Archive for the 'Korean cuisine' Category

Happy hour(s) with my WaMu peeps

Met up with a number of my old WaMu Research co-workers the other night for a little reunion happy hour (or in this case hours as most of us stayed for several hours)It was so fantastic to see everyone (well everyone that could make it – there were quite a few who couldn’t come).  😦

It was part reunion, part welcome back for me, part welcome back for Julie (another colleague who just moved back to Seattle from Cali), and part farewell to Kevin (another colleague and my very first manager in the department – who happens to be moving his whole family out to…get this…South Korea!)

We had a great time seeing each other and catching up with what everyone’s been doing.  I think one thing we all felt was just how lucky we were to have worked in such a great department and with such great people.  Even after everyone got laid off and went their separate ways…we still are friends.  It’s a pretty unique situation and not easily found in most companies/departments/groups/etc. 😦

We were at Pike Place Brewery, which not only has some delicious “refreshments,” but also some amazing nachos (which are 1/2 off during happy hour!).  There were at least five plates of nachos ordered throughout the night.  They are damn good (and about a million times better than the nachos we once got in Korea).

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Nachos from Pike Place Brewery.  Salsa, sour cream, guacamole, cheese…mmmm.

 

Let’s compare that to the Korean nachos.

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You’ve got about 10 individually dressed chips and a big ol’ pile of cabbage and mustard.  Oh, and I’m pretty sure there was mayonnaise on there too.

44 things I’ll miss about living in Korea

I’ve been trying to avoid doing the “countdown to America” thing – there’s just so much left to do that I’m not looking for the days to pass by even quicker than they already are.

But, given that there is so much going on – I figured I’d at least see how many days we have left to stuff everything in. 

As of today, July 9th, we have 44 days!  That’s it folks.  44! 

So, I thought it would be fun to compile a list of the 44 things I’ll miss about living in Korea.  Believe me, there’s a bunch of people/things we are looking forward to when we get back home, but life here is pretty darn easy and definitely a lot of fun. 

In no particular order:

