[dog] days of summer

by ninameetscafe

This is the entrance to one of Seoul’s most reputable… dog meat restaurants.

…which I went to with my Seoul-residing, former South Korean diplomat-grandfather.

He thought he misheard when I admitted my strong intention to try dog meat. (In fact, most of my family’s did, too, when I told them. Hehehe.) But, after adjusting himself to the novel idea of taking his granddaughter to eat something he doesn’t think girls eat very much, he decided to take me to the best place he knew. YAY. As their generation probably eats it the most, I knew I had to go with one of my 할아버지s (gramps!). (My CA-residing paternal grandfather, however, won’t eat it.) To be honest, I was slightly anxious that, being  a girl, this particular gastronomic ambition was a bit crude. It was okay, though. All the other groups in the restaurant included at least one girl!

It’s unfortunate I have to call it “dog meat” in English; the Korean name of its most commonly eaten form literally translates to “well-being stew.” Older generations ate it for its supposed miraculous medical properties, including total cholesterol extermination. It’s also one of those super-hot stews traditionally eaten in the summer. The ironic/clever Korean summer principle of balance: conquer deathly heat with something way hotter.

Ten menu items indicates this is an established 전문식당: specialty restaurant, few offerings, all done well. Wikipedia, however, suggests that perhaps the restaurant is actually illegal…!? South Korea apparently has a delicate relationship with dog meat: the latter is blatantly absent from a list of “legal food ingredients.” I suppose that if the government really did crack down, this restaurant might be one of the first to go. Yet my grandfather, who demands top-quality for this dish, comes only to this restaurant for it, and sparingly. What a treat for me!!!

In those two large bowls… our 개장국 (the specific name of our soup)! I wonder how many of you are completely repulsed right now. If you tend toward animal rights sentiments, I apologize in advance. I’m just going to say three things.

1. Spicy.

2. Expectation-exceedingly tasty.

3. Not the same species of dogs you’ll find in any house. There. Your reassurance.

(4. I don’t lie.)

I’m certain that my grandfather never imagined himself enjoying one of his favorite summer foods with his granddaughter, with whom he started communicating with only two years ago. I wouldn’t have predicted it, either. It was wonderful to see him so happy.


P.S. Look at his sweet hat. He wears it every time we meet for lunch, so I’ve started to see it as our third lunch partner!