Tag Archives: haenyo

Street Food Argument

15 Jul

The old guy is a boaster, for sure.  You wouldn’t guess it because his food stand is actually a converted alleyway.  There is particle board hung from pipe framing for the roof, maybe some aluminum siding on that for water protection, and wooden matting, similar to rattan, on the walls.  It’s barely six feet wide, maybe less, but he’s crammed an industrial-size refrigator, gas burners, and who knows what else into the twenty foot-long space.  But, despite its shabbiness, he still goes on and on about how great his twikim is.  It’s so good, SBS filmed him on one of their food shows, he said.  And even with food prices going up, he still gives out large portions, he pointed out.

I don’t care much for his boasting, but it is indeed amazing food.  His fried stuffed peppers (고추튀김) are incredible.  They’re about six inches long, with a layer of fried goodness on the outside that’s light, not doughy.  He throws it in the fry pan for an extra minute just to make it extra crispy (and give it a nice greasy coating). Bite into the middle and it’s got julienned carrots and something that looks like feta cheese but doesn’t taste like it.  The inside is equally as light as the outside, surprisingly more enjoyable than chile rellenos I’ve eaten at home.

Two local guys waltz up out of the sprinkling rain and order some odaeng.

“Where’s your girlfriend?” asks the old guy.

The dude in the black polo trimmed with gold, punching on his smart phone, says, “Ah, she’s gone home.”

“Home?  Where’s that?”

The young guy says the name of a place that’s not familiar, but sounds like an island, given that it ends in “do.”

“What?  Where is that?” says the old guy.

“It’s an island.”

“Oh, she lives on an island.”

“Yeah, her mom is a haenyeo.”

The old guy seemed indignant.  “That can’t be.”

“Why? That’s what she is.”

“She can’t be a haenyo, not if she’s from there.  Haenyo are only on Jeju.”

“I’m telling you, she’s a haenyo.”

“Those women only live on Jeju!  Just because a woman fishes doesn’t make her a haenyo!”  The old guy seemed really bent out of shape over this.

“Really?  That’s what she said.”

“Well, she’s wrong.”

“I’m chatting on the phone with her right now.  Do you want to ask her father?”

“No, no, that’s fine.”

As the greasy food began to form a heavy lump in the pit of my stomach, I realized my Korean skills were better.  Whoa.