4.149 Gabojingeo

Cycle 4 – Item 149

3 (Mon) June 2013



at Eomma Sonmat

-Singye, Yongsan, Seoul, Republic of Korea-

with MtG + NSJ

Dinner and a Movie with My Boyfriend and His Wife: The Sequel  (see previously 4.082 Cowboy Burger).

Located in a former warehouse in a back alley behind Yongsan Station.

Eomma Sonmat (엄마손맛) is a Korean restaurant.  Specializes in seafood.  Translates to “the taste (mat) (맛) of mother’s (eomma) (엄마) hand (son) (손).”

Yet another of MtG’s obscure restaurant finds.

Hole-in-the-wall decor.

The phrase “sonmat (hand taste)” explains why a dish can turn out different when cooked by different people.  Usually applied to home-cooking made without recipes.

The Ajeossi Bellwether Standard.

Figuratively, it means that every person has a slightly yet significantly lighter/heavier touch in applying ingredients/seasonings.  In traditional Korean home-cooking, ingredients are improvised and amounts are eyeballed and adjusted along the way.  Even with recipes, many call for amounts in subjective terms (e.g., “appropriate amount of salt” – kinda like “salt to taste” in English recipes).  Or, the recipes call for the use of an actual Korean-style flat tablespoon – rather than a volumetric 15-milliliter measuring spoon – which can vary the amount depending on how high the ingredient is heaped (photos at the start of cookbooks often show the “proper” height).

The hand-written graffiti enhances the grunginess, presumably by design.

Some people believe that the literal taste of a person’s hand affects the outcome.  Technically, yes, hands secrete natural bodily oils that are transferred to foods when touched during the cooking process.  This is what kinda creeps me out about sushi.  But the oils don’t really taste like anything, at least not in normal people, not enough to make or break a dish.

The menu, which places much emphasis on lunch, suggests that the business is geared towards workers in the area.

Many years ago, in return for translating the menu into English at our neighborhood Chinese restaurant, I was once given a cooking lesson, where the chef started off by explaining that the heat in a person’s hand alters the flavor of seasonings, even salt – so, even with the exact same amounts of ingredients, each dish will turn out differently.  No, that’s not true.

We got a quiet corner to ourselves.

Gab Ojingeo (갑오징어) is cuttlefish.  The “gab” refers to the cuttlebone, while ojingeo is squid.  In comparison to the ubiquitously popular standard squid, this variety is a relatively rare item in Korea; sold at large supermarkets on occasion, but found only at a specialty restaurants.

One of the free side dishes was pan-fried SPAM.

The cuttlefish was pretty good.  Uncertain whether hand taste had anything to do with it.

The thing in the middle is the gab/cuttlebone.

First, the cuttlefish was served as hoe, with the uncooked body sliced into thin slivers and served with both chogochujang and soy sauce + wasabi.  My first time trying cuttlefish this way, I found the texture to be pleasantly squishy/rubbery/dense at the same time, smooth yet surprisingly not slimy/slippery, unlike standard raw squid.  The taste was clean, not a trace of fishiness, with a remarkably rich and luxuriously buttery flavor.  Vaguely, the overall sensation was reminiscent of calf’s liver or fois gras.

It looked harmless at first, but the ink was insidiously blightful.

Next, the legs and guts were steamed and cut into pieces.  The ink was its own sauce.  I don’t care for squid ink, which simply tastes salty/bitter/minerally, presents various health risks – apparently, the cadmium scare from a couple years back has been forgotten (see 2.164 Yeonpo Tang) – and leaves lips and assholes unsightly in the aftermath (see for example 2.121 Paella Negra with Shrimp, Squid, and Clams).  I had a couple bites, careful to avoid any doused in ink.  It was okay.

Leftover ink, which reminds me of an abstract painting that I saw in a museum somewhere.

Overall, the meal was a very interesting dining experience.  But at 50,000 won for a single specimen, it was way overpriced and not worth repeating.

Even worse than the tongue, the ink also gets in between teeth.

I can declare with confidence that I’m a Star Trek fan.  Nearly lifelong, I have pictures of me in a Starfleet uniform when I was five.  In 1995, back when 36 weeks to record every episode of Star Trek (79 episodes) and Star Trek: The Next Generation (178 episodes) – pausing the tape between commercials – as they were rebroadcast in order on Paramount’s new UPN station (I can’t recall whatever happened to all those VHS tapes, boxes full of them, which I never rewatched).  Do bona fide fans refer to themselves as “Trekkies/Trekkers”? – anyone claiming “I’m such a Trekkie” always comes across to me as a bit fake.

In Korean, the title is Star Trek Darkness.

The movie was Star Trek Into Darkness.  As a fan, I was disappointed by the previous Star Trek: The Beginning, which I also watched with MtG, back before he was married; it didn’t feel or look authentic, as if it hadn’t come from the same universe, though I do understand that a revisionary approach had been the very point of the so-called reboot, to reach a younger, wider mainstream audience rather than an enduring appeal to the entrenched fans of old.  But this second installment of the new series was awesome.  While the story paid due deference to the mythology, providing plenty of insider details for the fans, the ideas were further developed and delivered via innovative visuals that made everything seem fresh yet familiar.  I enjoyed every minute of it, the best Trek feature since First Contact and maybe one of the all-time top five (the others being, in no particular order: First ContactWrath of KhanSearch for SpockVoyage Home), even though its title may be the lamest ever.



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