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Peter Green

Travelogue: Spring Break 2009 -- Seoul

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March 28 – At Long Last, Pizza

You’ll remember, from our [url=http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?sh

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But this was the main attraction, about as “out there” as we could  get with the menu (no squid, no fermented skate, no European cookies).  A cheese ring crust, grilled chicken, potatoes, sweet potatoes, garlic (big pieces, too, which is nice) pickles, cherry tomatoes, and, for no apparent reason we coule fathom, some serious squeeze bottle action with ranch dressing.

I always think of ranch dressing when I have pizza.

Doddie caught a miss on my part. I'd forgotten to mention the corn. Gotta have corn niblets on a pizza.

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March 28 – “It is meat and right to do so”

We were down in Suwon for a football (soccer) match between the Korean national team and the Iraqis. Jason said that a match here was something to see, and I’m not about to disagree with him.

The stadium itself is a beautiful thing, built for the world cup, with roofing designed to emulate a bird’s wings. It has an elegant feel about it, rather than like the utilitarian nature of the Olympic stadium – Jamshil – that we’d been in before.

If that baseball game was something, this was really over the top, from the traditional opening ceremony to the chanting and singing.

Oh, and they played football, too.

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Mind you, as hot as the crowd was, the weather was freezing. It had turned biting cold, and we weren’t dressed well enough for this sort of chill. We could hardly bear to wait out the game (Korea won 2-1, with Korea scoring all 3 goals), and race for someplace warm.

Right across the street from the stadium was a han-u restaurant. Suwon is famous for their beef. More important, it would be grilled at the table, which meant we’d be warm. Suddenly the idea of a heat source seemed very important.

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We made certain to get a table far from the door, and had them drop in some charcoal right away. I nursed a warm cup of boricha and held it to my mouth, letting the vapour thaw out my nose.

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A salad, some greens, a starter dish of garlic (we’d go through more), pepper, and a wet sauce of chilis and perhaps some pear? The tinfoil is for grilling out garlic on, as the grill is a wire mesh affair.

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Here’s the star performer. Lovely, red meat, with a nice marbling to it. I’ll have to do some looking into the Korean cattle breeds, as they do seem to have similarities to the Japanese beef, with a good dissemination of fat through the meat.

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The soup was the life saver. Warm fluid does wonders for getting your core temperature back up above freezer levels. This was a nice thing of beef stock and blood, with large chunks of blood in there to cheer me up.

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The kimchi looked pretty, a watery version, but I wasn’t about to eat anything cold.

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And so, with our bodies coming back to normal, we grilled merrily away, leaving Scud to do the duty.

It’s good to be the elder.

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Fed and cultured, the only remaining task was to get our car. With the crush of traffic for the game earlier, all parking was taken. We’d gotten around this by paying for a car wash, and asking them to keep the car there until later, leaving the keys with them.

We hadn’t factored in, however, that they might go home at some point. There we were, freezing again, pacing about in the back of a car wash/garage.

Jason was finally able to track down a phone number for the guy, and while he was explaining the situation, I had an idea.

Yup, keys on the front right tire. It’s good to see some things are universal.

Next – Take Me Home, Country Road

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March 29 – Visiting Doddie

It had been an early night, which was good, as this was an early morning. Scud and I needed to catch a bus to Janghowon. We had a day planned with Doddie and the family.

The bus depot on a Sunday morning was at first, as expected, grim. There were a few people hanging around for rides, grimacing at the pavement in front of them, nursing their cigarettes. We did the initial confusion thing, bouncing between the two ticket booths until someone agreed that they could sell us a ticket to Janghowon, and then we joined the early morning collection of George E. Romero extras on the cold plastic seats. The remnant chill of the night before still lingered in our bones.

But this grey mood soon lifted. People were doing Sunday visiting; either alighting from a bus – coming into town; or boarding (it goes both ways) in formal hanbok – the traditional Korean dress, bubbling greetings or farewells with their family at the vehicle’s door, the driving grumbling good naturedly for them to get out of the way.

And you notice the accents here. There’s Seoul Korean, which we all get used to from the movies and K-pop and just, well, being in Seoul, but that slides away at times like this and you start catching the country lilt creeping in.

It’s hard not to be cheered up by this.

And cheerfulness leads to food, say I. I thought it best to feed the boy before we set off, so we did a survey of the bus depot, walking the two corridors looking for something of interest.

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The first place we looked at was the “everything store”, which are always a lot more fun. There were some steamed bums, potato dumplings, and mandu inside a container in at the first place place. It was just a question of when they’d been steamed. Likewise, this place also had fried stuff on sticks; sandwiches sliced and cling wrapped; more fired stuff on sticks; hardboiled eggs; and, way in the back, more fried stuff on sticks.

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Scud had more traditional tastes for breakfast, though, and honed in on the baked goods. The Boy went for a strange bun like thing stuffed with stuff, while I had a croissant.

The drive was uneventful, but I count that to be a good thing. An hour or more through the sprawl of Seoul and its new cities, and then into the farmland that clings to every valley. As we approached Icheon, our bus turned local, and we began to make stops every kilometer or so, inching our way to our target. Janghowon was the second to last stop on the line, so I was keeping a paranoid eye out for the hangul so we didn’t overshoot.

