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Korea - Land of the Morning Calm

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October 20 – Market Forces

It was getting so that even I could count the number of days left. And there were things that needed to be done.

I needed to go to a market.

Sure, we’d done a walk through in Icheon, and we’d seen stuff in the country, but I needed a real market.

I needed something full-frontal.

I needed Garak Sijang.


This place is big. It’s not Chatuchak big, but it’s big, and it’s all about food. Either killing and buying it, or else eating it.

Located on the South side of the Han, across the river from TechnoMart, it wasn’t that bad a drive on a Sunday afternoon. We just popped up the river, turned right, paid for parking, and pulled in. No real crowds, as this was the middle of the day, and the big wholesale rush was long over.

This was not the optimal way to do this. Really, for the full Garak sijang treatment, you need to show up around 1 or 3 in the morning, and be prepared for a lot of soju, and to come home smelling of fish guts and bile (either the fish’s or your own).

However, like I said, we were getting time conscious about things, and this needed doing.

So we were going to do lunch.

To the right of the entrance are the Halls of the Dead. And on the left you have produce. The right sounds much more dramatic, which is why I call it that. The Koreans probably just call it seafood, meat, etc.


As you approach the seafood halls, there are big signs advising you on how to recognize local Korean products (gukhan) vs imported/foreign goods (su ib). On the left they would show a picture of the Korean product, and to the right they’d put up a description of the foreign.

Properly educated, we lit off into the belly of the beast.

This was great.

I should’ve worn boots.


Crabs, clams, conches…..they’ve got it all. And you can either buy it for home…..or your restaurant, given that in Korea there’s probably a 1 in 10 chance you’re involved with one…I would ask repeatedly how many eateries there were in Korea, and people would just giggle.


There was no question of being fresh. Stuff was wriggling, flexing, crawling, flapping, and swimming. The only thing that wasn’t alive were the plates of fresh fish (hwae), and I’ve got a funny feeling that trying to pass of bad fish in this place wouldn’t be a wise move.


Fish packed on an attractive plastic plate, and securely saran’ed. A cheap snack, but they’d still taken the time to carve the vegetables to look good.


And plenty of prawns. At some point there’s a break over of what’s big and expensive enough to lay out tidy, and what’s going into a pile.


Did I say something about boots? It wasn’t really all that bad, you just had to be careful where you put your feet, especially if you almost trip over some muscular ajima beating a grouper to death with a stick (I’ve got that on video, not still).


We were doing an initial recon for lunch. We figured we could take more time later on to check everything out. I was in a mood for clams, but not the really big ones. I wanted some shellfish of a more approachable size. There were big piles of jellyfish that looked like rocks at lowtide, covered in noodles,


and there were plenty of mongke (the “toggebi” food I always refer to).


but I was keen on getting crab while we could (and I know Jason likes crab). So we started haggling with one of the vendors over the size of the crab we’d want. There’s a crossover point on size where they get more expensive. The bigger the critter, the more valuable it is…like diamonds, but easier to digest.


While Jason negotiated the crab deal, the octopus took my attention. There were two types, the one to be eaten in a stew (nakji bokkum) – luscious red dish (okay, what dish in Korea isn’t red?) with squirty soft chewy octopus; and the other type to be taken raw, or lightly boiled with gochujang.

Once we were loaded down with what we figured was enough stuff to eat for one sitting, we set off in search of the restaurant that would prepare this for us.

Next: The Restaurant That Would Prepare This For Us (what else were you expecting?)

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Lunch In The Hanger

We followed the guy with the food at a light trot. Sure enough, I would get left behind, my greater bulk unable to negotiate some of the tighter squeezes between the hagglers intent on getting their fish.

But Jason or Yoonhi would hold back and keep an eye for Serena and I, and soon enough we had cut through the fish hall, across the parking lot, and then upstairs above the beef hall. Then there was a long hike up to the second floor and an extremely non-descript door.

The result? A non-descript restaurant. But what do you need? Low tables, cushions, a cooler full of soju, and a shelf for the shoes. The place was about ¾ full, with one corner table hosting a crowd of around 10 guys and 50 soju bottles.

It works for me.


For a change we’ve got some gaejya (Korean mustard) to go with our dishes. Not that we’re shorting ourselves on chilies, garlic and gochujang.

First up was a treat I’d insisted on. Fresh abalone.


