This is a tale of heartbreak; of tragic misunderstanding and dashed expectations. Don't worry--like all good stories, everything works out in the end. But in the meantime, there was a squid where my ice cream should've been. The problem was linguistic. When you travel to a place famous for their squid sundae, and you pull out your camera and order said sundae, and sit poised for a hot fudge cephalopod to appear on the table, and it doesn't, you are the only one to blame. Because if you'd studied Korean like you said you would, you'd know that sundae is actually the romanization of 순대. It's pronounced 'soon-day,' and has nothing in common with the American dessert. Nothing.
Sundae is Korean blood sausage. Generally, it involves congealed blood and rice stuffed into a rubbery tube of intestines. But the Sokcho version was chopped squid, veggies, and noodles inside another squid's body cavity. As someone who's eaten both kinds, I can tell you it's a big improvement.
Little-known fact: squids squeak like baby kittens. Actually, they don't. But when they attempt to propel themselves around a shallow, crowded bucket, the pumping motion of their bodies pushes out bursts of air, making a pathetic mewing noise. Little squid screams.
We discovered this walking through the squid market near our hotel. It was basically a row of pop-up tents. Along one side were buckets of squirming squid and juicy cutting boards. The proprieters looked up from their knife-work to shout out inducements: five squid for ten dollars, cleaned on the spot. Or you could place an order and wander around to the tables on the other side where your chosen squid would reappear as sundae. Groups of people sat lounging, laughing, gazing across an expanse of empty parking lot to the fishing boats in the East Sea.
You can getthis dish all over Sokcho, but the most popular restaurants are in the Abai Village. Almost every building is an open-fronted sundae shop, like the sidewalk mussel cafes of southern France. You can walk up from the crescent beach, drop into a plastic chair, and minutes later enjoy a freshly fried batch of squid sausage and a cold bottle of soju.
The restaurants also serve Abai sundae, a version that originated in North Korea. Sam and I ordered a combination platter, so we wouldn't miss anything. Abai sundae turned out to be brown and suspiciously normal looking. We thought at the time it was a fish sausage, but it subsequent research indicated it was probably veggies, soy, rice, and the indispensable blood. It was spiced just like a Johnsonville Italian sausage, though. So in this case, what we didn't know definitely didn't hurt us.