knowledge that 장충동 (Jangchung dong) was the neighborhood where the reliable 족발 restaurants reside, that is where we headed. Two taxi drivers helped us out with the specifics. Apparently, all the restaurants around here are fundamentally the same, and they almost all have 할머니 (grandma) in their name. (The same grandma, perhaps? Hee hee.) Nevertheless, we went straight for the supposed original and most established, 뚱뚱이할머니집.

I, of course, have a way closer, way more graphic picture of the meat-carving. I’ll spare you, though. I’d prefer that you trust me on my word that it was delicious, rather than rely on first impression appearances…

And here is the menu! As per the Korean restaurant norm, it does not include each order’s traditionally matched side dishes. Pig leg is well-matched with tiny, super-salty baby shrimp, lettuce leaves for wrapping, and a noodle dish of various chopped greens and vegetables (막국수).

Our pig leg dinner, my first ever, was another on our list of yet-untouched Korean fare I intend to conquer before losing the chance forever (or until winter break).

Prior to this was 미꾸라지. That means “loach” in English. And, similar to the word’s repulsive sound, a lot of Korean people (including many Korean friends and my dad) won’t eat it for its ridiculously gross appearance. But, needless to say, it was so good. (I should stop being surprised at this stuff, huh?! Korean food is my Number One. Italian, by the way, is Numero Due…) The first dish we had at a famed 미꾸라지 restaurant was a fried loach dish in a sauce with vegetables and peppers (미꾸리고추볶음) that I couldn’t get enough of. Our second was a ground-up loach stew that was sensationally incomparable to anything I’ve ever had (추어탕). (Somehow, despite no common ingredients, its novelty reminded me of Mexican mole…)

It’s too bad that taste has no true parallel in language.

Anyway, I wouldn’t recommend trying pig leg anywhere else! Or loach! Just come and visit me in Seoul someday so I can be with you, smiling happily, when you try them.

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