Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Eel Bibimbap

Sexual eeling

We hadn't visited Korean Bulgogi House in a while which is a pity--at one point we were ordering takeout so often Julie (the House proprietor) recognized who it was the moment she saw my number on her phone screen. "Hello Mr. Noel! The usual?" "You know it."

And we were glad to drop by--there were some new items we were eager to try.

Korean meals are served with banchan--small plates, usually with sweet or spicy (or both) bits of vegetable or seafood (or both) acting as appetizer or palate cleanser (or both):

From the far end: kimchi (which she makes herself) and sweet spicy radish (ditto); to the right is a dip for what she calls Korean rolls (basically bulgogi (marinated beef), cucumbers, carrots, pickled this n that, all rolled up in sushi rice and seaweed.

There's a seaweed soup--brown and not very good-looking

But hot (which was welcome in this cold weather) comfortingly simple simmering with umami flavors.

The real star of the meal however was eel, or in this case the eel platter:

An obscenely large filet sprinkled with sesame seeds and scallions perched on a bed of stir-fried vegetables, lounging on a heaped serving of steamed rice, the fish arguably the fattest you can find--though much of it unsaturated (or the good kind of) fat.

But never mind good or bad: chew on the fish's tender flesh and trembling fat coated in that thick Japanese-style eel sauce and it's like a pat of briny-sweet butter melting on your tongue, the flavor cushioned on one side by fluffy rice propped up on the other by still-crisp vegetables.

And if you thought that was spectacular there's the eel bibimbap:

Glistening slab of eel on top of shuddering egg yolk on top of crisp vegetables on top of steaming hot rice--all toasting merrily in a hot stone bowl. The eel sauce wafts up your nose in a maple-syrup cloud; the sizzling rice crackles in the ear like a whispered provocation--it's a synesthetically seductive experience.

Add the sweet kochujang sauce and mix quick (I remember in Jeonju I wasn't quick enough so the hostess snatched the spoon from me and whirled the ingredients together); try not to burn the roof of your mouth. 

It's like forbidden sex like lovemaking with the damned--you want to shove as much as you can inside but it's hot (is that the rice sizzling or your tongue?) and hot (the kochujang searing your sinuses beyond repair). Meanwhile you have the eel sauce sweetly beckoning hither the yieldingly soft eel fat begging to be spread on your lips--the world's most decadent chapstick in effect, moisturizing you and marking you for life.

Oh and finally they came with dessert (never had any dessert to offer before). Nothing fancy, just green tea mochi ice cream:

Which when you think about it is perfect post-coital dish--dairy to calm the kochujang sear, cold to soothe the second-degree burns. 

You fix your rumpled clothes fix your disheveled hair and (remembering just in time to ask for and pay the check) attempt to leave with at least some measure of dignity.

Which was how we spent our Valentine's Day. You?

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