Archive for the ‘Seoul’ Category

The More Things Change…

January 20, 2008

How do you document vacation trips? Taking photos of family, friends or famous landmarks? Well I’ve always documented trips with photos of my meals. I may have no clue where I was or who I was with but I totally remember what I was eating. Faces fade but food remains. So if you happen to have the same habits as me you might come across the “problem” of the repeat meal. You already ate the same exact meal before but you can’t help taking pictures of it. But then you can play compare and contrast:

This my favorite place for ddeokbokki, rice cakes in spicy sauce. All the pictures on the left are from about a year and a half old, the pictures on the right are recent. It looks basically the same except they’ve gotten a bit sloppier and saucy-ier on the right. It tasted exactly the same. Meaning I immediately got heartburn. Delicious!

Biji jiggae is a very mild stew of “tofu dregs.” I don’t know what that is but I think it’s like the ricotta of tofu. I’m probably wrong. Anyways, it was definitely spicier this time and didn’t have any seaweed in it. I think it actually tasted better the second time. The texture is amazingly soft and pillowy.

Hameul pajeon is a big green onion and seafood pancake that is dipped in soy sauce as you eat. Oops the picture on the left is actually the recent one. The chopped octopus used to be integrated into the batter and now it’s kind of tumbled on top. Definitely better the first time.

Kalgooksu is thick flour noodles in a konbu and seafood based soup. The broth thickens because the noodles are cooked in the broth, not separately. This place makes it with fresh clams. Okay so now I see they totally cheated me on the kim/seaweed, the amount of clams, carrots and zucchini. But it still tasted great! Oh MSG, what would Korean food be without you. Red but bland, I think.

Odds and Ends

January 13, 2008

Little things I’ve had recently that were memorable for some reason..

Definitely the dirtiest restaurant I’ve been to in Seoul (Insadong area, pic above). They serve fermented rice wine called makgoli which tastes like vinegar. Except opaque and alcoholic…mmmm. This is some mysterious fish that is completely fried and greasy but kind of delicious. Season it yourself with the coarse salt on the side. The place is most often frequented by workingclass men.

I think it’s “carp bread.” The woman squirts a bit of batter into the cast iron pan and tops with red bean, closes the top and rotates the entire thing. The taste is so normal but amazing when it’s fresh. Plus it’s cute. It’s basically the same as the Japanese version.

The smallest cuttlefish ever. They look like some sort of insect…you eat them whole, of course.

Doesn’t this look amazingly nasty? I thought it was some sort of weird fungus.

But of course it was just rice cake covered with very finely ground black sesame. So lightly sweet and delicious. “Ddeok” (rice cake) is one of my favorite foods but it’s actually quite bad for you.

My favorite at Dunkin Donuts. The Engrish reads “Green Tea Chewisty.” It uses sweet rice flour? The same for making rice cakes and it makes the donut really chewy. The icing is kind of marzipan-ish and it tastes blandly amazing.

Ha, I actually cooked something! These are garlic tops which are way more difficult to get in the US than in Asia. Why?? That’s all for now…

Yongsusan Traditional Palace Food

January 10, 2008

The average Korean meal will cost KRW5-7,000 (USD 5-7 dollars). But for KRW30-40,000 you can try an excellent traditional palace-style meal at Yongsusan. It’s located beneath the Seoul Finance Center and caters mainly to businessmen and their foreign business partners.

I thought the decor was kind of nice because they used traditional fabric for runners and patchwork lighting.

Millet and rice porridge. This was really blah as it looks.

Acorn jelly with toasted seaweed and stewed beef, various pickled veggies.

Bossam is wrapping boiled pork belly and spicy pickled radishes in blanched cabbage with a little salted shrimp. This was excellent because they also broiled the pork slightly so it wasn’t just a hot gray mess.

Jellyfish and cucumbers in a mustard sauce and frozen sashimi in a hot pepper sauce. I love jellyfish! The rubbery texture gets me every time. But Koreans are always putting hot sauce on raw fish which totally masks the flavor.

Rice cake soup. I was just reading that the rice cakes are shaped to resemble silk worm cocoons for prosperity…EWWWW!!

Okay it starts getting messy because the idea is you are served various courses but all on the same plate. But I’m not really a plate cleaner so you end up with various debris under the new course. This is a skewer of rice cake, beef and mushroom. It tasted exactly how it looked. Don’t you hate that? I mean fries should taste like fries but I hate cooked beef that just tastes like cooked beef.

Holy shit this was mad good. It was minced up beef short ribs sprinkled with pinenuts. You can see how fatty it was. Served with stew and rice.

Dessert included rice cakes with sweet white bean and TOMATO filling. Drink was the 5 flavor tea which is really bizarre and salty, vinegary and sweet. But it’s supposedly good for the complexion.

“Hanshik” (traditional multi-course Korean meal) isn’t really as fancy a meal as a full course French meal would be but it is a departure from the norm. I don’t think it’s that popular with the younger generation who prefer to splurge on Western food, but it’s definitely a must for anyone who likes Korean food. Like me.

148, Wonso-dong, Jongro-gu
Seoul, Korea
Tel : 02-743-5999

Dongdaemun Pochangmacha

January 8, 2008

Korean pojangmachas (street food stalls) are a common sight all over Seoul. I find them usually run by women who serve up cheap, filling and overly savory foods in a no-nonsense fashion. They park their carts on the street and you can find kids, college students and businessmen chowing down on the unsanitary delights at all times of the day (but usually at night).

This cart is in Dongdaemun, an area named after one of the four entrance gates in old Seoul. This is where you can find fake Gucci socks as well as fabric and trims. Note the toilet paper roll that replaces napkins.

The fried food is all cold and hard by the time you get there, but don’t worry they will REFRY it to get it nice and greasy. You can get squid legs, glass noodles wrapped in seaweed/kim, dumplings/mandoo and sweet potatoes all coated in thick batter.

So this is one of the options you can get. My mother thinks this is disgusting but I find it fabulous. They stick all the cold fried items of your choosing in the ddeokbokki sauce (rice cakes, fishcake and chili sauce simmered together) and slap it all on a plastic bag covered dish and sprinkle with perilla leaves. It’s spicy and warm and you can barely tell what you are eating, meat or vegetable. Delish! They also give you a paper cup of the soup that the fishcakes/odeng have been simmering in which has a dashi base. This costs 4,000KRW or $4.60 and is way more than anyone can handle.