I’m not going to lie, I’ve used the word delicious about 20 times in two languages today and I’m only halfway through the day. I don’t even care.
Today, my friends, is Kimchi Day at school. My feelings about kimchi have changed very little since my delirious kimchi-drunk ramblings this time last year – if anything, I have only fallen more and more in love. Last weekend was the national kimchi-making weekend across Korea, and I was very disappointed not to get to go on the special “let’s teach the foreigners how to make kimchi” daytrip (I had a friend’s birthday party to attend). To my delight, the class was such a success that they’re having another one next month, and I have signed up with great excitement. I’ll get to make, keep, and eat my very own kimchi. Two kilos of the stuff! *happy dance*
In the meantime, the local ajummas have been drafted in today to help the cooking lady make the school’s kimchi supply for the year. I have once again been crossly shooed out of the kitchen after almost falling headfirst into the ginormous basin of sauce containing approximately a million cloves of garlic, but I am taking my banishment well, thanks to the lunch we’ve just had to celebrate kimchi-making day.
The first time I was served bossam, I looked at it with disappointed sadness. I hadn’t been here that long, and thought Korean food was all quite weird and unappealing. I was really hungry, and all I was being given to eat was disgusting fatty pork and horrible fermented cabbage leaves?! The horror. Now, however, it ranks up there around the same level as yukgaejang and japchae on my list of Frickin’ Amazing Korean Dishes.
Bossam is a kind of ssam - that is to say, one of the dishes that involves wrapping a piece of meat in a leaf of some sort, and eating it with a tasty sauce. Bossam is the steamed pork version. I admit, it doesn’t look that appealing to the newcomer’s eye. The pork is very fatty – lots of the pieces are almost all fat and hardly any meat – but you’ll often be served a varied selection of cuts, with plenty of lean, fat-free pieces, too. Of course, me being me, I never touch those, and go for the fatty slices every time. They are absolutely – wait for it – delicious. So soft, melt-in-your-mouth tender, and flavourful, even on their own. But then you wrap them in a lettuce leaf with a big piece of spicy, crunchy, garlicky kimchi and a dab of ssamjang, and it’s like an explosion of… of deliciousness on your taste buds.
The fresh kimchi today was spicier than the stuff we usually have, but it was the sort of heat that creeps up on you gradually rather than setting your mouth on fire at the first bite. By the end of the meal we were all making hissing noises and gulping down cold water, and yet no one could stop eating the bossam. It is too good, trust me on this. The combined flavours and textures of the meat and the kimchi are just out of this world. I actually caught myself doing my happy dance as I returned to my classroom after lunch, when I could eat no more.
Apparently we’re getting bossam for lunch at our kimchi-making class, too. Hurrah! I can’t believe there was once a time when my life did not have Korean food in it.
It’s DELICIOUS, I tell you.
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