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Travelogue: Spring Break 2009 -- Seoul


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Ugh god don't even get me started on the series finale of battlestar galactica.....It might just be worse than Bennigan's!

I loved all the pics of the offal on the side of the soondae. I think I may like that better than the soondae. The liver is ALWAYS dry, that's why you eat it with saeojjut and not the gochugaru mixed with salt or you can just dip it in the soondae guk. Also what are the seeds on top of the soondae guk? I can't remember if it's mustard seeds or seeds from the ggaenip plant?

This thread makes me hungry ): I think I may go to Seoul in the fall for a few months. If you are there we should grab a beer!

BEARS, BEETS, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA
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I loved all the pics of the offal on the side of the soondae.  I think I may like that better than the soondae.  The liver is ALWAYS dry, that's why you eat it with saeojjut and not the gochugaru mixed with salt or you can just dip it in the soondae guk.  Also what are the seeds on top of the soondae guk?  I can't remember if it's mustard seeds or seeds from the ggaenip plant?

This thread makes me hungry ):  I think I may go to Seoul in the fall for a few months.  If you are there we should grab a beer!

Good question on the seeds. I was trying to figure that out, too. I'll send a note to Peter.

I probably won't get to Seoul in the Fall (I need to be at the WGF in Bangkok then, and after that's the Elephant Round-Up), but you never know where I'm going to turn up.

(And I expect a solid write-up from you!) :smile:

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Waffling over important issues

Here’s a pressing question that s been causing me to lose sleep. I just spotted this in a photo I was about to bypass from our walk home earlier.

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What, exactly, is the origin of the waffle in Asian culture?

In Korea, it’s ubiquitous. Any time I pass to focus (a relatively rare occurrence, I will admit) I spy waffles. They just pop up.

Likewise, in Thailand, every BTS station would appear to have a stand selling waffles, as does every shopping mall (and that’s a lot of malls).

And, of course, all fans of Heroes know that the waffle is an integral part of Japanese culture (along with ikebana and bowling).

Curiously, Wikipedia, which is usually holding more information than we need, doesn’t mention any Asian waffle culture other than Hong Kong.

How did the waffle find itself so prominent this far East of its traditional ironing grounds in Western Europe?

Inquiring minds want to know.

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Well, it's satisfying to get at least a brief flurry of posting up there.

I'm waiting on my limo for the flight to Part V, so we'll see how well I keep up with things for the next week.

Cheers!

:smile:

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Well, it's satisfying to get at least a brief flurry of posting up there.

I'm waiting on my limo for the flight to Part V, so we'll see how well I keep up with things for the next week. 

Cheers!

:smile:

Peter - I've been following your posts with great interest, thanks so much for taking the time. Me and my wife will be visiting Korea for the first time this summer, this is all very edifying!

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Well, it's satisfying to get at least a brief flurry of posting up there.

I'm waiting on my limo for the flight to Part V, so we'll see how well I keep up with things for the next week. 

Cheers!

:smile:

Peter - I've been following your posts with great interest, thanks so much for taking the time. Me and my wife will be visiting Korea for the first time this summer, this is all very edifying!

Thanks, Sick!

I heartily recommend Korea, but a small caution, the summer will be humid. However, that makes it a great time for cold noodles (nengmyun), water kimchi, and other dishes the Koreans have designed for the summer months.

Cheers,

Peter

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Also what are the seeds on top of the soondae guk?  I can't remember if it's mustard seeds or seeds from the ggaenip plant?

Sheena,

The quick response I just got back is that it's crushed sesame with "other powders". Peter will stop by soon and ask them for details, though.

The more you know....

:biggrin:

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March 20 – Stepping Out

For dinner, we though we might try a different country.

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We were off to Canada.

(The Boy, however, opted to stay back home with the systems and make do with the next-door food court, and the crackers, cheese, and cokes in the fridge)

It wasn’t really an embassy party, but rather the embassy had put up their place to host a buffet/drinks thing for the Canadian alumni, sponsored by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce (Korea).

As a social networking thing, it went well. There are an awful lot of Korean Canadians in Seoul, and (according to the ambassador) there are over 50,000 Korean students in Canada right now. The place was packed out, and there was an awful lot of “Hey, I haven’t seen you for ages” going on.

You'll see this reflected in the number of Canadian-themed bars, and in a growing recognition of Vancouver and Toronto (along with, of course K-Town in LA....but then again, isn't LA the fourth largest Canadian city?). Big Rock has an excellent bar south of the Han, and there's RMT on this side of the river (more soon).

