Category Archives: Food

Kohlrabi Ginger Mandu

img_1008Every week we get a delivery from a local CSA share (Gachi CSA), so frequently previously unknown veggies will show up on our doorstep and we get to be inventive. We first got kohlrabi a few months ago and our friends shared a recipe for veggie pancakes. However, we had a lot of leftover mix and used a bit of the veggie pancake mix as dumpling filling. This time we went straight for the dumplings, using Korean mandu wrappers bought at the grocery store.

img_0996We used one kohlrabi and two fingers of ginger, starting by peeling the kohlrabi and ginger then using the grater. Being impatient, I ended up peeling most of the kohlrabi into little pieces with the peeler, but they ended up a bit too big for dumpling filling. Next time we’ll stay patient and grate it all.  Continue reading

Honey Chip Ice Cream

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One of our favorite dessert discoveries in Korea has been Honey Chip Ice Cream. Basically,  a piece of honeycomb is just chopped directly off a huge honeycomb block and placed on your ice cream, with the warning of the possibility of bees stuck in the honeycomb (luckily we haven’t experienced this yet). Continue reading

SpamNo… not junk emails.

Spam is a big deal here. We were confused when we were gifted two huge boxes of Spam, tuna, and canola oil from our school for the Chuseok holidays. I don’t think I’d ever tried Spam before, and had a very negative and judgmental perception toward it. After all, it’s canned meat. But around holidays gift boxes pop up like weeds at all the local grocery stores, and the boxes of Spam, in very nice decorative boxes, are found everywhere. And they’re expensive. I’ve seen gift boxes with 10 cans of Spam for sale for 30,000 Won, or about $30.

After receiving two more huge gift boxes with Spam and tuna for the Seollal, the Lunar New Year celebrations here in Korea, we came across a newly-published NY Times article about the popularity of Spam, particularly for gifting, in Korea: In South Korea, Spam Is the Stuff Gifts Are Made Of

The article explains the movement of Spam into Korea with the US military during the Korean War, when meat was rare to come by and Spam was a luxury item. Fast forward to today, and the article explores the enduring popularity of Spam here in Korea, including its use in restaurant dishes (in a stew called budaejjigae, which we haven’t yet come across).

A man in the article explains that Spam is gifted “on occasions of importance when one wishes to pay special honor and proper respect.” So we are grateful for our stored-up Spam, if for nothing else than the thought behind it.

-Brittany

On our first free weekend in Seoul, we decided to venture to one of our nearby parks. We hopped on the subway to go to Olympic Park, built when Seoul hosted the 1988 Summer Olympics. When we got off the train, we noticed a disproportionate amount of pre-teen girls in the area; turns out, the show “K-Pop Star”, which we inferred to be similar to American Idol, was auditioning at one of the venues in Olympic Park. So throughout our walk we got to encounter an array of singers, ranging in pleasantness from pretty good to not-so-good.

The weather has been cooling down, and on a Saturday the park was full of families out for the day. Many people bring tents to the park to shelter from the sun (and possibly bugs?).  Place looked like a regular Hooverville.

On our walk we came across four photo sessions. The area was beautiful with huge trees and rolling hills stretching far before hitting a line of city buildings in every directions. One photo shoot was a wedding, with the bride, groom, and wedding party romping barefoot with balloons (half reading I love you, and the other half reading I love Jesus) through one of the fields.

We climbed a hill in the park which gave us beautiful views of mountain-encompassed Seoul.


Olympic Park 1

Olympic Park 2

On the way down from the hill, we saw a bunny duck under a bush. But this bunny was what we would consider a pet bunny, huge, black and white, and weighing about 10 pounds. We think it might have been a runaway taking refuge in the park. It looked something like this:

Black-and-white spotted rabbit

On Saturday night, Ryan’s friend who has been living in Korea for five months now showed us around a few places in Seoul. We got to enjoy some good burgers in Itaewon and drink plenty of (supposedly) formaldehyde-laced Korean beer, Cass. The Cass prognosis: probably no formaldehyde, but the taste doesn’t help its case.  Sadly Koreans don’t have a big beer culture, and getting a good beer requires a special trip, a long wait, and deep pockets.  The top option for Koreans is the rice-based alcohol, soju, which tastes more or less like a cheap vodka.