I guess it’s my Vancouver upbringing, cruising the beaches and collecting shellfish, but I’m a sucker for anything with a hard carapace on it. This was just right, that crunch on your teeth as you masticate through the tougher rilled periphery, and then the pleasing fleshiness of the main body.

I tried the “other bits” the squishy stuff that hangs around in the shell. It was mildly repulsive, but in a good way. I tried to get the others to try some, but with no success.

If Scud was there, I could’ve talked him into eating some.

We had this with an opening bottle of sansachun, that nice, light fruity wine we’d had before.

But perhaps I was growing hardened to such lighter delights (or maybe it was just my kidneys that were hardening?). We finished this bottle, then switched to soju. It was a far better match to the cool cleanliness of the shellfish.


We’d also brought back clams, and had these lightly steamed to open, at which point we were upon them like Huns through the gates. I salivate openly at the thought of fresh, buttery clams. And at this size, the texture works just right, not so large that you become organ-conscious, nor too small to be worried that you got something the cat spit up.


And mussels in a bath teaming with garlic, onion, and other goodness. How can a normal human not be overwhelmed with happiness at the sight of a big bowl of moules?


I’m gushing, I know. But when I look back upon these pictures, I feel very, very happy. The octopus was a thing of beauty. Soft and chewy, like really good marinated octopus you’d buy in Greece to go with a bottle of Retsina on the plaka. Nothing tough or dry about this, it gave like those old rubber bands you’d chew on during grade 8.

I have a soft spot for octopus. When I was quite young, my parents took me to the venerable 7 Seas floating restaurant in North Vancouver. There, while my brothers were having fish and chips, I discovered cold octopus. I ate as much as I could, and then hid a couple of pieces in my pockets to take back for my best friend, who was Canadian-Japanese.

Yoonhi remembers going there with her family at some point, too. They weren’t as impressed as I was, but they at least had the good sense to bring a bottle of gochujang with them. Never leave home without a bottle of gochujang.


More king crab was the main treat. The legs were broken at the table next too us, cracked, and then placed before us to be savaged. Sweeet, clean meat. The only problem with crab is, at some unknown spot, you’ll hit a wall and have to stop. I figure it’s akin to altitude sickness. Every body has their own personal limit, and you just have to find that limit, and practice appropriate caution.


The crab brains were taken away and lightly steamed. We then spooned this out onto our rice (sorry, I was too busy eating to shoot) and we dug into the creamy, uni-like texture.

This worked out to be just the right amount of food. Jason had been somewhat concerned (well, no not really) that we had too much too eat, but once the jaws got going, there wasn’t too much left on the table.

We had them bag the remaining octopus (it’s hard to describe how good it was, the soft pliant flesh giving up the brine as you squeezed it between your molars……) and then headed back to the market for more exploring.

Next: It’s Alive!

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October 20 – Part III – Wadeabout

Lunch (and soju) buoying us up, we had a minor act of trauma to undergo in the bathroom, and then we were back out and about, checking out the market.

First, you know I had to do it, I had to find some ge bul.

This is for you, Sheena!


Y’know, I think we need to add “un-circumcised” to that description we’ve had floating around. (Does that mean it’s not kosher?)

And I was really tempted byt the sabbal nakji, the little live octopi in the side bowl…but I was too full to eat one.


Obviously, there was more than enough fish to go around. There was fish in tanks, fish in tubs, and fish that were just lying out there.


Nothing like a plastic tub with a hose in it to make a fish feel like it’s right back home.


But it’s the odder looking stuff that you’re curious about, and so am I. Those are pogeo – pufferfish – the puffy looking fish things. I’ve had them before, back on our first family trip to Korea in ’92. We had no idea what we were ordering, all we knew is the restaurant had only one thing they’d serve, spread over several courses.

Later, when we returned to meet our friends, they were horrified. Her father had died from a bad pogeo.

Underneath the sign, it says that the pufferfish is wild caught from the city of Pohang.

To the left of Pauly the Pufferfish lie some squid. Nicely tubed up. These are advertised as “sashimi style” to show that they’re fresh, and it’s emphasized that they’re not from China, as everyone in Korea is now paranoid about Chinese products, because of the “quality challenged” nature of Chinese products.

And beside that are some skate, skinned like something from a Hannibal Lecter film. This is from HwangDo.


We found some silver eel from Cheju…or is it just "Cheju eel"? We're stuck on this.


We figure it’s “silver eel” – ungalchi. But hey, pay no attention to our mistakes! Look over to the right and we’ve got piles of octopi! (Do octopi get piles?)


