I spent the last weekend of January in Seoul meeting some old friends. One of them is a girl I met in Vancouver back in 2006. She came to Canada to study English and we got close naturally as we were the same age. Nine years passed and she is now a wife and a mother of a beautiful daughter. See how time flies!
My friend lives near Korea University where she works at the hospital. But we decided to meet near Seoul Station as I would have to take a train ride back to Daejeon in the afternoon. She took me to Myung-dong, the famous tourist spot for shopping and dining. I don’t think I have ever been to Myung-dong before (if I have then it must be when I was really young and had no idea where I was). So many foreigners on the streets of Myung-dong and as a Korean I have never been.. what a shame!
We had our lunch at a place called Chadolbakhin Chukumi (차돌박힌 쭈꾸미). The restaurant is known for soup-less hot pot of beef brisket and jjuggumi (쭈꾸미: small webfoot octopus) mixed with spicy sauce. I believe the dish is a modern variety of jjuggumi bokeum which is a stir-fried webfoot octopus popular on western coast.
The hot pot filled with beef brisket and vegetable is placed in the middle of the table. The staff comes over and pours in the octopus smothered in red sauce. Both my friend and I were unsure of the “level of spiciness” and we asked number of times how spicy is “slightly spicy” before we made our decision. It turned out that “slightly spicy” was not at all what it was supposed to meant — this was one of the most spicy thing I have ever tasted in a long long time.
Even among native Koreans I consider myself a spicy addict but I admit that today it was my complete loss. But it is not that I did not enjoy the food. The hot pot was deadly spicy but for some reason it kept you going back for more. In the end we almost finished the whole pot and were too full to order the famous “bokeumbab” where you mix up the left over sauce with rice. After we finally got back to our senses that was when we noticed that people at other tables ordered “cheese fondue” on the sides. The modern twist helps you survive from the heat — too bad we did not know that! We were too naive but brave. Next time, we will try once again. But never the “very spicy” as that would be a killer.