Monday, November 15, 2010
Truth be told, I hadn’t expected the oysters to be RAW.
My coworker had told me about this back alley find several months previously, and I’d been dying to try “gul bossam,” ( 굴 보쌈 )the delicious oysters paired with steamed pork and sides 돼지 오겹 생굴 보쌈 that he’d so enjoyed. Dubbing it “Gangster Alley,” he told me that on several occasions he his then-fiance and had been regaled by a local ajoshee with legends of the old time gangsters who used to frequent the area and dine on fresh but inexpensive seafood. I like seafood, and being from the land of Al Capone I loved the idea of old gangster hideaways off the beaten trail. So I recruited a couple of skeptical friends and we made our way to Seoul’s Jongno-3 exit 15, off subway line 5-1-3.
It took some prowling, but once we found it we realized it was basically in front of our faces. Probably less than 50 meters straight out the subway exit, hang a left down the tiny alley just past the “약” or “pharmacy.” Just inside the alley is a “World Beer” on the right, and the alley just past it contains several seafood and gamjatang 감자탕 (pork bone soup) restaurants, several advertising celebrity recommendations.
Before choosing our establishment, we wandered down a few of the naorrow passages, past the clustered shops mostly shuttered and padlocked for the evening as the twilight deepened. A few loners in business suits walking by, hands in pockets, slouching. Bags of neatly tied trash were stacked against a brick wall. One tawdry fluorescent bulb lit a lone shop filled with old clocks and watches. Christmas lights twinkled in a small motel window, and the cinnamon-pork smell of gamjatang mingled with city and street and frying fish.
We settled on the place that smelled the most delicious, and with the friendliest ajumma at the door. Bustling but not overcrowded, the small restaurant was full of cheerful diners and geniality. The food was served quickly: For W25,000 we were served a small tureen of soup and a generous platter of pork with spicy vegetables and the oysters. It was then I realized the oysters were RAW! Somehow in all my preparation and discussion I had never realized this, nor had I ever thought to google the dish. They were slimy of course, but fresh. We ordered a few sides of rice and made salad wraps (ssambaps) just like galbi. Delicioso!
Despite the slime, oysters are low in fat/calories and said to be high in zinc, iron, and Vitamin A, and the amount of collagen is supposed to be good for skin and decreasing wrinkles. These oysters were not potent, and despite the seeming randomness, I liked the unique oyster-pork-vegetable/etc. combination. A little white rice worked nicely to fill in the gaps. The amount of food was perfect for us 3 girls. I can’t say I’m craving those raw oysters again today, but…DAMN! They make me feel good and GANGSTA!
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