No, I don’t think there’s any similarity between my favorite Japanese food and Korean food. The former I think is simple and artistic, the latter leans more on the “eclectic.” Maybe it’s because my tongue is not yet attuned to Korean food. There’s always an element of surprise whenever I munch on kimchi, or marvel at the variety of sauces, dips and veggies laid out before me, like an intricate ceremony.
It certainly felt surreal when I visited The Pork Room in Malate (it was on Jorge Bocobo, I think). As far as I know this Korean hole-in-the-wall is not listed in any mainstream directory and there wasn’t even any signage that said it’s The Pork Room. My host was just willing to translate the Hangul script to me. When we went inside, there were murals of happy piggies and only six or so items on a blackboard announcing the menu.
Our first course was the som gyup sal, referring to the three-layer, bacon-like pork laid out on a hot grill along with an assortment of vegetables and rice cake, with kimchi and other sidings on the side.
It was quite a novel experience for me eating the som gyup sal because you don’t need rice with this. What I did (or rather was taught to) was get a lettuce leaf, put some pork dipped either in sesame oil or chili paste, add in vegetables like sweet pea, bean sprouts and mushrooms, put a clove of garlic or green pepper, roll it like a spring roll and put the whole thing in your mouth. “The whole thing!” caboodle was what did it for me, because it’s not considered proper if you bite into the som gyup sal like a burger. I must say having your mouth ballooning with stuffed lettuce was the worst thing to do on a date, lol.
Our next meal was the mul neng myun , a cold soup which is apparently famous in Korea. It wasn’t only cold, the vermicelli noodles were mixed with ice to make them cold. Yay! the soup tasted like kimchi so just imagine eating halo-halo with kimchi and you know what I mean. It just made me wonder why cold noodle soups like gazpacho and this mul neng myun were not invented in the Philippines when we need it to counter the humid weather.
After that novel, affordable dining experience at The Pork Room, I will conclude that Korean food still confounds me. And what’s this I heard that they’re fond of eating dogs over there??