Strangely, there was little Canadian content to the food and beverages. The wines were a German chardonnay and an Italian Barbaresco; and the food was a disheartening example of catered Chinese (I cannot abide deep fried food that’s allowed to sit for an hour or two).

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On the bright side, however, they had Danny Jung on the saxaphone (a well accomplished sax); and they had brought in an Edmontonian micro-brew from the lads at Rocky Mountain Tavern.

We’ll see more of RMT later. It’s a Canadian expat venture which started up on Itaewon, that notorious strip of villainy and cheap thrills. This group of canucks wanted a nice place to have a beer, and figured they might as well make their own.

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The brew wasn’t bad (and it takes a lot for me to say nice things about Edmonton), and it made up for the shortcomings of the food.

Quite a lot of it, actually.

Now, I’ve slagged it as a dining event, but as a party, it was a lot of fun. I, of course, benefit from the age thing, as most everyone there is a lot younger than I am (and shorter). But that also means that the discussion fits better with me, given as its generally centered on Heroes, The Watchmen, and other important elements of modern culture that my generation doesn’t seem to enjoy as much anymore.

We finally started feeling real hunger pangs setting in. The decision was whether to go back for the soggy sweet and sour pork and the uninspired fried rice, or should we go somewhere else?

Somewhere else was the obvious answer.

First, we had to decide where to go. That meant we needed a bar in order to make a decision.

Those are never far in Seoul.

Half of us popped downstairs into the sort of bar you would recognize from any number of Korean ganster or Japanese yakuza films. Big booths. Lots of space. And no customers.

The other half had dropped into the McD’s upstairs for fries.

Downstairs, we ordered food. I’ve said it before, but I’d better say it again. If you go into a Korean bar, you have to order food. It’ll cost you, and you may not be hungry, but you have to order it.

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We had a plate of sausages. That seemed like it could cover our protein deficiency.

The others showed up, and we ordered more beer in order to facilitate our decision making.

“Where to” is actually a pretty tough question.

One crowd held for going over to Rodea on Apgujeong. But then someone said that Nori People had disappeared (still, I could do the bacon wrapped hot dogs!)

Another faction held out for Hondae (where Club Night is held once a month), a funky area of clubs and bars clustered around the university. Plus, one of Jason’s friends had a place up there, which gave us a crash point.

But it was, perhaps, too far away from the Han River.

“Anything beyond Itawon is North Korea to me.”

That was the phrase that did it.

Remember that “that notorious strip of villainy and cheap thrills”?

Itaewon

I rather like it myself. It’s a lot more fun at night than in the harsh truth of daylight, when it’s awash with cheap knock-offs and U.S. military from the base.

First, we hit up one of the ATMs that would actually access our North American banks (similar to Japan, top up on cash when you can), and then we fell upon a large, third floor bar that will remain nameless, due to certain issues that may or may not exist regarding green baize tables in conjunction with playing cards.

As an aside, Korea does have a number of casinos. Urban legend has that these are the best places to buy cars, as people hawk everything to get back into a game.

Anyways, we grabbed a booth and, as explained, we ordered food to go with our drinks.

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First up were grilled chicken wings, bathed in hot sauce to the point that there was a black-red crust on the wings, and a burn that started off slow, and then overwhelmed your mouth.

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And then we had something….cheesy. Or at least white and gooey. I think it might have been kind of like natchos….maybe.

Hey, at this point of the evening, be thankful I hadn’t lost my camera.

Some of the folks split off at this time onto hard liquor and cocktails. For my part, I stayed with beer.

By about three a.m., I was thinking it was time to move on. I dropped some cash on the table, and wandered out onto the Hill.

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First things first, some oden on a stick, and a Styrofoam container of ddeokbokgi (I’ll let Yoonhi worry about my spellings). Now that I didn’t have to order food with drinks, I was hungry.

Again, you get the best ddeokbokgi on the street, say I. The oden, well……I remember now why I don’t order it very often. Some kimmari would have been nice, though…..

I considered my options. I could grab a taxi home. I could rejoin the gang. Or I could check out some of the other bars.

I flagged a cab to take me South.

Live to drink another day, say I.

Jason phoned to check up on me while I was in the cab.

“I’m fine. Don’t worry.”

