Monday, January 25, 2010

Let's try this again—again

So much for keeping up with this blog on my trip back to N.M. It was a tough trip. I was driving alone and I thoroughly failed at planning any sort of route and ended up wasting time getting lost, among other things. However,  I had a blast! And according to my friend, James Steves, I now have some life experience to prepare me for getting a grown up job—or at least something like it. 
The trip took me about 12 days, I think, and I saw a lot of things and did a bunch of things I'd never done before. I saw the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, saw most of the monuments in D.C., I stayed in a hostel for the first time, I drove through a dozen states and only got pulled over twice in Texas, plus I lost my ATM card in the midst of my adventure. All in all it was an awesome trip. Next time, I want to drive along the Pacific 101 and camp out in the Redwood National parks, visit the beaches and of course, grub down on some killer eats. 

But until then, I'm living back at home with my parental units and working at a sushi joint that shares the same rood with a Korean restaurant. Sushi & Sake and the Korean B.B.Q. House are one entity run by an unwieldy Korean lady named Suzy. For being someone that stands no more than a few inches taller (if that) than my 4-foot-9 1/2-inch self, she has quite a bite and a heavy hand (metaphorically speaking).  I've only just begun working for Suzy this year so my skin is still sensitive to you her strict scrutiny and and serious demeanor. Before that I was working at another sushi joint up the street, Fuji Yama. 

Fuji Yama is a new Japanese restaurant located on the busy strip of Central Avenue in Albuquerque that lives in the shadow of the Chinatown buffet that formerly occupied the building. I worked there for a just over a month, last Friday being my last day. Suzy told me that if I didn't quite working for Fuji Yama she was going to have to fire me, so that ended my time there. I assumed it was a conflict of interest but later discovered that it was a matter of personal conflict.

The problem wasn't that Fuji Yama was a sushi joint but that there were some personal matters involved as well. The owners of Fuji Yama are Korean and attend the Korean United Methodist Church. Suzy's sister also attends this church and apparently my former employers are no longer nice to Suzy's sister... At least this is according to what Suzy says. I don't really know what their deal is, but I think its funny. 

Yeah. So where does the gastronomy fall into this? Well while working at both places, I think I've gotten a minimal glimpse of what the the Korean eats are like. Even though Fuji Yama is a 'Japanese' restaurant, I primarily ate Korean food there. During our shifts, the owners would allow us an opportunity for a break and chow down before the dinner rush. Almost everyday we would have our kimchi, our rice and something else. It was usually some sort of soup, egg dish, or fish dish. On occasion, the cook (a Mexican gentleman) would make some variety of fried rice or burritos with egg or chicken. Among all the foods that I ate there, I fell in love with the fish. 

Being a sushi joint, the chef would butcher the salmon and and use portion out what he needed. To avoid being wasteful, they would cook what was left and serve it for lunch. Though it was just the bones of the fish with just a thin layer of pink meat, I discovered my favorite piece of the fish—the fatty portion of meat just beneath the dorsal fin. It is delicious. Its very moist and juicy,comes right off the bone and contains a lot of flavor. They would take these bones of the fish and  grill them, which left the meat of the flesh a little dry, but that part of the fish is delectable. 

I may be wrong, but I don't think that a lot of people know about this part of the fish. Living in America, we have the luxury of buying just the filets of fish or just the breasts of a chicken or the ribs of a cow. I would go so far as to make the claim that not many home chefs know how to break down an entire chicken or butcher a fresh caught fish. I've also seen the chefs cook up the fish collar– either in a soup or grilled. I haven't had any of it, but from what I've seen on television, the meat on the collar is supposed to be very flavorful and quite tasty. 

Working at Fuji Yama, I also learned how to make kimchi. Mmmmm! Love that stuff. Despite my move to Sushi & Sake, I like Fuji Yama's rendition of the traditional side dish much better. Only because at Fuji Yama they don't as saucy or runny. I also enjoy the fresh version of kimchi, with less soaking time for the cabbage and a more coarse blend of the chile. They we were very encouraging when it came to my questions and my observing while they cooked and prepared other Korean eats. 

I'll be sure to let you know how it goes when I make some kimchi for the first time without the supervision of a seasoned Korean telling me what to do. Hopefully that will be soon. But as for right now. I find myself on a diet of sushi, Korean and Filipino cooking. I love my life. At least the part where I get fed awesome and diverse foods. 

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