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Korea - Land of the Morning Calm


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Man, two weeks and change goes by just like that.

I'll continue to write, probably more diligently, but it's a 5:00 a.m. wakeup tomorrow so Jason can take us to Incheon to catch our 9:50 flight.

The champagne is gone, the Macallen is finished, and we're trying to get 24 to play on the screen.

They think they've got it on.

More soon (once we get off the planes), but it won't be real time.

Cheers,

Peter

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Man, two weeks and change goes by just like that. 

I'll continue to write, probably more diligently, but it's a 5:00 a.m. wakeup tomorrow so Jason can take us to Incheon to catch our 9:50 flight.

The champagne is gone, the Macallen is finished, and we're trying to get 24 to play on the screen.

They think they've got it on.

More  soon (once we get off the planes), but it won't be real time.

Cheers,

Peter

YAY! Can't wait to see more Peter!

:wub:

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We're back. I've even put in a day at the office...yes, I do actually go to the office from time to time......

First good news....like Sheena, I lost weight on the trip. Not a lot of weight, but I weighed myself when we got in this morning and I was 3 kg down from when we left.

Okay, as a percentage, that's pretty much negligible, but I still feel good about it.

I'll joke about it, but Korean food is healthy. First, there's not a lot of frying. Grilling is the order of the day, or broths (the chigae that must accompany a meal). You'll get your fat requirement in, but it'll be countered with a lot of fresh greens and veggies.

The result is we ate a lot, but it didn't stick (which is part of the "rail thin" comment from earlier).

And you walk a lot. Seoul can be navigated by car, but you're often best off in town relying on the subway for long hauls. But, while faster, you should still expect to do a lot of stairmaster workouts getting to and from the trains.

Second bit of good news is that my liver and I can take a rest from party time and get some writing in.......yeah, maybe the "good news" part there is debatable......like most trips, the more fun you're having, the harder it is to concentrate on writing, and the more you want to be in the moment. I've so far written up only five of the 15 days of a trip that's just over!

Okay, that's enough babbling. But now you know that this isn't ala minute anymore.

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Oct 13 – Dancing In The Streets - Hondae

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Dawn….or what felt a lot like it….maybe not….okay, okay, it was noon. The only reason we were up was because Jason had a baseball game he had to be at.

But, given that we were up at what I must admit is a very civilized hour (no questions about drinking in the morning), we felt it best if we put our time to some cultural use.

One of the items that came up on our agenda was the Hondae Street Art Festival. Reading about it in the local rag we’d picked up at Big Rock a few nights earlier, it seemed worthwhile.

More important, it was happening during our time frame.

I’m not one to whine and moan (much) but our timing, locked in as it was to the holiday here (the second ‘Eid) placed us firmly between a number of cultural activities. We’d arrived too late for the K1 events that were run in Korea (if you aren’t a fight fan, then I’ll explain that K1 is a Japanese muay-Thai-ish league, but with really, really big guys) which Jason was following, and too early for the Icheon Rice Festival, which would’ve been a lot of fun with Doddie.

We were also a week too early for Club Night and Hallowe’en.

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Club Night happens the last Friday of every month in Hondae (Hongik Daehakkyo – Hongik University). For a reasonable sum you get one ticket that gets you entry to a bunch of clubs, and a drink in each. But the real treat (at least for old people like us) is to settle in on an outside table in tent or stall, and just people watch, as the place is a near riot all night long.

Ahem!.....Not that I’m suggesting the Koreans party all that much……..

We didn’t spend enough time touring the different student areas, each around its own university, but there are quite a few distinctions between them. Hongik is known for its music and clubs, with not much shopping to be had, in comparison to Ehwa Women’s University, known for the fashion shopping all about. We were by Soukmyong and it was more of fast, fun eats (and I’ll talk about that area later).

But, let me get back on track.

Out of the house and on the subway, we had our first taste of subway sales. Although this wasn’t really sales in the commercial sense.

Our first was the proselytizer. Shorter than Serena, she made her way down the compartment calling out the benefits to our eternal souls.

Here let me stray from linear time again.

A few days later, it was CD sales. A book of 8 CDs for 10,000 Won. The fellow came in with a stereo atop a hand carry, and played the rhythmic muzak of many a restaurant we’d been in over the course of our trip.

Plus, you received a booklet with all the lyrics so you can sing along.

Be still my beating heart.

There was a reprise of this on our last day – the 22nd – when another fellow ran the same deal.

And there were the beggars, with nothing really to sell, but who just needed a hand-out. Like the old lady, all 3 feet of her hunched over stature, who would approach the middle-aged salarymen sitting on the benches, and place her face a few inches from theirs, holding out a chicklets package (or its Korean equivalent), until he invariably relented and gave her some coins. (Okay, she did, technically, sell him the chicklets, I suppose).

But there were others, the blind or infirm, who would always have some horrid accordion music playing, a harbinger of their appearance as they moved inexorably through the train’s compartments like an irritation through the lower bowels.

Another fellow came aboard well dressed, looking very typically Korean office guy. He apologized for intruding, but let us know how lucky we were that he was there to sell us the most wonderful portable razor for only 5,000 Won. These are extremely hard to find, you know. Perfect for travel and airplanes. These would cost much more – if you could find them – but, as our good luck would have it, the importer of these had them seized by customs. His group (and perhaps “group” is the best word) had come into possession of these wonders of technology through the good graces of the Customs department at surely a bargain price, and were happy to pass their good fortune onto us.

But, by far the greatest, was the man who boarded our compartment one day and proceeded to slice a cucumber and place the slices on his face. Just the thing we needed, cucumbers for facial massages. And to get these, we needed to buy his pocket slicer, which sliced vegetables so thin that they wouldn’t fall off. Not at all. Yoonhi had wondered as to why his arms were patched with bandages, but these were actually potatos, which he set to slicing with a passion and then slapping on any patch of bare skin. “It’s good for your face! It’s good for face massage! It’s so thin and juicy, it won’t fall off!” At which point he set to shaking his arms and face like Jim Carey.

Maybe it was Jim Carey?

Yoonhi would’ve bought one of those if she hadn’t been laughing so much.

As usual, I’m not doing a particularly good job of staying on track.

Once we’d emerged, Morlok-like (Morlok could be a Korean word!) to the surface, we made our way as per directions up-hill towards the university in search of the art fair.

As you’d expect, we only got a block or two when hunger pangs set in, and I had to find something quick for Yoonhi and Serena.

I dithered for a short while, considering the local options of juk (congee, or “traditional Korean porridge)

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quickly tossed out the idea of anything remotely Western (even spaghetti western)

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was quickly dissuaded form just getting some drinks

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(in case you’re wondering – Ho is short for Hof)

And gave a moment to trying to figure out the truly odd (but intriguing)

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We settled – after an iimpatient elbow in my ribs – on a bright, airy, and very informal donkatsu place.

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(I love the plastic food displays. Someday I’d like to decorate a room in my home with them…..of course, Yoonhi may not stay with me under those conditions…..maybe I’ll just stick to enjoying them vicariously?)

Now, this may sound like a disloyal abandonment of Korean values, but, while items such as sushi (hebap) and others are quite different, they really like some Japanese foods. Donkatsu is one of those foods.

