It’s a bit shocking how uncommon ingredients for other kinds of cuisines are in Seoul supermarkets. There’s usually only one aisle that shelves peanut butter, pasta and microwavable brownie mix. For everything else, I have to go to Itaewon, where there are some dubious foreign food marts along an alley charmingly known as “hooker hill”. I find it rather tragic that Seoul’s sizeable foreign population is limited to these unsavoury shops, where the items I pick up are sometimes expired, often look they came into the country illegally, and always overpriced. And it seems odd to me that there aren’t more ethnic enclaves that cater to the city minority populations. Instead, Middle Easterners, Southeast Asians, Europeans and everyone else have to squeeze into these stores, that are little bigger than Montreal’s corner depanneurs, to find their comfort food. I went last weekend to stock up on ingredients like lentils, canned tomatoes, penne pasta, cardamon and nutella. (The man in line behind me at the cash registry had a basket full of Chef Boyardees.) I came home ready to make something exotic.
I intended to make Thai coconut curry soup, with the curry paste I bought earlier and some lemongrass that my mom brought from Taiwan, but sometime in between the first and second can of coconut milk, it become more like Tom Yum broth and I didn’t mind. Too bad I didn’t find any limes earlier to accentuate the sour bite, and resorted to using one of my Hyundai lemons. Still, it turned out to delightfully delicious, and I love that it’s one of those one pot wonders.