I’m feeling sassy today so it seemed like the WRITE time for a new post (apparently my sassiness extends to ridiculous pun usage). Alas, I don’t have a ton of new stuff to report right now. Life plugs along, as it should, and we are getting into the swing of things a little more every day. BUT I did realize that I haven’t written much about the food (other than to complain, naturally) and there’s a fair few things to tell. I find this all very interesting. So if you’re like me, and food is your love language, then follow along for a closer look at amor here in S. Korea.
Where to start…well, let’s start with the vegetarian factor (and then move on). Look, this is not a veg-o friendly culture. It sucks because eating out is basically no longer an option. We can do Thai or Indian and we do, every so often (read: about once every week or two), but they are expensive and not particularly healthy. We can also do pizza, which we do equally as often 😉 Other than that, I’ve been cooking a lot more. You heard it here first, folks. I’ve been making soups and stews and salads and rice concoctions and generally, if I do say so myself, getting not too bad at it. And we are adapting to the different and somewhat limited ingredient choices, if still missing all the choices back home just a little. On the positive side, we are both dropping weight and stoked about it, so eating out less is a decidedly good thing for our waistlines (and probably our bank accounts, too). Okay, on to the more interesting stuff – street food! It’s everywhere. And it’s cheap. A lot of it IS meat, but there are a few options for me. Again, not healthy though, so I try to resist most days. A Korean favorite is a skewer stick with a big ol’ hunk of squid or, alternately, a big ol’ hunk of processed fish that sits and cooks in hot fish broth. They eat the skewers with a bit of soy sauce and a cup of the hot fish broth to wash it down. Harding has been brave enough to try the processed fish and doesn’t mind it, but he hasn’t braved the giant squid pieces just yet. The fish broth has become a fave of his though (as it’s served with many Korean meals, even at restaurants). Also easy to find is a pasta dish, generally served with squid, in a spicy pepper type sauce. The noodles are huge and I have yet to try them, though I do know of somewhere that apparently has a veg version – I should get on that. Harding has tried them and says they’re “ok” so that’s probably why I haven’t hopped to it myself. What I often CAN (and do) eat is the Pajon…leek pancakes! They’re fried and doughy and kind of addictive. Sometimes they have carrots and lettuce, too. They usually have squid (shocker!) but I can now ask if there is any squid and get a response! Also, the street vendors by my work officially know me so that helps. That’s right, I’m part of the neighbourhood now 🙂
Some other foodstuffs available on the street: sweet bread, almost like a dry french toast, with an egg in between. It looks like a pastry, and is mostly sweet, but with an egg smack dab in the middle and cooked to about over easy. Not my fave but I can see how it would appeal to some. Leek dumplings! I only found these once and man oh man were they delicious. I have been thinking about them for months and never again been able to stumble upon them. Sad face. But they were deep fried heaven, I tell ya. There are mini sushi type rolls available everywhere but they usually have a slice of fish or ham in them. And there are glass noodle dumplings – I enjoy those actually quite a bit but they suuuuuure do sit in a gal’s stomach. A lot of oil goes into the making of those bad boys. There’s another dumpling, I think chicken? that I tried by mistake. Well, not mistake, so much as the sweet stall vendor saw me eyeing them curiously and gave me one for free to try. I didn’t want to refuse so I did try it and ya, it was meat. But I bet tasty to those who enjoy meat! There’s corn on the cob and cocoon soup. OH? Not familiar with cocoon soup? Let me enlighten you my friends…they are silk worm cocoons, boiled together and eaten as such. Big ol’, gross, cocoons. They smell like death. DEATH. Clearly, we have not tried them. But I’m pushing Harding to 😉 And there are waffles! When we first arrived and the weather was still nice, it was waffles with ice cream and syrup smooshed between two halves. Now, or most of the time?, it’s apple jelly and cream smooshed in there. Deeeeeelicious.
And my faaaaavorite (drum roll, please) are the street donuts! Pure heaven. They are round, sans donut hole, and fried in a glorious mixture of a ton of oil with a ton of butter, and then sliced in the middle and stuffed with a nut and cinnamon mixture. I can’t even tell you. I gained five pounds in one week because I couldn’t stop. I had three on my worst (BEST) day. I sought some help though, not to worry, and now I can manage about one a week. I’m clearly no AA survivor. I’m not giving them up entirely, okay!? What me and the donuts have is too good, too pure, to be torn apart.
Ahem. Moving on.
The Koreans usually seem genuinely amused and I daresay impressed to see a foreigner eating their street food. I seem to get a smile or two each time, though I think maybe less so now that I can wield the chopsticks without completely embarrassing myself. It was pretty touch and go there for a while. One street vendor even hunted down a fork for me one time. The shame, my friends, the utter shame to be given a fork in front of all those Koreans so that I could eat my pancake in communal harmony (read: not have food falling off my lips before I could get it into my mouth and thus splashing around the area immediately to the sides of my plate). Which seemed strange to me because – note the title – Koreans are double-dippers! They double-dip in the SHARED soy sauce! And not just some, you guys, ALL. Harding and I nearly spit out our dumplings the first time we saw it. But frankly, what good is a dumpling without some soy sauce to dip it in? So we caved. I feel no shame. I double-dip right along with the best of them now. When in Korea…as they say…
In other news, Koreans loooooove them some sweet potatoes, which was always a love I thought I was solidly behind. But when I say they love sweet potatoes, I am not kidding around. Sweet potato latte, anyone? Sweet potato strudel? Or bun? Or donut? Sweet potato tea? New items come to my attention all the time. The best part of the sweet potato craze, however, is that they have these special cookers that some people push all over the city. They are basically like a barbecue specifically for sweet potatoes. And the potatoes come out tasting AMAZING. No extra oil and junk, just delicious, slightly charred (in the good way) potato perfection. So that is a definite upside. The downside being that they move around so I can never seem to find one when I really want one. Oh! I almost forgot the kimchi! It really is a staple here, served with everything and in various forms. And we have actually started to like it! I eat it when it’s there and Harding has actually started to crave it. Had you told us that four months ago, we would have called you crazy. Guess it’s just us that are crazy 😉 To those who may not know, kimchi is often cabbage, though sometimes raddish or other veggies, soaked in a salt/water mixture and then covered in a spicy red pepper paste. There are variations, but that gives you the general idea. It’s strange – and apparently kinda good!
Wine is expensive and hard to get out at a restaurant, but quite cheap at the grocery stores. Cheap like good bottles for $10-15 – they are perpetually on sale. I’m guessing it’s because the market isn’t huge for wine here, as evidenced by the lack of restaurants that offer it. Local beer is cheap, Japanese beer is relatively cheap (yummy Asahi, por ejemplo), and soju is dirt cheap, though we don’t bother much with that! (Soju is the Korean rice booze…it tastes like watered down vodka but packs a punch like tequila (I’ve heard)). Hiballs at a bar run for around $4 usually, beers for $3, so that’s not too terrible at all. Every grocery store and convenience store sells beers and soju and drinking in public is permitted, though not common. We’re thinking that will be extra awesome come summertime 🙂
Ok, well there you have it, folks! I hope your mouths are watering and you’re thinking to yourselves “Man, Korean food sounds SOOOO good, we must go visit C&J&D IMMEDIATELY”.