The joint – Midarae – was on a walkup (like the Taco restaurant above) and benefited from a lot of light.

Nothing fancy, very much a typical university place, with good prices, cheap seats, and no nonsense tables, but all still with a certain élan.

The girls settled on udon, while I stuck to my guns and went for donkatsu (breaded pork cutlet).

Now, another dish I’m fond of is karebap (curry rice). It’s one of those great comfort foods, and when I lived alone after university I would often get by for a week off of one big pot of kare with whatever scraps I had at hand to perk it up. But, I was beginning to appreciate that, with only two weeks and change in-country, we were going to have to make some sacrifices.

So, I chose the kare katsu.

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The cutlet was crisp, and very hot, fresh from the fryer. The kare was okay, but a little disappointing, not having quite the texture and depth of tumeric that I really like in kare bap at home. But, hey, it’s pork! Who am I to complain?

Notice, too, that this may be a “Japanese” restaurant, but there’s still going to be an accompaniment of kim chi with any dish.

Also, instead of salt and pepper, you have shakers of gochugaru (chili powder) if things get a little “too foreign” for the Seoul palate (my in-laws carry small containers of gochujang with them when they dine out at non-Korean places in Canada).

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Serena had to have udon. That was one of those non-debatable things. I’ve seen her go through four bowls in one sitting when the owners have decided that she’s too cute not ot have refills.

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And it was perfectly good udon, with lots of fresh greens, fish cake, tofu, and gim (seaweed/nori) to go with the thick, slurpable noodles.

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And my fashion-plate of a wife went with kim chi udon (I told you things don’t get too foreign here). Much the same as Serena’s, but with, you guessed it – kim chi.

There was also a kim chi donkatsu which I would’ve ordered except that I’d really had my sights on the kare.

The bathroom was interesting. Yoonhi came back asking for the camera, and babbling something about “soap”.

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This was the first – but not last – time we saw this. Impaled upon a metal spike, it had overtones of Vlad the Impaler crossed with Brad Pitt in Fight Club.

The troops fed, we marched uphill, looking for any traces of an Art Festival.

Not a hope.

Finally, after getting a lot of “no idea what you’re talking about responses” (my favourite was “I only work here at Starbucks!”) somebody told us to check out Hongik Park.

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This was a small park, with a pleasant play area for little (real little) kids, and lots of paved areas. There we found the “Street Art Festival”.

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It wasn’t quite what we’d been expecting.

It was fun, mind you. Lots of “stuff”. Shoes and boots, hand decorated. A lot of inexpensive jewelry that Serena reacted to like a cat fallen into a crock pot of catnip. And cute little figurines and so forth. But way more of a rummage sale or flea market than an “art festival”.

Still, it was fun to poke around, and get a sense of the innate “cuteness” that permeates a lot of Korea. The country gets a little too much bad press lately for the grimmer side of things (although I may rewatch Old Boy tonight).

We ambled back downhill, admiring the plethora of clubs and bars that were packed solid here. I was wishing it was closer to Jason’s place, as this would be a lot of fun in the evening.

Plus, Jason had mentioned what could be a great new taste sensation that he would normally have here.

Tuna cheese ramyun.

But I’ll talk more about that later.

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Serena whooped, and we looked to see some young ladies passing out pamphlets for a café. As you’ll recall from Beijing, Serena is never going to miss a photo opportunity, and insisted that she had to get a shot with each one we found.

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For my part, I found the popped-rice guy, his wares out for sale from his truck. He was giving me the evil-eye, so I wasn’t able to get a shot of the bbang, which does the popping (but Doddie has a shot of one ofthese these).

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You gotta ask the question….who’s going to eat all of that? I guess a certain amount is being bought up by the bars in the area. But I would typically see rice puffs sold in bags this size. This may remain one of life’s great mysteries…….

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This was another of those mysteries.

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And did I mention that there were some bars?

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As you’d expect, all of this shopping and looking at stuff was taking a lot out of us. We came across a waffle stand.

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This place had a pretty good line-up waiting on grilled crispy flour. We weren’t going to go against the flow, so we lined up too.

In the West we generally think of waffles as a breakfast thing, but in Asia (and we’ve talked about this before in Thailand) you come to realize that waffles are good any time of the day.

You just need to think of it as a corrugated crepe.

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Serena and I were morally torn. To have the waffle with cream, or with chocolate. We did the inevitable yin-yang, and had half of one and half of the other.

Serena preferred the cream, and I ended up with the dark side. It was good.

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Fun. That’s the impression that sticks with you. I wouldn’t say that I was kicking myself over my timing – missing Club Night – but I was beginning to wish we had more time here.

This town was definitely growing on me.

Next: Time To Get Out of Town

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Oh, I do enjoy your trip reports.

First good news....like Sheena, I lost weight on the trip. . . . I'll joke about it, but Korean food is healthy.  First, there's not a lot of frying.  Grilling is the order of the day, or broths (the chigae that must accompany a meal).  You'll get your fat requirement in, but it'll be countered with a lot of fresh greens and veggies.

The result is we ate a lot, but it didn't stick (which is part of the "rail thin" comment from earlier).

And you walk a lot.

I can see next dieting craze: the Korean “4-B” diet – banchan, broth, bulgogi, and bipedalism. It would probably work pretty well, for anyone who stuck with it and had a serious taste for chiles.

. . . as they moved inexorably through the train’s compartments like an irritation through the lower bowels.

:laugh::laugh::laugh:

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that's it. I'm breaking up with my boyfriend. I showed him the pic of the grilled pork with the grilled garlic and said "hey, how f*cking awesome does this look?"

He replied: "Is that pork? I don't like pork, that looks gross"

wahhhhhhhhhh, what did I do to deserve this?

anyways...I don't think I could loose as much weight in Korea as I did before, because of my beer drinking. However, the beer in korea is pretty gross and soju does go much better with spicy food.

BEARS, BEETS, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA
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that's it.  I'm breaking up with my boyfriend.  I showed him the pic of the grilled pork with the grilled garlic and said "hey, how f*cking awesome does this look?" 

He replied:  "Is that pork?  I don't like pork, that looks gross"

wahhhhhhhhhh, what did I do to deserve this?

anyways...I don't think I could loose as much weight in Korea as I did before, because of my beer drinking.  However, the beer in korea is pretty gross and soju does go much better with spicy food.

Don't give up on your man just yet, Sheena.

Check his reaction to the kop jang. It may bring him back.

I'm going to have to write something soon about soju, aren't I?

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October 13 – Truck Stop

We arrived home just ahead of Jason, torn pants and dirt stains from slides into home plate (him, not us – we won’t discuss me soiling my pants). We needed just a few minutes to gather the overnight bags, wash, and head downstairs.

We were hoping to make the East Coast by a reasonable time. Our ultimate target was Seoroksan – a national park reknown for its beauty, but we figured it would make more sense to stage to the end of Hwy 50 for this evening, and do the rest of the drive (about an hour and a half) in the morning.

