Showing posts with label Korea. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Korea. Show all posts

09 February 2017

Korean restaurant in Guiyang

My sister-in-law JJ is from Hebei, near Beijing. She came to live here with her husband, my wife's brother, after they married and had a lovely daughter, Cindy.

She used to work in restaurants in Beijing and was good at it so she quickly became a head waitress in a mid-sized Italian restaurant in the capital. Of course, she had to look for a new job in Guiyang, and so she started to walk around our neighborhood and ask the growing number of restaurants if they had a job for her. In just one day she landed a position as a waitress in a Korean restaurant, and after a few weeks, she was promoted to head waitress.

It is amazing how fast one can find a job here. If one wants a job that is. Many such positions as a waiter in a restaurant come and go fast, people move up, move out, change cities. China is more and more a mobile economy. Of course, many employers get away with low salaries, very few days off for their staff (sometimes no days off at all), and no insurance, pension payments, and such amenities as we are used to taking for granted. Of course, it is changing, larger enterprises do have regular contracts and arrangements for sick-leave and all, but it will take some time. It does remind me of the stories I heard from my parents of what the economy was like in Italy right after the war.

Today she invited the whole family to dine at her restaurant. She had reserved the best table for us, at the end of the dining hall, in a quiet corner. We took our seats and then she began suggesting Korean specialties and taking orders on her smartphone app. 

The signature dish is hearty strips of pork meat grilled at the table. We ordered a couple of different variations and they were all quite tasty! I especially liked the strips that were marinated with black pepper and Korean curry. 

Also on the menu were some chicken bites, but I preferred pork. JJ takes good care of changing the grill frequently so as not to mix the flavors and fats of the various meats. The strips are grilled by JJ and served to each of us on open leaves of raw lettuce that are wrapped around the meat and eaten with bare hands.

All of this was brilliantly paired with Korean sake, served slightly chilled, though I thought it might be even better if it had been warmed up.

The "dessert" was a kind of omelet with veggies, a flat "frittata" in fact, cut in triangles like a pizza. Followed by a piping hot vegetable soup. And some fresh fruits, which looked more like an end-of-meal for me.

The restaurant was about half full. It is quite expensive by local standards. Today we are guests of JJ but a normal meal could cost easily some 200 Rmb with some sake, maybe five times more than a Chinese meal at a similar restaurant.

I am pretty sure the staff was all Chinese, the staff in the dining room with JJ and the cooks whom I could see at work all spoke Mandarin and the local dialect. 

That such a restaurant exists is a good thing for me. For one, it means enough people in Guiyang can afford to splurge in what is still considered a luxury. A growing middle class in China is a promising prospect.

Also, in a country that is justifiably proud of its cuisine, it's reassuring to see a degree of internationalization in the culinary offer, it is a sign of open-mindedness. We'll have to see if it takes root. I do see foreign foods at the local supermarket, but not many people buying.

09 September 2012

Book review: The Dark Tourist (2010), by Dom Joly, ***

Sinister looking WW I artillery on Monte Grappa

'Dark tourism is the act of travel and visitation to sites, attractions and exhibitions which have real or recreated death, suffering or the seemingly macabre as a main theme'

Ever since he can remember, Dom Joly has been fascinated by travel to odd places. In part this stems from a childhood spent in war-torn Lebanon, where instead of swapping marbles in the schoolyard, he had a shrapnel collection -- the schoolboy currency of Beirut. Dom's upbringing was interspersed with terrifying days and nights spent hunkered in the family basement under Syrian rocket attack or coming across a pile of severed heads from a sectarian execution in the pine forests near his home.

These early experiences left Dom with a profound loathing for the sanitized experiences of the modern day travel industry and a taste for the darkest of places. The more insalubrious the place, the more interesting is the journey and so we follow Dom as he skis in Iran on segregated slopes, picnics in the Syrian Desert with a trigger-happy government minder and fires rocket propelled grenades at live cows in Cambodia (he missed on purpose, he just couldn't do it).

30 May 2012

Film Review: M.A.S.H. (1970), by Robert Altman, *****


While set in the Korean War of 1950-1953, the movie clearly addresses the question of the Vietnam war, which at the time of production was an open wound in American society. A Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH) is the stage for a number of witty draftees to rebel and ridicule their strict superiors. Some are young docs just out of medical school, some are city girls who have to elbow their way in a clearly male dominated Army. Altman's black humor may seem a little dated forty years later, but it is still sharp. An iconic film of American countercolture that gave birth to an immensely successful TV series. Only one actor however, Gary Burghoff interpreting Radar, made it to the TV cast.