When only seasoned vegetables will do the trickOne of the amusing things about living in a newly built apartment complex is seeing new stores come into the neighborhood. There is a strange excitement in watching the “for lease” signs being taken down, waiting for the shops to finally open. Luckily, we’ve been able to have a dynamic group of stores.
Shortly before my arrival, a new real estate agent opened a branch in my apartment complex. One of the agents there is named Seong-seok, a humble young man who bought my mother’s loyalty by sharing some juicy gossip about the tenants in my building. He appeared on primetime news earlier this year after he almost lost his life in the tsunami in Phuket; he had gone there for a holiday with his wife and two children. When I recently bumped into him in the elevator, he had lost so much weight from the shock that I could barely recognize his face.
His new neighbor is a man who sort of opened a German bakery named “Ach So.” The main selling point of this new store is probably its mysteriousness. The bakery has a menu written entirely in German. But whenever I go there with the hope of buying some fresh bread, there is no sign of life. In fact, it’s been like that for the past two months. The signs are lit. When I peak in, there are even a few buns sitting on the racks, but I just haven’t seen it in business.
On the corner, there is a new chicken joint with the disturbing name of “Pudadak,” or flying chicken. I am always baffled to see local meat restaurants using a picture of personified animals, as if they’ve been waiting to be butchered.
Next to Pudadak is a Korean restaurant that sells mediocre bibimbap for a not-so-generous price. On the other side is a new hair salon run by a fat ajeossi with long hair and a strong Busan dialect. Unfortunately, he made me look like a Japanese middle school girl when I asked him to trim my bangs on the morning I was set for a blind date. The trauma got worse when the guy I met in the evening commented that I looked like a nurse. I didn’t know whether it was a compliment or a curse. Then there is a pet shop, which I haven’t been able to visit yet. They sometimes hang cute signs like “out for a snack,” or “out for a company party.”
I guess I shouldn’t neglect to mention the convenience store, which opened on Dec. 30. I usually don’t keep track of shops’ opening dates, but a traumatic incident happened to me on that day, and as I went in to buy canned coffee to soothe my brain, the clerk there handed me a free Nivea cream as a gift.
What I really want is a deli where I can get a variety of side dishes. In the summer, when I lose my appetite, I could get some pungently fermented seafood to awaken my palate. In the spring, I could bring home some freshly seasoned vegetables to accompany a bowl of steamed rice. It’s that time of year.
How to Cook
Ingredients: 3 eggplants, 1/2 teaspoon chilli pepper, 1/2 teaspoon diced green onion, 1 teaspoon crushed garlic, dash of soy sauce, sesame seeds, drizzle of sesame oil
1. Remove stems from eggplants, cut eggplants into sections.
2. Steam in a pot for 5 to 10 minutes. When done, tear into bite-size pieces.
3. Squeeze the water out of the eggplants in a cheesecloth.
4. Add the seasoning, with a pinch of sesame seeds.
5. Serve with steamed rice.
by Park Soo-mee