"I have the simplest tastes. I am simply satisfied with the best." - Oscar Wilde

"I came, I saw, I ate." - Au Gourmand

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Marinated Crab (Ganjang Gejang), Seoul, September 10, 2010

Have you ever heard of the "Drunken Shrimp"? Probably not.  It is a famous Shanghainese dish - yes, I am aware that you have not heard of it if you are based in the U.S. because the Chinese food here is plainly terrible or, terrifying, take your pick - made of raw shrimps dunk in a marinade made of rice wine and soy sauce and whatever other ingredients, the secret of which the chefs would probably kill to protect.  Going along the crustacean family tree, there is also the Drunken Crab.  Being alcohol-intolerant, I was initially concerned that by the end of the meal, there would also be a Drunken Zombie on the floor, but the alcohol mysteriously evaporates during the process so that I can contentedly split a dish of drunken shrimp and another of drunken crabs without an incident.  This was the state of affairs in the world of marinated crabs, that was, until I had come upon Ganjang Gejang.
Although the marinated crab over rice was simultaneously vying for my attention (imagine the fragrance when placed on top of hot rice...), I decided to be a purist and ordered simply the signature - literally, the name of this restaurant was "Pro Ganjan Gejang," so how can you order anything else? - and live octopus sashimi for appetizer.
The ajuma (a middle-aged Korean mom) served the octopus, still writhing with the last memory of life, with a dish of sesame oil and another of sumiso (miso with vinegar).  It took some labor to pluck a piece from the plate since the suckers were still working hard, I dipped it lightly into the sesame oil and salt.  Chewy, yes, but it was not so different from regular octopus sashimi; the quality of the octopus itself was inferior to the octopus I usually got elsewhere.  As I was quickly bored after 3 bites and also wary of the little suckers, the eagerly anticipated crabs were placed in front of me in all their glory.

Do you see the deeply orange eggs beckoning for me? Do you see the gooey organs just waiting to be sucked?  The raw crab meat actually becomes jelly-like in the marination, so all I had to do was to simply suck ALL in, yes all and all.  Um...pure heaven.  Now, the Shanghainese drunken crabs, which you have no doubt wondered why I had to mention at the beginning, were made of crabs without eggs and without much else.  The marinade in each is extremely similar:  Both are wine and soy sauce based and very sweet as far as marinade goes. Nonetheless, crabs, minus eggs and organs, simply cannot compete with full-fledged she-crabs - no arguing there, correct?  Just look at the beauties and see how enticing they are?
When you suck at the crabs, first you get an intense shot of eggs and goo, which are so powerful, so bold and vibrant that you just have to embrace the taste with your whole being; then you reach the sweet jelly-like crab meat, which, as a matter of fact, is so tender that you can suck each leg clean.  Once you are done with all the sucking, you take the crab folk and start digging into the side corners of the crab, for none can possibly be wasted, and gather all the scraps and just send them into your mouth. Sigh.  By the end, I had two cleanest and barest crab shells left in front of me.

Crab connoisseurs, head over to Seoul.

Name: Pro Ganjang Gejang
Address: 27-1 Jamwon-dong, Seocho-gu, Seoul, South Korea (서울시 서초구 잠원동 27-1 프로빌딩 1,2층)
Phone: (02) 543-4126
*Open 24 hours, you can satisfy your seafood cravings any time of the day.
**Yes, it was another restaurant featuring a portrait of the owner: Presumably, it was a good idea to know where the accountability was in the event of any mishap.

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