Join Team Israel's Josh Zeid and Ryan Lavarnway on a food tour of Seoul
They came, they ate and they conquered.
Batterymates Josh Zeid and Ryan Lavarnway's first mission is to take Team Israel into the next round of the 2017 World Baseball Classic, but before their 2-1 victory over Korea in Monday's opening game, the culinary aficionados wanted more of what Seoul, and the country, had to offer.
Lavarnway credits his wife, Jamie, who is a chef and author of the blog Cooking in Red Socks, for expanding his palate and world view.
"Food is one of the things that we've built our relationship around, trying new foods, trying new restaurants," said Lavarnway, who is in Asia for the first time in his life. "At the beginning of our relationship, I was not an adventurous eater. And she took me to [eat] my first Indian food, my first Thai food, and she kind of said, 'I'm not going to ever ask you to try something that I think you won't like, and if it's prepared properly, I really think you'll like everything.'"
As for Zeid, the free-agent pitcher has been in awe of the capital city, waiting for the next surprise to come.
"I've never been in a place where there's such modern and such history right next to each other, and it's just so seamless," said Zeid of the juxtaposition of high-rises and thousand-year-old palaces.
While the sightseeing tours to Seoul Tower and the other historical markers have been a wonderful learning experience, Zeid and Lavarnway clearly wanted to chow down.
After Saturday's tuneup game against the Korean Army team, the duo traveled to Dongdaemun, a neighborhood north of the Han River in Seoul, where shoppers, tourists and merchants collide in streets and alleys so tight, you'd be amazed that a scooter on the go and a line of pedestrians can actually coexist.
Beginning with a popular street vendor item that Koreans will munch on late at night, the players feasted on the next treat and would call it their favorite -- that is until they got to the spicy chicken feet.
Here's what Zeid and Lavarnway sampled:
First stop: Fish cake soup (odeng) and spicy rice cake (Tteokbokki)
Lavarnway on odeng: "It almost tastes like Jewish food. … This could be the fish cake in the matzo ball soup."
Second stop: Octopus (san-nakji)
After eating live octopus for the first time, Lavarnway said, "This is really good, I'm going to finish this whole plate. I was not sure about this honestly, obviously."
Third stop: Intestines (gopchang), pork tongue (hyeo), pig's head (meoli gogi), blood sausage (soondae)
"I thought we were going to try weird stuff today. This is delicious," said Lavarnway. And Zeid, who enjoyed the intestines from the start, likened the pork head to prime rib.
Fourth stop: Chicken feet (dakbal), chicken butt (dak-ttong-jip)
"I'm not uncomfortable, but my lips are on fire," said Zeid after taking a bite of the dakbal.
Final stop: Sweet pancake (hotteok)
Lavarnway described the sweet Korean dessert as a funnel cake with honey in the middle … or a calzone funnel cake? Whatever you want to call it, the duo was satisfied.