Sunday, October 08, 2006

Food just tastes better when eaten with good friends

Today I ate Korean food again! (Yes, even though at I ate Korean food 1-2 times per day every day for the last 5 days I was in Lhasa -- ha, ha, you thought I had enough of that fermented cabbage and red pepper and garlic! No, not even close...)

I got rudimentary directions and the name of a major landmark nearby written in Chinese on a piece of paper by the guesthouse owner. To make it even more challenging for myself, I decided to take the bus. (Hey, what can I say, I have time on my hands!)

I managed to get to the place (thanks in the end to a very nice fellow at a teahouse a couple doors down from the restaurant who walked me there, because believe me, it wasn't obvious).

When I walked in, I sniffed heartily, expecting the smell of childhood and of home and of my life to come to my nose. My nose was disappointed. The smell wasn't bad (otherwise I would have made a beeline out of there!) but it was lacking. However, I persevered. Upon examining the menu (and in general the place), there was no Korean lettering or signage and the pictures of the food (does that give you a hint about the goodness of the place? The good restaurants never have pictures in their menu!) -- were unrecognizable.

After attempting to speak Korean with one waitress then another, they called the owner over to my table. Thankfully he is Korean, and so we could communicate.

I ordered the standard bibimbop.

It looked like bibimbop and sounded like bibimbop (sizzling, hot stone bowl, veggies and rice and runny egg on top). There was no sesame oil to be had (it's usually at the bottom of the bowl thus causing the sizzling and infusing the dish with a divine taste and smell) and, even worse, the kochejang was a disappointment -- it did not have the depth of taste that comes from fermentation.

(Anyone who has eaten Korean food with me knows how much I love kochejang and that I feel buoyant and happy after I eat it!)

Despite all of this, I ate politely, albeit unenthusiastically, and then I left.

The Korean restaurant in Lhasa wasn't brilliant either, but it was better. That and food just tastes better when eaten with family or with good friends.

p.s. For all of those uninterested in my daily minutae, please accept my profuse apologies! Remember what I said in an earlier entry about traveling and how it makes the basic concerns of life (food and shelter) the main goals of the day???

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