WILK (Why I Love Korea): Reason 3: Delicious barbecue buffets

1 10 2013

I live in Cheonan. Here are two meat buffets that I have been to. I also ate at a meat buffet in Seoul, but I don’t remember the name or directions. Out of all three, Mammoth Meat is by far the best one I’ve been too (ambiance, price, taste and service).

1) Dino Meat
Directions from Ssangyong-dong Yongam Mall (쌍용동 용암마울): Take bus 12 heading towards Shinsaegae. It is about 3-5 stops away. You will see it directly across from the bus stop where you get off. There are around 8-11 meats to choose from. You sit on the floor, but they honestly have the most comfortable butt cushions that I’ve ever sat on. It felt like Tempur-Pedic! Price is 16,000 won a person.

2) Mammoth Meat
Directions: Near the Lotte Mart that is by the Post Office, McDonalds, Baskin Robins, and Holic Cafe: Face out the door of Lotte Mart (looking across the street you will see the Holic Cafe in the building across the street on the 2F). Walk across the street and weave in and out of the side streets. You will find it.

It has a great ambiance, service and the food is wonderful. You can select from around 7-10 different meats. Unlike Dino Meat, there is also a large selection of delicious side–including steamed, skewered fish cake, potato salad, mandoo, ddeokbokki, and other salads. Price is only a measly 11,900 won per person! Unbelievable!

Mammoth meat

Thank you Kari Killion Stiles for these pictures.





Seoul Adventure 1: Hello Kitty Cafe, Mt. Namsan, Lotte World

19 02 2013

I spent my last Sunday shopping, sightseeing and riding subways–it was a great day in Seoul!

Our trip–some friends from work and I–started off riding the KTX to Seoul at 10:30 am. The KTX is Korea’s bullet train. Opened in 2004, it provides quick transportation from cities as north as Seoul, to cities as south as Busan and Mokpo. A one-way ticket from Cheonan to Seoul cost ₩14,000 ($13).

The KTX can travel up to 217 mph but normally travels around 186 mph. A passenger train, on the other hand, travels around only 30 to 60 mph.

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Rosa and I sitting in the KTX on our way to Seoul.

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Waiting for the KTX to arrive!

Brunch in Itaewon

Of course when we arrived–about 40 minutes later–we headed straight for food! Joseph knew an American-style breakfast restaurant called Tartine. Meals are named after presidents, such as “The Andrew Jackson.” Plates run more than ₩10,000 ($9.25), but it’s a small price to pay for a rare American breakfast in Korea.

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The watered-down-flavored cornbread was a disappointment. The bacon was thicker than usual, too, so it was soft and not crunchy at all. Despite this, it was a delicious breakfast! I recommend it to anyone in the area. The house coffee was great, too!

Tartine also has a wonderful assortment of organic, sweet-looking dessert delicacies–strawberry rhubarb pie, chocolate cream pie, cherry pie, to name just a few. We ordered some pecan pie!

Hello Kitty Cafe in Hongdae

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Hello Kitty Cafe in Hongdae, Seoul.

This will get its own post, but for now I’ll share some of the Hello Kitty goodness! I’ve been wanting to visit the Hello Kitty Cafe for a few years now. I was ecstatic when we finally arrived. Pink, kitties, pink, bows, pink, more kitties. This is the cafe.

I was impressed by the delicious-looking desserts and snacks available. They staff creates Hello Kitty latte art in drinks, and everything is plated nicely. I didn’t order a coffee, so I can’t vouch for the taste, but I was able to take a photo of someone’s latte art.

Shopping in Hongdae, then Ice Skating in Songpa-gu

After the Hello Kitty Cafe, we walked around the markets and shopping areas in Hongdae. I found some good deals on clothes. There’s so much to see that it’s overwhelming!

After a few hours of milling around, we went ice skating at Lotte World, located in Songpa-gu. This ice skating rink has a 1,000-person capacity. It’s huge! Many cute couples—most wearing matching couples clothes, a popular trend in Korea—were skating at this popular date spot.

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Rosa and I in Lotte World–waiting to go ice skating!

After the ice rink, we headed for sushi at this great sushi restaurant that Rosa knew. We needed to wait about 45 minutes to get a table, but it was worth it! I don’t remember this bustling restaurant’s name, but it was a small, shoulder-to-shoulder place. There wasn’t much room to move around with many restaurant-goers filling the inside.

