Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Korean Restaurant

I was in the mood for Korean food. This happened in the middle of the week, amidst the hurlyburly of entrenched workday routines. However, I was longing for the taste of hot chile peppers and especially for the boricha, the Korean roasted barley tea. It is really a tisane and not a true tea as it is not made with the Camellia sinensis tea leaves. This drink is a concoction of roasted barley boiled in water, with the tea being the resultant liquor.

E and I, swathed in our warmest clothes, drove to the only Korean restaurant in town. Fortunately, despite the lack of competition, this restaurant does serve good hearty food. We plunged into the savory vegetarian dumplings that were quickly brought out from the kitchen, which was emitting hunger-inducing aromas. We dipped these gyozas in hot sauce and sipped our individual teas. Mine was naturally the boricha, E ordered the hot ginseng tea. The roasty flavor and warmth of my tea nicely offset the spiciness of the dipping sauce. After some reluctance (and coaxing from E), I decided not to order the bebimbop, hitherto my invariable choice when ordering an entree at this restaurant. Instead, it was the spicy (very spicy, as I would eventually find out) squid, doused with the long sought-after chile peppers. This dish was accompanied by steamed white rice and an array of the banchan, little bowls of savories which often include kimchi. I have always thought that the conceit of having these savory accompaniments -at least 4-5 to sample from- is a gourmand's (or if you prefer, glutton's) delight, the manifold textures and levels of spiciness tingling one's palate.

The tea was of a limpid brownish hue and pleasantly malty . Alternatively, we have been served a similarly tasting oksusucha at this restaurant on past visits. Oksusucha is roasted corn tea, also prepared hot and equally welcomed on cold days such as this one.
Our hunger and my cravings fully sated, we left the restaurant mightily content.

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