Regardless of the state of their hemorrhoids, some of these guys just want out of their tanks.


There were lots of our old friends from the East Sea. There were the things that looked like mussels, but were bigger than my hand. The Koreans called these “clams” – jogae – and the meat was nothing like a mussel. Now, there was a bucket of shelled mussels right behind them, and to the side were, as my expert reference says “you know, those curly conch thingies”. If they were smaller, they’d be golpengi, but these are way to big to be those. These are called sora. That means snail, but these are pretty much Ed Wood sized snails.


There were plastic lined tubs of shucked oysters for using with pancakes (cheon), or for just eating raw. You don’t see it in soups very much (as opposed to clams). And beside the oysters there was a thing of things. They looked kind of like deep-water acorns, or maybe a smaller version of mongke.


And, of course, they’re acres and acres of just, well,…..stuff. Shells, crawly things, sauces, and dead things from the sea....it all makes me yearn for low tide.



And more octopi. Plenty of nakji, and beautiful, beautiful munau, just perfect for blanching and eating with gochujang (like we did for lunch, but these were way bigger!).


Disappointingly, we found the error of our ways. We shouldn’t have hiked over to the restaurant to eat our meal in comfort. We should’ve wormed out way into the dark belly of the market where they had a “you tell us and we’ll cook it” set of platforms. This is where you want to be at 2 a.m., with your weight in soju bottles on the table in front of you, and guys with sharp knives running around the place (hopefully some of them are fishmongers).


After we’d finished with the wet side, we moved to the dry.

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again…..Korea eats a lot of dried seafood.

There were piles and piles of the stuff. One shop had it four feet deep.

As we walked through here, people would race up to us, but then turn dejectedly away. Yoonhi and Jason overheard their mumbled “oh, it’s just tourists again”.


But, we did end up buying some stuff. I picked up a 2 kg bag of dried octopus, and another big bag of dried mussels, and dried squid.

I did not, however, buy the cubic meter of bar nuts.


And if you were ever interested in buying kelp (miyok) by the square meter


this was definitely the place.


What would a Korean market be without panchan? It’d be like a Thai market without piles of curry paste! Or a Canadian market without windchimes and crystals!

There were piles (everything comes in piles) of squid and fish, and more stuff. There were clams, fish eggs, fish guts, and more and more.


And they had plenty of those marinated crabs. Not as big as the ones I really like, but good and solid and crunchy.


Beyond piles, there were mounds. This is the language of markets. Big, pink mounds of shrimp fry, a key ingredient for good kimchi.

Ah, to wake up in the morning to the smell of fermenting shrimp!


And, finally, if I ever really need to fill up my bundaeggi cart some day, I now know where to go. In their dry, unboiled state, their only mildly disgusting, and the smell is nowhere near as nauseating. If anything, they look as innocuous as a toenail that’s been ripped up, died, and torn off of someone’s foot.

I must really try some at some point.


We never got back to to the meat market, but dead animals often look all the same. We did stop at the produce to stock up on more pears, however.

How could we not.

As we were walking back to the car (we did have a dinner appointment to keep) we came across one of Sheena’s requests, bungeobang (literally “goldfish bread”).

I’ve put the pictures up before, but I should put it in context here.

When Sheena had talked about fish stuffed with sweet bean, I was thinking about real fish. So were Jason and Yoonhi. But as soon as those to saw this, they immediately knew what she meant.

The lady running the stand was quite shy, especially once one of her friends said “You’re going to be on food TV!” at the sight of my camera.

She cried “I’m just new at this!”, but we told her it was okay, so was I.

The kit is really ornate. Seven separate waffle griddles over a gas burner, each lovingly detailed with a goldfish mold.


It looks black and abused on the outside, but when you pop it open you get a shiny brass mold of a goldfish.


She keeps the batter ready in a teapot, the sort we use for keeping boricha (barley tea) around the house, and pours from this into the double fish mold.

One of the double goldfish orders was up on the for sale section, but we’d been bush filming the making of the fresh one. Some older guy popped out of nowhere, dropped some money, and gleefully made off with them. Then we heard him cursing “damn, it’s cold!”


These are things you need to eat hot. It’s like indulging in a napalm stuffed waffle. We bought four, and ate them in the car.

From here, we needed to visit one of the big tourist draws of Korea.

Next: Costco

P.S. - from the lunch, the abalone was still squirming after it was cut.

