Right now, I’m cooking Indian dahl for a young cook in a fried chicken restaurant. I hope he likes it.
My cooking tonight is a direct consequence of Korea’s concept of “service.” I’ve never been given as much free food as I get in Korean restaurants all over the country. As I like to joke, in South Korea, good restaurants tip you. The Koreans call it “service”: I’ve gotten anything from extra fruit, coffee, booze, and even whale meat this way.
On most Wednesdays, you can find Helene at I at The Frypan (더후라이펜), a Korean “hof”-style chain that serves draft beer and fried chicken. Helene and I like their fresh-made boneless chicken and their handmade potato chips. We also like the staff, who tend to be young, friendly, and hardworking.
Three weeks ago, one of the waiters mustered the courage to chat with us and practice his English. I tried to offer him a muskmelon (참외), which he promptly refused. He felt inspired to give us a gift in return, however: two big Russet potatoes from the kitchen. I promised I’d cook something with them.
Two weeks ago, we returned to the Frypan, and I told him how I had made an Indian dahl using one of his potatoes. He said he had never tried it and was clearly curious about Indian food, so I offered to make some for him. “You promise?” he said, offering his little finger. We pinky swore on it.
So here I am. The dahl is simmering in the kitchen as I write this. Tomorrow is delivery day, and a promise is a promise.