Sunday, April 3, 2011

Bob Stick (밥스틱)

I was planning on writing about a Korean soda this week (which I won't name now because I want it to be a surprise when I do write about it), but I ended up getting a bob stick on Thursday during my break from work, and I decided to write about bob sticks. Now, I almost wrote that I was "inspired" to write about bob sticks, but "inspired" would be a poor word to use, because it would imply that I had some sort of epiphany about bob sticks that I felt like I had to write. The fact is: I sat down to write this post without any real direction. My lack of direction doesn't mean I don't like bob sticks, because I do. I like them a lot. I just have a mild case of writer's block. Nevertheless, I decided to write about bob sticks and, dammit, I'm going to write about bob sticks. I knew when I became a snack blogger that I would have to blog even when I didn't feel like it, or was running low on ideas, because that's what snack bloggers do. We persevere. We lick the Cheetos® dust from our fingers and we type.

So here's what I have to say about bob sticks:

My first work day here in Korea was both adventurous and unadventurous. It was adventurous because I was in a new country, meeting new people, and seeing new things. It was unadventurous because I was at work, meeting my coworkers and students, and seeing new classrooms. The mundane fact that I'm primarily here to work, and not just to play, sank in when I was sent to teach my first class. At that point, I had only observed one class and read some notes that the previous teacher had written about the job, but my boss told me to start teaching and I started teaching. After fumbling through my classes that afternoon and into the evening, my workday was over. My coworker Eric was on break when I got off, so he took me out to get a snack. It was dark outside, and we walked across the street to a food stand shaped like the front of a cartoon bus. "Bob Stick" was written in English on the front of the red and yellow bus. Eric told me that "bap" (which is pronounced almost how we would pronounce "bob") means rice in Korean, and so bob stick means rice stick. (I couldn't get a good photo of the stand where I go, but it looks almost exactly like this.)

I stood shivering and watched the vendor make our snack. The pan she used had four indented rectangles, maybe six inches long and an inch deep, and she put a thin layer of batter into two of them. The smell of the batter cooking reminded me of waffle cones. Then, she packed sticky rice into the rectangles, on top of the batter. After a minute, she put chicken with a curry-orange sauce on the rice, and then sprinkled strips of dried seaweed on the chicken. I was hungry, and was honestly feeling a bit overwhelmed by all of the smells. The sweet smell of the batter lingered just enough to compliment the savory scents of the chicken, sauce, and rice that were now on top of it.

Then the vendor (whose kindness reminded me that I needed to learn the Korean word for thank you, which I did after we got back to the school) gave us our bob sticks.

The first thing I noticed is that bob sticks are ingeniously packaged. As you can see in the picture below, they come in a little cardboard tray with sides to hold the stick steady and tinfoil underneath. The tinfoil is the brilliant part. Not only does it keep the batter from sticking to the tray, it also allows the snacker to pull the bob stick out, bit by bit, and eat the bob stick without making a mess. It's like a push pop, but with pulling.

(Once again, my photography skills undermine the deliciousness of the snack. I will consider using a proper point-and-shoot camera rather than the camera in my laptop from now on.)

I mostly mention the packaging because I was very thankful for it that night after I said goodbye to Eric and started the wintry walk home. Because of the pull-and-eat method, I could snack while walking--while the bob stick was still hot--without making a mess. And snack I did. I took my first bite and coughed out the steam that filled my mouth and tickled my throat. The chicken and rice were still very hot, and I moved the food around in my mouth while breathing quickly in and out to try to avoid burning my tongue. I stuck my face out in front of me incase any bits of rice or chicken fell out due to my frantic efforts to cool the food. After a few seconds, the mound of bob stick in my mouth was the right temperature for me to really taste it. And it was delicious. The chicken and sauce were spicy, and cleared up my sinuses. The taste of the batter stayed on my tongue for just a moment before subsiding to the saltiness of the dried seaweed strips (which are very tasty, by the way, and not as exotic as they might sound. They're almost like super thin potato chips. But, you know, smaller.) The rice was perfectly cooked--sticky but not mushy, and it tempered the bold flavor of the sauce.

I walked home with my shoulders hunched and shaking against the cold. My hands barely had enough feeling to keep pulling the tinfoil out for the next bite. My nose was running, probably onto my bob stick. But I was happy. Even though I felt directionless--I was unsure whether I'd find my way back to my apartment, or whether I'd like Korea or my job--I was content to be eating something delicious.


  1. I always imagined snack bloggists to be connoisseurs who would see Cheetos® as too mainstream for consumption. Or was that just an expression?

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