Friday, May 8, 2009

Makgeolli, Moonshine and More Good Eats

Dinner tonight started off with my aunt's friend, the soprano, spooning up a bowl full of makgeolli (or in our case, more specifically, dongdongju, which is the unfiltered variety) for each of us 5 diners sitting around the table as our obokchengbahn bubbled at a furious pace in front of us.

First off, makgeolli made me think of moonshine when the waitress brought us the seemingly homespun, milky-to-pale yellow liquid in a ceramic pot complete with gourd floating on top. And actually, back in the day, this glutinous rice, barley, flour, yeast and water concoction was brewed at home.

Nowadays the stuff is mass-produced, having regained in popularity among the mainstream. And no wonder. It's easy to drink, slightly sweet as it is, and fairly harmless at about 6% alcohol.

But back to the obokchengbahn—something I'd not heard of or seen ever before. My aunt says it's a North Korean mainstay. Somewhat akin to shabu shabu but in a much shallower pot and, save for the leafy green adornment, with all of the ingredients—massive pork dumplings sitting atop generous shavings of pig, rice cakes, onions, hard-boiled egg halves, along with enoki, trumpet and maitake mushrooms—already pre-cooked.

When the thing starts to cook down, you start in on it, little by little, serving it up into diminutive bowls. As we proceeded, the waitress urged us to keep adding more water from a teakettle, making sure the pot was always full and simmering at the very least.

We'd ordered 2 types: the one you see here and another with raw bulgogi and octupus, chunks of tofu, mushrooms, rice cakes and lotsa sliced chilies and chili paste. They were both ever so tasty and absolutely soul-satisfying, though if I had to pick, the spicy hotpot would be my number one.

Be that as it may, I'm thrilled with this food find as it's one that includes a family footnote: It's a dish that comes out of my granny's hometown, so says my aunt.

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