Monday, June 20, 2011

Dog Soup

In the land of China, to our (Westerners) horror, they eat cats.  Really, so I've been told, they eat anything with four legs, except for a table.  However in Korea, they are more civilized, or so they claim.  "Cat's" they exclaim ostentatiously with their noses touching the sky, "how base!" as they sit and slurping their dog soup carelessly.  Alright, so, I've never actually met a snobby Korean, but go along with it, for the story's sake.  Dogs in this country are pitiful.  They're pitifully unappreciated, except of course for their National treasure, the JINDO dog, but that's a whole other story.  Dogs are generally kept on leashes, at least in the country measuring no longer than two yards at most.  Canines, at least the domesticated ones, fill me with joy, except for when I see them in Korea, even the pets. My heart cries out to their caged and unfulfilled lives. All of this to say, Koreans eat dog, rather than uncivilized China who eats cat, in the form of dog soup, something I'd never seen or had desired to try, that is to say, until the other night.

This soup is much meatier than the one I saw.  In fact, I saw no meat at all.
The night began innocently enough. Kyle was teaching a business English course to adult students, engineers at Samsung.  The school had recruited extra teachers for the week program. These teachers, wanted to experience Yongmun, and what it had to offer, so we took them to our little samgipsal (bbq pork belly) restaurant down the hill located on the river.  We had a lovely time eating, and drinking Makali- Korean rice wine, a beverage that the government is aggressively advertising as "healthy."  I plan to look in on this topic further.  On our way out of the restaurant, while the bill was being settled, I began to look around at our little countryside restaurant.  A dried two foot fish hung above the door frame, with a 10,000 won (about $10) bill rolled into its mouth.  We discovered it was to ward off bad luck, something having to do with karma and balancing the ying and yang.  However, before we tramped off, I noticed one last thing; two red-faced men eating a milky white soup.  It looked and smelled delicious.  It reminded me of my grandmother's chicken noodle soup, except with some extra green leafs floating around and no noodles.  I'd never seen this restaurant serve this soup before.  We had our Korean friend ask what this mouthwatering soup was.  The adjuma (old lady) waitress cleaning towards the back of the small restaurant had evidently been watching this scene with increasing interest, possibly because foreigners are intriguing to stare at, but probably because she was waiting for some type of reaction.  When we were told what we were eyeing, she threw her head back cackling with pure joy at our shock, and absolutely no qualms with laughing directly and loudly at us. "Dog soup" the soju happy Korean man had reported.  My mouth tumbled from my jaw and my screech resembled the noise I often make in horror films.  I'm sure I gasped as my mother does, the gasp I often lovingly chide her for.  I covered my mouth and loked away. I had coveted dog soup.  I don't know that I could ever look Aurora and Isis (our dogs back at home) in the eyes again. Of course they would never make the soup from Maltese, there is only one kind of dog Koreans eat, but they are of the same nation of animals.  I walked away ashamed, and a little shaken.  What had I done?  What kind of dog loving human was I? At the very least, the Korean woman added an extra year onto her life from that wholesome, gut shaking laugh.  The moral of the story here is, "Never judge a book by its cover, or a soup by it's smell, you might just eat man's best friend!"


Anonymous said...

right, so you feel bad about having thought that was a lovely dish? but you didn't try it anyway right? Question is, do you reckon you'd ever actually try it then? :) hehe
i've only been in Seoul 3 weeks and i'm getting a little worried about venturing into the wrong places and ordering the wrong things!!! :S
i walked into a market near where i am and came across a man selling 3 plastic boxes of something, did a double take, gdness me, they looked like live caterpillars!! :S
i never knew that was eaten or used in any dishes here! Ever came across that? :/
- juni

aLifeInBloom said...

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! This post made me laugh out loud!! Well first I thought maybe you HAD eaten the soup so I was cringing and hoping and hoping as I anxiously read it that you HADN'T really eaten it!! Then I decided half way through that maybe I was going to find out it was an accident!!! And then I laughed at your reaction. :) And kind of sighed with relief. :)

Thank you for sharing this!! I needed a laugh. :) And I think it's ok that you coveted dog soup - because it wasn't the DOG part of it that smelled good (even if it WAS - it wasn't) it was the spices and cream :) and everything else :) you were coveting meat soup. :) Nothing more. :)