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A Day in King Crab Vegas

There are no casinos in Yeongdeok, but few other places rival the gaudy, hyperreal simulacra of the infamous city in the Nevada desert. Clinging to the buildings on Yeongdeok’s waterfront are giant crustaceans in bright orange armour. The town seems to exist only as a monument to the King Crab, a tribute to the insatiable Korean appetite for this sea beast. Locals have dedicated their energy to maintaining the town’s reputation as one of the best places to get a crab fix. These garish facades team with neon lights to assault pedestrians, as each crab joint hopes to be more inviting than the next. People come to worship the crab, to eat of its flesh and drink of its blood. There are no other earthly gods here, with the sea’s bounty paying the bills for many Yeongdeok residents.

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Like many other epicurean pilgrims, we have come to gorge on 대게 (dae ge), also known as King Crab or Snow Crab. Like many other Korean meals, lunch here is mobile. A stroll along the waterfront had us ogling tanks and tables of bright and bristly exoskeletons, clicking against each other in a squirmy kerfuffle.
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http://youtu.be/7SnyGVSqzQ0

Judged by their weight, size and colour, the chosen ones are heaped onto a wagon and dragged off to an adjacent restaurant, where a steamer awaits.

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The soundtrack to these restaurants consists of cracking and slurping, punctuated only by service bells and clanging in the scullery. Unlike other Korean dishes, in which meat is framed by an array of 반찬 (or side dishes), the crab is in stark focus in this restaurant. There are no side dishes served, not even kimchi. In true Asian style, not much of the crab is left uneaten. After splitting open the body, we pour the crab butter into a dish that will be used to mix with rice later in the meal. Armed with scissors and a crab fork, we pry open the legs in search of the succulent flesh. There is no polite way to eat 대게 (dae-gei) – it’s a full-body exercise. Poised over the table, we abandon all effort to maintain face and let the crab’s grey matter drip down our elbows, its sweet flesh settle on our chin.
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We leave a table laden with debris and exit this King Crab carnival as it begins to light up the dusky port.  Feasting will continue into the night.

Along with Uljin Snow Crab FestivalYeongdeok Snow Crab Festival runs through February and March every year. 

Deva

Author: Deva

Deva has grown a new palate since leaving Africa. She is a journalist in teacher's clothing, and writes on food and culture when not planning her escape from the classroom. She is easily pleased by wine, women and song.

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  • http://www.stripmap.org/ The Strip

    Pretty big crabs. I guess they are delicious too!

  • Charles

    I dislike this writer’s style. I gave her a pass with “simulacra” in the first paragraph, but when she used meaninglessly difficult words like “kerfuffle” a little later on, I quit reading. I wish she never writes again, or changes her style.

    • ZenKimchiReader

      Kerfuffle isn’t a difficult word. This style is more poetic than narrative or journalistic, perhaps that is why you dislike it? Either way, you can’t be a writer yourself Charles, because writers never wish for other writers to “never write again”, instead they encourage each other. If indeed you are a writer, I would encourage you to be more critically supportive, or change your style.

  • ZenKimchiReader

    Kerfuffle isn’t a difficult word. This style is more poetic than narrative or journalistic, perhaps that is why you dislike it? Either way, you can’t be a writer yourself Charles, because writers never wish for other writers to “never write again”, instead they encourage each other. If indeed you are a writer, I would encourage you to be more critically supportive, or change your style.

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