Life

Poetry of Seoul

A little 'word steak' carved from my Korean menu.

By Steve Burgess 12 Feb 2008 | TheTyee.ca

Steve Burgess is following his stomach around Asia, and filing reports, poems, whatever.

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Korean duck stew, sans 'poison.'

I have written a poem. Or found it, but I retain all rights. I sing the song of the Insadong Big House Kunji menu in Seoul.

Many travelers in Asia have become familiar with the vagaries of translated English menus -- what is yellow squirrel with mustard vegetable? Is it spicy? Is squid gristle really a food?

Recently I wandered down a lane just off Seoul's Insa-dong antique street and came upon a nice bright sign advertising dolsot beebimbop, that likeable Korean dish of rice, egg, veggies, and meat served on a hot skillet. But once inside, I discovered it was not listed on the menu. In its place, the following: "The beef mountain not yet the pebble pot boiled rice with assorted mixings."

I read further, and took notes. Then I reshaped material from the rest of the Insadong Big House Kunji menu into the poem below. I used some repetition, changed punctuation, and moved phrases. But I did not create any phrases or word combinations that were not on the menu -- not even "Lacquer poison chicken broth," or "Compound word steak." My poem is titled:

Duck

Duck three, total company;
Duck Chinese medicine,
Duck a dish of minced raw beef,
Lifestyle duck.

Recuperation charcoal pebble, greeting east outfit at big house;
Macro fish-baking, proper form.
The item which it adds, three pressures broth;
Cast-iron wares, burden one.

Flesh of animals, beef mountain;
Not yet, not yet, the pebble pot;
The marine products mountain, not yet the pebble pot.

Lacquer poison chicken broth;
Compound word steak.
Delicacy of all land and sea;
Common octopus beef.

Duck.

All rights reserved. When in Seoul, please visit Insadong Big House Kunji. The beef mountain is excellent. But I cannot offer an informed opinion on the Lacquer Poison Chicken Broth.

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