The Bungeoppang

Thankfully doesn't taste like fish at all
Thankfully doesn’t taste like fish at all

Had my first custard filled bungeoppang this weekend. It’s been years since I had one of these, though I used to eat these a lot when I lived in Nakseongdae. No matter what time of day it was, the subway station would always have a group of elderly people in hiking gear. This is because Nakseongdae Station is the most popular meeting point if one is going to climb Gwanak-san. It was only years later that I learnt some of those people were doing more than hiking.

Nakseongdae literally means ‘the place where a star fell’ referring to Gang Gam-chan. Apparently a meteor (like you could tell the difference between a star and a meteor if you lived in 948) fell in the area on the day he was born. He later became a hero of the Third Goryeo-Khitan War (1018-1019) and is counted as one of Korea’s greatest military heroes along with Yi Sun-sin and Eulji Mundeok, despite never being trained as a soldier.

Sometimes the vendor would be looking away when I’d order and would react like she’d seen a ghost when she looked up to see my white(…r than a Korean’s) face. To this day no one can tell me why they are shaped like a fish. The simplest explanation I’ve heard is that all cast iron moulds for this snack happen to be made in the shape of a fish and because customers are familar with this shape vendors see no reason to change it (brand recognition, IOW).

But why was this shape selected to begin with? The filling is always sweet red bean, until last weekend anyway, but then Europeans believed there was no such thing as a Black Swan because they had never seen one, until they came to Australia. That phrase later changed to mean something that is thought to be impossible but might be proven later not to be.

Anyway, bungeoppang are awesome and remind me of my time in the Nakseongdae gositel. While working for Korea’s dodgiest hagwon owner (with gems like “Joji, this month our office is in Bangbae” and “We didn’t pay the other teachers this month, but we’ll pay you” passed on by his lackey) is the nadir of my time in Korea, the best times in Nakseongdae were deciding whether to go to the old Gangnam for NY style samgyeopsal or Sillim for Samcheon’s sundae, salsa classes, and English club meetings.

My friends think I’m a pessimist. My friends are wrong.

*******

I start my new job in two weeks. But today I have to register my new address at Daejeon City Hall then go to my interview to change my visa at Ulsan’s Immigration Office. I like trains.

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