Saturday, January 12, 2019

okra quest

We're about to find out just how extensive the selection of vegetables at Garak Market is. I've found American-style parsley there, as well as cilantro. But what about okra? I was given the challenge by my Cajun coworker, who loved my gumbo, but who complained that the okra in it was obviously not fresh. I personally don't have a discriminating enough palate to tell frozen from fresh once a vegetable has been thoroughly boiled in a stew, but then again, I also didn't grow up eating gumbo. So my coworker and I tossed around ideas as to where fresh okra might be found in Korea, and I lit upon Garak Market, which I think of as my go-to place for esoteric, or merely hard-to-find, vegetables. Garak Market is huge, and it does seem to contain a wide variety of almost everything the good earth can provide, so why not start the search there? I'm heading out in a few minutes, and if I find some fresh okra, I'll be adding it to my gumbo broth along with a fresh supply of proteins: jumbo shrimp, homemade sausage, and yes, as it turns out, more chicken. I had written earlier that I had plopped two whole kilos of chicken into the gumbo I'd taken to the office; by the time I had fed twenty-six people and packed up extra take-home gumbo for one manager and one coworker, there was very little left of my gumbo aside from the broth. Stats-wise, I'd say 95% of the gumbo's solids are gone, and 60% of the gumbo broth is gone. So there's still a shit-ton of broth.

Check this blog post for updates and, possibly, photographic proof of okra found.

UPDATE: failure! The entire market was closed down when I got there. Some shopkeepers were still shuffling around in the darkness, but for the most part, the auction blocks and individual stores were closed and shuttered. I went into one vegetable store that was still lit and spoke with the ajeossi inside. He said that today was a shwineun-nal, i.e., a day off (literally, a day of rest). He also said that I wouldn't find okra anywhere in Garak Market. My immediate reaction to this was skepticism. I'll go back to the market tomorrow to check with other people. The place has never let me down before; I suspect it won't let me down this time, either. Hell, as I was walking by the rows and rows of closed shops tonight, I looked inside one window and saw a stack of boxes of fresh paprika, something I've never seen in my life. Hard-to-find items are definitely available in this market, so I don't think this ajeossi's pronouncement is the final word. He was a nice guy, but I'm betting he's wrong.

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