On Sunday, we ventured to one of the huge Seoul swimming pools in Han River Park. It was the last day the pools were open, so we expected it to be busy, but it was fairly mellow. We went to Jamsil Swimming Pool, which had three huge pools. There are five other parks with similar facilities along the Han River, which cuts through Seoul. We enjoyed a dip in the pool before heading out for our first Korean barbecue experience. We went to a restaurant right around the corner from our apartment that is always crowded and ordered Samgyeopsal, which can really only be described as very thick bacon which is grilled to crispy deliciousness at your table. It was served with the ubiquitous kimchi, a variety of salads, soup with something that was either mushroom or gelatin, scrambled eggs, and red bean ice flakes for dessert. And with that we were rested, full, and ready for our first real week of work.

Gyeongju

After a few issues finding jobs, we finally got some ace positions in Songpa-Gu, Seoul.  So, after much confusion and a lot of scrambling for jobs, we arrived in Seoul with a month of free time before we actually start.  So, as was once suggested to us, when in doubt, we headed south.

We wrapped up our time in Seoul by going to drop our luggage off with our new school. After lugging 200 pounds of luggage across the entire Seoul subway system, we showed up good and drenched in sweat to meet our new boss for the first time. After giving us ice water and ensuring that we weren’t about to pass out (even though we looked like we might), we were able to tour our school, meet the current teachers, and say hello to some of the adorable and enthusiastic students. The school is relatively small (with only two foreign teachers and about 5 Korean teachers) and 7 or 8 classrooms. Everyone at the school was wonderfully kind.  The bosses even took us to lunch where we had our first Hanjeongsik, or Korean set menu, which included plenty of fermented vegetables, soups, rice, pork, and fish.

The next day, we left Seoul to make our way Southeast. We are now in Gyeongju, the capital of the ancient Silla Dynasty (57 BC-935 AD), a dynasty that ruled the Korean Peninsula for 1000 years. There are a lot of historical and museum-y things to be seen, but we spent the first night spending a ridiculous amount of money on two shots of whisky (though the bottomless Doritos and chocolates that came with it almost made up for the cost) and hanging out in our somewhat dingy hostel with wet and hairy bathroom floors.

Seoul to Gyeongju

Then came our second experience with han-jeon-sik, and the time we learned the name for good.  Koreans are not big on breakfast, so hearing that western breakfast could be found down the road, we headed off with thoughts of eggs and buttered toast.  The Korean waitress, seeing that we knew none of what the menu meant, pointed to han-jeon-sik nodding approvingly.  Assuming this would be the western-style breakfast and approximating its meaning to be first meal (as hana is the Korean word for one), we happily agreed.  What we forgot, however, is that Korea is Hanguk, and the prefix han actually signified this was a traditional Korean meal.  We soon had another traditional Korean feast sitting before us, including a whole fish, bowls of anchovies covered in chili sauce, a sort of mayonaisse and cucumber salad with tiny eggs in it, and plenty of kimchi (fermented and spiced vegetables) – at 8 AM.  So we learned something new today.

After our breakfast, we started walking to view some of the tombs and other sites in the town. Unfortunately, it’s over 100 degrees and the most humidity either of us have ever experienced. We were driven in within a few hours, but got to meander a little.

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oldest surviving astronomical observatory in East Asia

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This trip feels much more like a foreign country than Seoul did. Even though the language is so different (and the weather), there are strange things that make it feel the same as home.  Korea, like anywhere foreign, feels strangely familiar at times, despite its differences.  Thankfully, the coffee craze is on in Korea, and we can indulge as we adjust to our new country.

Twenty-three more days left of wandering before we start our new jobs, and some beautiful places to see.  Next stop, Busan.