Saturday, September 22, 2007

Festivals of Baltimore: Korean Festival

I've missed too many festivals over the last few months - Ukranian, Nigerian, Jewish (I didn't even know about that one until too late), HampdenFest. I was determined to make it to the Korean Festival, being held today only in front of City Hall.

I think the festival, sponsored by the Korean Society of Maryland, was better laid out this year than a few years ago when I last went - or was it last year? It was somewhere off Calvert the last time I went. This new location is better. What was being offered, however, was sparse: there were the many, many church-run booths serving delicious Korean food, many shoving samples at passersby (and oh were there so many passersby). Nothing akin to the "green-" and "rainbow-colored crap" I found at the Irish Festival and PrideFest respectively. Instead it was all public information booths: the Montgomery County and Anne Arundel County Police Departments, Verizon (?), AARP, Korea Times of Washington, the (South) Korean Consulate, those sorts of booths. And there were performances - an elderly woman singing karaoke, a Korean church choir singing songs in Korean and English (their rendition of the Star Spangled Banner had everybody on their feet - but the anthem usually has that effect on us, now, doesn't it?), Korean War memorial performances (again, tied to the Star Spangled Banner), children (most but not all of whom were Korean) running around ready to perform various Korean martial arts. Three of them almost knocked me and about twelve other people over, not all at the same time!

Of course, I went for the food, and I certainly had my pick (amazingly, Constantine's didn't show). As I usually do at these events, I wanted to look first. But one man and woman attacked me with tasty little Korean pancake samples on toothpicks and little plastic swords. I had to buy some. The woman wasn't sure if I would like them so she tried to get me to taste more. I deferred and just bought a little container for $3 with two kinds of Korean pancakes, with egg and half of them with seafood and veggies, and something written in Korean with the phrase "God is Love" (in English) underneath.

After that I sought out something big. I found the perfect thing right across from the pancakes - but only after circumnavigating the entire festival. From one of the many, many Korean Catholic and Protestant churches I got a large combo plate of bulgogi, fried rice and kimchee. It cost all of $8, and it came with a soda. I could only finish half of it, and saved the rest for my sister (who in a few months may be going to visit her husband, stationed in South Korea with the Army).

I was about to get some dessert when Idiot Boy realized that he left his keys hanging out of his trunk in the parking garage across the street. D'oh! Thankfully it was closer than I had remembered. The keys, the car and its contents were all there intact. Phew. I retrieved my keys and headed back for one more thing.

I wanted dessert but, as I have found out, Korea is not big on desserts (go to a Korean restaurant and look at the dessert menu - there isn't much on it). So I went for something else savory. What I saw was a fish cake soup (eomuk-guk, though their name for it was different, something like kkanchi udong). It featured ladled out fish cakes of all sorts, particularly the large, flat floppy square ones, in a salty, fishy broth. It was $5, and they gave me a very large helping. The fishy flavor was a little surprising, but I've had fish cakes before and I was fine with them. I didn't finish it, but at least I could say I ate it. And if I really had to I would've eaten it. Everything else I just couldn't get enough of.

I will post photos soon. But I'm posting this now so that if you see it you can still get there before it's torn down tonight. After all, today's the only day this is running.

Other photos:

She's just karaoke-crazy!

The US National Anthem, to commemorate Korean War vets

This just tips the iceberg of all the kimbop, kimchee, bulgogi and Korean pancakes you can stuff in your 입.


roopa said...

I was going to go but got discouraged by the intermittent gray skies. (I also had to do a major cleaning of the apartment.) I guess I didn't miss TOO much, although I have really been jonesing for some kimchee and clearly didn't get my fix on Saturday.

John said...

Ooh, for shame :) j/k At least we can find kimchee around town. At least at H-Mart!

Anonymous said...

My uncle lives in Richmond and goes to a grocery that makes some the best kimchee I have ever had. My husban makes me take it outside to open the container, the smell is so pungent.

John said...

Hmmm, that sounds like a good reason as any for a road trip to Richmond. I love kimchee!