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I was looking searching for Korean cookbooks, and google sent me here to this topic (well second page!) LOL. Reading the forum has gotten me to think about ordering some Korean language Cookbooks. Mainly because a lot of the recipes I am looking for are not written in english, and it is another way for me to practice my ailing Korean language skills.

Can't wait for the next post! :smile:

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I was looking searching for Korean cookbooks, and google sent me here to this topic (well second page!) LOL. Reading the forum has gotten me to think about ordering some Korean language Cookbooks. Mainly because a lot of the recipes I am looking for are not written in english, and it is another way for me to practice my ailing Korean language skills.

Can't wait for the next post!  :smile:


Yoonhi's of the same opinion. A lot of the English language books are getting pretty old (Noh's Practical Korean Cooking is 1985), and there's not been much coming on the market of late. But when you go into a bookstore in Seoul, the shelves have lots of cook books in Hangul, so you know the material has to be there.

We've got a number of books that Yoonhi's snagged from her sisters, so we're going to poke about in those.

And now, back to our story.

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October 20 – Part 4 – Costco

We were driving back from the market, and it struck me that we had yet to do Costco.

Costco is where most of the South of the River types do their shopping. It’s massive, it has lots of parking, and it’s not expensive.

I kind of wonder, as well, if it’s a bit of Vancouver (or rather Burnaby, as that’s the Costco outlet that deals with the Koreans up the Valley) for folks. There are so many Koreans that have done some time in the Lower Mainland now that you start catching echos of Port Coquitlam around Seoul, in particular in Gangnam, the more affluent (middle class, that is) part of the city.

That affluence is a two-edged sword. In part, many of the well-to-do moved south of the river some time ago to get out of the warren of older Seoul. Plus there’s the urban myth (maybe) that all the bridges are rigged with charges to blow when the North Koreans come south, and you don’t want to be on the same side of the river as them.

But a lot of the “money” on the south also came from people that lucked out by being on the right farms at the right time. There were a lot of instant millionaires created when projects like Coex Mall and others started rising from the rice fields.

Even now, the property speculation business is stronger here than a lot of other places. They describe the price of an apartment in terms of the value, plus the “speculation”. In many cases this is just people buying apartments as they expect the place to be ripped down at some point and a new, more desireable project to go up, which they will have a share in.

The upshot of all of this is that there’s an interesting mix of people on the South side. Older money, and the nouveau riche ex-rice farming crowd.

This all goes back to the bit we were talking about on architecture. Korea, and especially Seoul, is in the throes of change. When Jason first arrived back in the early 0’s, he was immediately challenged by ugly buildings and Korean bathrooms.

Korean bathrooms are designed to drain well. That’s because they’re going to be wet. There are, and never will be, shower curtains. Everything gets soaked, and everything drains.

This is not conducive to a book shelf.

As an aside, squatters aren’t an issue. Koreans, like the Japanese, have embraced high tech toilets in a big way……as I look at that comment, I’m taken back to the many times I’ve embraced my toilet, but it wasn’t so much an aesthetic values thing……

But the new places are moving to (shades of Vancouver) Western bathrooms. Shower stalls, blocked off from the rest of the room, and non-slippery floors. No more plastic sandals required.

Anyways, I’m drifting off topic again.

We were driving back through this wonderland of opportunity, and, as we weren’t far from Costco, we figured it’d be convenient to see it now, while we were near.

This was a big mistake.

It was Sunday.

We made it to within about three block before everything jammed up. It took us another twenty minutes to get to the turn, and five minutes after that to make the approach to the parking lot.

First, here’s the spiel on Costco in Korea.

Costco opened up here in 1994 under the name of Price Club. Now they’ve got three warehouse stores here in Seoul, one in Daegu, and another in Daejeon.

The competition, although it’s not really competition, is eMart. They do alright as they tend to open 24 hours a day, whereas Costco is 10 to 10. But eMart is more of a proper supermarket, while Costco is, well, Costco.

Second, let’s talk parking.

I was very disappointed with the parking attendants. Costco, icon of modern warehouse shopping, just had guys (and some young ladies) in jeans and reflective safety vests.

I’ve gotta stop here and talk about the parking ladies.

In days gone past, when you went to a department store, there was an insa lady. This was a young, impeccably dressed, coiffed, and detailed lady whose sole function in life was to bow to you when you entered or left the store.

Sometimes I’d walk in and out twenty or thirty times.

Now, that is largely a thing of the past. What we have instead are the parking girls.

