(Just kidding, I know hardly anyone really cares.) I have to tell you about Monday night first.
Yes. So, on Monday night, Alexandre and I went to check out a new sushi restaurant for dinner (surprise surprise). It's close to home. They don't have the all-you-can-eat setup, so we were scouring the menu, trying to find something grilled (read: less expensive) to share.
We saw that a family at another table had a giant beef platter thing. It looked yummy, but we had no idea what it was in the menu. So Alexandre decided to find out.
"What are they eating?" he asked the waiter, pointing to the dish.
The waiter smiled shyly. "Well, actually...it's Korean food. We have a Korean menu, too. But it's kind of hard, um, to translate...I mean, do you want to see it?"
"Yeah, of course!" Alexandre said.
I already had started on a beer, so I boasted, "I know how to read Korean!"
The waiter gave me a confused look.
"...Well, I don't know what many of the words mean. I just know the alphabet."
I don't think he believed me. He nodded politely and went to get the menu for us. It was, in fact, in Korean. Before the guy could explain the food to us, I excitedly started to try to read the words, like an annoying toddler who's learning how to read and who wants to try to sound EVERYTHING out. I did pretty well for not having studied Korean since I moved to Brazil.
"How do you know that?!" the guy asked. Some white girl in Brazil with an accent in Portuguese, reading in Korean?!
"Ah. I was -- well, I am, an English teacher. I had a lot of Korean students, so I studied Korean a little."
"OK, that's cool." I think the guy was pleased, but also surprised and a little shy.
He showed us which characters on the menu referred to the dish that the other table was eating. It was called bulgogi. He explained that it was a sort of grilled beef with onions and a soy-sauce-based marinade. Sounded good to me!
The waiter brought out the electric grill where the meat was cooked at our table. The waiter's mother, an older Korean woman, brought out all those traditional Korean side dishes (ban-chan) for us.
|notice the pre-chilled beer mugs!|
To be honest, the only side dish that I recognized was kim-chi, but there were some other really tasty ones, including bean sprouts with garlic (apparently kongamul, spicy spinach, and some kind of fried shoots (according to Wikipedia, I think it's gosari namul, which is in the center of the picture).
When the beef came out, the waiter and his mother taught us to fry it a little at a time, and then to push it down into the watery sauce around the edge of the pan so it could soak up some of the flavor. Though it was hard to be patient, the pieces that were cooked longer and soaked more were the best. I was tipsy and I insisted on telling the Korean mother all of the Korean words I knew, most of which are for ordering in a restaurant anyway. Poor lady.
I got Alexandre to ask the waiter about Korean barbecue, and if they sold it. I asked if he considered this meat to be a form of Korean barbecue. He said he did, but he agreed that the more traditional stuff is made on that special grill. He could tell that we were excited about it, so he brought out the grill to show it to Alexandre.
The best part of the meal, of course, was the realization that there is Korean food WITHIN WALKING DISTANCE OF MY HOUSE. In Brazil.
Alexandre took some pictures of the menu in Korean. I'm going to show it to one of my Korean friends so she can tell me what we should order next time.
What a pleasant surprise! It's OK, you can be a little jealous.