3.326 Bulgarian Yogurt

Cycle 3 – Item 326

26 (Mon) November 2012

Bulgarian Yogurt


at Zelen

-Hannam, Yongsan, Seoul, Republic of Korea-

with JHJ + gf

Project 30/30/30: 26 of 45 (see also 45/45/45)

Throughout this November, I am challenging myself to eat 30 dishes from 30 countries over the course of 30 consecutive days.

Bulgaria is the 26th country.

Bulgaria had to be represented at Zelen, of course, Korea’s only Bulgarian restaurant.  Upon first discovering the place last year, I described it as “my new favorite dining destination in the city.”  In retrospect, perhaps I’ve never been all that enthralled by the food per se, the enthusiasm progressively dwindling with every post in the series.  I think that I’ve always liked the idea of the restaurant in the abstract, its esoteric nature–“Oh, there’s this Bulgarian joint around the corner…”–as if going there upped my sense of sophistication, my global culinary street cred.”

Many Bulgarians believe that yogurt was invented in their country, where it’s called “kiselo mlyako (“soured milk”).  In fact, the most common species of bacteria involved in making yogurt is Lactobacillus delbrueckii subspecies bulgaricus, which was discovered and named by Bulgarian researcher Stamen Grigorov in 1907.  However, whereas food products derived from soured milk are believed to date back thousands of years, the exact origins of yogurt per se remain unknown (see Wikipedia on yogurt).  Regardless, for Bulgaria, yogurt is a point of national pride

According to the manager, Zelen’s yogurt is made from bacterial culture that he’d personally smuggled into Korea from Bulgaria.  National pride?  Or agricultural terrorism?  Either way, the yogurt was the real deal – silky smooth and tangy, so fresh that it seemed to tingle with teeming microbes – which sounds kinda icky on paper but is actually exhilarating when experienced (kimchi at certain stages of fermentation provides a similar sensation).   Absolutely nothing like the mass-produced yogurt that I’ve had before.  It came in two variations: honey & nuts, which provided the extra flavor dimensions of sweet and nutty, as well as a bit of textural crunch; and blueberries, which added a touch of sweetness while jacking up the sour.  I preferred the purity of the blueberry.

Cheese and Tomato Salad (3.0): simultaneously hearty and light.
Assorted Barbecue Platter (2.0): looked impressive with chicken skewers, cheese-stuffed chicken breasts, pork meatballs, and a pork & lamb sausage, but most of the meats were dry.

When I got home and looked at the receipt, I realized that the restaurant had charged me the wrong amount.   Apparently, the restaurant had given me the bill for the table next to us, as I could tell by the items on the invoice.  Tthe difference was about 60,000 won or so less in my favor.   Interestingly, everyone that I’ve told about this, including my father, my wife, and my best friend, has suggested that I’m free of obligation to go back and pay the difference because it was the restaurant’s fault.  That may be true, but I’m doing it anyway.  In addition to promoting the principles of bioethics within the medical industry, which is my profession, I suppose that I should also advocate ethical values in food and food service, which is my passion.

(See also BOOZE)



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