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Saturday, May 03, 2008

One Thing I Hate about Korea

In response to Laura's latest post about the lack of Mexican food in London: http://harwiginlondon.blogspot.com/2008/05/things-i-miss-about-american-part-ii.html

My biggest culinary misfortune by far is certainly the lack of even sub-par Mexican food. While Korean food is truly awesome and the variety is enough to keep me from getting bored, I sometimes suffer from extreme guacamole cravings. And salsa cravings. Burritos, tacos, choripollo, enchiladas, chimichangas, you name it. Unfortunately, there are no Mexican restaurants anywhere around me, though I'm pretty sure that in the seedy foreigner zone of Seoul - which I mentioned before in conjunction with fake watch salesmen and transvestite hookers - there are some authentic hole-in-the-wall places. Too bad that's about $100 in train tickets away.

As dismaying as the lack of Mexican restaurants is the lack of ingredients. My supermarket has cheese, but it's all Brie, Parmesan, low-quality cheddar singles, and terrible ground pizza cheese. Limes are unheard of in this country. Avocados cost 2 or 3 dollars a piece, and nobody knows how to sell them. In America, I recall that in the supermarket, after enough squeezing, you could always find an avocado ready to use at dinner time, or one that would at least be ready after a day or two. The 'cados here are all rock-hard in the store. They stay that way for between 1 and two weeks, and when you finally open them, they're just all stringy inside. And flavorless. Admittedly, I could get them from costco, but 5 plump av's are just too much for one dude to handle.

Even if I could get my 'vocad's though (I think I've now broken the record for pet-names for avocados in one post), I wouldn't be able to whip up a decent guac. Limes are unheard of in this country. As is cilantro. I happened to find some at a vietnamese restaurant, and it was fantastic. When I asked the Korean name, in the whole building, only one person knew. And if I go anywhere else and ask if they have it, nobody has any idea what I'm talking about. They assume that I'm misspeaking. But really they're just food dolts! In addition to cilantro, coriander, cumin, and cocoa powder are missing, so there's no enchilada sauce to be made. No refried beans anywhere. And, perhaps most surprisingly, the garlic powder here is really lousy.

So, the best Mexican food I could whip up on my own with ingredients from my local superstore? A quesadilla made from some likely lousy tortillas and some definitely shoddy cheese singles. Ugh. No wonder I find myself eating chicken feet, eel, dog, silkworms, and the like.