Back in Korea

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Whenever I fly Asiana Airlines, I realize there really is no excuse for crappy food on planes.  Yes, they have to cook in large quantities; yes, they have to keep things warm in unnatural ways.  But just look at this simple and lovely bibimbap.  The vegetables are fresh, even perky.  The instant rice that gets cooked in a microwave is a wonder—each grain really is distinct and tender at the same time.  Even the rehydrated dried pollack soup is surprisingly soothing.  In fact, the only thing that’s mushy and unsatisfying were the soba noodles, but only in comparison to the rest of the food.  If I’d been offered this soba on Continental on my flight home from Oaxaca two years ago, I might have wept.

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Asiana Airlines has to package special condiments in addition to butter, salt, and pepper.  Look at this darling tube of red pepper paste and the little envelope of sesame oil!  Whenever my mom flies Asiana to New York, she uses what she needs for her bibimbap and stows the remainder of the tube safely in her purse.  I’ve seen her pull out that tube of gochujang at restaurants all over the U.S.; I’ve even seen her squeeze some straight onto her tongue in moments of bland desperation.

It’s good to be home.

Diane and I, with a whole crew of friends and family, are packing into a van tomorrow morning to go on a five-day road trip for the best food in Korea.  I won’t be blogging as deliriously as I did in February, but I hope to be posting some choice missives in the next two weeks.

And wonder of wonders, my mother has agreed to let me cook dinner for Chusok, Korea’s harvest and thanksgiving holiday, on October 3.  I may have to lock her in a room to keep her from helping, but I can’t wait to show her I actually do know how to cook.

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10 Responses to “Back in Korea”

  1. lina Says:

    Oh wow~! You have learned a lot to cook for Chusok! I love being in Korea that time of year. I’m sorry that we didn’t get a chance to talk before you left.

  2. lina Says:

    Also, I love this post because I feel exactly the same way when I go home.

  3. Grace Says:

    You mean about Asiana Airlines? Ha ha!

  4. nancy Says:

    oh good luck! with both your road trip and meal prep.
    the first thing i thought when i saw your photo was what was the butter for? don’t japanese people add butter to fried rice? do korean people do that also?

    anyways, i’ve never experienced chusok in my life, so it would be nice to hear about it!

  5. lina Says:

    heehee – yes about asiana airlines!

  6. lina Says:

    nancy, i have a friend that puts a big chunk of butter in her kim chee jigae, which is pretty delicious, in addition to her big pieces of fatty pork belly. i’ve also seen lots of korean women using a ton of butter for fried rice.

  7. nancy Says:

    actually i had some boo dae jigae last week and it tasted very buttery! so now i see the secret! MORE BUTTER!

  8. Leslie Says:

    I love the flight to Korea! Non-stop movies and bibimbap! Did you know that Korean air sells boxes of those gochu-chang tubes?

  9. avisualperson Says:

    my sister’s shot of her inflight meal from SFO to ICN on Asiana:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/soopling/4908033156/in/set-72157624760699016

    and I got stuck with a lame flight (and meal) on United!!

  10. Grace Says:

    I know — Asiana is so much more expensive than United usually, but also so much better!

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