You’re going to have to excuse the fact that I’m a guy. I think this is great. They’re often done up in thigh-high plastic boots, skin tight cltothes, and enough make up to plaster the Vatican.

But it’s not just the look, it’s the dance. They do this little kata of rotating their hands in the proper direction, rolling their body, and ending with a bobbing bow (an insa).

It made me want to run out and buy a car.

Anyways, the parking staff were herding us up past the first, second, third,….all the way to the roof. Jason was adamant.

“I’m not parking on the roof.”

Sure enough, he was right. Once we’d begun the long descent, we found plenty of parking on the lower levels. This is important, as you only gain access to Costco from the lower levels.

Yeah, I know, I’m spending too much time on parking. But I just want to put it in perspective as we did spend too much time on parking.

Your initial impression upon entering Costco in Korea is “I’ve been here”. You show your card at the entrance, the same as at home. And there’s the same open area of cheap DVD’s, CD’s, plasma TVs from Korea, computers from Korea and China, and furntiture and clothes from Korea.

(Note – sorry, everyone, but Costco isn’t keen on photography.)

Some of the kitchenware is a little more interesting. Nice little chigae sets in black stoneware and metal that you don’t see in Canada, but otherwise, it was all much the same.

But that was durables. We needed to queue up to take the escalator to the food floor.

Jason and I hit the wine section and stopped moving for a little while.

It was a pretty good selection of Europeans, Australians, Americans, and South Americans. The South Africans were there, but not in any particular depth.

Nearby was the meat counter. Lots of the usual – steaks, roasts, etc – but also lots of bulgogi-ready stuff, LA cut ribs, and thick slabs of bacon for samgyep sal.

As you’d expect, there were mounds of squid and octopus, and more than enough fish to go around. In a separate stall a man in whites was carving away at a whole tuna, a little bigger in size than Serena (and a lot wider).

Lots of kimchi, and lots of ddaenjang and gochujang. Ready to eat Korean snacks were piled up on the shelves.

But there was also plenty of what you expect: big sacks of M&M’s; salad dressings by the litre; coffee beans in kilo sacks (but Jason didn’t have a grinder) and preground in 5 litre cans; cheeses; paper towels; nuts for baking; and the usual assortment of things in really, really big packs.

And there was also the bakery, with the same loaves, muffins and Danish you’d see in Vancouver.

We fought our way through the mob to the checkout counter. Jason had his wines, and really needed to get, at least not at this late stage in the trip.

One other difference we noticed while checking out, there’s a cafeteria, a big sit down section. This goes to support my theory that you must have some form of restaurant within some critical distance in this country.

With traffic being as bad as it was (everyone was coming back into town) we decided to head straight for dinner.


We were meeting another couple. They’d been in Vancouver in the summer, and had two girls Serena’s age, so it was a chance for Serena to get in some social interaction while we adults enjoyed the night out.


It was a return to kopchang for dinner. This location was over in Banpo, with a sign that proudly announced that they were a yang gopchang specialist.


So, in keeping with their advertising, they had some good yang, thick and white and very chewy. Before that, though, we’d started on the gopchang itself, the intestine (the tube).


The style here was different from what we’d had over by Jason’s place. It felt wetter, and I’d say that was the marinade. I know it’s harmless, as it would just be remnant marinade in the tubes, but it gave you the feeling that they hadn’t cleaned it out as well.

Still, you have enough soju and things start tasting better.


The ddaenjang chigae was okay, but was lacking a little of the depth of flavour we’d had in some of the other chigaes (Nori People’s kim chi chigae is still a stand out).


I was still a little full from lunch, so I passed on the next round of food, but the others ordered nurungji. This is the toasted scrapings from the bottom of the rice pot, with water poured over it and then brought back to a boil. This is something that you can’t do with electric rice cookers.


The weather was perfect for this meal. Crisp and cold outside, which made it ever so pleasant to sit around the burners eating hot meat (I use the word “meat” with some liberality here). Soju to clear the grease and warm your core, and company to chat with (although my Korean isn’t up to the task).

After dinner we split up. Jason was heading home to take care of some things, while the four of us were off to see Seoul by night.

First we drove back North, across the Han, making for Dondaemun, the East Gate. From here we drove along Chyeonggyecheon restoration zone until we could find parking, at which point we ditched the car and went for a stroll.


Inaugurated in 2005, this was a major accomplishment for Lee Myung Bak, the mayor of Seoul we’d mentioned back when we were at the beach. The stream wasn’t much more than a sewer back after the war, and had been covered over by an expressway in 1968.

