As much as I dread Korean winters, I look forward to it for one reason and one reason only. Cheese. Specifically, raclette cheese! (Well, skiing comes a close second but hitting the slopes during high season entails dealing with half the population of Korea up there on the slopes with me so that’s no fun. I’m old. What can I say?)
2.5 kilos of raclette cheese (three different kinds including one smoked), an assortment of charcuterie and some cured magret de canard made by my friend’s mom carefully wrapped in cheese cloth. All smuggled back to Korea from France. This photo makes me salivate with joy every time I gaze at it. I’m an animal.
Raclette originated in the Swiss canton of Valais, but is also produced in the French regions of Savoie and Franche-Comté. The word raclette derives from the French verb “racler,” which means “to scrape”; the raclette cheese round is traditionally heated in front of a fire and scraped onto plates.
Traditionally, Swiss cow herders used to take cheese with them to work and in the evenings, around the campfire, they would place the cheese next to the fire and, when it reached the perfect softness, scrape it onto some bread. These days, ready-cut cheese slices are brought to the table and each slice is melted/browned in small individual pans by diners over an electric table-top grill, then poured over the food on the plates.
Raclette cheese is commonly accompanied by platters of boiled or steamed potatoes and charcuterie. Raclette dining is a relaxed, casual and social affair and can often last several hours.
This was me and Joe just the other day in front of the TV, catching up on the latest episode of Black-ish while watching (and listening to) the cheese bubble away. Our first raclette party of the season and it certainly will not be the last.
Joe and I purchased our raclette grill last year and have hosted a number of raclette parties since. Pre-sliced raclette cheese is available in Seoul at foreign food marts around Hannamdong and Itaewon as well as department store food sections.
This is the most common brand of sliced raclette cheese I’ve seen here. But, you can also order some very decent raclette cheese from France Gourmet–made with locally-produced milk–as well as select high-end delis that handle imported charcuterie and cheese. The grill itself I ordered on G-Market.
A word of caution, though. Unless you want to go to bed with cheese funk, make sure to shut your bedroom doors before you fire up your grill as your entire house will reek of cheese after a raclette meal.
Crack open a Pinot Gris or a Riesling and you’re good to go! Happy (cheese) days!