The best lunch is usually the one you didn’t have

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The best lunch is usually the one you didn’t have

One of the trickiest decisions in life is probably what to have for lunch,especially when you’re traveling and your time is limited. During a two-day stay at Tongyeong last week, I faced the challenging decision of whether to have Chinese food or oysters.
Tongyeong is my favorite Korean city for a number of reasons, including the fact that it’s one of the few cities in the country that haven’t been tainted by Starbucks or McDonald’s. Something else I love about it is that it’s got the best oysters I’ve tasted. I haven’t traveled enough in Korea to sample the full range of oysters, but Tongyeong’s were certainly better than those in other port cities like Busan and Incheon (not a compelling comparison to begin with, I realize).
I’ve been obsessing about oysters since my last trip to Tongyeong three years ago. It was almost a culinary awakening; they practically melt on your tongue. So you can imagine how much I was looking forward to eating them again on last week’s trip to “Korea’s Naples.”
But just before I left Seoul, I came across a magazine article about a hairdresser in her 70s who gave up her affluent life in Seoul upon falling in love with the sea off Tongyeong. She decided to open up a Chinese restaurant there. Why Chinese? I don’t know. Perhaps I would have found out if I checked it out myself. But there were press banquets for every meal during my brief stay, and I was left with one free lunch hour, on the day I was supposed to return to Seoul.
After a moment’s agonizing, I decided to go with oysters. I guess my taxi driver, who adamantly summed up the Chinese place as “far from meeting the locals’ tastes,” made up my mind somewhat.
So I was satisfied with my oyster choice (and they were as good as I remembered). But in the back of my mind, I wondered why there couldn’t be a Chinese restaurant in Tongyeong with oysters as the featured ingredient. Can’t anyone come up with something like sweet and sour oysters? Or oyster chow mein, or stir-fried oysters in black bean sauce?
I guess my regret was aggravated by two elderly gentlemen I happened to meet in the airport on my way back to Seoul. I overheard them raving about the food at the former hairdresser’s Chinese place. I proudly told them about my decision to choose oysters over Chinese food.
One of them looked at me sympathetically and said, “But they have been farmed, honey. That’s why they are so big.” He made it sound as if I’d gotten gypped into buying a fake Louis Vuitton bag or something. That’s what farmed oysters do to you: They make you feel small and ashamed.
What the heck. At least I know my next business plan.

How to Cook

Deep-fried oysters

Ingredients: 400 g of oysters, 1 teaspoon of lemon juice, 1/2 cup of flour, 2 eggs, 1 sprig of parsley, 1 cup of bread crumbs, vegetable oil, a little salt and pepper.
1. Wash the oysters in cold salt water, and let them dry in a strainer.
2. Sprinkle them with the salt, pepper and lemon juice.
3. Finely chop the parsley and mix it into the bread crumbs. Coat the oysters in the flour, then the eggs (beaten), and then the bread crumbs.
4. Deep-fry the oysters in vegetable oil at about 170 degrees celsius (340 degrees Fahrenheit).
From, Delicook

by Park Soo-mee
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