The season-five premiere of CNN travelogue Parts Unknown opens by showing host Anthony Bourdain's quiet reverie with a bottle of soju. "So we begin at the end, after a wild week in Seoul," Bourdain intones, setting up the forthcoming episode that — like a hungover person recounting the previous evening's steps — plays entirely in reverse.
During Bourdain's weeklong visit to South Korea, he consumes a soup made from beondegi (silkworm larva); cooks up the Spam, baked bean, and hot dog-laden stew budae jjigae; and downs favorites like Korean fried chicken and barbecue. But there's plenty of time for activities, too: He partakes in karaoke, films a live web-streamed show, and plays video games in a highly competitive environment. And over endless cups of beer and soju (do not watch this episode if you're hungover; it will do nothing to help your condition), Bourdain discusses the uniquely South Korean concept of han, an inherent state-of-mind that many locals acknowledge fuels S. Korean society.
Here now, the 19 best Bourdain quotes from Parts Unknown's hotly anticipated return to television:
1. On an apt metaphor for retrieving memory: "Like a dog returning to its own vomit, I keep flashing back to — what was it, last night? The night before..."
2. On liquor before beer, etc.: "Soju, I think I've had enough. The gleeful embrace of mixing whiskey, rice wine, beer, and oysters, for instance. It seems to tempt the fates."
3. On han, the uniquely Korean concept of resentment and yearning: "I'm definitely a 'revenge is a dish best served cold' sorta guy. But also hot. I'll take revenge any time I can get it, actually."
4. More on han: "Han, my favorite Korean word: It has many implied and specific meanings, but generally speaking, it's a mixture of endurance, yearning, sorrow, regret, bitterness, spite, hatred, and a grim determination to bide your time until revenge can at last be enacted."
5. On being dragged to a karaoke bar: "There is no escape; only embrace."
6. On weird bar snacks: "So correct me if I'm wrong here: It's dried squid, M&Ms, and mixing your alcohols?"
7. Apropos of nothing, while drinking: "See you in Flavortown."
8. On Korea's prescience: "What seems to define Korea as I know it, it seems to anticipate the future very well."
9. On the "magnificence" that is budae jjigae, the classic stew from the Korean War: "It's everything mama warned you about. And it's got it all, baby. And when the music's over, your life will have changed forever."
10. On the ingredients of budae jjigae: "Like I used to say to my first girlfriend: How could something so wrong be so right?"
11. On Seoul's video gaming centers: "PC bang sounds like a male porn star, I know. But this one has a smoking lounge and a well-stocked snack bar."
12. On his video gameplay: "Over the mountain and through the woods, to grandmother's house we go — blowing some shit up on the way."
13. On his Little Red Riding Hood avatar: "Can we choose another avatar, maybe? Something more killy?"
14. On professional video gamers, incredulously: "They probably even get laid off this shit?"
15. On a silkworm-laden soup: "Eating bugs? That is so last network."
16. On wanting Korean citizenship: "Is this so hard? Walk in and eat delicious food, and get hammered in the street? Being Korean is pretty awesome."
17. On the concept of han, again: "I like the whole idea of han. I totally get that as an engine. I like that, I like that dark side."
18. On defining Korea: "The past, the present, the future. In Korea, they all bleed together. If you're there for the whole ride, one explains the other. Drop in in the middle, it makes so sense at all."
19. On his previous gig: "Last time I was here, I was working for some other channel: The Bacon Channel? The Competitive Eating Channel, what was that old show called? It was so long ago."