Friday, September 19, 2014

Keeping Up the Cha-rade

Boiling silk larva the old fashioned wayWhen I was a wee pollywog growing up in the swamps of Seoul, one of my favorite snacks was the steaming pile of grubs that were to be had on almost every street corner.  Bbeondegi (번데기) or silkworm pupae also comes conveniently as a bagged snack available in the States but it was mysteriously labeled as "Fish Bait" .
(The lady in the photo is boiling silk larvae in the traditional style at a folk village near Suwon. The bbeondegi is a by-product of silk production. )

I was quite nostalgic for the fresh version for a decade and had no shortage of times bragged to my husband how "chewy, nutty, and utterly uniquely delicious" these grubs were.   So the first time I took my husband to Korea, he demanded to see me relish them steaming hot from the street cart.  For about a dollar,  I bought a small cup's worth from a crinkly old man who's probably been selling them for fifty years; he looked me up and down. My husband looked at me, and looked inside the cup. I looked inside the cup, I looked at my husband.  It was all too much pressure so we went several blocks down so the vendor could not stare me down.  I put a grub in my mouth and tried to force my jaws to masticate.  Swallowing of course was a different matter, In the end we abandoned the cup in a street corner in case some exceedingly fortunate flock of birds would chance upon it.

I had many theories why the golden memory did not pan out. I thought perhaps the vendor was not offering the freshest example of this genre.  Business is down. Kids in Korea now a days don't go for such old world fare preferring pedestrian snacks such as corn dogs or spaghetti in a cone.  In truth, I probably had beondegi no more than a handful times as a kid as my mother was most strict about food safety. But most likely my palate had been Westernized as I had not kept up bug eating in any capacity.

If I go a few months without drinking shu,  I fall down the shupu ladder.  It takes a good long while to coax my taste buds into accepting shu again.  Now I just force myself to drink shu almost every other week so I don't have to keep on paying the setup fee.  Sometimes I wonder why I bother drinking shu. I bought this samples box from teashop-china to see if I could buy some cheap aged tea to relieve me of having to drink shu.

This kit is a MUST if you've been feeling left out and you too want to partake in Jakub's dry storage meme.  I myself have a strict no Star Wars no Star Trek reference policy.   I've only tried teensy tiny sips of the three aged samples only to quench my curiosity.  The leaves are definitely aged and if you like dry, they gots dry.  Oh god. Is this really the fate of our dry-stored collection?

I think I was more grateful that it wasn't moldy or wet stored in any way because I can take dry but I can't take wet.  But  I can see that the rock bottom prices on ebay are not entirely a fluke. I'll try the other samples tomorrow- perhaps the dry aged shu might be more to my liking.   I still went ahead and rolled the dice in the vain hopes that one of their higher priced beeng might taste decent enough to avoid shu.  Whether this was a foolish waste of money- I'm sure no shortage of tea friends would want to satiate their curiosity.


  1. Didn't know the grubs were any good, been ice fishing with those up in my neck of the woods since I was knee high to a grasshopper. More interested in giving them a try than the sampler, but interesting to see the sampler too.

  2. Dear Cywn,

    Grubs are good protein. Cookies made with cricket flour are probably the easiest entry to insect eating but you may be lucky enough to gave cicada season which are more like crawdads.