With light, the drive was interesting enough, and familiar. We were taking the same route to Icheon, where we’d been to see Doddie just a couple of days before. Along the way we passed the new “sleeper” communities established to take the overflow of Seoul. These are commuter towns, fairly new, pulled up from the soil and rock around the big city, and home to a lot of people.

And all of these people were on the road with us, trying to get home on a Saturday night. Or else to get out of Seoul, at the very least.

It’s been a long time since I’ve had to deal with traffic like this. Sure, in Bangkok it’ll snarl to a halt, but then you have the option of getting out of the cab and just walking it, or grabbing a motorcycle taxi and getting through. But here, there are no options. You tough it out.

And it does move, but we were getting a little nervous as to how long this would go on for. All the way across the country?

We didn’t need to worry so much. After Everland (the main amusement complex for Korea – safari park, water park, amusement park……I sort of see why Park is such a popular name) the snarl broke up and we made better time.

Darkness fell after that, and we put a video on (Season 1 of 24). All Korean cars have a screen of some sort. Often video, but more sensibly a GPS. Jason, however, holds that owning a GPS takes all of the challenge out of driving, and so refuses to put one in the car. This relegated me to reading Korean maps intently in the dim light of the video, checking on just where we were.

Fuel and food were running low, and Jason was getting a bit tired, so we started looking for a place to top up.

We pulled into the Yongin rest stop, and we tumbled out of the car into the chill of the evening. The weather had taken a markedly colder direction, and for the first time we were digging out our jackets.

Truck stops (and that’s what this really was) are just like anywhere. Big. The cafeteria was a cavern of a building, with one wall holding the open kitchen, all huge pots of boiling broths and extra-sized woks. Metal cutlery was on offer, and water stations were up near the entrance, with paper nakpkins dispensed from the pillars. There was a small convenience store on one side where you could buy soft drinks, beer, and soju.

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It all looked pretty familiar, with just a few twists. But the menus looked good. Lots of chigaes, and some interesting fried things.

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Yoonhi went for soon tubu (soft tofu). This came with mu kim chi, some vinegared miyok (kelp), and peachu kim chi. The tofu itself wasn’t what she’d been expecting, broken up into almost a ground beef texture, rather than the silky smoothness she’d been thinking of. Still, it was edible, and she was hungry.

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Jason had bibim bap, which he averred was one of the least impressive he’d ever had. There were about 8 items in the ingredients, and the rice was fresh (otherwise there’d be a riot), but the flavours and textures were just that little bit off.

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Serena drew the grand prize. Chicken nuggets and French fries. While the chicken nugget was hot and edible (if nondescript) the fries go down as some of the worst anywhere. Never, ever, ever order anything Western in these places. It’ll get made, and then sit around for days because no one wants to eat it. These things were cold and soggy, and too thick to have ever been properly cooked through here. Korea does not do a lot of deep frying, outside of some of the specialty street food carts.

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I lucked out – fish in a blender! Ever since Jason told me about this, I’d had visions of Dan Akroyd with the Bass-O-Matic. Namwon chueo tang – loach soup. The loach, a bottom feeding scavenger with all the charm of a juvenile delinquent catfish is put in a blender and gleefully given a carousel ride, then his remnants go in to the soup, giving it a delightfully thick texture, with chunks of the fish rumbling down your tongue. Sure, it may look like the end product of a late night eating spicey chicken, but it tasted good!

And my rice was better than everyone else’s, with little yellow flecks of millet giving it some variety.

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I felt pretty good about all this.

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My meal came with an odd extra. Green tea laver. What does green tea have to do with sea weed? Opening it, we found four packaged sheets of gim (nori). It tried one, but couldn’t tell any difference. I wrapped another around a hunk of my rice, to see if that set anything off, but no dice.

So I shared the last sheets with Serena with some of my rice. After the disappointment of the fries, she needed it.

Fed, we ran into a problem.

No gas.

This stop just did LPG. Almost all of the SUV’s in Korea run on LPG now (and almost all the rest on diesel). Fuel is expensive here, running $1.50 upwards a liter. That doesn’t stop the Koreans from driving. They love their cars, with probably 70% of the households in Seoul owning vehicles. And this in a city with good rapid transit and no parking.

Anyways, we spent the next hour nervously looking for a fuel stop on the freeway. We could’ve gotten off, but then you have to pay the toll again to get back on.

And we’re cheap.

Still, we didn’t need to worry too much. We found fuel and weren’t stranded and forced to resort to roadside cannibalism.

Next: Jyeongpodea

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Peter,

Waffles! Oh how I much love waffles, and the waffles here in germany are so good, but so far I have only found them in the festivals, and no street vendors or shops so far that sell my waffles. :sad: But your waffles from korea look so tasty! It made me crave them so very badly.

I had to laugh about the impaled soap. I saw that the first time about 8 years ago, and it threw me for a loop. :laugh:

Hmmm now you have done it either I have to find me some udon noodles or I need to get the ingredients for Kare rice. Darn you!

Congrats on you losing weight. I love going to korea for that reason alone, but you know it is all about the food. :raz:

Well I am glad you made it safely back home! :smile:

Edited to delete butterfingered smilies.

Edited by milgwimper (log)
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October 13 – Crabs

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We found our way down to Jyeongpodea, past the llagoon and onto the beachfront. Parked the car, and checked door to door at the motels until we could find one with a beach view.

Shelter out of the way, we needed sustenance.

When we’d arrived on the strip - and strip is what it was, a street of restaurants and motels fronting onto the beach – we’d passed about a kilometer of seafood places, with motels clustered down near the southern end by the lighthouse. Food wasn’t going to be an issue. What was going to be an issue was which one.

At Icheon I’d noted that the Koreans are really, really good at getting people into their shops. As we’d walk by, we’d be inveigled by “Please come inside, we’ll make the food especially tasty!” and “we serve the best seafood here! Please come inside!”

My favourite, though, was “There’s a reason everyone is here and the other places are empty!”

But we weren’t to be influenced by such shallow ruses….well, not unless it was a really cute girl, maybe…ouch!....okay, we were not going to be influenced in such a manner.

Our decision would be based upon the range of seafood, and particularly upon the shellfish and crabs.

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Based on the tanks of stuff outside, we settled on a place offering special charcoal grilled clams – subol jokeagui.

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They had crabs, too.

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Between all the different tanks they offered spider crabs, Dungeness crabs, and Alaskan king crabs.

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And they had a great selection of shellfish, the sort that we don’t see in British Columbia, things that belong to the cold Pacific waters off the East Coast of Korea. There were clams that looked like mussels, but were the size of my forearm. And then there were the mongae, which I have always described as dokgaebi food (the dokgaebi are the guardians you’ll find inside the gateways of Buddhist temples. They’re armed with nasty looking knobbed clubs. Those clubs are mongae – at least to me).

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Inside it was functional The cashier by the door, and the tables raised. Our shoes came off, and we sat about the low table, cushions spread about.

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The décor was…crabby. The shells had been cleaned, and comments of satisfaction had been written on them. The modern carapace school of décor.

It was curious cutlery. This is the first place we’d seen with disposable wooden chopsticks. The Korean metal chopsticks are so taken as a matter of fact, the long plastic container with spoons and ‘sticks (jotgarak, which is shortened to jogal), that this came as a shock.