The cabby dropped me a km from my stop. I didn’t realize it until after I was out and he was gone.

And then it started raining.

Oh well.

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Oden....odaeng its all the same to me. I miss sipping on mini dixie cups full of odaeng broth in cold weather. Mmmmmm so hot and full of delicious msg. It makes my mouth water just thinking about it.

BEARS, BEETS, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA
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Oden....odaeng its all the same to me.  I miss sipping on mini dixie cups full of odaeng broth in cold weather.  Mmmmmm so hot and full of delicious msg.  It makes my mouth water just thinking about it.

Sheena, I may have been shorting myself.

You're quite right, it's a very Korean thing to give priority to the broth, and treat the solids as an after thought. While I follow this with chiggae and soups, I hadn't thought about it with the odaeng fluid.

And, yes, the wholesome goodness of MSG is not to be belittled.

:biggrin:

"MSG or Ajinomoto - it's a matter of taste"

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March 21 – Duck and cover

It was a brave new morning.

Well, actually, it was getting more like early afternoon.

But the sun was up! That’s something.

Jason was busy today, and so Sandra took charge of us, making certain that we got out of the apartment and accomplished something useful.

Like lunch.

We headed up towards Yangjae again, meeting Sandra and then moving from the station to the restaurant.

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Sandra was taking us to one of the places she liked – Yetnal Nongjang – Farm of Olden Days is one way to read that. This was something different from what we’d been doing in that they didn’t constrain themselves to one particular dish, but covered a fairly wide variety.

The more high tech and wired Korea becomes, the more apparent is the nostalgic yearning for the look of the old days, even if most of the people coming to these places are so young that they’ve probably never been on a farm.

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But I won’t complain about that. It’s a global phenomenon. I’m just happy that, in their quest to preserve a touch of the feel of old Korea, that I can share in.

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Okay, maybe the farms of long ago weren’t full of extractor fans and wide screen TVs for the K-soaps, but if they’d had them back then I’m certain they’d have been part of the rural setting.

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Our banchan was attractive enough. Baekju kimchi, a salad of bean sprouts, a cooked soft cabbage dish……

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potato salad, more kimchi, mul kimchi, and fixings for the duck,….

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which you’ll see happily grilling away there with an onion, a trace of fat already dripping off.

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Duck was the primary choice for Sandra and Scud. Myself, I’d seen something different. Albap – fish eggs in a sizzling bibimbap. The crunch and pop of roe with nori, spring onion, pickled yellow dakuan, cucumber, and hot, crisped rice is a difficult thing not to enthuse over.

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The duck, once grilled was wrapped up with the usual lettuce and gaenip. The sauce was one of white onions in a tangy vinaigrette.

Okay, we did order 3 of the duck. I wasn’t about to miss out.

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By the time we were wrapping up the last of the duck (ori) the fat container was getting dangerously close to the brim. We’d watched its progress with apprehension, but were relieved to see that this exercise in brinkmanship (brinkduckship?) had worked out perfectly.

I live for these moments of small peril.

Next: On the Street

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Peter, this is so awesome. I wish I was in Korea now. :D

I used to have a favorite dduk boki joint in Jamshil...I don't know if it's still around but last I heard someone else liked it so much they opened a dduk boki chain with the same recipe!

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Peter, this is so awesome. I wish I was in Korea now. :D

I used to have a favorite dduk boki joint in Jamshil...I don't know if it's still around but last I heard someone else liked it so much they opened a dduk boki chain with the same recipe!

It's an aspect of Korean food culture that if something's good, then there are suddenly a horde of "versions" out there on the market. A whole chain from someone else's ddeokboki recipe is quite a success story, though.

What we see a lot of is the copycat - one restaurant does something really well, and builds a following, another vendor moves next door to them and sets up shop with a similar name. That way they'll either get the unwary, who aren't 100% sure of their destination, or else they get "shrapnel" - those who don't want to wait for a table to open up in the real place.

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March 21 – The Afternoon

Eating in Seoul is a drama.

And, like all good soap operas, you need interior shots, and exterior shots.

Interior, we concentrate on the set tableaux of the meals, our cast of characters gathered about the table. In Korea this is (more often than not) a much more active piece, with the transmutation of the flesh conducted in front of you, rather than removed to some hallowed chamber.

But, as boisterous as these scenes can be, it’s really the street where we see the dynamics of food.

