Korea: Cheong U

On my third day in Korea, I was introduced to something awesome...but stinky.  I'll admit that my sense of smell isn't always the most functional.  While CK was commenting on the stench the minute we exited the car, it took me two steps into Cheong U before I was hit with the smell of something akin to sweaty wet socks:

The culprit?  This simmering pot:

But before we get to that, I finally got to take some closeup shots of panchan!  (I always feel embarrassed about taking pictures when I'm eating with people I'm not particularly close to.  Especially if said people are the mother and uncle of my friend.  Awkward!)  Okay, so maybe I was only able to sneak pictures of the plates closest to me, but hey, it's better than nothing, right?

Here's a scallion one:

An eggplant one:

And my favorite widdle anchovies:

I wish I'd gotten a closeup of the pork (lower right of the table shot) because it was delicious -- or as CK likes to say, DEE-RI-CIOUS!

The huge simmering pot in the middle of the table was definitely the star of the show though:

Cheonggukjang, as it's called, is a stew made of fermented bean paste.  It's a lot like doenjang jijae, but much more pungent.  Don't ask me why.  When I start eating, there's no brain space for questions.

After letting the cheonggukjang cook down a little, the soup becomes thicker and yummier:

Trust me, after a while, you don't even notice the smell.  In fact, all you'll be able to focus on is how great the cheonggukjang goes with rice.  You won't remember about the small until you're driving away and you suddenly catch of whiff of it from your hair.

Luckily, I had no one to impress.  I wore my cheonggukjang perfume with pride.

For sure one of my favorite meals in Korea.  Plug your nose if you have to, but definitely don't miss out on this.


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