I want to let you know that I am feeling better about Chungju. I seem to be getting around okay and I’m slowly getting a map of the city in my head so I spend a little less time lost than I have before. I was introduced to a wonderful dive bar and I’ve made some friends.
Getting to the bar was of course it’s own adventure. After a long day at work, I wanted to chill out at home for a few minutes before meeting everyone at the bar. So Jamie pointed me in the right direction, told me to get a cab and call him so he could give the driver directions.
I started walking towards the bar and trying to wave down a cab. Of course, after I waved at the first cab driver who shook his head at me I realized I wasn’t entirely sure when a cab was open and when it was not. I had taken a cab before, but they had always been conveniently waiting at a taxi stop.
Finally after I waved at the fourth taxi and no one stopped, Jamie called me. “Do you know how to get a taxi here?,” he asked. “I’m going to go with no,” I said. So he told me when the red lights are on, step into the street and wave. It took a couple more tries, but I finally got a taxi to stop for me.
Then Jamie gave him directions to the bar. He dropped me off in an alley, pointed at an orange canopied warehouse and said, “Yogi.” Yogi is the Korean equivalent of here, but is also used like okay or hello at times. I nodded, paid my fare and got out.
I immediately called Jamie. “I’m here, I think.”
A few moments later Jamie walked out of the warehouse. “This is a total dive.”
Jamie laughed at me. “In Korea that’s what you want.”
Jamie was right. The bar was fantastic!
Everyone sits on stools around a table with a barbecue in the middle. You order your drinks and meat. The choice for the night was soju, rice wine, beer and pork. Then the wait staff loads up the table with a bunch of sides like kimchi, rice, fermented root vegetables I can’t name, cooked spinach, tofu soup and bean sprouts. Next they bring out a heaping platter or raw pork. Whatever cut we ordered was cut like bacon, but cooked like chops, there was also pork intestine and mushrooms.
Next come the drinks. In Korean culture, it’s not polite to pour your own drink so usually someone plays host and pours everyone else’s drink, but since we had six people drinking wine, beer or soju we all just took turn pouring for each other and our selves.
I guess there’s also a tradition that the youngest is in charge of grilling the food on the barbecue–using scissors to cut the meat into bite size pieces and making sure it doesn’t burn while also watching the fire underneath. But since I’m a foreigner the youngest Korean took this over which was probably a good thing.
Rice wine is disgusting. James (an American who’s been living here for two years) loves it. But it was sour and just gross. I do not recommend rice wine, especially without delicious spicy Korean barbecue as a chaser.
The beer for the night is called “Hite.” I think of it as the Korean equivalent to Miller Light so you know a light, weak beer that doesn’t taste that great.
Soju is the Korean equivalent of vodka. I’ve been told the drink tastes like hairspray, gasoline and could be used to run a car. So of course, I was excited to drink it. Jamie informed me that soju is taken as a shot chased down by the barbecue. So I loaded up on some mushrooms dipped in spinach and chili sauce then downed my shot. And I was fine.
Then I ate some mushrooms.
And it BURNED!
“What the hell?” I sputtered, reaching blindly for the closest food with my chop sticks. “It burns! Oh, that’s rude. Why does it burn later?”
Soju is fine until 30 seconds later when you realize you just drank something that is highly flammable and terrible for your liver. This of course did not prevent me from having three more shots.
My take on soju is that it’s very sneaky. You drink it and it’s fine, it’s like the smoothest tequila shot you ever had. Then BOOM! It hits you.
Then you feel fine, so you had three shots of 90 proof alcohol, no big. Then BOOM! It hits you. And suddenly singing loudly off key with people you just barely met is the best. idea. ever.
Why yes, that actually did happen. But more on that later.
Thanks for reading! Any good cocktails lately?