So I’m just going to pretend like I haven’t been a horrible writer and ignored my blog for about a month or more, and instead just jump into a topic.
I have been in Korea for almost three months now, and for that long I have apparently been grocery shopping entirely wrong. Like a typical foreigner stooge, whenever I needed to get groceries like meat or produce my mind would immediately go to one of the big chain superstores. The Korean equivalent of Wal-Mart, Home Plus, is right down the street from where I live. In about a ten to fifteen minute walk I can be in a one stop shopping mecca. The meat is overpriced, but if I go late at night there is always some of the older cuts that get marked down. The produce selection is decent, and not too badly priced for me. Back home in the States that was always the way I did my shopping so I figured that was the way to go here too. I couldn’t have been more wrong!
For some newer readers that don’t know much about me, I absolutely love to cook. Mostly this springs from my even greater love of eating good food. While I am certainly not the most amazing cook, I will admit to preferring many of the things that I cook for myself as opposed to going out to eat. My food is cheaper and far more satisfying to me. Generally I prefer simple recipes, both for ease of cooking and because I think they generally taste better. The only problem with simple recipes is that their success is largely based on using excellent ingredients. Now the produce and meat I had been getting at Home Plus and Kim’s Club (another big chain grocery store that is only a block from my apartment) were decent enough quality, but it was still definitely store type quality, not fresh from the farm.
Well all of this has now changed dramatically for the better. A while back I had heard that there was a big vegetable market in the Old Downtown section of Suncheon on days that ended in five or zero. This definitely piqued my interest, but since Old Downtown is on the complete opposite side of the city from where I live I just never made it over there. That all changed today. After talking about it in a bar a week or so ago, I made plans with one of my closest friends here to go to the market on the 10 June, since she works at a public school and was busy during the day for the markets that happened before that. We went this afternoon with a group of friends and my life was changed.
From here on out I will be doing basically all of my meat and produce shopping on days that end in five and zero. The quality is fantastic and the prices really can not be beat. The market itself is pretty big, and the selection was much better than I had expected. I was able to pick up staples of my diet like bananas and bell peppers, but also picked up some personal favorites that I had thought to be too expensive in Korea like a whole pineapple! Prices were pretty amazing on all of them. I was able to pick up sixteen bananas for under $5 U.S. Bell peppers and tomatoes came in black gallon bags stuffed full for $5 each. Even the whole pineapple I picked up was only about $2.50! I was floored and stocked up on produce for the next week of awesome meals.
While we were over there my friend also introduced me to her butcher which will probably change my diet for the rest of the time I live in Suncheon. Up until now I actually hadn’t been cooking too much meat here. Chicken is pretty cheap so I usually got that, and occasionally some pork or steak if it was marked down well, but generally I just stuck to eggs and eating out to fulfill my protein requirement. I had been wanting to find a good butcher in town, but had been told by several people that there simply wasn’t a decent one around that was cheap. Those naysayers were definitely proved wrong today. This new butcher I was introduced to is fantastic. The meat is excellent quality and drastically cheaper than at the bigger chain stores, and the butcher himself may be one of the friendliest people I’ve met in Korea. For the price that I would usually pay for three or four thin flank steaks I was able to pick up two beautiful, thick steaks, and a full pork tenderloin that he butterflied for me right there. It was amazing. Definitely going to become a regular customer of his now!
There are so many recipes bouncing through my head right now it is ridiculous. To celebrate this fantastic change to my diet I am already planning on having my friends over this week for pineapple sautéed pork, with grilled pineapple and pineapple salsa. Of course I might have to make a sample run of that for dinner sometime before they come over…