Even more intellectually crippling was the use of paper cups for water. What was going on here? We always get metal cups for water. What was going on here?

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There was a tin plate of onions and tomato for working up a sauce for the clams. And there was a wonderful miyok guk (seaweed soup), with a clam based broth that had me dipping in again and again.

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And there was the usual accompaniement of extras. Carrots, cucumber, garlic, and chilis (and the chillis were chopped! Normally the chilies are served whole, and we would just dip them into the communal ddeanjang and chew in order to balance the spicieness of the meal.

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Noticing that the bottles were piling up around the other tables like snowdrifts in the Rockies, we figured we’d better do our part. We started with Seoljungmae Plus – “special reserve” (what it was reserved for, we know not).

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The clams were as fresh as you could ask for. You could still see them squirming slightly, shutting down when prodded. These were big, and extremely meating, the internals with a lot more detail than we’re used to in a bivalve.

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The orange mongae, stripped of their clubbiness, were a chewy treat. These are eaten raw. Beside them in the basket were the dark red tubes of the ggeabul, a long worm of a thing that twisted and yawed it’s mouth in the tank outside. They’d been skinned and sectioned, but they were still flexing in the basket.

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The clams were tossed on the grill, as was the aluminum plate. When they’d said charcoal grilled, they’d meant it. The cooking was done over a yeontan, the charcoal tubes used in the past for heating in Korea (and still the basis for home heating in China….also part of the basis for air quality in China).

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While the clams were popping open over the heat, Yoonhi was growing a little concerned by the squirming going on in the basket in front of her.

She was a little slow about digging into these.

Me, I found the ggeabul, while crunchy, didn’t have too much wriggliness left in them once mastication was underway. The flavour itself was slightly repellent, but nothing a dollop of gochujang couldn’t cure.

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The seoljungmae finished, Jason showed us the small plums in the bottle. He distinctly advised against trying these out as a taste treat, as he’d done so in the paste. When these guys are done as far as the drink goes, it’s the end of the line for them.

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The plum based liquor had been okay, but wasn’t a great match for the shellfish (it was okay with the squirming bits). We switched over to Chongha (13%), which was “cool and fresh”.

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The crabs were prepared outside, cast into the steamer box in full view of their comrades

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and then steamed alive on the spot. I suspect it must be kinda grizzly for them, but they taste so good.

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We tried the Oga – which was a blackberry based soju. And then we switched to cheoum charang (“like the first time”) soju, which comes with its own cooler housing. This is the soju that competes with Jinro’s chamisul (“real dew”) in the 20% range.

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The Alaskan king crab came out jointed, with the legs snipped up the length so that getting the meat was no problem at all. I like it when things are easy.

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Once the crab was demolished (as well as the soju) Yoonhi started having some fun with her remaining food, poking the ggeabul and seeing what reaction she could get.

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More food seemed the thing to do. We cast about, and found a sign on the wall advertising abalone ramyun (jeongbok ramyun). This was packed with prawns, leeks, scallops, clams, sora (a bigger version of the snails we’d had with the apple soju) and abalone, and was just as good as it sounds. It filled in the gaps around the bits of clam and crab meat we’d been feasting on, and helped to mellow things out.

Meanwhile Yoonhi continued to torment her dinner.

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I did a quick tour of the tanks, and bullied the owners into turning up some more shellfish (actually, I was quite willing to pay for more, but in these places shellfish are generally just provided as an accompaniment).

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We tossed the clams onto the grill, and waited for the pop.

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When they open, it is with a pop. It’s a sudden release, and the top flies open like the hood of a Datsun 510 going down the freeway.

Once open, we’d dredge the meat in the tomato onion sauce (which was thickening nicely) and then pop the tidbits in our mouths.

gallery_22892_5262_17801.jpgObviously, this was thirsty work, and we needed some more soju. At this point, we hadn’t given Jinro their chance, so we ordered a bottle of chami sul.

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things were winding down. The bottles were empty (how did that happen?), the soups were done, and the litter was impressive.

We paid the bill and went looking for dessert.

Waddling back down the road, we admired the pyrotechnics. Along with eating, the next best thing at the beach would be exploding things, it would seem. Each of the stores had tubs of rockets for sale out front.

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Close by the fireworks, we spotted dessert. A freezer chest.

The contents of Korean freezer chests are always interesting. The Koreans have an incredible variety of frozen bar thingies.

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Pride of place (or at least the neatest) where the injolmi bars, which appears to be frozen glutinous rice cake.

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I found the pear flavoured slushy. Inside was a coke bottle shaped plastic tube that took some serious massaging to get to the point where you could take it down.

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The taeji bar was great. Sorry, my shooting was off. The name is “pig bar” and there’s a well dressed swine on the right hand side, dressed in tux and tails. Disappointingly, there was no pork in the bar. Rather, it was a layer of cake around a berry inside, with chocolate and “stuff” on the outside.

There were two types of dark stuff on the the outside. She suspects one might have been an approximation to chocolate, and the other was supposed to be bacon bits. Yoonhi cannot claim to have tasted any pig flavour.

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Serena, having no sense of adventure, fell back on her favourite, the Rich Bar, which is just full cream frozen on a stick (with a bit of vanilla flavour).

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And Jason wrapped up with ice cream and cookies on a stick.

Next: Shute! We’re On The Beach

Edited by Peter Green (log)
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October 14 – On the Beach

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I awoke to the sound of the sea.

On the East coast of Korea this isn’t the soft murmur of waves that I’ve grown used to in the Red Sea, Gulf of Suez, and the Arabian Gulf. This was the sturm and drang of the open Pacific, big waves crashing in, rhythmically pounding the shoreline.

If I waxed any more poetic you’d be pulling me out of someone’s ear.

I’d like to say I awoke with the dawn, and I did. I just didn’t get out of bed to watch the sunrise with Jason and Yoonhi.

Both of them went back to sleep immediately after.

I did, however, get up early enough to pretty well have the beach to myself. Maybe 8:30 a.m. I went downstairs and tried to find a cup of coffee.

Not a hope.

There were some coffee shops, and they were open, they just didn’t have anybody in them. If it wasn’t for the odd car going by I’d have wondered if I’d stepped into some post holocaust end of the world scenario.

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I made the most of it, admiring the tanks of food waiting to be eaten, but it soon became apparent that whoever was providing the service in these places was doing so vacariously.

So I made do with a stroll up the beach to the lighthouse, beyond which I saw more restaurants and eateries, all likewise open with no sign of life.

I amused myself for a short while with the hanging squid which were occupying the fences and clotheslines where ever you looked, but you can only take so much enjoyment from a dead cephalopod. Trust me, I’ve tried.

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At this point, I figured it was time to get the family out of bed. There were enough stragglers about on the beach that I could argue it was justified.

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Now, I could do this one of two ways – easy or hard.

I like easy.

I slid the phone open and called Yoonhi in the room.

Why is it that no one can ignore a phone? Is it the modern day Siren that lures men (or more specifically women) to their Fate?

Be that as it may, it worked. We packed our bags, did one last check of the room and admired the view, and went looking for lunch.

We had done shellfish last night. What I wanted right now was sashimi. Or rather hwae. This is a little different in Korea, with the cuts being smaller, as are the fish.

