Skate on Thin Ice--2001 Cont'd

After taking rice, the women cleaned up while the Master, his protege, and I stayed seated on the kitchen floor. The Master was itching for some Soju and with a huge library of options within arm's reach, we were soon pouring each other's cups full. There was a problem however: we had no side dishes to eat while drinking. To solve this problem the Master went to the freezer and pulled out a large cube-shaped block of frozen food. He unwrapped the plastic, placed it on a plate, and put it in the microwave.

I had no idea what he was cooking or defrosting so I waited silently savoring my fruit-steeped Soju. When the microwave dinged he put the food down in front of us. He asked me if I had ever tried it before. I asked what it was and he told me but I didn't recognize the name. He clarified that it was a type of seafood. I still had no clue but mental noted to look it up later.

The Master got a small cup and filled it with red pepper paste for dipping the barely defrosted seafood bites in before eating. He warned me I might not like it. I was not sure if he said I wouldn't like it because it was spoiled, or because it tasted like it was spoiled. The only thing I was sure of was that he had used the word "spoiled" in describing the seafood.

I took a bite. Terrible. I took another bite but dipped it in the yummy red sauce first. Still terrible and only doable if caked in ample pepper paste and chased with Soju. As we finished eating the thawed bits around the edges, the frozen fare would go back into the microwave for more defrosting, then we would pick at the edges some more and eat. Dip and eat. Thaw, pick, dip, eat, drink. Repeat.

When we'd had enough, the seafood was re-wrapped and placed back into the freezer. We repaired to bed. Me to share the mosquito net room with the protege.

I forgot to look up the name of the rotten-tasting seafood. I even forgot the name. And it wasn't until a few days later when we drove into Mokpo and passed a fish market that the subject finally came up again. The Master pointed out the window at some sea fresh creatures propped on display.

"Hong-eo," he said. "That is what we ate the other night. Hong-eo."
There's a reason ZenKimchi calls it "The hardest thing in Korea to swallow..."

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