Naman tower

Left: N Seoul Tower at night. Top Right: Interesting illuminated map on the ground at N Seoul Tower. Bottom Right: At the tower, there’s this strange bear mascot or figure everywhere. Maybe it’s because the tower has a teddy bear museum right now …

To end the night, we headed to the N Seoul Tower–AKA Namsan Tower. It is located on Mt. Namsan. Mt. Namsan reaches more than 3,083 feet in elevation, but the 777-foot tower is located along its flanks. Even from the bottom of the tower, you have a beautiful panoramic view of Seoul. Especially at night, it’s breathtaking–with all of Seoul’s city lights illuminating the ground below.

Visitors can pay to ride up an elevator to the top of the tower. The top of the tower has windows facing out over the city. The top level is filled with an abundance of souvenirs. Many are very expensive, such as a ₩94,000 stuffed t-rex—but I managed to find a few reasonably-priced items, including a few postcards and a magnet set.

Also at N Seoul Tower is a famous area where people—often couples—attach locks onto a fence. This fence borders a boardwalk around the tower. A co-worker on the trip had her boyfriend visiting from Canada. They bought two locks and added them to the collection. There’s easily more than 50 feet of fence length with locks on it as thick as shown in this picture.

Namsan tower locks

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View from the top of N Seoul Tower at night.

Winding Down

After we headed back down Mt. Namsan on our bus, we went back to the main station to catch the KTX back to Cheonan at 11:30 pm. I was falling asleep whenever we rode a bus or subway. I was so tired. I slept good that night.





Seollal: Lunar New Year

12 02 2013

While I think of fireworks, staying out all night and drinking as typical New Year’s traditions in America, Koreans spend their time with their families, play traditional Korean games, wear traditional Korean clothing–such as hanboks–and eat delicious food.

Yesterday was Lunar New Year. Koreans follow the lunar calender, while Americans follow the Gregorian/Western calender. I spent the day with one of my Korean co-workers, Herina.

First she took me to her house, where I met her adorable maltese dog named parum (바람), which means “wind” in Korean.

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He’s almost 2 years old. Parum is so sweet–I would take him if I could!

She also has a younger, 13-year-old brother who also acted as a photographer for us. He knew some English, but he was acting shy!

Herina’s mom made delicious food, including kalbi (beef short ribs), japchae (glass noddle salad) and an array of other sides. She also made tteokguk (rice cake soup), which is one of the most poplar Korean dishes on Seollal.

Her mom also gave me an envelope with some money inside.

Seollal Traditions: Gifts
New Year’s money is a common gift from elders to young ones. Grand children bow to their elders, and grandparents will offer them New Year’s money and wishes for a good year. 

IMG_7812sidesHer mom made us some nice German coffee and sliced fruit to make a decadent plate of desert.

After eating, we headed to The Independence Hall of Korea. Independence Hall is a historical area with seven Exhibition Halls that display Korea’s 5,000-plus-year-old history and its relics. However, it focuses a lot on the Japanese Colonial Period, which ended in 1945.

You can also find a 4D movie theater at Independence Hall. Unfortunately, we missed seeing a film–the time on the brochure wasn’t right!

It’s pretty depressing to see how Koreans were treated during their oppression.

sceneThe museums here are much more graphic IMG_7849and violent that museums I’m use to seeing in the USA, but I don’t think that’s bad. It’s just being honest and blunt about history. Many signs in the halls are in Korean and English.

This picture, to the right, is of life-size statues that show when some Koreans killed a “Japanese terrorist,” as my friend explained to me. Herina’s little brother is in on the photos–he’s pretending to kill the bad guy.

One of the Korean statues is missing an arm!

Someone must have knocked it off. After you walk through each hall, you can stamp a special piece of paper and take it home with you. It’s like a mini-passport log of where you went at Independence Hall–I collected all of the stamps!

On a lighter note, there were also traditional Korean games set outside the main building. I took some photos and tried making a .gif clip. You need to click the photo to see the movement.

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Click image to see movement.

Korean Traditions: Games
Neoltwiggi (see-saw) is a game where two people stand on either end of a flat board. They need to take turns hoping–each one boncing higher and higher. This eventually leads to one flying off the board, or at least losing balance!

