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Full Circle

Day 46: Hakata to Pusan

Michael Palin - Full CircleFull of well-being and cleaner than I've been since the day I was born, I tuck into a substantial supper. The main dish of deep-fried fish is accompanied by acorn with sesame seed, garlic, lychees, broccoli, tofu stew with onions, zucchini, red and green peppers and, of course the Korean speciality, kimchi. This delicacy brings together a palate-punishing combination of cabbage, garlic, red pepper, ginger, radish, onions and chilli powder and then pickles the lot in brine to produce what some deem the most unpleasant national dish in the world. I can't see kimchi bars threatening McDonald's, but it's too powerful to dismiss after only one tasting. I shall leave mouth, and options, open.

We talk, after the inevitable comparisons with Japan, about the state of things between North and South Korea. Shin-Na, a bright and funny Korean journalist who is guiding us around, tells a joke which sums up the national stereotypes.

The scene is a restaurant.

'Excuse me,' says the waiter, 'there is no more beef.'

The North Korean replies, 'What's "beef"?'

The Japanese, 'What's "no more"?'

And the South Korean 'What's "excuse me"?'
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 46
  • Country/sea: South Korea
  • Place: Kyongju
  • Book page no: 71

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