But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

We found a place with a good patio so we could enjoy the (somewhat bitter) day, and breath in as much of the ocean as we could (okay, you get used to the squid drying everywhere).

Songpo Hwaejib.

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This place had the biggest patio, and also a string of photos embellishing the eaves. In Korea – as in many places – the calling cards of the rich and famous are usually put up on display (heck, good friends and passersby qualify, too). Jason actually recognized some of the folks that he’s worked with, and he pointed out the current mayor of Seoul, Oh Sehoon, whom he expects will be the country’s next president (Yun Boseon had done this back in 1948, but he only lasted half a year).

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There are a lot of reasons why I like seafood meals in Korea. One of the best reasons is that the fish or crab or whatever is the main is almost always preceded by a plate of the most interesting shellfish you can imagine. Some of it may be mundane, such as the buttery sweet prawns, or delectable oysters, while others, such as snails and mongkea aren’t the type of things you’ll see in Vancouver.

Oh, lest I forget, those were pearl onions in the middle of the plate. And the white shredded stuff we took at first to be Asian radish (“mu”), but had too much of a noodly, crunchy texture to fit that bill.

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For condiments, there are fresh greens, ddeanjang, carrots (this isn’t something we normally see), and garlic (which is something we see). The bright green paste is, of course, geja (“hot mustard” – wasabi is a particular type of hot mustard). The little dumplings were rice cake stuffed with sweet bean (songpyon). Yoonhi hoarded the lot of them for herself.

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And I can’t quite remember when, but some crisp vinegared seaweed showed up on the table, too.

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The miyok guk (seaweed soup – you should be recognizing this name by now) was as good as expected, with the clam broth we can’t get here. There was a very good pajeon (green onion in a flour pancake), with bits of squid and octopus.

And, of course, potato salad….with lots of mayonnaise and fruit. Gotta have mayo and fruit.

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After the shellfish (or perhaps during) came the mackeral. All oil and oozing flesh. It’d been freshly grilled, and delivered to the table as the harbinger of the main event.

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The hwae was a soft fleshed, delicate white meat. I’d want to say snapper, but we forgot to confirm. As you can see in the picture, this Korean equivalent of sashimi is cut thinner, and more delicately than in Japan, which uses a heftier cut. The Korean style is to serve a complete fillet, of one piece, laid out whole upon a bed of something delicate (here more of those white noodle-like things).

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As we progressed with the meat, the remnants of the fish are brought out as a maeuntang, a soup of the head, guts, and bones in a great seafood broth. (Yoonhi’s starting to salivate again).

The soup finishes the meal. We push back conentedly, and take in the beach, the traffic, and the restaurant. It’s a far remove from the hustle and bustle of Seoul, but still very much Korea.

It’s a pleasant place. We missed the opportunity to do some tandem cycling around the lake in behind the beach (which was quite a pretty view from Jason’s room), but that’s what happens when you get up around noon.

We had a drive ahead of us, and so piled into the car to head north, off of the expressway and hugging the coastline. Most of the beaches were fairly pristine, untouched by development. This is because most of the access is shut off by fences and razor wire, a precaution against those late night mini-sub visits from the Northern cousins. It’s worth noting, though, that a lot of that fence is now acting as a squid-drying facility.

I also liked the watchtowers. These were dotted along the coastline to keep an eye on things, but a number had now been painted up to look like those tubby little mushrooms we’d been eating on the grills – round brown cap on a white stem.

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It was a Sunday, and the towns we passed through were thick with drying fish – pollak and skate in particular. And everywhere there was drying squid.

Chumonjin Town was holding their 9th Annual Squid Festival, and we did debate stopping for it, but the place was a zoo as far as traffic went, and our primary objective was still Seoraksan, so I contented myself with some drive by shooting.

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I did raise the question……

"How much dried seafood can one nation eat?"

“A lot”, said Jason.

Next: Banffu

Note: my reference source made me correct the name of the restaurant....it's Hweajib not Huijib. I've warned you before I'm bad at transliterating.

Edited by Peter Green (log)
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oh my god

I want to eat that whole plate of hwae and then finish off with that maeuntang. I love to put lots of kkaenip in my maeuntang if I have any leftover.

are you sure korean sashimi is thinner than japanese sashimi? I always thought that that the korean version is much thicker than the japanese one.

I still can't believe you ate that gross looking worm thing. Ughhhh, I can still remember those things writhing in a tank full of water at a seafood market. They look like really gross peeled penis worms

barf ):

BEARS, BEETS, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA
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As we progressed with the meat, the remnants of the fish are brought out as a maeuntang, a soup of the head, guts, and bones in a great seafood broth.

that soup looks stunning, had to laugh at the teeth, looks like a dental plate.....I thought fish teeth were pointy....hope it didn't die of old age hehe...was it taken from a tank or freshly caught?

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As we progressed with the meat, the remnants of the fish are brought out as a maeuntang, a soup of the head, guts, and bones in a great seafood broth.

that soup looks stunning, had to laugh at the teeth, looks like a dental plate.....I thought fish teeth were pointy....hope it didn't die of old age hehe...was it taken from a tank or freshly caught?

It's easier to catch the fish when they're in wheelchairs. :biggrin:

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Seoraksan at last

We drove North and went through Sokcho, the coastal town that supports the park, but then decided that we’d come all this way for Seoraksan, so we might as well make the most of it, and went looking for a place in the hills.

We arrived at zone C, which is just down from zone B. I think the difference is that Zone B had the expensive hotels, with the big fancy lobbies and the cash machine that wouldn’t support foreign cards.

We never did find Zone A.

Here we were in Soeroksan, one of the great beauty spots of South Korea. North Korea has even more famous locales, but then you’d be in North Korea. This can be arranged. They’ve fenced off one area as a resort (and another as an investment zone under the ubiquitious Hyundae chaebol) Geumgangsan – the Diamond Mountains. North Korea had come up as a possibility for the trip but, honestly, why would I of all people visit a place reknown for food shortages?

Anyways, I’d heard about this place since back in high school, when Yoonhi had come back from her trip. At that time, the Korean government was sponsoring tours of the country for expatriate Koreans – high school students were the target audience – in an endeavor to firm up their roots. These were, by all accounts, pretty good trips. I would’ve liked to have gone, but Yoonhi had to remind me I wasn’t Korean.

Back to the near present…..

The town reminded me very much of a run down mini-version of Banff. Many of the motels and lodges had that rock façade I associate with the Rockies. And I say run-down, as it seemed that one in every three of the motels was abandoned, and falling into ruin.

We weren’t certain why this was the case. Perhaps the “condos” have taken the trade away from the motels? Certainly, a condo would’ve been the preferred choice, with a kitchenette and more room.

Let’s talk about accommodations for a sec. This is a good spot (as it’s the last time we’d be away from Seoul).

Top of the line, and expensive, are the grand hotels and resorts. International, or Korean owned (and Korean-owned means there’s a chaebol involved).

Sorry, the “chaebol” are the big conglomerates that own everything.