I needn’t have worried. The town was clearly labeled, and almost everyone else was getting off here, too.

It makes me wonder what’s at the end of the line.

When we’d visited Doddie last time, we’d met in Icheon. That had seemed “small town” after being in Seoul. But Jamhowong is another matter.

I believe Doddie said there were about 7,000 people in the town – officially listed as a suburb of Icheon, but it’s at least a half hour or more away. Heck, one city block in Seoul would have more people than this town (mind you, it’s a pretty good size town by Canadian standards).

Hence, it wasn’t hard for us to find Doddie. There isn’t that much of a crowd to be lost in.

Bad news came up first. Her husband and son were both sick, so the opportunity of meeting them was going to be passed by.

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But, these things happen. Instead we headed for a beef restaurant the Doddie likes. It’s the pride and joy of her ex-driver – Mr. Chang – who’d worked for them for 3 years. He’d recently opened up this place.

Bright, airy, and cheerful are the sort of words I should use here. And it was a pleasant place to take lunch. After the shadows of the big city, is was refreshing to have the clear, unfiltered light that this afforded us.

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Spring onion beautifully shredded and dressed with a blood-spatter of sauce. There was cole slawand kim chi as well, and sesamed salt and onions for the meat.

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While Suwon may be famous for their beef, I found nothing wrong with the meat here. It wasn’t as well marbled as what we’d had the night before, but the meat had a good softness to it off the grill, and a slight sweetness to the flesh. The quartet of cuts was grilled and eaten in a counterclockwise rotation.

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The chiggae was thick, hot, and spiced to a medium level. The thickness of the broth is what I love, that and that smell of kimchi and peppers, with the meat stock backing it up.

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And there was also steamed egg with shad roe and a pretty sprinkle of chopped green onion.

A perfectly good meal for a Sunday lunch in the country. The sort of thing to fortify us for a walk through the market fair.

Next – A walk through the market fair (What! That wasn’t enough of a lead in?]/i])

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March 28 – Janghowon’s Market Daze

Note – with Yoonhi away in the wilds of Western Canada, I made use of my neighbor. She puts a Busan perspective on things, whereas generally I get my data from the Seoul side.

Downtown Janghowon. This is the town centre, complete with a tall blue thingy exhorting the “Kyeonggi people to join their strong Seouls together and set things on fire at Icheon.”

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I figure it’s either some sporting event, or their going to firebomb the main town. I appreciate that you can develop an attitude about these things in the suburbs (just look at Surrey to Vancouver).

But, while it’s a hot topic, pyromania wasn’t on the agenda today. We’d lucked out by a happy congruence of fate (Jason had a game, Doddie wasn’t busy, Scud and I were….well….heck, you’ve got an idea of how well planned we are) and we were here on the right Sunday to catch the farmers’ market.

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And this was a farmers’ market. No semi-permanent stands, no cute logos. Packaging wasn’t a high priority here, which makes it all the more attractive to me.

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Unlike the gentrified “markets” we’ve grown accustomed to in the West, this is all pretty utilitarian, and targeted as much to the farmers as the farmers are targeting the townsfolk.

Pots - stewing pots, chiggae pots, and more pots. And some good, functional mortars and pestles. You need gear, the shops here have gear.

And then there are rakes, scythes, shovels……

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And there’re even a few hoes hanging around looking for business.

Sorry. These things just slip out.

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This is an example of the sort of packaging I like. Fresh sesame oil, poured into soju bottles. No fussing about with cute names and labels. Just pour it in, slap a price on it, and get it moving.

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We may be a long way inland, but there was plenty of seafood. That’s miyeok, the thick kelp, stacked to the back, and, and there’s a bit of fresh kim in the wire mesh, which can be made into the more recognizable sheets (“nori”) later.

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The middle part of the kelp, the hard part, is dried, shredded and salted. When it’s time to use it, you soak it for a very, very long time. When it softens you can fry it with garlic for a pleasant side dish.

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There was fresh miyeok, too. This is wonderful lightly pickled, (like in a sunimono) or else used as the basis for stock (dashima – one of many borrowed Japanese words). You can also use this, when it’s young and fresh like this, for ssum.

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A little further up, these gentlemn were making sheets of fresh kim (nori). They waved me over and I tried a piece, hot from the oven. I bought a couple of packets like lightning.

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Of course there was fish. This is Korea. It’s just nice to see it when it’s not dried. Mackerel and cod. I still remember that mackerel at Shunbo in Bangkok, salted and blowtorched at the table.

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The size of my thunb, I thought these were baby octopi for san nakji, but my friend says that they’re something else, so we’re open for comments. Whatever they’re called, they looked good enough to snatch one up and eat it there on the spot. (But that would probably be frowned upon).

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You just can’t get away from the dried fish, though. Tied in yellow ribbon was bug eo. This is shredded and used in making a clear soup, supposedly good for hangovers

Forget our classifications of food groups. It seems to me that in Korea, food is either going to be good for you, or else it will help cure a hangover. Or it’ll be both.

Back to the bug eo, this stuff is tough. You have to beat it up first in order to soften it enough for shredding. My friend had a really good Busan saying about this, but I’d probably better stay quiet.

