Living in Wonju South Korea, These Many Long Years

Living in Wonju South Korea, These Many Long Years: Version 2.0!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Bear Soup!

Today for lunch we went to a bear soup place, or 곰탕집.

One of my coworkers became rather irritated that I kept calling it bear soup; he pointed out that it isn't bear but in fact is made from oxtail.

I explained that back in the day when I was first learning Korean, one of the first words I learned was the word for bear.  One day when out walkabout, I came across a restaurant selling what was purported to be 곰탕.  I was surprised and entered and ordered a bowl, and waited excitedly for my steaming bowl of bear goodness to be placed in front of me. 

I remember feeling somewhat gypped that there wasn't really that much meat in the bowl.  It was tasty, but I still felt there should have been more than just a few gristly pieces of fatty meat.  

Later, while talking with students, I shared my experiences of eating bear soup.  It was tasty, but I really expected there to be more delicious bear meat.  I asked them if there were many bear farms around.

This of course was met with great mirth and bemusement.  It was gently explained to me that it was not in fact bear, that eating bear was nearly unheard of, although many Koreans have valued bear's gall bladder for medicinal purposes for centuries.

I've continued to call it bear soup, since it sounds better to say I ate bear than oxtail.  It is all about how you dress it up after all.

When I taught English, it made for an excellent example to share with students on the contextual meaning of words.  It was always good for a few laughs in class.

Time for coffee. 


Anonymous said...

Hell yeah! I had bear soup this past weekend in Naju, just south of Gwangju. It tasted just like the roast beef stew my mom makes. The weekend before that, I had dog soup, which was less fantastic.

Anonymous said...

My personal favorite is 3 dog soup...mmmmmmmmmm

F5Waeg said...

Have to agree, I like the 3 dog soup myself

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