Lee Myung Bak had the road removed, and set about putting in an extensive water filtration and purification scheme to get things to a tolerable state. Along with the technical side, the stream was laid out as a park, reminding me of San Antonio’s RiverWalk, without the shops and cafes (alas).

As with all things, there was more than enough controversy. Some claimed it was just a vanity project, others argued against the influx of gentrification that would accompany such an improvement in a neighborhood. And, as always, there were a lot of apple boxes being delivered around town.


Lit up at night, it made a pleasant walk. We followed the course of the stream West, to it’s starting point at City Plaza, and then backtracked to where we’d parked.


As always, there was plenty of food about. One area seemed to be specializing in octopus dishes, and I wished we’d had more time, as this looked like a good spot for a bite.

Our parking lot, however, was going to lock down at 10, so we needed to be moving.


Overhead, another landmark of downtown Seoul is the Dragon’s Eye, the Jongno Tower. Some rail against this as an aberration, and would happily see it disappear, while other look upon it as a symbol of the new times. Whichever side you’re on, at least it gives ou something to navigate by.


We’d parked by another theatre, this one playing “JUMP”. Again, a non-verbal performance stressing acrobatics and the martial arts. The theme of this is that a couple of burglars hit up a Korean home with a fairly violence-prone family.

Interestingly, Dolsilnai has put their stamp on this production, handling the costume design. Dolsinai has been designing new, modern hanbok, the Korean national dress. In the poster notes I looked through, they’d been tasked here with creating traditional style clothing that would be loose and comfortable enough to work in the choreography.

They’re also an active promoter of that ancient Korean textile – hemp. (It’s not just a Vancouver thing).

From Chyeonggyecheon we drove North, past the palace and up the slopes of the hills, taking in the Skyline drive, the city of Seoul laid out below us, all aglitter and off limits for photography.

We stopped at the observatory at the top, and declined the offer of bad coffee for which we would’ve had to line up. The scenery itself was quite pretty (I just didn’t have the guts to buck the security types that were around watching for photos), and if you could brave the cold, it was a spot worth visiting.

We drove down from here, through the old money neighborhoods that fill out the mountainside, with some palatial spots using up significant amounts of real estate. We passed a few sharp looking neighborhood espresso places, but not that much in the way of restaurants (for a change).

Further down we were surprised to find out we could drive past the Blue House. For decades this area had been a restricted zone, but about eight or so years ago it was quietly opened up. But people have grown up with the idea that it’s “off lmits”, and so it came as a bit of a shock when security waved us through into the empty streets.

Obviously, I continued to keep my camcorder and cameras stored away.

I might seem paranoid, but Yoonhi remembers from long ago on her high school tour one kid snapping a photo of a bridge. Security were all over them, knew which seat it was in the bus where the lens had snapped, and weren’t in a mood to discuss the matter.

I have a lot of respect for Korean security.

I think of Seoul as traffic jammed 24 hours a day, but the path we took heading south wound through Namsan and down the back streets behind Itaewon. Narrow curved streets that followed the contours, winding and wending their way, as opposed to the orderly grid of Gangnam (south of the river).

Our hosts were taking us to the night time views. We’d seen the stream, the mountain, and now we were looking to see the river.

Back across the bridge, we did an odd bit of driving through narrow passages and tunnels that took through the levee and into the wide banks of the Han that are all park area.

We saw signs for R8 as we drove, and then the parking attendants were back, directing cars to their spots (no parking girls again, darn!).

Jason was waiting for us here, but it soon became apparent that we’d stumbled upon a private party. We made a half hearted attempt to crash, but it was pretty apparent we weren’t getting in.

But, well prepared, we fell back on Plan B, which just involved driving back up the river a little ways and finding another bar.


These bars are big, semi-permanently moored boats. This one – “On” – was three floors. The bottom deck, which we checked out first, was boothed off with secluded areas looking out onto the river.

However, it was very much a “bottle of Johnny” sort of place, without much in the way of alternatives. And this low, it didn’t have much of a view.

So instead we went upstairs to the café, where we could have some beers (a Hoegaarden for me) and tea (“Forget Me Not” flowers) for the ladies.


Not really memorable, other than that the beers came in their bottles with white paper napkins artfully folded over capping the top like a KKK hood.

We could’ve gone up another flight, but that would’ve been the restaurant, and the idea of Italian in this setting wasn’t too encouraging.