  1. No tipping!  It’s not required, nor expected – and sometimes even considered a little rude.
  2. The subway.  Fast, cheap, and easy to maneuver (especially in Daegu).
  3. Cheap taxis.  Yes, they drive like madmen – but they are cheap and get you where you need to go fast.
  4. Eating out with friends for $5-$10 a person (including beer/soju).
  5. Side dishes.  Every bar or restaurant offers little side dishes of tasty snacks (and unlimited refills).
  6. The “we need you” table bell.  If you need more water, beer, food, etc. – just press the button and “ding” – someone will be over to help you ASAP.
  7. Drinking beers for CHEAP!  Mind you, I didn’t say I’ll miss drinking cheap-tasting beers.  But I will miss being able to drink all night with friends and only paying about $8/person at the end of the night.
  8. Ice cream.  Korea has such a HUGE variety of individual ice cream treats.  Oh so yummy and so cheap (about $.50/each).
  9. Korean food.  Granted, some stuff I don’t like – but the majority of it…I love!  BBQ, jimdakk, deokbokki, soups, noodles, and the list goes on and on.
  10. Dunkin Donuts.  In the U.S. it’s only on the East coast – but in Korea – they are everywhere.  Specifically, I’m really gonna miss this donut.
  11. Fruit and veggie stands.  Cheap and easy way to eat your fruits and veggies.
  12. Concord grapes.  Big and juicy.  Once you learn how to eat them, it’s fun to suck in the grape (you don’t eat the peel).
  13. Cheap cell phone.  I pay about $15 a month.
  14. Cheap cable and internet.  The cable TV is $5/month.  Don’t know how much the internet is, but it’s cheap too.
  15. Not carrying around keys.  Our door has a code-activated locking system.  And we don’t have a car.
  16. Walking.  Yeah, walking sucks big time when it’s super freezing out or super hot and humid, but it’s good exercise and way less stressful than owning a car and driving.
  17. Korean pop music.  Yes, cheesy and super manufactured.  But oh-so infectious!
  18. Going to the movies for $6….not $16.
  19. NOREBANG! (Aka karaoke).  Private rooms, snacks and drinks, and cheap.
  20. Service.  In Korea, this means getting something for free.  It happens fairly often, but you never know when.  Sometimes it’s a free bottle of soda, or a free extra serving of meat, or a package of ramen noodles.  It’s great!
  21. Going to the doctor.  Okay, I don’t mean I enjoy going to the doctor…but if you do need to go – no need to make an appointment – just show up.  Most times, you won’t know what the doctor is saying/doing/prescribing (unless you speak Korean), but it’s better than nothing.  And…it’s cheap.  $2-$3 to see the doctor?  Ok!
  22. Prescription drugs.  Korea usually has the same American drugs (or something very similar) and it’s WAY cheaper.  Flonase in America…with insurance cost me $20 a bottle.  In Korea, the exact same Flonase is about $4-$5.
  23. Our water filter dispenser.  Most Korean homes probably don’t have this, but we have been renting one and it’s awesome.  Filtered, hot (really hot) water at your fingertips…as well as really cold water too.  We drink TONS more water purely because of our water dispenser.
  24. Fast food drinks to go.  If you order a soda from McDonalds, Burger King, Lotteria, etc. – they will tape the lid on and put the drink in it’s own handy carrying bag.  No spilled drink worries.
  25. Air conditioning in our apartment.  Not that we need it when we get back to Seattle, but just nice to have for those really hot days.  Very very unlikely we’ll ever get it though.
  26. Shirts with bad or confusing English.  My friend really did see a Korean woman rocking a shirt that said, “I’m so fucking disco.”
  27. Cheap ATMs.  It doesn’t matter if you can’t find your bank’s ATM.  The surcharge to use another bank’s ATM is usually about $.50-$1.00.  And it’s SUPER easy to use the ATM to transfer money from your account at Bank A to someone else’s account at Bank B.  I’ve never had a need for a check.
  28. Korean co-teachers!  We’ve made some great friends with some of the teachers at our schools.  We’ve helped them with their English, taught them a few drinking games, and they’ve helped us survive our year abroad.
  29. Non-Korean friends!  We’ve also made some really great friends with other Native English Teachers.  Some are staying in Korea another year, and some are going back home.  But we’ll definitely be staying in touch!  Some even live in Seattle!
  30. Students.  Not all students.  But I definitely have a handful of students that I really really enjoy teaching and seeing everyday.  They are funny, cute, and excited about life…and learning English.
  31. Easy commute to work.  Leave apartment at 8:10am, get to school by 8:30am.  Work. Play. Fuss around. Leave school at 4:30pm, get home by 5pm.  It leaves us with plenty of time to have a life (workout, cook dinner, meet up with friends, watch movies, read a book, play video games, etc.)
  32. High speed train.  In Korea, it’s called the KTX and it’s the fastest way to travel the country.  From Daegu to Seoul it takes about 90 minutes. 
  33. Visiting other countries.  Living and working in Korea has allowed us (time-wise and money wise) to travel to many countries (Japan, Thailand, and Australia.  And soon: Hong Kong, Phillippines, and Singapore).  Already being in this part of the world makes it faster and cheaper to visit SE Asia especially.
  34. Cell phone charms.  Cute and ridiculous.
  35. Pot bing su (팥빙수).  Korea’s version of shaved ice…but with way more toppings.  Quite possibly one of the most refreshing things to eat on a hot day or after a spicy meal.
  36. The $30 facial.  Must find time to squeeze in another one (or two) before we leave!
  37. School lunch.  Cheap, tasty, and easy (no need to pack your lunch the night before).
  38. Makgeolli.  It’s a type of Korean rice wine.  I love it best when mixed with fruit juice – strawberry, kiwi, or honey flavored-makgeolli are my faves!
  39. Kimchi.  Yes, this is included in #9, but I’m going to really really miss true, authentic kimchi.  So, it gets its own number.
  40. Korean grocery stores.  The big ones have food samples galore.  Costco has got nothing on the big chain stores here.
  41. Korean socks.  Cheap, cute, silly, and sometimes just plain odd.  But for less than $.50 a pair – how can you pass it up!?
  42. Hof Hama.  It’s a bar near where our friends Gabe and Charissa live.  It’s probably the place we hang out the most with our friends.  Unlimited popcorn snacks and huge mini-kegs of beer.  Always a good time.
  43. Seeing little Korean toddlers bowing.  Seriously, Koreans probably bow 50 times a day.  They are always bowing and you just get used to it.  But when you see a little toddler with his/her mom or dad and they bow – it’s one of the cutest things ever!
  44. Love motels!  It’s one of the cheapest forms of lodging.  Pay by the hour if you like.  Granted, we’ve only stayed in them for actual overnight trips – but they have always been clean.  Some places even will offer you a “goodie” bag upon arrival – filled with a few items to help you get your lovin’ on.

