Author’s note: This article is lovingly long. As a result, part 2 of 2 of the narrative will immediately follow below.
BUS TERMINAL FOOD
The pristine and well-preserved natural wonders in Jeju Island is their version of ’province’ in our own country. Even the food stalls in the bus terminal to Mt. Halla reminded me of Dau Terminal in Pampanga.
LOG CABIN ATOP MT. HALLA
Just before the descent and after the ascent to midway of Mt. Halla, there is this paradise called Witsae-oreum Shelter. I wrote “midway” because it is still a long way to the real peak of Mt. Halla. But the steep peak can easily be viewed from the Shelter itself.
The facility, however modest, is equipped with restrooms, bleachers in the open grounds, empty red brown cabins, and a canteen. Once you spot the single mini railway on the side, you’ll appreciate how the supplies (diesel, food, water, etc) were transported up to this higher part of the mountains.
At the market, the oranges stood out the most. It must have been the only fruit that was on sale. Apart from the oranges, Jeju chocolates occupied a bunch of stalls, too. They offered free taste of these chocolates, so I was able to test a wider variety than if I bought only one type. Luckily, I was able to resist the temptation to buy.
BLACK NATIVE PIG AND LETTUCE WRAPS
As a reward for finishing the trek to Mt. Halla and going home in one piece, my friend and I sought after the most coveted black native pig. It was a grilling place. We were just half sure of what to do. If this was an exam, we would be charged of cheating, because we were making swift glances and shamelessly copying the next table. We seriously didn’t know the right sequence in making lettuce wraps. I’ve watched this demonstrated in Running Man as a game, but I didn’t pay close attention that time. I didn’t realize how valuable a lesson it would turn out to be.
Meanwhile, the customers of nearby tables were really enjoying them, so we just had fun ourselves. I was curious how the ladies kept their poise, while they munched large servings of lettuce wraps. Their mouths were full and bulging after consuming one lettuce wrap. Unless this was their only meal of the day, these Koreans really had a big appetite. Me and my friend were already full at still half the servings left.
Not to forget the scissors, which we felt reunited after that kimchi-cutting night at Seoul. As I analyze the situation this time, no wonder the onions and radish and all other ingredients were laid out in big servings. They were supposed to be grilled first, then cut later when cooked. That way, the juices and nutrients are kept intact until the period of actual consumption. This was how they keep fit and avoid nutrient wastage.
JAGALCHI MARKET IN BUSAN
The market is a building of fish stalls and, of course, food stalls where only the freshest catch of the day is served. It was enormous that I felt nauseated. If I had been more patient, I could have spotted danggit from the myriad of fish displays here and there.
We didn’t try the fish though. I felt full just by looking at them. As usual, we had a modest meal at a small Chinese restaurant nearby. As I sipped tea, I was instantly put back to my senses.
We ended up again on a market during our last days at Seoul. This time with the full intent of purchasing a few items as souvenirs and giveaways to dear friends and families. There was a lot to choose from, by the way, that you’ll inevitably go hungry along the way.
So that when we spotted another full pack middle class ‘carinderia’, this time an outdoor setting in the market itself, we couldn’t wait to have our turn in the grilling table. The canteen was seriously popular, that most of the tables were occupied by men in black suit and neckties. This is yet another sign of good stuff. So naturally, we waited for our turn to grill.
Once again, the Koreans are not the explaining type. If they misunderstand, they won’t bat an eye even if they lose a precious customer. Business is business especially during peak lunch hours, so they won’t spend a few minutes just to translate in English what they simply cannot.
They just seem like they’re in a hurry, but no one’s really chasing you up once you start grilling and enjoying the food. By this time, we were already used to the golden scissors and lettuce wraps.
To sum it all, I believe I was able to cover the basics: ice cream, popsicle, airport noodles, instant noodles, bread, tea, instant coffee, candies, chocolate, squid snack, street food, spicy tuna rice ball, kimchi, native pork, grilled beef, more noodles and banana milk. With this, I was able to survive the one week trip at South Korea.
My meager encounters with food was incredible and unique. After all, I ate like a normal striving local. Recalling all those sensations while I strive to finish this article, I was instantly inspired to cook instant noodles. Guess my stomach still wish it remembers South Korea.
End of Part 2 of 2