Last night my Korean colleague and I ate one of my favorite dishes, 김치 삼겹살 (kimchi samgyeopsal). I also hear this is probably one of the most unhealthy Korean dishes! First, about the kimchi. As for many westerners, kimchi was an acquired taste for me, although it was reasonably good tasting the first time I tried it. Now it tastes delicious to me. But normally kimchi is served cold. In this dish, it is served hot, and also you will note all that pork "flavor" runs down through the kimchi. It is a fabulous taste! Every time I eat 삼겹살, it tastes better. Last night, I even observed that EACH BITE was tasting better throughout the meal!!!
After dinner, we adjourned to a nearby bar for some more business discussions. There I saw one of the most ironic sights from my many Korean food experiences. During one of my very first visits to Korea, I was shocked when me and my Korean friends were served shrimp. They popped the whole shrimp in their mouths and ate, head, tail, shell and all. I could not tolerate this, and had to peel mine and remove the head and tail. Last year, during another meal, we were served some crabs which our colleagues ate, shell and all (ouch ouch ouch). "This is the Korean way", we were told. So I have this picture in my mind that Korean people have an amazing tolerance to eating shells.
I burst out laughing last night when the bartender lady brought us a small dish of peanuts, the type with a paper-thin coating, or shell, around them. She proceeded to peel this layer off each peanut, making a pile of "edible" peanuts for us to eat! I laughed so hard they wondered what was wrong with me. Once I explained it, they got a kick out of it, too. I still don't understand why it is okay to munch on a shrimp or crab shell, but you have to peel your peanuts, but that's okay. This is one area of Korean dining etiquette where I will continue to break the rules.