Saturday night in a small town in South Korea

Originally published in 2009 when I was living in South Korea working as an English teacher on an island called Ulleungdo.

What is there to do on a Saturday night when you live in a small town? The simple delicious answer to this is, have dinner at your friend’s house.

Every weekend on Ulleungdo I’m in this situation and tonight I found myself at a new friend’s house. I met Lee Dong Sun a few days ago at our Wednesday afternoon art class where we made plans to meet up this weekend.

As the last bus from her town Namnyang, back to Dodong, where I live was at 7:40 pm we had to make it an early dinner. I got to her apartment before 5pm and she had already prepared everything before.

The main dish was the tangy and sweet Gung Jung Tteokbokki (Stir-fried Korean rice cake with meat and vegetables).

Gung Jung Tteokbokki

Dong Sun chose this for the menu as it’s not too spicy and it’s a traditional Korean dish.

The first step is to make the sauce, which is made up of sesame oil, sugar, garlic, soy sauce, black pepper and spring onion. Once these have been reduced to make a sauce, put it aside.

Then heat sesame oil and spring onion, so it can flavor the oil. Quickly fry julienne carrots, mushroom, onion, red and green pepper, pork and lastly the tteokbokki (rice cake). Just before it’s done add the sauce and let it coat the meat and vegetables. Toss in some sesame seeds to finish.

“It’s easy to make and very healthy,” said Dong Sun who makes this dish very often.

Ham bokkeumpap hearts

Besides the normal variety of exotic Korean side dishes she also made some pretty bokkeumpap (fried rice) hearts. Bokkeumpap is another dish that Dong Sun makes often as it’s a great way to use extra rice.

She combined the rice with ham, mushroom, carrots, onion and black sesame seeds, put the rice into heart moulds and surprise, leftovers filled with love. These dishes are things that I could actually make back home in South Africa, if I could actually find tteokkbokki.

Lee Dong Sun, my new Ulleungdo friend

The dinner was great and so was Dong Sun’s company, we discovered a mutual love for cooking and amateur food styling. Even though I’m only going to be on Ulleungdo for another two weeks, we are going to cook for each other as many times as we can. Next week is my turn. Wait and see what will be on the menu then!

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