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These were fresh water produce. Between the clams on the right and the shrimp on the left is a big plastic tub of godi. This is extremely popular now asa goditang – a soup. Of course, it’s healthy for you. Everything has to be healthy for you in Korea.

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Consider, for instance, this stuff. The sign says “what is gang hwon?” (Chinese reading, I think - the Korean is yul geum). So I asked my friend. She said “I don’t know. You need to take better pictures. I can’t read that.” Rest assured, though, that it’s good for you.

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There were stacks, and sacks, and racks, and bales of stuff to keep you healthy. Bark, powders, weeds, and roots. (I’d like to add “cats and rats and elephants”, but everything looked to be from the plant family).

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Along with the dried stuff and the packets, there was also honey. Honey’s expensive in Korea (well, it’s not cheap most places) as it’s associated with nature and health. One of the newer fads was Himalayan honey. We’d been asked to arrange to have some sent to Korea, but I couldn’t find anyone willing to haul the stuff for me (and Korea is rather tight on agricultural imports, too).

Herbal teas are all the rage. Almost anything can be dried and then rehydrated into a tea.

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Here we have a stand given over to dried chrysanthemum. “The King of Diet”, they say, and a guarantee of lower blood pressure.

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And then there’s san minari – san for mountain. Harvested in the wild it will improve your childrens’ brains, prevent itchy skin, cure bad breath and constipation, shed body fat, relieve joint pain, help your liver out, and retrieve the Holy Grail.

Alright, I made up the “Holy Grail” part.

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Really, if I want “tea” for a hot day, I’m content with the traditional boricha and oksusucha. The lower bin says bori, and it looks like what I’ve got in my kitchen. The upper one, I believe, is the roasted corn for oksusucha (but I've been wrong before). Between the two, I’m a bori man myself, but I hold with a person’s free choice (even if their choice isn’t as good as mine).

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For my health (what's left of it), give me fresh fruit and berries. Strawberries and little cherry tomatoes, and kumquats. The first kumquats we’d ever had were in Korea, in Cheju. Scud was about 9 months old and was cramming them in his mouth. I should have an embarrassing baby picture of him around here somewhere…….

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These little melons are just cute. Cham way.

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The apples and pears in Korea are wonderful things. Crisp and sweet, and dripping sugar.

Janghowon itself is famous for its peaches, but the season wasn’t here. I’ll live vicariously through Doddie for now.

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Of course there are greens. The bundled stuff in the middle (above the onions) is yeol mu – a form of radish – and the raw material for mu kimchi Above that is gaktogi (another kimchi favourite) – the buried part white, and the part that sticks out of the ground green.

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And then, of course, there are mushrooms. Shitakes up in the upper right. In the supermarkets they won’t let us take pictures, but out here it’s not an issue, so I snapped away.

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I was really tempted to buy some, but I knew that we’d never get around to cooking anything in our last two days in Korea. Still they just cried out for a skillet.

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Along with the local produce (I could stare at those mushrooms all day) imports are also making their way into Korea. I believe the round things are a kohlrabi, aren’t they? My friend says they’re not native to Korea.

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I should have recognized the bracken fern – kosari. But it’s a lighter brown in colour here compared to what I’m used to from Vancouver, where the halmonis would work Central Park for its crop every year.

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Very local, however, are the bean sprouts. The big yellow ones, the kongnamul, are some of my favourites.

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On a sunny Sunday like this, the sprouts almost look like a flock of chicks peering up from the crowd into the light.

Soybeans, of course, have more uses than just looking good and tasting great as banchan.

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On the left here are bricks of fermented bean paste - mae. This’ll be soaked with a lot of water and salt and then the soy sauce will be drawn off of this, and the dross will used for making that uniquely smelly broth the different garu on the right (maeju and misut), which in turn are used in making cheongukjang and denjang.

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The brown plastic bags are cheongukjang, the smell of which I commented upon back near the start of this trip. And there’s some more well packaged soy sauce in those recycled water bottles.

On the upper right they have two types of gaennip banchan – one in soy, and the other in salt and chilis. I’d llike to comment on the other bins, but, as Scud says “it’s all just red.”

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On the bottom are some pickled garlic stems (I recall someone had a thread around here asking about what to do with them), and then there are pickled chilis. The top bucket is a bit of a mystery to us, so if anyone knows, chime in.

Continuing with vegetables, there was chicken. Lots of chicken. Eggs, breasts, legs, and feet.

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Lots and lots of feet

And then there were the famous black chickens, segregated in cages on the side in a fowl act apartheid.

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This was something I didn’t get to try this trip, and will have to look for next time. The meat is darker, and my friend said this is particularly for grilling.

Chicken is all well and good, but really, Korean food should be red.

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I found the offal buckets. Towels of tripe, and colons of kopchang. I’m trying to remember what all the different names were for the various nasty bits.

gallery_22892_5262_29528.jpgI’d like to think that Fergus Henderson would be happy here. Asia has always subscribed to the nose to tail philosophy of eating, and I see nothing wrong with that. If you’re going to kill something for food, you shouldn’t be wasting things.

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I don’t see a lot of heart and tongue on Korean menus. I wonder if it’s handled as a separate item, or if confined to side dishes such as we’d been eating earlier. And brain. I’ve yet to see brain on a Korean menu. Is it traditionally not eaten, I wonder, or have people been chased away by the cholesterol thing?