Seoul and Bangkok share equal place in my heart (or stomach). Both revel in their food, and see no reason to contain it within fixed walls. Walking anywhere in these cities, you see produce, food, and drink spilling out onto the pavement, meeting the needs of the populace.

gallery_22892_6547_24703.jpg By Yangjae we almost fell over the fresh fruit dealers. Strawberries, crimson in the afternoon sun, just waiting for someone to claim them and take them away to a good home.

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How can you not smile when you look at fresh strawberries?

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Walking along the street, you realize that there’s little need for a greengrocer. Most of your everyday needs – fruit, potatoes, eggplants, onions, garlic – is going to be taken care of.

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And if you just want take-away, there’re pistachios and corn and oranges and things in pots (no, I didn’t look).

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Heck, just mussel up to any collection of boxes and you can put together a meal for the night…..if you were one of the minority of Koreans that actually cooked at home and didn’t just go out all the time.

As Jason has said, Koreans eat out (or order in) more than almost any other group. You can make a small fortune in the restaurant biz most places (just start with a big fortune), but Seoul is an odd place in that it’s hard to do badly in the food industry here.

We took a bus from Yangjae to Dongdaemun, the shopping zone clustered about the old gate on the East side of the city.

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En route, we passed what may (at this time of pandemic) be one of the most unfortunately named wine shops around.

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We took a quick break here. They had hoddeok.

Hoddeok are wonderful. Simple, and wonderful. They’re soft rice cake that’s filled with brown sugar, and then closed up and fried.

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You just bite in, and experience the soft goodness of rice cake, with that faint backdrop of sweetness running through it from the sugar.

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That is, until you hit the fluid molten sugar portion that has a tendency to spill out like napalm on your unexposed skin.

Scud squeals really well, I must say.

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Nearby was more food. Pizza like melts in shallow muffin trays, freshly griddled for you.

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Unfortunately, I was too full from the hoddeok to take advantage of this stand. Peanut Buttered Roast Squid. As I look at this now, I kick myself for not forcing some of this dish into me. Peanut butter and squid is probably one of those perfect flavour combinations that will dominate the world food market in the future, and here I am missing out.

Darn.

And they sell both the squid bodies, and the tentacles as separate orders.

Double darn.

Next: Dinner – Zenkimchi and FatmanSeoul (No, it’s not a song by the Clash)

Note: edited for compliance

Edited by Peter Green (log)
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peanut butter roast squid? That sounds like an appealing combination. Koreans always eat peanuts with squid, so why not make it peanut butter with squid? I much prefer mayo though

BEARS, BEETS, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA
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Sheena - there's a crunchy snack here that is a pack of round, marble size crunchy balls filled with squid essense. The outside wafer/cookie tastes of peanut while the inside filling screams of squid. It's weird but it works. Heck I even saw Rain eating it between his MTV rehearsal outtakes.

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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Also what are the seeds on top of the soondae guk?  I can't remember if it's mustard seeds or seeds from the ggaenip plant?

Okay, Sandra and Peter just came back from the sundaeguk joint, and asked on my behalf about the seeds:

"it is a mixture of perillia leaf seeds and pepper and dried shrimp."

There, sooner or later we'll dig out the answers.

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Okay, Sandra and Peter just came back from the sundaeguk joint, and asked on my behalf about the seeds:

"it is a mixture of perillia leaf seeds and pepper and dried shrimp."

There, sooner or later we'll dig out the answers.

Wait a minute. . .where the heck are you eating now? I thought you had left Korea and were now eating your way through England or China or somewhere like that (ya, those are really similar countries. . . :raz: ).

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Okay, Sandra and Peter just came back from the sundaeguk joint, and asked on my behalf about the seeds:

"it is a mixture of perillia leaf seeds and pepper and dried shrimp."

There, sooner or later we'll dig out the answers.

Wait a minute. . .where the heck are you eating now? I thought you had left Korea and were now eating your way through England or China or somewhere like that (ya, those are really similar countries. . . :raz: ).

At this time I am happily in the comfort of my home, beans and oxtail slowly cooking in the crockpot while I try to get my mind around where I've been and what I've eaten those last two months.

I never do well with real time.

Next - Eating with the bosses

Slowly, I'll catch up to real-time.

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Peter - I know I have a picture of that squid snack somewhere. Lemme search my disks (have several back-up disks) for the picture of the squid snack. Let me just say sometimes that snack hits it when you're in a binge-eating, salty-sweet kind of food craving.

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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