It had been a long day. In fact, it had been a long couple of weeks, and it was catching up to us. We debated another phase, but wisely chose the better part of valour – sleep.

Next: Music to Watch Girls By

Edited by Peter Green (log)
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Did you happen to notice what kind of food they had at the cafeteria? In Japan you can get bulgogi bake (like the chicken bake but with bulgogi), and other things you can't get at Canadian Costcos. And the hot dog here is 100% pork, not beef.

I wonder if you can get a side of kimchi for your hot dog, instead of sauerkraut. That would be nice.

Edited by prasantrin (log)
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Did you happen to notice what kind of food they had at the cafeteria?  In Japan you can get bulgogi bake (like the chicken bake but with bulgogi), and other things you can't get at Canadian Costcos.  And the hot dog here is 100% pork, not beef.

I wonder if you can get a side of kimchi for your hot dog, instead of sauerkraut.  That would be nice.

Yes, they did have the Bulgogi Bake. I remember Jason pointing it out on a large sign on the wall and saying good things about it.

We didn't stop inside the cafeteria (we were running late for the kobchang restaurant) but I'd bet even money you can get a side of kim chi with the 'dog.

This is Korea, after all.

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I been to Costco, Peter. There was no kimchi for the hotdogs, only chopped onions, and the condiment pump station (mustard, mayo and ketsup).

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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I been to Costco, Peter. There was no kimchi for the hotdogs, only chopped onions, and the condiment pump station (mustard, mayo and ketsup).

I lose the bet!

Not even gochujang in the ketsup pump? Serena got really caught out once when she gave the big red bottle on the table a squeeze. :biggrin:

Can you bring your own? (Yoonhi's family always travelled around Vancouver with assorted condiments in their purses - kim chi, gochujang....)

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Peter - nada on the gochujang sauce too. From what I remember, the cafeteria served their signature table-size pizzas, clam chowder, those fabulous hot dogs and .... my brain drains from here on. I can't remember what else they served there. I had the chowder and the hotdogs. Billy and hubby had pizza and it was ok (according to them).

The hotdogs were awesome.

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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Such great photos! I don't remember much about my trip to Korea, back in the early '70s. All I remember from our tour were the temples, my dad harping about our delayed flight to Japan and all the anti aircraft guns littering some of the roads we passed through. We were in Seoul and Pusan. Thanks for posting the pics.

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October 21 – Downtown (break out your orange robes and Patsy Kline albums)


We were back across the river. Myung Dong this time, and we were looking for bibimbap.

Myung Dong has always been the fashionable strip. When we were here before, it was the expensive, trendy place to be seen shopping. A certain amount of that trendiness has migrated to Apgujeong in Gangnam, but there seems to be enough to go around.

From the station, we had a good view down the street as it slopes away.

Jason nudged me.

“It’s a sea of black hair.”

The street was packed, and this was a Monday. And, yes, it was all black. Korea, for all of its hipness, is still deeply conservative in a lot of ways. I didn’t see any pink, purple, puce, or puke coloured hair-stylings. T

Tatoos, for instance, are illegal (I was told). Okay, you can get them outside of the country, but not in Seoul, at least not above ground.

Jason did think part of this may be old rules against gang-style marking, as the Japanese yakuza do. I don’t know how much of it is a statement against body-art, as I did see a couple of piercing studios (but nobody sporting any hardware in their eyebrows or tongues).

Yoonhi remembers on her propaganda trip back in the 70’s though, that some of the boys with long hair on the tour ended up with buzz cuts, and some of the girls that were dress North American style were actually spat upon, and in some cases grabbed, as it was assumed they were ‘working’.

Okay, the girls are dressed better now.

So here we were, in the thick of the walking zone. A nice thing about Myeong Dong is that they’ve cordoned it off from traffic, so you don’t have to worry about becoming road pizza.

The traffic there was, was food.


Serena wanted some sausage, so we bought her a trio on a stick. The first two were fine for her, but the third, the yellow one, was a curry wurst, and it had her panting and hooting.

That was a lot of fun to watch.


Yoonhi went for the hoddeok. Nice little sweet cakes of brown sugar.


And there were pots and post of odaeng (fish cake) on sticks in boiling pots, ddeokboggi simmering in trenches of orange-red, and sundae, kept hygienically under old plastic sheets.