Checking with my source, I could feel the blank look over the phone line. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone eat brains.”

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Rooting about, we found fresh lotus (on top) and this elongated thing on the bottom – wu ong. It’s peeled, soaked, and then chopped into matchsticks and used for flavour.

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The yellow stuff is jopsal (or “jo”) – a grain. The purple stuff above it, and the large white cubes are a mystery to us, so go ahead and jump in here, please!

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My ignorance is really a pain at times. I passed right by this. It’s part of the raw material for making makkeoli – jilgeum (and that’s salted shrimp – seugot – above).

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Odeng is another thing that catches my friend’s interest whenever a shot comes up. Myself, I must admit it doesn’t do a lot for me, but I wouldn’t get in the path of a Korean who’s seen some.

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Ddeok has the same effect. My friend singled out the one at the bottom left corner. This is made by layering the ddeok in sheets, adding the beans, and steaming. Then it’s cut up.

But she liked the other ones, too.

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But, for her, this was the anomaly.

“I can’t believe they’re selling that yellow cake again.”

In the old days (we’re talking 1970s here) when rice was in short supply and there wasn’t a lot of food, this was the quickest, lamest thing you could make in order to get the kids to hush and eat. Or, as her husband says “it’s make-the-kids-shut-up food.” Flour, some sweet read beans (phat) and that’s abou it.

The potato ddeok above and to the left met with similar derision. “You eat this when you can’t afford real ddeok. It’s okay when it’s hot, but when it cools it’s just black and nasty.”

The sundae in the upper right is just sundae, though, so it’s okay.

Retro food.

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Speaking of retro, there was some non-food stuff for sale, too, but there wasn’t much of it. Ahtom (Astro Boy) – poster child for the Toto Museum – is just as popular out here. And even I recognized the Three Ugly Siblings dolls. I think every Korean female above the age of 40 had to have had a set of these when she was a kid.

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Pigs tails. Yoonhi has fond memories of being a small child and worrying away at these until there was just a sad little string of a thing left at the end.

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The bang was in operation, churning out bags of puffed rice, puffed corn, and puffed ddeok.

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The popped rice cake (ddeok) wasn’t something I’d noticed before. Like crackers.

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Steamed buns always have a place in a Korean’s heart. Filled with red bean paste, these are a cheerful takeaway.

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And another retro moment – old fashioned crackers. These are made from flour. In the back are a form of mandu (dumplings) ready for frying.

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Nothing fancy at all, but satisfying.

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In contrast there were dried fruits and Japanese style crackers.

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And what would a market be without some bundaeggi (silk worm larvae)? (”For starters, it would smell a lot better!” pipes up someone.) Honestly, most of you know I’ll eat most anything once. There are somethings, though, where once is enough.

Honestly, you can’t have a market without having places to eat, and there were plenty of opportunities for grabbing a bite. It’s just that we’d filled up on beef already, and we’d be hard pressed to muster up enough will for anything bigger than a goldfish.

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This was a pretty display. More odeng.

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My source was interested in this. They’d wrapped the odeng around something with a chopstick protruding, and it was in a ddeokbokki-like sauce (but with no ddeok).

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Did I mention "goldfish"?

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There was a fresh pot (remember those ones on sale, earlier?) of blood soup, large dark chunks of congealed blood in a broth to die for. It may not look pretty, but I was sort of wishing I had more appetite for this walk.

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And on a final note, we’ll go out on stems and seeds. Beside peaches and rice, this area is also well known for their chilies (gochu), and I’d hardly let something like a good chili go unremarked.

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Peter - oh cool you have a picture of the black chickens that Paula and I have been discussing. (I'll be directing her to this post) I thought you had a picture of the dog meat parts in the offal section. I guess they didn't have it then. Great pics of the market, BTW. My husband has promised me that next time you visit, he will fix his famous Kentucky Barbeque ribs. It has made expats travel from Seoul to our place everytime. :)


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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Peter - oh cool you have a picture of the black chickens that Paula and I have been discussing. (I'll be directing her to this post) I thought you had a picture of the dog meat parts in the offal section. I guess they didn't have it then. Great pics of the market, BTW. My husband has promised me that next time you visit, he will fix his famous Kentucky Barbeque ribs. It has made expats travel from Seoul to our place everytime. :)

Thanks, Doddie.

Someday, somehow, I'm meeting the hubby and eating his ribs (Hmmm....that came out a little zombie-like, I'm afraid).

Can you comment more on the black chickens? We just touched on it in passing when we did the walk, and all my friend here said was that they were supposedly good for grilling (rather than the stews or soups with ginseng, etc).

Is this a native Korean strain, something imported, or have those boys in the white lab coats been hard at work somewhere?

As for the puppies, I remember that you'd mentioned them, but I don't think we found them anywhere that day. The meat section was fairly limited (like I say, chicken's a vegetable), and I was surprised at how little pork there was.

But, again, thank you for a wonderful day.

But I'm not done yet.

:smile:

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March 29 – Farewell, Janghowon

We’d pretty much wrapped up the market. We’d found ourselves along the River’s Edge (sorry, it’s a Hopper thing) admiring the plating that had been put in to allow the armour to get up and down from the riverbed without too much damage (Janghowon hosts annual joint exercises with the US troops here).

