The academic school year officially ended on February 16th. We had a staff dinner that evening as an official farewell to the 10 or so teachers who were leaving the school. (Note: The pictures below are taken just in our section of the restaurant, it is only one of the many big rooms that could fit huge parties. I tried to squeeze everyone in the photo, but with over 1000 kids in my school, we have a HUGE staff).
Dinner # 1.
The goodbye meal was held in a sushi restaurant, and though it was delicious, sushi is done a little differently here, (typical, as Korea always puts its very own twist on things). So in essence, we went to a raw fish restaurant. It seems most restaurants in Korea specialize in something, so it's either a galbi/samgyupsal (beef and fatty pork on a grill) resto, or a crab resto, or an eel resto..... you get the picture. So raw fish it was. Unfortunately everything happens in Korean so, I didn't understand any of the speeches or thank you's or general table talk, but we have so many teachers in our school that even with just the sheer number of us, it made for a festive atmosphere. In typical Korean fashion, first an onslaught of banchan (small side dishes) were served as we arrived. There was cooked (whole) fish, fish heads, salad with cubed raw salmon, cole slaw, tofu, mini hard boiled eggs, corn (fun to eat kernel by kernel with chopsticks), kimchi (but of course), mini frozen yams, small pork pieces, mussels, mandu (dumplings), donkatsu (breaded pork cutlet), garlic cloves and hot peppers, amongst a few dozen others I was sure to miss out on, and not to mention all the sauces. Although everything was served in mini portions, there was enough food to feed an army. I love all (okay, most) of the Korean side dishes, it's so fun to just pick and choose and snack on them all, like going out for tapas in Spain. Because I don't really do a lot of talking, I was full so quickly. Wrongly I assumed this was it.
Next, massive platters of seafood were brought out. There were lots of different shells in a variety of sizes. Some looked like oysters, some clams, maybe more mussels? Some of the jumbo sized ones I didn't even know what they were. There was also a selection of octopus, shrimp, salmon, and (ugh!) sea cucumber. So much fooooood!
Next, each person was served a little seaweed cone filled with rice, cause really, what's a meal in Korea without rice? Like kimchi, they go hand in hand. Because this was presented so beautifully and there was a nice gap of time after the seafood, again I wrongly assumed this was it. I was informed the main dish, the raw fish hadn't even come out yet (I just assumed it was the raw bits interspersed throughout the meal).
Next course, the fish. I was stuffed but still had some of everything. It was presented really nicely, laid out on a bed of white sea-something (weed?) but it looked like noodles, and eaten wrapped in lettuce with a sauce or just on it's own. No clue what the fish was, but it was really nice and delicate.
Finished? So soon. Nope, not yet. Along with some white rice bowls, out came the mini burners and soup pots. Soup was a combination of mushrooms, greens, fish, and noodles. Unbelievable. Everything was delicious but I felt like I could've been wheeled out of there I was so full, I have no idea how Koreans stay so damn skinny, they have amazing appetites.