Anyways, beneath these are condos, which are more like apartment hotels in our definition. After this are the motels, which offer both rooms with beds, or with traditional Korean ondol rooms. The ondol is a fantastic Korean invention, where the floor stones are heated from underneath. You sit and sleep on the floor, warmed from your bottom up.

There are pensions and B&B’s, but I don’t know much about these. And then there are the “love hotels”. You can let your imagination run with this (and I know you will), but they can be good value for money. We’d used these back in the early ‘90s.

And then it’s a fight for the bottom of the barrel. There’re yeogwan and hostels. I find the yeogwan to be a lot of fun, steeped in character, but I seem to be in a minority.

What we settled on was a fairly new motel, the Arirang (how much more Korean can you get than that?), taking over a VIP room, which meant we had a bigger room for all of us, with a bed and ondol (best of both worlds).

Once we’d settled on that, we didn’t waste much time. We needed to explore the town.

That took about ten minutes.

It’s mainly a collection of minor services in Zone C, with a gaggle of restaurants strung out along the road. Each restaurant had someone outside, fighting for the traffic, of which there was very little, although there were plenty of busses.

I think the problem was (or maybe not a problem, as we had a room) that we were there on a Sunday night. All of the busses, packed out with older folks, were loading up and heading home.

When we arrived, several of the groups were finishing up their dinners, sitting at low tables along the curbside while the vehicle idled for them.

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Seeing people eating is always a prescription for hunger for us, so we didn’t waste too much time on picking out a place. One restaurant we found had the tables laid out at the ready with mushroom hot pots, and, I being a sucker for fungus as you know, was drawn in easily enough.

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We grabbed a table, the tour wasn’t going to show up for awhile, and the panchan was brought out straight away.

Mu kimchi, paekchu kimchi, squid kimchi, garlic stems, spinach, seaweed and onion, and kunnamul (big soybean sprouts).

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A nice little spread, and all of good quality. We’re only half an hour (or less) from the sea here, so the squid isn’t that incongruous.

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We had to order mushrooms. How could we not?

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I miss kunnamul, the big crunchy bean sprouts. We haven’t had any where we live for years, only their pale little cousins, which don’t satisfy anywhere near as well.

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One of the local specialties (as Sheena mentioned) is soontubu – soft tofu. This, like the truck stop earlier, looked crumbly, but, unlike the truck stop, tasted fine. Smooth and soft. And I love the red pools that form on the surface.

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The mushrooms merged in with the broth, and we were content to spoon out the tobikos, getting that little pop out of them as we chomped the heads.

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For drinks, we moved to something much more country – dongdongju. This is described (at least by Jason) as the best part of maggoli, the cream as it were.

It tastes like it looks, brown and smooth. That may be taken the wrong way……I like this stuff. It has a very full, very rich flavour, and there’s something very old school about having your drink ladled out in a bowl for you. It makes me want to go out and join up to fight the Yellow Turbans and stuff like that……..

By the way, if you’re not a Romance of the Three Kingdoms fan, you should be – the older Koreans have all read the books; the middle-aged (and I count myself in there) know the comics (manhwa) inside out; and the youngsters have all played the video games - Dynasty Warriors. (The game is pretty good, but I just don’t remember that many busty blondes in the novel.)

We’d ordered Serena an omurice, knowing the food would be too hot for her. It looked just like the last one, trust me. It had the same result, too. She ate two bites. Luckily, Jason was hungry, and scarfed it down.

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So we ordered the girl a bulgogi, which came out surprisingly more like a hot pot than what we were expecting. But we’d told them to hold the chilies, and Serena was content with the meat.

She’s becoming much more of a carnivore.

By the time we finished dinner (a little peremptorily as they needed the tables for the tour group) it was dark. Outside on the street they were desultorily grilling fish (it seems to be a local hobby), and a few die hards were getting soju buzz on.

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There was dongdongju for sale on the streetsides, big white plastic jugs of the stuff.

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And, given that it was freezing cold out, my happy band had to have dessert. Serena lucked out (so she thought) and found something branded with Naruto, one of her favourite cartoon characters. This turned out not to be ice cream, but rather a lemon freezee. She was not amused.

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And Yoonhi located an old favourite – a sweet red bean ice cream bar! A bibibig – famous since 1975.

But, while the place might give the impression of Banff from the scenery and décor, the crowds aren’t there. The place was dead.

Jason took Serena back to our room to watch TV, and Yoonhi and I wandered up to Zone B. There, along with the big hotel (the Seorak Park Hotel) which had the cash machine that didn’t work, we also found some more restaurants (surprise!), a karaoke joint (another surprise!), and a shop selling odds and ends.

Regarding the cash machine, the only one in the zones, beware! When in Korea, that if you’re relying on your ATM, you top up often. The machines with the banks generally only do domestic business, and half the time the international machines (“foreign card”) would come up with errors. This in a country where it’s not too tough to drop a $1,000 in a day.

Given that this can be an expensive country if you’re not careful, it’s odd that the largest note is a $10 bill (or close to it, at 10,000 won). Okay, I expect that in Laos and Cambodia, but in Korea? You can use larger bills, but these are more like travelers’ cheques, which you have to sign over. Jason suggested that this was in part to throttle the “gray transfer” of funds.

This limitation on currency led to the delivery of facilitating payments being referred to as “apple boxes”, as you would see – literally – apple boxes packed with 10,000 won notes.

But, I digress again.

Odds and ends up here includes walking sticks, which Serena dearly wanted, so we dropped in.

The shop had an impressive array of stone mortars and pestles, as well as various grinders. I would’ve loved to have bought some, but I figured, at about 10 to 20 kg a piece, my luggage would end up challenged.

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And, as I’ve mentioned before, Asia is the continent of “things in bottles”. Up here in the hills, the thing is wine. Blueberry wines, flower wines, ginseng wines, and what looked here like raspberry wines.

On the way home I picked up a 2 liter bottle of Cass Red. I was surprised to see that the alcohol on this was in the 6%+ range. When Jason saw the bottle he shuddered, and said it tasted like they’d taken regular Cass beer and tossed in some soju to get the percentage up.

He was right.

Next: The Hills Are Alive…..

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how's the fall foliage up in seoraksan?

My mother took my sister and her boyfriend their in the summer and they had so much dong dong ju. They loved the stuff...unfortunately I have never had it. How does it compare to maeekkoli? I love makkeoli...tastes kinda like boozy milkis (you know what milkis is, right?). I also love drinking alcohol out of big rice bowls (:

mmmmm soondubu. I think I am going to make some this week for dinner. I think it might even be good with some smashed up natto thrown in for some added stinkiness. The best soon dubu I have ever had was in seoraksan in some old fashioned restaurant. It was really famous cause a lot of korean celebrities would eat there. The tofu was so unbelievably creamy and smooth.

I still can't believe you ate the sea penises.

BEARS, BEETS, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA
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how's the fall foliage up in seoraksan? 

My mother took my sister and her boyfriend their in the summer and they had so much dong dong ju. They loved the stuff...unfortunately I have never had it.  How does it compare to maeekkoli?  I love makkeoli...tastes kinda like boozy milkis (you know what milkis is, right?).  I also love drinking alcohol out of big rice bowls (:

mmmmm soondubu.  I think I am going to make some this week for dinner.  I think it might even be good with some smashed up natto thrown in for some added stinkiness.  The best soon dubu I have ever had was in seoraksan in some old fashioned restaurant.  It was really famous cause a lot of korean celebrities would eat there.  The tofu was so unbelievably creamy and smooth.

