Saturday, June 14, 2008

A Fantastic Vietnamese Meal

Tonight my friends and I went to Oranee, a Vietnamese restaurant in Sungongdong, Gyeongju. The meal was fantastic! We started by making our own spring rolls, which was both fun, and tasty. First, we dunked the clear, paper-thin outer parts into hot water until they were soft and pliable. Then we spread it out on our boards (plates) and started piling on the fillings. There were cucumbers, seasoned chicken, beef, sweet pickles, pineapple, onions, little white mushrooms, cabbage, green onion, and red peppers. After that, we added some peanut sauce and a second sauce that was salty, and wrapped it all up. Delicious!

After our handmade spring rolls, they brought us fried spring rolls, which were also very good. I especially the red sauce that came with them. Then we had the best fried rice ever. It had pineapple and shrimp in it - my mouth is watering just remembering it!

Last night, I went out to dinner with my coworkers. That meal was good, but not nearly of the same calaber as the one tonight. We had beef and octopus stew, which was tasty, but extremely spicy. The side dishes included a delicate egg dish, kimchi, salad, a really tasty cold noodle soup, and a couple of other dishes. The most notable side dish was the cerith snails (I have no idea what Koreans call them). When I was a kid, I used to find these shells on the beach all the time. I called them "brain-drillers," a name which my family has now adopted for them. Little did I know I would one day eat one!
This is the best picture I could find online to show what a cerith looks like. Obviously, the two in the picture are not the same species that was served last night.

Eating that particular type of snail was an odd experience. The shell is obviously too hard to munch with the snail, and the snail is too small to dig out of the shell. So, you are supposed to suck it out. It took me about half an hour and two shots of soju to work up the nerve to try one! I have always lived with the idea that it is best not to suck strange sea creatures out of their shells and consume them, sight unseen. After doing just that, I decided that I should have stuck to my previous rule! It was disgusting! The body of the creature had a most revolting texture that was mostly squishy with a slight crunch. There was also a bit of sand in it. Not something I plan to ever eat again!

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"Passage—immediate passage! the blood burns in my veins! Away, O soul! hoist instantly the anchor!
Cut the hawsers—haul out—shake out every sail!
Have we not stood here like trees in the ground long enough?
Have we not grovell’d here long enough, eating and drinking like mere brutes?
Have we not darken’d and dazed ourselves with books long enough?

Sail forth! steer for the deep waters only!
Reckless, O soul, exploring, I with thee, and thou with me;
For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go, And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all.

O my brave soul!
O farther, farther sail!
O daring joy, but safe! Are they not all the seas of God?
O farther, farther, farther sail!"

~Walt Whitman, "Passage to India"