The evil yams that look like shoestring potatoes were lurking out there. I tried to convince Serena that these ones really were shoestrings, but she’s less trusting than Scud. Along with the faux fries, this woman was doing a good business in shredded and chipped octopus and dried fish. And those long, dried tentacles. I should’ve bought one of those to bring back here for the office.


In the midst of all this rampant capitalism, Jason dragged us down a narrow passageway.

There’d been a lot of places on this trip where we’d flat out questioned “how the h*** did you ever find this place?”

In this case, the answer was multi-fold.

First, it used to actually be street front, but the shops on either side had extended out. At night this place puts a guy with a sign (in hiragana and kanji) out on the pavement to direct traffic in (no competition for the parking girls).

Second, it’s in the Japanese guide books for Seoul. This place was discovered by the Japanese, and rose to fame on their reviews.


Third, Jason had been dating a girl a few years ago who worked down here for a Japanese firm.

If it’s a good story, it’ll always have romance and food.

The claim to fame here is actually the pacheon.


Layers of batter, spring onion, chives, squid, and oysters (plus chilis and lots of other bits and pieces).


We were here for the bibimbap, but damned if I wasn’t going to have some pacheon.


It was good. Crispy batter, stringy spring onion, but with that juicy wet layer of seafood in there. They’d cut it up into pieces, but they were still big. That wasn’t stopping me; I wadded them up and dredged them in the vinegar and soy.

Panchan was a little different. They had chabchae (cold mung bean noodles), which isn’t something we normally associate with panchan. Yoonhi always thinks of it as ‘festive food’, which means someone’s getting married so she and her mom would have to make enough to feed five hundred.


The bibimbap was very nice. About fourteen different ingredients, including tobikos, mu saeng che (marinated Korean radish), raw mu, chrysanthemum leaves, spinach, there was some gosari in there (bracken fern), lettuce, cabbage, gim (nori), egg yolk, and, in my case, raw beef (yukke). I used some of the beef up in the bibimbap, but held enough on the side to satisfy my bloodier appetites.

And plenty of jojang (seasoned gochujang) to make certain everything ends up red.


Yoonhi and Jason ordered the “special”, the everything-bibimbap. It was good, but it didn’t have raw meat (so I win).

I should also mention that this was sizzling bibimbap. It served in a hot stone pot that crisps the rice inside, and heats everything through.


The meat was juicy, cold and crisp, and laced with pine nuts. It was also unfocussed (I have no idea, I swear).

The other highlight of the place was the trip up the staircase to the bathroom. The staircase was a thrill. Battleship stairs, with a rope to steady yourself on the incline (and a passage just wide enough for me).

And once you arrived at the facilities (common area, but separate stalls for men and women) you really knew this place was on the Japanese circuit.


The toilet had a control panel.

This was great! The seat was warmed, and there was a self-cleaning control. I was a little scared to try out too many of the buttons, though. I’d seen what those robots at the expo were capable of doing in terms of scouring.

Next: The Greens Eat More

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Yoonhi caught this. I should be more careful in my reviews before I post.

I should also lose weight.

You can guess the odds (and I lost the last bet).

It's the shot of the woman cooking the pacheon in the restaurant. She's got her own station just to the right of the entrance as you come in.

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My favorite pajeon contains oysters and squid rings. Oooh, now I really have a hankering for it right now. And I just ate. :blink:

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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And once you arrived at the facilities (common area, but separate stalls for men and women) you really knew this place was on the Japanese circuit.


The toilet had a control panel.

This was great!  The seat was warmed, and there was a self-cleaning control.  I was a little scared to try out too many of the buttons, though.  I’d seen what those robots at the expo were capable of doing in terms of scouring.

Next: The Greens Eat More

A Korean-naturalized-American acquaintance told me those toilets were becoming more and more popular with Koreans, too! As a matter of fact, she described a very interesting infomercial in Korea that showed just how effective the toilets were at relieving constipation, and how well they clean peanut butter from balloons! (you can imagine what the peanut butter was supposed to be!)

On that happy note, back to food! :biggrin:

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......she described a very interesting infomercial in Korea that showed just how effective the toilets were at relieving constipation, and how well they clean peanut butter from balloons!  (you can imagine what the peanut butter was supposed to be!)

On that happy note, back to food!  :biggrin:

The peanut butter I can sort of deal with.

It's the image of the balloons that's weirding me out now!

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The peanut butter I can sort of deal with.

It's the image of the balloons that's weirding me out now!

I have seen this on TV. It's absolutely true. Just check out the home shopping channel.

The balloon is blue.

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