Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Skewers in China

The whirlwind dash to China is over, and I am safely back in Korea. (Is it weird that I almost said "I am safely back home"? Hmm...)

Though I haven't had a post about Daegu yet, I'm going to start with China, because the photos and videos were taken on my iPhone, which means I don't need to go through tons of photos and edit.

We got to China on Tuesday evening after a pleasant enough flight. I love Korean Air, I feel like the airline really is trying to make air travel an easier experience. Checking in, security, all that was a breeze, without much of a wait- although that's less about the airline and more about the airport. Incheon Airport is WORLDS better than LAX in terms of convenience and efficiency. Plus, Incheon has tons of shopping, restaurants, coffee shops, and is so much cleaner.

My first impression of Beijing was that it was a sort of hybrid of Seoul and LA. Lots of tall buildings, like Seoul, and lots of smog, cars, and concrete, like LA. (Yes, Seoul has concrete, but there are also tons of trees that sort of make it seem less concrete-y than LA.)

We worked pretty much constantly, so there wasn't any time for sightseeing or exploring (not that I wanted to). We ate either at the restaurant next to our hotel or at the studio, where they had a kitchen and a cook who prepared lunch and dinner. The one time we left the studio for fun was on Wednesday night, our second (and last) night in China.

The four of us from my workplace and two of the Koreans that work in the studio in China (one is Korean-Chinese, the other is a Korean transplant) went to have lamb skewers. That's how it was explained to me- 양꼬치 (양 = lamb, 꼬치 = skewers). We walked from our hotel to the restaurant, about a fifteen minute trek through the concrete jungle.

The restaurant had a unique way of ordering- there is a video touchscreen at every table, where you place your order. You order by the skewer (I think we started with 20 lamb skewers) and keep ordering as you wish. We had lamb first, with beer (I drank a teensy amount of beer to appease my fellow Koreans), then went into pork skewers, then back to lamb.

I am not normally a big fan of lamb, but it was really delicious in this skewered form. There was a little dish of spices for each person, things that ranged from red pepper flakes to caraway seeds (I think). We ordered very Korean side dishes (like doragi, 도라지, which is apparently balloonflower) to go with our skewers.

This was the kind of beer we drank, which wasn't too bad. I mean, it wasn't too bad for me, because it didn't really taste too much like beer. So real beer drinkers would probably not like this very much. I think we went through ten bottles or so.
A few of us graduated to real booze. I still have no idea what this is called, because they just told me it's 백주 (백 = white, 주 = alcohol). It was strong, 42%, and very sweet, with an almost floral aftertaste. That dish on the right is the one with the spices, by the way. I drank a LOT, because when people offer you a drink, you're not supposed to say no. Especially when you're the youngest one at the table.
Chinese Coke. Love it. Apparently, it translates into something like "happiness in your mouth"? I don't know, I was tipsy by this time and could barely see straight, much less remember what Chinese characters meant.

Water with a singer/actor and my share of the skewers. One of the guys told me that he could eat 60 skewers. I managed eleven, and I was stuffed. That dish in the back with the pale blobs on it? Those are tangsooyuk! They are made with glutinous rice flour in the batter, which gives them a rice-cake-like coating that is crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. Really good, though the sauce was overwhelmingly sweet.

I was fascinated by the skewer-rotating thing, so I took a couple videos. The waiter brings over a platter of skewers, which you can get par-cooked. We preferred to get the par-cooked skewers, as they just needed a minute or two over the coals before they were ready to eat. We got one set of raw skewers and they took ages to cook through, especially since they were pork and really needed to be properly cooked.

A closer look at the twirly device. Once we got the skewers, we would put them into the slots. The handle of the skewer is magnetized, as is the machine, and that's what pulls the skewers along so that they turn over the coals. The more you drink, the more entrancing this machine gets.

It was the only fun we had on the trip, and since we had all been tired before we even went to China, we let loose, drank too much, and didn't get back to the hotel until 3:00 a.m. (a few of the guys stayed out even later and got back at 5:00).

We had a meeting with the director of the movie the next morning, and were quite bleary-eyed and probably exuding the scent of booze from every pore. Sometimes, even if it means less sleep, it's necessary to go all-out and have a good time.

I got home around 9:00 last night and tried to go to sleep, but couldn't. I've still got quite a big sleep deficit to overcome, so I have a feeling that this weekend will be all about catching up on sleep and doing laundry.

The weather in Korea is getting very cool, to the point that I've broken out scarves and the one cardigan that I brought with me. This weekend may also involve sending summer clothes back home and buying some autumn / winter clothing.

My future is very unclear at the moment, as I have an offer from the States that I am debating about, as well as continued discussions with the company in Korea. I'm not sure what the best plan for me would be- stay in Korea? go back home?- and which would be most advantageous to my career. I'm mulling. I have a feeling I need to mull faster.


william,  September 23, 2011 at 2:00 AM  

that singer/actor on the bottle is wang lee-hom. he was raised in the states, i believe, and graduated from williams college. i think he's mainly based in taiwan. i hate him, because people think i look like him. also, i hate his music.

jeanny September 23, 2011 at 3:14 AM  

Okay, I Googled him. Honestly, you guys could be cousins. Maybe brothers. Your nose is nicer.

I have no interest in looking up his music. Meh.