I still can't believe you ate the sea penises.

Hi, Sheena,

I'll get to the foilage later today, I hope.

The dongdongju is much smoother and richer than the makkeoli, which is much tangier and lighter in the mouth. I'd liked makkeoli a lot before, but it pales ( :biggrin: ) in comparison.

Cheers,

Peter

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Wow I remember being a kid and living in the country(in Korea), and once in awhile everyone would come around for a party, and they would bring in homemade makkoli and dongdong ju...I so wanted try them, but of course I was only 5. Never got to taste the homemade stuff ever, but always dream about it. I don't think a lot of people make homemade alcohol anymore in Korea. I think it is illegal? But I know that some university in Korea is trying to conserve a lot of the older recipes for making korean alcohol. I wouldn't mind taking a class in that! :raz:

I wish I could make soon tubu chigae here but getting soft tofu is pretty much a gamble some days they have it and others. *shrug* I am almost tempted to make my own, but I have so many other things on my plate. :rolleyes:

It is cold here and it is perfect weather for soontubu chigae and maeuntang. *sigh*

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October 15 – Eat Every Mountain, Drink Every Stream…..

There are worse places in this world to wake up in on a Fall morning.

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We’d come here for the leaves. Growing up in Vancouver, you don’t get that riot of Autumn colours famous back East.

We get a lot of green.

I’d been looking forward to seeing the technicolour that the park is famous for.

Unfortunately, it would’ve been better a week or two later.

I can’t count the number of times we were told that. Jason. Yoonhi’s sister. Guys pumping gas. Elvis. Everyone was telling us how we should push the trip back a week.

Tough.

I was happy enough just to be here. Clean air. A snap in the air like a crisp Kenyan green bean. And the trill of running water in the streams.

It made me think of food.

As usual, everyone else was asleep. I snuck out of the room with my Apple, and ambled down to the strip.

True to form, even with the streets deserted at 8:00 a.m., someone was out in front of the shops grilling fish.

I wasn’t keen on fish at the moment, but I wouldn’t mind some kimchi chigae or yukkaejang. One of the places lured me in because

a) they claimed to have an English menu

b) someone was awake in there

The English menu actually just meant they had pictures, but that was okay, as I could read enough to see that they had yukkaejang. I would’ve preferred kimchichigae, but this was a good second. Plus, I figured in the mountains the kosari (braken fern) would be goood.

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After the initial argument that, no, I didn’t want eggs and toast, they brought me out a perfectly serviceable bowl of beef, ferns, green onions, tofu, and kimchi.

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Along with this came some fresh spinach, blanched with sesame oil, some squid kimchi, mu tofu, paechu kimchi, and shitakes in soy.

Now, this is a breakfast.

Part way through, with my laptop on the side and my notebook open, the cell went off. They’d tracked me down.

I explained that I was in Honolulu, but that didn’t work.

Soon enough, the crew was pulling up chairs and disturbing my early morning wa. Yoonih took one look at the Korea menu (no pictures) and said “they’ve got kimchi chigae. Why didn’t you order that?”

I asked Yoonhi if the Koreans had a term for wa, that sense of everything in its place, harmony, a conjunction of perfection.

“Nah”.

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Jason ordered bibimbap. A good egg, with a liberal sprinkle of sesame seed, and a variety of kosari, spinach, mushrooms, bean sprouts, shitakes, green leafy stuff (I got that from Yoonhi), more green leafy marinated cooked thing, gochujan, and mu saeng chae (julienned, marinated, unfermented raw mu).

This, of course, is just in advance of the bi bim stage of things.

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Yoonhi spotted mandoo ddeok guk (dumpling rice stick soup) on the menu, and so did a Five Easy Pieces and asked them to give us that, minus the mandoo (what kind of kid doesn’t want mandoo).

We should’ve been suspicious when Yoonhi thought she heard “hold the ddeok” in the background.

Serena spends a lot of time not being pleased.

For once we were out of bed and fed in time to get something done. I was in the mountains, damn it, I’d hauled my boots along, and we were going to go hiking.

I’d looked forward to the hike. I remember hiking in Geumgang Park north of Busan. A cable car took you to the top, and once there you had a fairly level walk, with food and drink every…oh….thirty or forty feet.

Those are some of my favourite memories. You’d walk, tip your hat at the lederhosen clad Koreans out with their walking sticks, and then pull up at a small raised platform, doff your shoes, and enjoy a cold beer or bottle of Korean wine that had been chilled down in a generator powered cooler someone had humped up the mountainside (“why pay good money on a cable car ride?”)

One place we’d stopped at, we asked what they had to eat with our beers (it’d been exhausting…..we must’ve hiked sixty feet without food or drink).

“Grilled duck”, they proclaimed.

“Bring it on” (or the Korean equivalent) said we.

A minute later we heard a raucous quacking, followed the sound of a cleaver.

It was fresh.

Here at Seorak, things started off easily enough. A modern park entrance, lots of food stalls, and a sensibly smooth path you could drive a Ferrari on.

But after a bit, the path got a bit more rugged. You could do it with a Rover, but it wasn’t what it had been.

However, we did pass numerous eateries, clustered in areas, with refreshing beverages being cooled down with fresh water piped in from the streams.

We also saw lots of piles of rocks. In Mongolia I saw these – oovoos. They were a vestige (or more than a vestige) of the shamanism that underlies the Buddhism of the country. Offerings to the local spirits.

Excited, I asked Jason and Yoonhi about these, about their significance, and how they might relate to the mudang, the remaining shaman witches of Korea.

“I dunno. We just like trying to pile the rocks up.”

Why do I bother?

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The hike, while not on the level of bush bashing (I’ve worked mineral exploration and claim staking ages ago….never again) became more…..challenging. But at the same time, the scenery became more and more intriguing.

The colours were there, bursts and splashes against a canvass of green. A livid set of red leaves isolated in the darker leaves.

“It’ll look better in a week or two,” said Jason.

Our first route took us North, past several temples, the obligatory big Buddha, and up the hill to Ulsanbawi. This is a pretty formation with the sun up. The legend has it that Ulsanbawi – a particulary large rock - came from the city of Ulsan in the South, was too late for his appointment up North, and liked the area here so much he decided to settle down. Ulsan….?......must’ve been a Hyndae employee.

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With the sun out, it was pretty. But the sun didn’t stay out.. we were pushing lunch time, and the thermals were lifting the clouds and mist up to the mountaintop, wisps starting to cascade over the rim.

Serena chose the better part of valour, and asked to stop. Some of the ladders were getting pretty scary for her. Some of the ladders were getting pretty scary for me. Manfull as always, I volunteered to stay back with my darling.

“No, you go ahead with Jason. I’ll take her down,” said Yoonhi.

!$!$^^@$%6*(^(&(^***!