So there you go.  There’s more I could add, but 44 was the magic number I was shooting for.  🙂

School cafeteria lunch

Some people have been wondering what school lunch is like in Korea.  So, I’ve taken some pictures to share with you.

Please note, generally speaking – all schools serve the same sort of lunch: 3 Korean sides, 1 rice, 1 soup.  However, how each thing tastes – well, that can vary quite a bit between schools.  Fortunately, I think the head cook at our school is pretty good, so most of the time our lunches are decent.  (FYI: The head cook, just like teachers, also move to new schools every four years.  Which is a good thing if your cook sucks, and a bad thing if your cook is awesome).

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My school’s cafeteria.  So calm and peaceful it looks now, but believe me – during lunchtime, it’s chaos.  Loud, smelly, dirty chaos.

 

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Lunch #1.  Starting on upper left and going clockwise: lettuce with a sesame oil dressing (YUM), some sort of meat – probably pork, kimchi (of course), some type of tofu soup, and rice (of course).

 

As you can tell, I’m doing a great job of learning all the names of Korean foods. 🙂

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Lunch #2.  A different style kimchi (less spicy.  Oops…took the pic a little late), orange slices, fish skin (I think), and curry and rice.  Koreans love curry – Japanese style curry that is.

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Lunch #3. Picked radish kimchi, a spicy cabbage slaw, quail eggs (which I love), a seafood soup, and rice. 

 

When you are done eating, you pile all your uneaten food scraps into one part of the tray and then take it over to the food bin…and unload.  Ewwww.

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I took a pic of the bin after it’s been cleaned.  It’s usually really gross when it’s in use.

 

Next, if you are thirsty – you don’t drink water DURING lunch, but wait until after.

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Get your sterilized metal cup from the sterilizing cabinet.  These cups are about 4 inches high – roughly 3 large gulps of water.

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Here’s where you fill up.  Usually the water is a lukewarm temperature.  Kind of odd.  There’s usually a large traffic jam at this part of the cafeteria. 

 

So, there you go.  What do you think of Korean school lunches?  Some of my English teacher friends can’t stomach the school lunches – so they opt to bring in a sack lunch everyday (which ALL Koreans find very strange.  “A sandwich for lunch?”  [insert very curious and concerned looks from Korean teachers]). 

Also, I do pay for my lunches.  Each month about $35 (US) gets deducted from my paychecks.  Pretty cheap…about $1.75/school day.

 

Meatless Mondays

I’ve become a vegetarian…on Mondays only. :-)  It’s not like I eat a HUGE amount of meat all the time, but Korean cuisine is definitely meat-centric.  And I’m not complaining, because the food is so good. 

I just figured that one day out of the week, I’d make sure and eat something that wasn’t chicken, pork, or beef.  So yeah, technically I’ve become a ‘pescatarian’ (meaning seafood is ok).

One caveat to my mission:

  • Lunch doesn’t count.  I don’t have any choice for my school lunch since I eat cafeteria food.  But school lunches usually have a very minimal amount of meat anyway.

I’ve been practicing Meatless Mondays for over two months now and it’s going great.  I actually find myself inadvertently going meatless on other days as well. 

And since we live so close to an open market, it’s very easy to pick up a good variety of fruits and veggies – and it’s soooo cheap.