At times you forget that the Korean War is still not over.

At times.

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Stuffed, we took in the view, and admired the town.

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Your typical local 20 litre bag of popped stuff van.

I’m a big city guy, I know. But there’s a good feeling of belonging to a town like this. As we’d strolled through, Doddie was always meeting friends and acquaintances, stopping for those brief pleasantries that make life…..easier.

It’s an interesting distinction. In Seoul, in Bangkok, in Tokyo, as a regular customer you’ll be recognized and warmly greeted. But there, you’re a customer. It’s nice to be somewhere where people still have non-commercial interests in each other.

We could’ve gone back through the market, but that would have been a redundancy. Instead, we walked along the river and cut through towards the bus depot.

It’s a small town, but it’s still a town. The amenities you'd expect. There’s a manhwa shop – where you can rent comic books and catch up on the latest adventures, and, of course, being Korea, there are plenty of places to drink.

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A Korean tradition that doesn’t get much discussion is the kisaeng. The Korean equivalent of the geisha, skilled in singing, the arts, and poetry. You see bars named after the famous ones – like Eo Udong. If you search about, you’ll find snippets of poetry coming up on the internet. Like much of Korean folk art, it runs to the ribald, but then, that’s part of the fun of Korea.

I’m glad Doddie saw us to the bus depot. The official depot had closed down, the result of a squabble with the landlord, and the current stop is run out of a temporary structure.

And the bus back to Seoul fills out pretty quick, so you’d better know what you’re doing when you line up. Otherwise it's a long wait for that next ride.

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March 29 – Optimism

We arrived back in town without mishap. The Boy was in a relatively good mood, enhanced by the allure of a Big Jaws bar. They actually went to the effort of getting this thing to look like a shark.

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Well, kinda……

Christopher Moore had a very good observation in his last book. The Asians don’t seem to go through “hunger” as we know it. A mild, annoying, nagging pain that slowly builds up until, after, say two or three days you feel you really do need to eat something.

Instead it’s like a sudden plummet into starvation.

Scud needed food.

Luckily, as men we understand the importance of hoarding food for these moments. That’s why we never throw uneaten things away.

Ever.

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The pizza was back from the dead. Microwaved to a point of slothful sogginess, the potato and corn was enough (along with the jelly beans) to qualify as a well-rounded meal.

Really, it was just a snack. We had plans for dinner, but this filled the gap for him while we packed bags and boxes.

“Dad, I have an early flight tomorrow. We won’t be out late, right?”

“Of course not, Young Scud. It’ll be a light dinner, and an early night. You can trust me, right?”

He always falls for that one.

Next – Descent

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"He always falls for that one."

You're evil, Peter (but in a good way).

More on the black chickens. From what I gathered from my Korean friends, this breed has been here for centuries. It was a favorite "medicinal" soup for the royal family who's feeling under the weather. Lately, because of "well-being" reasons (Koreanized version of Healthy Foods), the black chicken samgyetang and baekjukk (both are stuffed chickens with rice, garlic and ginseng inside) have become popular summer foods.

That's the only recipe I have found for the black chicken here in Korea. Well, the only one I've encountered. I found out you cook it like you would for a stringy native chicken or a rooster. It is quite gamey but the stock is quite full-bodied. I prefer a normal chicken, really.

More research has uncovered that these ebony chickens are raised in the US and Western world as pets, not for food. And they are called fluffy chickens or hairy chickens because of their fine feathers.


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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March 29 – Phase 1

It started off innocently enough.

“We’ll just stop off and have a good meal of pork to see you off. “

“It’s just down the hill.”

“We’ll be back by 10.”

And it did begin well. Within moments we were back in our familiar stomping ground down the hill and to the left.

I spotted a couple of new signs to give me pause.

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“Human & Human”? What could that have to do with lawyers?

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And “Music Bar Shower” had my attention, until Scud told me to get my mind out of the gutter. It was just a bar called “Music Shower”.

And then we were arrived at the sign of the pig.

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In case you want to find the place, the phone number is 200-4415-5775, a couple of blocks from Nambu Terminal.

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The pork here is a good thing to finish on. Plus, I get to have some of those good looking stubby mushrooms we saw in the market in the morning.

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Once I’d finished the first couple of soju, I remember the bamboo soju they had here, and I ordered a tube.

Yeah, yeah, I know that I’d said I preferred the regular soju, but tastes change. I was growing to like the slightly flavoured sojus, too.

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It was turning into a good evening. Our numbers had swelled to about ten, and the restaurant was packed. This was prime time for eating, and everyone was busily (and noisily) enjoying their food.

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But there’s a price to pay for that. Our bokkum bap was a sorry thing. The manager was too busy with the crowd to take care of it for us, and it was obvious that the ajima had better things to do with her time than cutting this up for us.

Pity, as the bokkumbap we’d finished on last time was, truly, a thing of beauty. We contented ourselves with what we had, and called for more soju and beer.

I had, previously, forgotten an important thing.

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When you leave, you get ice cream.

Outside, strawberry cones in our hands, we contemplated the next phase.

“Dad, you said we were going home!”

Next – Phase Two

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March 29 – Phase 2

Ice cream is one of the great invigorators. A crispy cone, something red flavour, and a man (or woman) is ready to take on the world.

