Before the monsoon rains ruined another trip south of the river, I hurried to meet up with my friend James, whom I hadn't seen in a year. The last time we met up was last year when another friend Soo-Jin and I drove down to meet him at Gangnam to enjoy a chat over dinner at Bae Yong-Joon's restaurant.
This time, we decided to just venture around the block near the Gangnam Station, where, even during a week night, was still full of people. If you visit this area on a weekend, you would find pedestrians and vehicles competing for space at the back alleys. And most restaurants, cafes and bars would be packed. Gangnam was already very popular even before Psy sang about it. Before, you could only see a lot of locals here. Now, with that hit video, international tourists have added this place to their itinerary.
But tonight, with cloudy skies hovering above the Gangnam skyline, I didn't see any tourist. Only office people and groups of friends flocking to the back alleys to have dinner or a drink. I asked James to pick a restaurant as this was his territory. He works in one of those tall buildings and during lunch, he would just pick one of those hundreds of dining places within a walking distance.
As my good friend suggested, we finally ended up on a restaurant that served ojing-eo bokkeum, or the spicy stir-fried squid dish. 'Ojing-eo' means squid and 'bokkeum' refers to any dish that's stir-fried. And what a dish it was! Paired with another huge plate of calamari and our funny stories, this dinner couldn't have been more enjoyable!
Before we finished off the squid, veggies and spicy sauce off the huge hot plate, the Korea ajumma added two cupfuls of rice and thinly sliced kim or edible seaweed, which she mixed with the remaining ojing-eo bokkeum. The whole hot plate then transformed into another picture of red, spicy rice with squid and veggies, and looking like another dish unto itself. By this time, although I felt a little bit full, not from our exchange of stories, anecdotes and jokes, but from everything else on our table, the image of a hot plate filled with meticulously mixed rice with the red pepper paste flavored with the taste of stir-fried squid and veggies was very tempting that we just had to continue. Eating. And chatting. Ha-ha-ha!
After dinner, we needed to wash off the spiciness of our ojing-eo bokkeum dinner with coffee and more stories. And we weren't surprised that most cafes nearby were also full of people as I thought, just like us, these crowds also wanted to spend a fun evening in Gangnam.
Thanks, James, for the dinner! Until the next time in Gangnam!