Tuho (arrow toss) is another traditional game played during Seollal. You take an arrow (or equivalent)  and try to aim it inside a container. It’s much harder than it looks!

Animated korean game

Click image to see movement.

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Yay! I knocked the block down!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was a good day. I learned a lot about Korea’s history and got to experience a bit of a traditional Seollal day. And here are some photos to end my post.

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Chicken Feet Please!

12 02 2013

I got the courage to make my first telephone food delivery order. I ended up with chicken feet!

Well I wanted to order 깐풍기 (a Chinese-Korean chicken dish). Kyle and I always ate it a restaurant in Tacoma, and I’ve been wanting to eat some here. Fortunately, I found out that 중국집 (Chinese-Korean restaurants) in Korea also serve this dish.

If you live in Korea, you’ll notice that your apartment door becomes an advertisement wall that attracts magnetic restaurant directories every few weeks. I’ve already collected three–although I threw all of them out but one.

I opened it and searched for 깐풍기 , but I couldn’t find it anywhere. So, I picked something else on one of the menus that read, “불닭발” (AKA spicy chicken feet). I read “불닭” and knew it meant spicy chicken, not realizing the last word. I picked it because it was the cheapest thing on the menu, and I wasn’t looking to spend much on food.

After calling and talking to three people–they kept passing the phone off to someone else–and giving my address, the owner said I needed to buy “이인분” (two servings). This makes sense, since they are delivering food and need to make a profit, but I was only going to order for me. After already making an ordeal on the phone, I went ahead and ordered it anyway. I wasn’t going to do all that work for nothing.

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FYI: My Korean friend said that most places won’t deliver “일인분” (one serving) or less than ₩10,000 (~$10) worth of food. I found this out the next day.

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I called Rosa up to ask her to come and help me eat food! She did, and we also ended up ordering 탕수육 (a fried pork type dish with a sweet soy-terriaki-tasting sauce).

Here are the delicious–bit of sarcasm–chicken feet:

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A spicy chicken foot.

A spicy chicken foot.

After she arrived, she found 깐풍기 in tiny font at the bottom of two restaurant menus. Ah! So I could have ordered it to begin with. 이인부 (two servings) of the chicken feet cost ₩14,000 (~$14).

Chicken feet don’t necessarily taste bad, but the feet are so crunchy. I felt like I was eating spicy bones. You mainly eat the top part–the three toes–but then you can eat the part around the rest of the foot. Mmm! -_-





Kimchi Mania

21 01 2013

When talking to other Koreans, Rosa refers to me as “kimchi mania” when we’re out at restaurants or eating somewhere. I don’t know if that’s a common phrase for people who like kimchi or just some funny nickname she gave me. Kimchi is a delicious spicy,  fermented cabbage dish. Koreans eat it in the morning, afternoon, at night, and any snack time in between. Kimchi is special, because each time it’s made it tastes slightly different.

After spending my whole day blogging and futzing around on my computer, I thought I should be more productive and make kimchi. I hadn’t made kimchi for at least six months. I forgot how long it takes. I ended up not finishing until 2 a.m, and today I was so sleepy.

Kyle’s mom first taught me how to make it. I love her kimchi. After carefully analyzing each ingredient and how much she puts in, I always end up making kimchi that tastes the same each time I make it–and it never tastes like hers.

My ingredients for kimchi are:
Nappa cabbage
Green onion
White onion
Garlic
Small fermented shrimp (blended/mushed)
Korean red pepper
Hondashi
Sugar
Salt

Kimchi that I made last night. I let it sit out for 24 hours, but usually people let it ferment for around one week.

Kimchi that I made last night. I let it sit out for 24 hours, but usually people let it ferment for around one week.

I also made a radish kimchi, called musaengchae. It’s shoe-string cut radish with many of the same seasonings.

Musaengchu. This is a type of radish kimchi that is fairly quick to make.

Musaengchu. This is a type of radish kimchi that is fairly quick to make.