I’ve done tofu stir fry, salads, seafood soups, rice dishes – it’s been pretty easy.  The one challenge is usually…MICAH.  See, this is MY thing…not his.  Micah loves his meat.  And he has absolutely no desire to partake in my one-day-a-week meat strike.  So, most of the time, he just cooks some meat on the side and then adds it into whatever the main meal is. 

One more caveat:

  • Vacations don’t count.  We’ll be heading out in about a month to Hong Kong, the Phillippines and Singapore – and one of the things I love most about traveling is eating all the different foods.

TTMMGH – Korea edition #14

This post should actually be titled Things that make me go ewww – that would more accurately reflect my feelings about seeing these little critters.

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Hello caterpillars.  Eight hours later – 90% of these were sold.

Now, I’ve seen these caterpillars sold at the street market near our house, as well as a street market in Busan.  So it’s not just some random thing – but something that actually does have some level of appeal/demand.

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Yes, they are alive. And they are crawling around everywhere.

I couldn’t tell you what they do with these.  And neither could five of the Korean friends I asked.  The likely guess is that Koreans eat these, but I can’t be sure of that and it must not be that popular of a cuisine if they do eat them.  Or rather, maybe they are pets, they spin silk out of them, use them as live bait – not sure.  So…if YOU know what the heck these are for, I’d love to know too.

 

To read previous TTMMGH entries:

TTMMGH #13

TTMMGH #12

Nacho, nacho man

Mexican food and Korea.  As you can imagine, it’s not really their forte’.  Just like Asian food in Mexico – eh…I’ll pass on that buffet.

However, the lack of Mexican restaurants and ingredients in Korea doesn’t necessarily ease the craving we get for some good, cheesy, Mexican-y goodness. 

We’ve tried a few “Mexican” places here and there with only a couple standing out (the Fuzzy Navel in Haeundae Beach area of Busan had real sour cream and guacamole!).  We’ve learned to STOP ordering nachos after a few less than tasty experiences.  Imagine a plate of individually dressed chips with some melted cheese…mayonnaise and ketchup.  Similarly, sweet Thai chili sauce is NOT the same thing as salsa.

So what to do?  We make them ourselves.  (Or usually Micah makes them and I assist).

Fortunately, we can buy REAL cheddar cheese from Costco, along with ground beef, salsa and sour cream.  Add some tortilla chips, kidney beans, chopped tomatoes and onions – and voila’ – you’ve got yourself some of the best nachos anywhere in Korea.  (I’m not kidding either). 

We do have the added benefit of having a kickass toaster oven to aid us in our nacho mission, but absent that – you can still manage a pretty solid plate of nachos using your microwave (just don’t overheat the cheese!)

Our latest nacho night included shredded chicken instead of beef and  a special addition of homemade guacamole (apparently you can buy avocados at Costco now – thanks Court and Syd!)

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Oh yeah!!!!  Micah is quite the nacho man.  He admittedly does make some killer nachos.  Please note: this wasn’t just for the two of us!

  

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Nacho night a few months ago.  Yum!  I dare you to find a better plate of nachos in Korea!!

From hmm…to mmm

A while back (in Edition 2 of Things that Make Me Go Hmm), I wrote about how Koreans LOVE to eat a mix of onions, ketchup, and mustard when dining at the Costco food court.

It definitely brings a good round of stares from foreigners whenever we see Koreans with their plates piled high with mounds of the oniony mix.  And let me remind you – EVERY Korean table has such a plate amongst them. 

Well, I have to admit – the other day we were at Costco – and I found myself with a plate of onions, ketchup, and mustard.  I know! I know!

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Here I am mixing up my onions. 

I would like to point out that the main use of these onions was as another “filling” to the dry, Bulgogi Bake we were eating (like a Chicken Bake, but with bulgogi – beef – instead).  And the onion mix was just the thing to make the Bulgogi Bake taste delish!

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Let me also point out that it was my Korean co-teacher accompanying us who piled the onions so high!  I could only “muster” (hee hee!) a couple of bites at most.

Hmm…what will I do when I go to Costco in the US?  To onion or not to onion. 🙂


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