Tuesday, November 17, 2015

gomushin: le deuxième échec

My boss at the Golden Goose suggested that I buy el-cheapo gomushin (traditional Korean rubber shoes; it could be that the Korean word gomu is borrowed from the French gomme, i.e., rubber—une gomme is "an eraser"; de la gomme is "gum," also known as le chewing-gum in French, with the expression pronounced the French way: "shoo-wing-gum") instead of the fancier ggot-shin (lit. "flower shoes," named for their flower patterns) to go with my hanbok. "Just buy 'em in black," the boss said. "You're only wearing them for a day."

The "day" in question is this coming Saturday, November 21: my Korean cousin is getting married. The ceremony won't be at his home church, which I find surprising: my cousin, a professional singer who spent a few years sharpening his skills in Germany (where his little bro, my other cousin, still lives), has long been a member of the choir of Geumho Presbyterian Church. His parents, my #3 Ajumma and Ajeossi, are devout members who spend more than their fair share of time at church, doing churchy things. Despite all this, the wedding will be at an unfamiliar church near Yaksu Station: Shinil Church. I sense the evil tidal pull of my cousin's bride-to-be, who likely whispered in my cousin's ear: "You don't need your church for this... come to my church, big boy." Vile temptress. This marriage will not go well.

In any event, I'm planning to wear my hanbok, hot and sweaty though it might be. I felt bad, at Sean's wedding, about not having the proper footwear, and I wanted to rectify the problem this time around.

I'm also supposed to go out and meet Ligament after the wedding. We haven't finalized plans, and I'm debating whether it might be a turn-on for me to appear before her in traditional garments—ta-dah! It might be cool... for a few minutes. Until I begin sweating torrentially. No, I think what I'm most likely going to do is dash home after the wedding, throw on normal clothing, then dash back out again. Yes. That's a better idea.

Tonight, I tried to find gomushin. First, I went to where I knew there would be shoe sellers: Gwangjang Market at Jongno 5-ga. No dice. No shoe over 280mm in size (yeah: they use millimeters in Korea). I'm at least a 290 (size 11 for you fellow Yanks). Wide. One of the old ladies selling shoes at Gwangjang Market took a look at my feet and immediately shook her head. "No shoes in your size here," she said. "Not anywhere here?" I asked, not quite believing her. "Nope," she affirmed. Something about her conviction convinced me. "So do you know any places that might sell gomushin in my size?" I asked. "Try Itaewon or the Dongdaemun Stadium area," she replied.

I took the subway to Itaewon and found a few shoe sellers. Half were already closed by the time I got there; the other half were exclusively devoted to selling women's shoes or sports shoes (basketball, running, etc.). No gomushin. By that point, it was getting late, so I decided to sit down and eat somewhere.

There's was a little, tucked-away place that sold empanadas (the Latin answer to a Cornish pasty; learn more here), and it was empty, so I went there. It was called Da Korner, probably because it was literally located in a corner. At 8PM on a Tuesday night, the place was abandoned, and I asked the lone guy behind the counter whether he was already closed for the evening. He said he wasn't, so I looked at the menu and ordered two empanadas: a beef/potato one, and a spinach/egg/bacon one. I also ordered a soda, at which point the guy said I should just get the W9,000 set, which included everything I had ordered plus French fries. So I went with that. Amazingly, the guy hand-fashioned the crust right before my eyes. (Later on, he made me feel guilty by telling me that he had run out of pre-made crusts earlier in the evening, so he'd had no choice but to hand-make my empanadas.)

The set came out on a large tray; the guy carried it over to my table even though I had expected to get up and collect my order at the counter. A good pile of fries, two piping-hot empanadas, and two dipping sauces with some pico de gallo were placed before me. This is Korea, so of course the restaurant had to weird things up a bit: one of the dipping sauces was little more than beef gravy. I shrugged and dipped my fries in it, but I didn't see how such gravy was in any way Tex-Mex-themed. The other sauce looked like a chimichurri at first, but it wasn't: it was a pleasantly vaporous mix of vinegar, parsley, garlic, and maybe some oil.* I started in on the fries first to give the empanadas time to cool down. When I finally got to the bread pockets, I alternated adding some green sauce and some brown sauce, with a bit of pico de gallo on top. All in all, not bad for W9,000, and now I feel I've discovered a new place to go to. Itaewon may be growing on me, little by little. I still don't like going there—probably because it doesn't feel like Korea—but I'm learning to like some of the restaurants I've encountered there. Maybe one day, when I'm seventy, I'll finally like all of Itaewon.

With dinner finished, I thanked the guy, who complimented my Korean (my Korean seems to be terrible whenever I visit the district office, but it's great when I'm riding in a taxi, standing by a cash register, or sitting at a restaurant). I wanted to mention to him that the cute Chinese chick, who had wandered over to Da Korner while I was eating, also spoke great Korean, but I somehow neglected to do so. (Ever heard Chinese-accented Korean? To be honest, I find it awfully annoying-sounding,** but in this case, the young lady spoke well enough that she didn't make me wince.)

It was 8:30PM. No use heading over to Dongdaemun Stadium; I decided I'd do that the following day. I debated taking a cab back to my place, but from Itaewon, it's an expensive ride, so I just subway'ed it back. A shame that I didn't get the gomushin (lesson learned: look online first), but my experience at Da Korner made up for that failure. I'll definitely be going back to that place.

*Actually this likely was a chimichurri—just not one made with cilantro. See here. Either that, or it was a parsley vinaigrette.

**To be fair, Korean-incompetent Yanks and Brits can sound equally awful.



John (I'm not a robot) said...

Oddly enough I also enjoyed empanadas from Da Korner this week as well. As to enjoying Itaewon (a little at least), welcome to the dark side.

Charles said...

Huh. Itaewon feels very Korean to me, especially compared to what it used to be.

Kevin Kim said...

To me, it used to be just scuzzy. These days, it's cleaned up somewhat, but it's still Foreigner Central. I was marveling at all the English I was hearing last night.