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.

Dog collections2

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.

Animated korean game 2

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.

woo i got it

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.



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.


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.


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:


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
Small fermented shrimp (blended/mushed)
Korean red pepper

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.

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.



 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.


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)

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

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.

Blog photo scissors

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.

American University
Princeton University

내 배를 아파요 … (My Stomach Hurts …)

5 01 2013

This is the meal that Rosa’s mom cooked for us. I wish I could cook like her!

I thought I would lose wait moving to Korea–with its healthy cuisine of radishes, onions, tofu, spinach, sprouts, soups, cabbage and more cabbage, all covered in a heavy amount of spicy-red Korean pepper. But while I’m eating more healthy foods, I’m canceling it out with the amount I scarf down.

Rosa’s mom owns a small shop in Cheonan. She sells side dishes such as cubed radish kimchi, seasoned / dried / shredded squid,  soybean sprouts, steamed / seasoned spinach, and seasoned / dried anchovies  to name a few. Everything is tasty, and nothing fails to excite my taste buds.

Rosa and I went to her shop to eat dinner. Two of her mom’s friends were already there chatting and drinking beer. We ate bulgogi and a soybean paste-based. Her mom is so sweet–this is the second time she’s let me eat food at her shop.

Now it’s almost 5 hours later, and I feel like I just ate two meals.

Here is a list of some of the side dishes that Rosa’s mom makes at her shop:

Cubed radish kimchi

Cooked radish side dish
무우나물, 무나물

Fermented squid side dish

Potato side dishes
gamjachae bokkeum
감자채 볶음

Radish salad

Seasoned dried shredded squid
Ojingeochae muchim
오징어채 무침

Soybean sprout side dish
kongnamul muchim
콩나물 무침

Spinach side dish
Sigeumchi namul

Stirfried dried anchovy side dish

Korean side dish recipes and names thanks to