Vocabulary
배추 Bae-chu (nappa cabbage)
파 Pa (green onion)
양파 Yang-pa (onion)
마늘 Ma-nuerl (garlic)
새우젓 Sae-eu-jeot (small fermented shrimp)
고추루가 Go-chu-roo-ga (Korean red pepper)
혼다시 Hon-da-shi (Japanese seasoning, seafood/salty flavor)
살탕 Sal-tang (sugar)
소금 So-guem (salt)
무생채 Mu-saeng-chae
 





Korean Dish 1: Samgyeopsal (삼겹살)

20 01 2013

I had another night of mouth watering food and an aching stomach.

First, Rosa and I hit up a samgyeopsal restaurant in Cheonan. Many restaurants carry samgyeopsal. If you like bacon, you’re sure to love this dish. Samgyeopsal is quarter-inch sliced strips of pork meat. It’s a popular late-night meal that goes perfect with soju. But bacon fan or not, if you get the chance to order this dish, do it!

Did you know? While pork is an extremely popular meat in Korea, and many Korean meals have meat, Korea’s pork consumption per capita in 2010 was 42.5 pounds (KREI). The USA’s pork consumption per capita in in 2009 was 49.6 pounds (USDA).

1. What It Is
It’s such a complex, yet simple, dish. The meat isn’t seasoned or marinated, but it’s accompanied by an array of Korean side dishes, such as different kinds of kimchi or bean sprouts. Samgyeopsal always comes with some staple sides: raw garlic (that you can cook on the grill), sliced, green hot pepper, ssangjang and lettuce.

wpid-IMG085.jpg2. Preparation
The meat cooks as strips. Make sure it’s cooked all the way since it’s pork. Once it’s cooked good enough, cut it into bit-sized pieces.

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 3. How to Eat
Now it’s finally time to eat. Carefully wrap the meat in lettuce with ssamgjang and any other sides. There’s an art to wrapping the lettuce. I use to try and fold each side over the other (like I was wrapping a present), but the lettuce snaps, and you’re left with food falling in your lap. It’s much easier to pinch all the sides together at the top and shove it your mouth. Wash it down with soju, and that’s it. It’ll be gone before you know it.

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Korean food in a nutshell:
삼겹살            Sam-gyeop-sal (a Korean dish made with thick cuts of Korean pork)
소주                 So-ju (a popular Korean alcohol)
고추장            Go-chu-jang (hot, red chili pepper paste)
된장                 Dwen-jang (fermented soy bean paste)
쌈장                 Ssam-jang (mixture of gojjujang and dwenjang)

Sources:
Korea Rural Economic Institute (KREI)
United States Department of Agriculture (USDS)
(ESV)





Korean Dining 101

20 01 2013

I will try and post as many different Korean dishes as I can. I will tell you what it is, what to eat it with and how to eat it.

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1. Kitchen Scissors at my Table?
Koreans are smart. They use kitchen scissors to cut almost everything. That’s why scissors are at most Korean restaurant tables. You just snip meat into pieces–rather than try and cut it with a knife on a plate.

2. Raw Meat
Some restaurants in the USA are popular for dishes that chefs cook right at the table. In Korea, most restaurants that serve meat have gas burners and pans built into each table. The owners bring out raw meat or soup ingredients, and it cooks at your table. It’s fresh, and you don’t need to worry about it getting cold.

3. Soju
First distilled around 800 years ago as a drink for the high class, today soju is a an important aspect to Korean meals. This popular Korean alcohol usually ranges from 20-30 percent proof. It’s mainly made of rice but is usually mixed other ingredients such as barley, sweet potatoes or wheat. It has a similar taste to vodka, but it is much smoother and refined. All soju that is sold now it diluted (rather than distilled). Jinro is one of the most popular soju brands–it’s sold in the USA as well.

4. No Tipping
This is self explanatory. You don’t need to tip anyone for anything–not for taxi drivers, hair dressers or people at restaurants.

5. Side Dishes
Any restaurant meal always includes at least three small side dishes, called banchan (반찬). A combination of countless sides may appear, but common ones are various kinds of radish kimchi, cabbage kimchi, green onion kimchi, seasoned bean sprouts, seasoned spinach, braised tofu, and sweet soy sauce glazed potatoes. These are included with your meal, and you don’t order them. Feel free to ask for more.

6. Sharing Food
While most foreigners are use to each having their own plate of food, Koreans share food from the same bowls, plates and heated pans. Korean meals are about being close with your friends and sharing the food. Just take your chopstick and eat what you want.

Sources: 
American University
Princeton University
TriFood.com