It was as bad as I expected it to be. Not the climb, per se. Once we got past the one section where we were skeletoned on the cliff face we were back in an enclosed (if steep) area. No, it was the rain and cloud. I was looking at that mountaintop and thinking of Kinabalu, with rivers pouring off of its face in the late afternoon as the thermals pulled all the moisture up to condense.

We made the scenic outpost just as the clouds really started to thicken.

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At least I’m blessed with a good nephew. Jason had hauled up three bottles of Hite beer for us, and we chugged these down to the angry glares of the four old guys who had the concession stand up there.

I don’t see why they were so perturbed. All they were selling were hot teas, and photos to prove you were there. The photos were developed in situ, and then put in a plastic sleeve to hang around your neck.

Jason and I knocked back the beers, and I did my stint as a tourist site. Two young ladies insisted on having their photos taken with the large, fat white guy. If I’d been less worried about the rain that had started to fall, I would’ve thought to get a picture with my own camera of us (Jason was with me, he’d explain it to his aunt).

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The rain gave us a minor strafing, then backed off. I figured this was a good chance to get down. Serena had made her mom phone us, to check that I was alive. “Tell her I’m dead” wasn’t the right answer, so we got ourselves moving downwards.

As we descended, I found the guy who had the job I really didn’t want.

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Once we met up with a very anxious Serena at the bottom of the ladders, Yoonhi told me about the porter. He gets $50 a trip.

I don’t want his job. Definitely.

Once we made it down below the rocking rock (kinda neat, you can get it to move, but you just can’t get it to topple off and crush the tourists below), we settled in for a bit.

We did this just as the spitting rain turned into a full-fledged downpour.

Luckily, we had dongdongju.

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I was in the countryside, and there were some things I wanted to eat.

One of these things is muk. Acorn jelly. This is one of the last foods to be harvested and eaten on a large scale (Nothing on Bushtucker Man counts as “large scale”). It has a really nice flavour, and the chilies and greens make you feel like your being healthy.

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My other craving was for pindaeddeok – mung bean pancake. Crumblier than pacheon, the batter holds together spring onion, squid, and chilies, and comes with a soy vinegar sauce for dipping.

I have many fond memories of enjoying this with a cold beer.

Okay, I have many fond memories of cold beers…..but the pindaeddeok is right up there, too!

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Alongside the dongdongju and soju, there were bottles of something dark.

The proprietor insisted on pouring us shots of this, a blueberry wine. This North Korean tipple has become all the rage of recent years because……wait for it…..it’s “healthy”. Actually, the health factor for blueberries is such that the prices for blueberries has skyrocketed. Blueberries, the benign happiness snack of my youth, have now been classified as a “superfruit” curing most anything that ails you, from clogged arteries to urinary track infections.

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I wonder what would happen if I fed some to those worms Sheena’s been obsessing about?

I’m gonna digress. You knew I was going to. One of my happiest meals was a big haunch of beer, stewed. The bear had been taken with a bow and arrow by my brother-in-law out in one of the islands in the Juan de Fuca straights. He’d waited two years for the license for that. The animal had been out of hibernation and feeding in blueberries for a few weeks. You could taste the sweetness in the meat.

There, I’m done.

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the next place we stopped at (What! You think we were done, already?) lured us in with kimchi chon (pancake) and ojingo (squid) soondae. The pancake was just “service” one of those things they bring out because they can’t stand to see you not eating while you’re waiting to eat.

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These were basically stuffed squids deep fried.

For these, I’ll have to say that they were good at first, when hot, but then started to congeal badly when the temperature let off. Not a bad idea, but there needed to be more of us eating more quickly.

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Serena found an old lady selling yot (taffy) on a stick. She’d also found another lady selling a wooden bow and arrow set for $5. Serena got her usual “she’s so cute” discount, and walked away with the weapons for $3.

The yot cost her full fare.

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Jason went instead for something more interesting. This looked like a pale OHenry bar, but was another form of yot, this one zucchini. Lighter, crispier, and fun with the nuts coating it (pardon the blurring).

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The path also took us through some respectable temples. I remember when we temple hopped with Scud as a child, he’d insist on drinking the temple water at each stop. Serena isn’t so devout. She just wanted to find a bathroom. And that’s without drinking the water.

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These things do weird me out a bit. Everytime I see them in the right light, it gets me going all Blair Witch Project.

We’d made it all the way back down to the main park entrance, and were heading for the cable car to take us up the other side, when Jason’s nose went astray. He uttered one word.

“Bundaeggi”

If there’s a precursor to a ghost showing up, then the smell would be like this. It fills the air with dread and fear. We looked at them for a moment.

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“Want to try some?”

“Maybe another time.”

I do have limits. Honestly, it wasn’t the look. I’d never have done the deep fried tarantula legs if looks mattered.

It was the smell.

I’m a wimp.

Amongst the food – of which the majority was old ladies selling kamja ddeok (potato rice cakes), there was a cheerful alternative was the grilled rice cake (ddeok).

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Serena liked this. “That was good,” she says.

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Jason grabbed some chicken on a stick. Very, very flat, thin chicken on a stick, but with a good, thick, sweet sauce.

With these in hand we ascended the South side of the valley. This time – sensibly (which isn’t something we do often) – by cable car, which brought us up the cliff most of the way.

En route we finally got to see some of the colours. Muted compared to what they would be, but still intoxicating to someone who spends his time between desserts and rain forests.

Yoonhi overheard someone in the cable car saying “It’ll be better in a week.”

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Once we’d made it to the station, we did what we always do. We went looking for food.

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It’s not a bad little concession stand. Jason went for the fried potatoes, and Serena gleefully helped, as she wasn’t moving out of her comfort zone with these. (A good man, Jason also had a hoddeok – a sweet little pancake of brown sugar, rice cake, and I think a sprinkle of cinnamon).

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And then something inexplicable happened. We climbed the rest of the way up to the old “fortress” atop the mountain that had been a defense against the Mongols (“You wanna take your horse up there, Olugai?” “Nope, not me Khublai. Let’s go eat some dried squid on the beach, instead.”), we found……

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scenery.

No food. How could any place in Korea not have food and drink?

Still it was really pretty (“But if we come back in two weeks….”)

And if you looked hard, there were some options for tartare……..

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Next: more Korean food (surprised?)

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Peter - I echo your wimpy fear of the “Bundaeggi”. They just look like smaller wingless cousins of the HUGE roaches in the Philippines. I just can't imaging popping one in my mouth. Those are my waterloo, plus the raw marinated crabs that Sheena is so crazy about.

Oh and not to reiterate the point - the mountains and hills right now have a riot of colors. Wish you guys were here to see it. (poke-dig-jab) he he he...

Doddie aka Domestic Goddess

"Nobody loves pork more than a Filipino"

eGFoodblog: Adobo and Fried Chicken in Korea

The dark side... my own blog: A Box of Jalapenos

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The scenery at soraksan is beautiful! Ahh bundaegi I remember liking them as a kid but I definitey couldn't swallow them now. Mom even grimaces when she looks at them. AHhh but right next to the bundaegi were the snails...So good. *sigh*

I was planning to go to the asian grocery store to see if I could find deok or soft tofu for deok guk or soontubu chigae, but now I have a hankering from yukkaejang. :wub:

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