The soju probably helped, too.

We were to travel just a short block, Scud protesting at our heels. Our last night called for dong dong ju, and there was a place just a couple of blocks away.

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Weolmae Chumak – named, I’m told, after a famous old lady. If you want dong dong ju or makkeoli, look for the rustic. This looked rustic.

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And comfortably inviting, too, once you looked inside the door and saw the battleship stairway leading down into the dark. The Koreans like to bury things – kimchi, of course, springs to mind – so burying your bars seems like a natural progression.

This is not a hard fact , of course. Our first makkeolli jip of the trip had been a second story (or was that third) affair, so this is just a statistical observation.

Of course, it could just be that the rent is cheaper for the basements.

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You’re growing used to the dong dong ju shots, by now. I liked the eclecticism here in the bowls. Any which ones are available, it would seem, with the sizes roughly equivalent.

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Bean sprouts, some steamed egg, and kim chi graced our table. You aren’t going to starve in Korea, that’s for sure.

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I wonder, at times, what sort of boy I’ve raised. Last night out in Seoul with a raucous crowd (our numbers, like my stomach) were swelling, and what does he have to drink?....... Hershey’s chocolate milk. Sheesh.

That was pretty much it for the Boy. He bailed on us and walked home, muttering something about airplanes, airports, and how I was going to be in a lot of trouble with Mom if he didn’t get on that plane on time.

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But that meant he missed out on chapchae, the mung bean noodle dish, the noodles springy and pully, fried up with fresh greens and chilis.

My last dong dong ju. It’s a pleasant thing to drink, and I’ll miss it (unless I can figure out how to make it at home).

That was enough of that place. There were more of us now, and we were growing hungry again.

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The only trick was getting out of our booth.

Next – Phase 3

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March 29 (or was it the 30th by now?)

We didn’t stray much farther. The mob asked what I wanted to eat, and Peter and I looked at each other and said “Guts”.

It was kopchang time. And the place near to us had enough of a reputation that it had a two of its own places and a copy cat next door.

(I mentioned the copy cat syndrome last trip, but I’ll give it a quick review here)

The Copy Cat Syndrome

In Korea, restaurants will, over time, build up a loyal clientele, and from there a reputation for a specialty dish. Big deal, you say, that happens everywhere. But in Seoul (I can’t speak for all of Korea) people eat out.

A lot.

Jason has said it “you never lose money on a restaurant here”. There’s always clientele, with the average person eating in only two or three dinners a week, and almost always eating out for lunch, or ordering in.

You don’t see a lot of lunch sacks at work.

That sets the scene. This is very much a restaurant culture.

This is also a drinking culture (you hadn’t noticed?) and eating and drinking go hand in hand.

The copy cat element arises when the popular places have reached a point of fame where they start to get packed out. Then they sprout up with names that would raise eyebrows amongst the more litigious amongst us.

Say if you call yourself “Grandmother Choi’s Pig Trotter Restaurant”. Within a few years, someone will set up shop next door calling themselves “Old Grandmother Choi Choi’s Pig Trotter Restaurant”.

You get the idea.

This makes money in one (or both) of two ways. In the first instance, you lure in the unwary, who don’t realize that there’s a doppelganger at play. This is a really great ploy if you can set up on a one-way street before the real place.

The second way it works is in that you can just play for shrapnel. Faced with a one hour wait to get into the famous place, most people will break down and just go to the place next door.

To some extent, you might consider, as the proprietor of the original, that you’re losing business. But they just feed off of what you couldn’t service, so it’s not really that bad. Plus, there’s a point of pride in being good enough to have parasites.

Hmmmmm……remind me to tell you about having worms in Vietnam some time.

Now, back to our story.

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This is the place that Yoonhi and I went to last time, it’s just it was a lot later, and colder. They’d tented in the outdoor section, and took up a couple of tables there near a space heater.

We’d lost a couple of people, so, as Jason’s not a big fan of kop chang, he went outside and started working the phones.

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How can anyone not love this stuff? It’s a completely different taste and texture, and the bright cheery red of the raw liver just makes you think of Christmas. This raw dish that comes out as the precursor is probably my favourite of the set.

The Koreans are masters of simple sauces. Sugar, salt, and sesame. And some garlic in there, to. These are dipping sauces for the raw entrails and the liver, and lift the roughness just enough to let you enjoy the crunch and grind of the gristle in the guts.

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We would order more of this later. Ask me, and I’d say that these bits, with the salt and sesame sauce, are just about the perfect company for industrial alcohol.

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At stage 3, as you would imagine, we have passed into the “lets spend a lot of time with our soju”. Trying to get the perfect cyclone tied us up for a while.

Traditionally, with soju, you bang the bottom to move it about a bit. This mixes the elements (the technical term is “stuff”) around, so that the sweeteners haven’t settled out.

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Luckily, of course, we hadn’t been here that long yet.

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The main course arrived. Consider it “proto-sausage” if you’re squeamish about these things. But it’s well cleaned, without that bit of nasty that can sneak up on you sometimes.

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This is a good way to finish up a trip. Surrounded by old and new friends, everyone in that happy stage of drinking, without rancour or bile (sobriety went out the door and walked back up the hill ages ago). The entrails and vegetables are slowly simmering over the open flame, and the world revolves around the inconsequential.

