[korean cuisine]

“Heaven knows, I have eaten a lot of unusual things, but I found these little fellas terrifying.” That is food writer Stefan Gates’s take on Beondegi (번데기), or boiled silkworm larvae, a popular Korean snack. The photo and comment are part of his “search for the ultimate edible challenge,” as documented by the BBC. Other Korean culinary delights include sea slugs and dried frog tea.

It’s features like these that make me envy those friends of mine who have become obsessed with Italy or France. Of all the countries in the world to snare my passions, why did it have to be the one that thinks larvae are a tasty treat for the kiddies?

[weekly world music 13: songs for the dear leader]

Song of General KIM IL SUNG | Don’t Ask My Name | Children’s Music 1 (Music Gallery of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea)

애국가 (Aegukga) (National Anthem of the Republic of Korea)

Been hankering for creepy marches and disturbing paeans to terrifying totalitarian dictators? Your search is over!

In honor of North Korea’s recent erectile dysfunction, here are a few tracks from the DPRK’s charming Music Gallery, as filled with joy as everything produced in the jolly North. My Korean isn’t good enough to understand most of the lyrics, and I’m not about to go wandering around the South Korean UN Mission in search of someone to translate North Korean propaganda ditties, so unfortunately I can’t tell you exactly what these tunes are about. I did catch the children singing “김정일 ... 우리 아버지” (Kim Jong-il … uri abeoji, or Kim Jong-il … our father) at one point, but you knew that was in there somewhere.

In the interest of fairness, I’ve also included the national anthem of the Republic of Korea, whose title translates to The Patriotic Song — you may recall hearing it following some short-track skating event in the Winter Olympics. It’s better than the North Korean stuff, although I find it disappointing that so many Asian countries have gone for poignant yet rousing anthems in the European classical tradition. Like, wouldn’t it be cooler if the national anthem of Indonesia was the Kecak, or if India’s was a raga that took 45 minutes? If Nepal can have its wacky flag, shouldn’t someone have a truly bizarre national anthem?

Oh, and if you happen to be wondering why a “weekly” feature appears as sporadically as Weekly World Music, let’s just say that I’m on summer schedule, and also that I’m sorta lazy. I’ll try to keep up with it every week, but some weeks it’ll slide. Life is full of broken promises.

[cookin’ with nanta]

The Korean show Cookin’, also known as Nanta, has arrived in New York City for an open-ended run. We saw this in Seoul and had a blast. Here’s the writeup from AOL CityGuide New York:

If the Food Network’s ‘Iron Chef’ show married Broadway’s ‘Stomp’, this would be their wacky offspring. Direct from Seoul, South Korea to the Minetta Lane Theatre comes an hour of gustatory excitement called ‘Cookin’.’ Four chefs are given a simple mission by a frenzied maitre d’: Prepare an entire feast (and a wedding banquet, no less) in only one hour, all while accompanied by strains of jazz, rock and Korean music. That’s a 60-minute non-stop music-and-food extravaganza as these kitchen masters use up nearly every single utensil in search of the perfect rhythm and combine cooking and traditional Korean Samulnori drumming. At the end of the show, they will have managed to prepare a meal of dumplings, soup and stir-fry, but it’s the process that makes this worth watching. Knives pound on the chopping block, broomsticks metamorphose into fighting tools, plates soar and fruit turn into madcap projectiles and juggling props. Best of all, some fortunate audience members will have the opportunity to taste the results; a lucky pair will even be in on the act, starring as the bride and groom, Ms. Lee and Mr. Kim.

As the white guy in the audience, I got picked to be Mr. Kim, and I married a sweet young Korean woman whose name I never got. But I still have a picture of myself in the silly hat the Cookin’ people strapped to my head.