Monday, 28 June 2010

An Italian in Gwangju

Well I was supposed to be going out for a meal with my principal, vice principal and the English department this evening, I was really hoping it would be fun and relaxing since my 2nd grade class had been the worst behaved, most insolent little buggers that I've had the misfortune of trying to teach since coming to Korea. It was a pretty nice evening, if somewhat bizarre, much like Korea in general then!

The principal couldn't make it because she had a meeting and half the English department got out of it due to a variety of excuses so it was the usual suspects of my handler, my schedule organiser and my boss plus the vice principal and the co-teacher from my awful 2nd grade class. We went to an Italian style place (emphasis on the style, it was definitely not authentic) called Sorentos. I was offered a menu to choose something from and I went for spaghetti carbonara as a fairly safe and hopefully cheesy option.

We ate it Korean style, that is we had 3 big plates of pasta between us, and we would take bits from each onto our own little plates, a little weird if you're used to sitting down to your own plate of something but a good way to taste a lot of things and make sure that you don't end up wishing you had what someone else had ordered. Korean style eating also involves serving all the dishes at the same time rather than in order like a western meal.

The three spaghetti dishes were carbonara, spicy tomato and prawn and cream and prawn, all fairly unremarkable. The carbonara was pretty poor, with lots of cream and no egg in the sauce, hardly any cheese and no pepper, but it did have some reasonable ham in it and the mushrooms were ok although they were random Korean mushrooms. The spicy tomato and prawn was better and surprisingly not ridiculously hot. I didn't try the prawn and cream.

Next we got a pizza, which was nothing special, thin crust, lots of cheddar style cheese and a few olives and olive tapenade. Also pretty awful squid and clam risotto which rather than being cooked with regular stirring and slow addition of stock in an open pot to produce a creamy texture had obviously been cooked in a rice cooker.

The chicken salad was definitely the highlight of the meal due to the dressing of... (wait for it) strawberry yoghurt! That's right folks, lettuce, tomato, coated chicken strips and a gravy boat of strawberry yoghurt, one of the more bizarre adventures in Korean food I've had yet. They really have some strange ideas about western food over here. They seem to have the strange notion that all Western food is supposed to be sweet - maybe that is why you get sugary garlic bread over here and even the infamous garlic donut!

Desert was another interesting adventure although a suprisingly tasty one. We had iced azuki beans called patbingsu (팥빙수) with fruit and random chewy, gooey sweeties, I wasn't too keen when I saw the pile of red beans sat on top of ice shavings, but it was actually pretty good, sweeter than most Korean deserts but not sickly and definitely not trying to be Italian!

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