And then they torched the kopchang.

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I don’t remember them doing this before. It was kind of neat, and the extra heat was well appreciated.

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This gave a nice charring to the guts, and I wonder if it was meant to burn off some of the excess methane?

I just have once conern, however, looking around the flammable plastic, rolls of toilet paper, and the varnished wooden floors with gas lines snaking across them.

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Does Korea have anything resembling “fire codes”?

Just a thought.

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The night was still young, as was everyone except me. Aside from my fears of impending immolation, this was a fine farewell evening.

We’d had a good run of things, taken in some sporting events, which we hadn’t done before, and had touched upon our favourites while still having time to do some new things.

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If I had regrets, they were ones that could be settled on the next trip.

There’ll always be a next trip.

But for now, it seemed like a good idea to find some more food.

Next - Phase 4

”But you said it was going to be an early night!”

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March 30 – The Spirit if Kare Rice Passed

That smell had been with us, haunting us the last couple of days.

Kare rice.

Yeah, yeah, it’s just a packaged rou (how do a make the accent over the e go away?) by http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showto...dpost&p=1549937]Glico originally but that’s no reason not to enjoy it. (In Korea and Canada, our brand of choice is S&B).

Like a bee we made a straight line to the nearest kimbap place.

Okay, this would probably be a bee on some serious reality-altering pollen, but that’s sort of the idea.

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But these things do haunt me. You get that smell in your nose, and you’re not going to have a good sleep until it’s done.

Now, while this is a kimbap place, I had it on good faith (at 4 a.m., everything is “on good faith”) that they’d have kare rice.

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Up front was the station.

Kim (nori]) in a spot made for the sheet. The ingredients in place – carrot, spinach, fern, egg (fried and artfully cut into strips), and the jolly yellow of takuan – the pickled radish.

The Korean equivalent of the sandwich shop. The perfect collection of ingredients to keep you going for a little while. Whether kimbap came from the Japanese Occupation, or whether the Japanese brought it back to Nippon in ages past (most likely the Imjin Wars of the 16th century) is a matter for scholarly pursuit.

In the final analysis, you eat it and you’re happy. What more do you want?

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It’s just one of those comforting foods. Seasoned rice, a mix of vegetables (or whatever) and a quick roll. I can eat this most any day (and I do).

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Jason, on his Quest For Starch, ordered ramen bokki, a package of shin ramen cooked in a gochugang paste with vegetables. A good alcohol sponge at this time of the night.

But me, I know what I want, and I’d found it at last.

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Kare rice.

That turmeric yellow gloop, thickened up with potatoes, and dressed with carrots, onions, and anything else that doesn’t cost as much money as protein.

Okay, at home I’d use some chicken. But I know the rules here.

It’s that smell (says Agent Smith). But in this case, it’s a good thing. You’d think there was a snake in there that was luring you in by your nose. This is what we’d smelled in Hongdae the other night, and now its time was come.

It was okay. Not great.

But you just have to do these things.

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Much of the rest of the evening is, understandably, incoherent. It doesn’t make a lot of sense looking at the photos, either.

I’m pretty certain we had a good time.

Was there something about a plane?

Next – Aftermath

(I think that was either English, or Social Studies)

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[...]This gave a nice charring to the guts, and I wonder if it was meant to burn off some of the excess methane?

I just have once conern, however, looking around the flammable plastic, rolls of toilet paper, and the varnished wooden floors with gas lines snaking across them.[...]

Not to mention the alcohol. I'll bet soju would flame up nicely if lit.


Michael aka "Pan

 

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Kare rice.

Hm... Korean curry rice, I would say.

The ingredients such as potatoes and carrots are much smaller than those of Japanese kare, and the roux is yellowish rather than brownish. It should be less spicy than Japanese kare, right?

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gallery_22892_5262_17821.jpg

Kare rice.

Hm... Korean curry rice, I would say.

The ingredients such as potatoes and carrots are much smaller than those of Japanese kare, and the roux is yellowish rather than brownish. It should be less spicy than Japanese kare, right?

It also has a lot more stuff than Japanese curry rice, I would say. I've never had kare rice (other than my own) in Japan that had that much stuff. You're usually lucky if you get 3 pieces of carrots, 4 chunks of potatoes, and 1 piece of meat.

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Peter,

Funny & great, as usual. Now on to SERIOUS matters: underneath the pan holding the proto-sausage is one HOT gas burner, in every sense of the word, super-neat. If Koreans are the enterprising restaurant-goers that you claim they are, surely a serious Korean restaurant supply business in Noth America should be stocking these babies?

Now the question is to find the Korean trade name AND manufacturer, e.g. the Chinese parallel [NOT equivalent] in the US would be Tarhong from Galasource, a restaurant supply company. I am sure there exists a specialized Korean restaurant restaurant supply company that MAY stock such things, but they would require fairly specific clues/specifications from a non-Korean such as myself to overcome communications barriers.

I should be most grateful if someone from Korea could provide me at least a few of the details, something to go on. Type of restaurants that use these stoves, trade name in Korean of these stoves, and more? Perhaps you or Doddie or even the mysterious Mr. Zenkimchi?? I shall be geatly obliged.

