Sunday, September 26, 2004

kamja-t'ang and shyabu-shyabu

I spent a good portion of today doing fun things like taking care of my laundry, teaching French to a co-worker of mine, and enjoying an early dinner of kamja-t'ang, or potato stew. The name is somewhat misleading: arguably, the stew's main ingredient is beef: huge hunks of it boiled to luscious tenderness and flaking off the bones.

The stew's color reminded me of boshin-t'ang, but the taste was nothing like dog stew. While slurping away, I was reminded of a restaurant in Youido that serves an incredible beef-and-noodle dish, so I asked my dinner companion if she knew the name of what I was talking about. "Shyabu-shyabu," she said.

I'd had this dish only once, in 1996, but it remains one of the high points of my time in Korea. I was sitting at a typical, Korean-style, four-seater table with a burner set into its center. The burner was lit; a huge metal bowl with a flat bottom was placed atop the burner. A clear but beefy soup stock was poured in and allowed to warm up, and this was followed by fresh-made noodles (they smelled wonderful in their raw state) and rich, red beef sliced in wide, paper-thin strips. If I remember correctly, there were also some vegetables, but it was the beef and noodles that stuck in my memory.

There were four of us at the table, and the lady who prepared the soup ladled equal amounts into our bowls. We chowed down; there was enough left over for seconds. The remaining broth served as the starter for the next course: rice, egg, and some sort of oil were added to the main bowl and stirred around to form a beefy, eggy, vegetable-y porridge, and this, too, was ladled into our individual bowls. The whole experience was amazing, from start to finish. I've wanted to go back to that restaurant ever since.

Shyabu-shyabu. I told my companion that this sounded Japanese, but she said it wasn't. She also said that there was a shyabu-shyabu place not far from the kamja-t'ang restaurant we were in.

Mmmm. I think I've found something else to do while on vacation.


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