Jjimdak and tea

Saturday, July 12, 2008

As I proudly ate my jjimdak (찜닭) without wincing or gulping down a half gallon of water, I thought my tolerance for spice was improving, having been in Korea for half a year. That was, until, my friend informed me in blunt Korean fashion, "I asked them not to make it too hot for you."



I've always loved jjimdak - no, I take that back - the very first time I had it, I thought a fire had broken out in my mouth, and at that point, I only sort of liked it. But jjimdak - a braised chicken dish served in a shoyu based sauce (usually accompanied with chewy glass noodles, potatoes, onions, and the occasional carrot and mushroom) - has since grown on me. You see, its unassuming heat makes it all the more adventurous. As you begin to dig in, the first thing your taste buds notice is the powerful mixture of sweet n salty. It isn't until a second or two later that you realize you're dealing with a healthy dose of garlic and chili pepper.

Having eaten jjimdak with three people from Hawaii - they (and I) have all agreed that it somehow reminds us of home. Shoyu chicken, maybe? Sukiyaki, perhaps? As we try to wrap our heads around what makes it so familiar, one thing's for certain - jjimdak is packed with flavor. There are quite a few places that serve jjimdak, and based on personal experience, it seems pretty hard to go wrong. However, Andong Jjim Dak and Bongchu Jjim Dak are popular choices, and if you happen to be in the Myeongdong (명동) area, simply ask around, and you shall find.



If you're looking for a way to soothe yourself from all that heated flavor, I recommend taking a trip to O'Sulloc Tea House. According to Lonely Planet, "Everything is produced from the green tea picked on the company's tea plantation on Jejudo." We ordered the tropical dream green tea, which was recommended by our waitress. Quite rightly one of the most popular selections, it's a mild tea that packs a wonderful fruity scent. The desserts didn't disappoint either, but it was the cafe's light wood and green surroundings that topped it off, allowing for a relaxing break away from the busy crowds, bright lights, and noise of Myeongdong.



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