Mr Kim has been asking me since I got here if I like law fish. I found out today what he meant. We went to a restaurant for lunch. Lined up outside along the street were large fish tanks full of all kinds of live fish swimming about casually. Some were monstrous creatures from the deep. Others were delicate tropical fish that wouldn’t have looked out of place in an aquarium.
They were just chilling out – unaware of their fate on the other side of the wall. Mr Kim and I removed shoes and sat cross legged on mats. I’m struggling with this way of sitting to eat. I can’t cross my legs enough to tuck them under the low table because I’ve got such skinny jeans. After five minutes, I lose all sensation in at least one leg, so when I leave the restaurant it’s touch and go whether or not I fall flat on my face. But I suppose that one has to suffer for fashion. At another table, four Korean men sat enjoying an huge amount of seafood and side dishes. They were all digging in, gesticulating wildly and knocking back shots of alcohol.
There were two old Korean men sitting cross-legged at another table. They looked as comfortable as primary school children sitting in this way. It put me to shame! Mr Kim ordered for the both of us. I knew when the chef walked outside what we were in for. He grabbed a big fish from one of the tanks and walked back in the open kitchen. He bashed it on the head, filleted & sliced it and put slithers on top of rectangles of rice. Sushi. But here they call it chobap. It was sixty seconds from the fish swimming to it being on a plate in front of me. All the side dishes arrived: kimchi, spiced potatoes, raw shellfish (whatever the shellfish was I ate it, and it was raw, and it had an eye, and I ate the eye, and did I mention it was raw? It wasn’t half-bad actually. Felt quite proud of myself). Then a bubbling vat of fish soup. Extra rice came too along with small dishes of soy sauce and wasabi.
It goes without saying that it was very fresh! I have a thing for sushi so what a treat it was to have it bought for me. Mr Kim decided it was time for me to learn how to ask for the bill in Korean. He told me and I spent a minute repeating it to myself. Then I sauntered up to the old lady – her face was like a giant baked potato – and said ‘Uhl mah eem nee kah?’. How much is that? It was just 12,500 won for a lunch for two. About £3 each. Law fish = Raw fish! It was staring me in the face all along.