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V.Gautam - I see these sold in the street market everytime. I'll try to get the information that you need.

One thing I can tell you is that I see these type of stoves in travelling snack food trucks and restaurants (the ones that set up tents in fairs and festivals). Anything that needs portable cooking and prolonged cooking use these puppies.


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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Not to mention the alcohol. I'll bet soju would flame up nicely if lit.

At this point of the night, we ourselves probably would've gone up like matchsticks.

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Kare rice.

Hm... Korean curry rice, I would say.

The ingredients such as potatoes and carrots are much smaller than those of Japanese kare, and the roux is yellowish rather than brownish. It should be less spicy than Japanese kare, right?

Less spicy is a relative term. I don't really find either to be much of a burn. If pressed, I would say that the Korean is mellower.

And you won't hear me say that about Koreans too often, I'll let you know. :biggrin:

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Peter,

Funny & great, as usual. Now on to SERIOUS matters: underneath the pan holding the proto-sausage is one HOT gas burner, in every sense of the word, super-neat. If Koreans are the enterprising restaurant-goers that you claim they are, surely a serious Korean restaurant supply business in Noth America should be stocking these babies?

Now the question is to find the Korean trade name AND manufacturer, e.g. the Chinese parallel [NOT equivalent] in the US would be Tarhong from Galasource, a restaurant supply company. I am sure there exists a specialized Korean restaurant restaurant supply company that MAY stock such things, but they would require fairly specific clues/specifications from a non-Korean such as myself to overcome communications barriers.

I should be most grateful if someone from Korea could provide me at least a few of the details, something to go on. Type of restaurants that use these stoves, trade name in Korean of these stoves, and more? Perhaps you or Doddie or even the mysterious Mr. Zenkimchi?? I shall be geatly obliged.

You're right, they should be out there somewhere, the trick will be having a fluent Korean speaker do some internet searching, as most of the Korean sites are Hangul only (it's easy enough for me to read, I just can't make sense out of it).

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It does sort of look like something Torquemada would appreciate.

Let me ask Peter and Sandra. They're in Vancouver now, but should be back in Seoul soon.

Cheers,

peter

Note - edited to add the photo so we'd have a better shot to solicit feedback. Plus, I just like heavy iron things.


Edited by Peter Green (log)

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Doddie & Peter,

Thank you both very much. The Chinese variant, easily available here, is called in the trade a "fast stove" after the literal translation [i am told ]] of "stir fry". They, however, lack the sturdy iron/metal superstructure that makes these Korean models so attractive + efficient. The are merely the burner ring, with a most rudimentary gas coonection, whereas the Korean model has a very robust and safe metal junction. Peter, your fears of an incendiary end would have quite valid had you had one of these Chinese models at your service!!!

Since you say they are a common piece of equipment for food vendors and not a specialized gadget for just a specific type of restaurant, like the kopchang place, it gives me hope that there might be increasing degrees of probability of Korean restaurant supply places in N. America of stocking these e.g. to supply Korean food trucks.

Thank you both for the look into the ordinary life of Jangwohon. It is such a delight, after the mental overload of big cities with their rich food, late nights and frenetic lifestyles to see ordinary people enjoying a normal life devoid of excess. The pots with fitting lids, mortars etc. on sale were incredibly beautiful. Are they fired clay, and are they still hand-thrown? Or, like Italian clay flower pots, have they discovered some clever way to mechanize their manufacture?

I wonder if Peter & his family will take a trip to Hadong one early spring, when the maple sap is running and drinking the sap is a joyously awaited annual rite. Hadong & its surroundings is one area I would have loved to visit. I would hope that wonderful travelers like Peter would venture out of Seoul and enjoy the even better food & drink to be had. How's that for a lure?

Gautam.


Edited by v. gautam (log)

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I wonder if Peter & his family will take a trip to Hadong one early spring, when the maple sap is running and drinking the sap is a joyously awaited annual rite. Hadong & its surroundings is one area I would have loved to visit. I would hope that wonderful travelers like Peter would venture out of Seoul and enjoy the even better food & drink to be had. How's that for a lure?

Gautam.

Thanks, Gautam. There's always the next trip, and the next, and the next....

(The provinces do call out to me.....and there's that fermented skate Fatman described in Andong!)

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Guatam - those pots with the fitting lids, they're cast iron. I have seen how they made this. They take the pot mould (made with packed sand) and pour the molten iron into the mould. Then they break the mould open when the iron has cooled off a bit. They rub ashes on the still-hot pot (and lid) and brush the ashes off with a bunch of twigs (of what tree I don't know) and give it a thorough brushing. After that comes the oil wash. In the program, the potmakers christen the lid by cooking samgyeopsal (fatty bacon pork slices on it).


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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Guatam - those pots with the fitting lids, they're cast iron. I have seen how they made this. They take the pot mould (made with packed sand) and pour the molten iron into the mould. Then they break the mould open when the iron has cooled off a bit. They rub ashes on the still-hot pot (and lid) and brush the ashes off with a bunch of twigs (of what tree I don't know) and give it a thorough brushing. After that comes the oil wash. In the program, the potmakers christen the lid by cooking samgyeopsal (fatty bacon pork slices on it).

Now that's worth a thread, right there! If they do the lid in samgyeopsal, how do they season the pot?

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