Saturday, January 27, 2007

Silent Food

So it's been at times challenging for me to order food in restaurants... since I'm asian, people here automatically assume I speak Korean. Usually a bit of pointing, miming, grunting and sometimes a little basic Korean are able to get me a meal. However, when I'm feeling lazy, Seoul seems to be filled with gimbap restaurants that are effectively the equivalents of diners (most are open 24 hours). The main advantage here is that there's a pad of paper at each table with the menu printed on there, and all you have to do is mark down what you want and hand over the sheet of paper. Hot food in minutes when you don't want to play the language game! Of course you still have to decipher what's on the menu, but I'm starting to get the hang of that (or sometimes just select something at random).

This particular item was dolsot bulgogi dapbap. Dolsot refers to the big hot stone pot. Bulgogi is marinated meat. Not sure what dap means, and bap is rice. Anyway, for four or five bucks, it was a fine meal.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Quebecois... almost

I didn't expect to see this in the Hyundai Department Store food court. For those of you who don't know, poutine is an odd dish that comes from the province of Quebec. It consists of french fries and cheese curds topped with a brown gravy. This Korean version almost gets it right, except that they use mozzarella cheese instead of cheese curds (it's gotta squeak!). I also recently discovered that our favorite belgian fries joint in NYC now serves poutine as well (and they import their gravy and cheese curds directly from Quebec). I wonder if anyone sells poutine in Atlanta...

Friday, January 19, 2007

NamDaeMun Market

One of the many streets within the market. It was very crowded.

Split and roasted pig heads anyone?

Kimchi galore.

Top half: two baskets of peeled garlic and a giant bowl of minced garlic.
Bottom half: similar, but with ginger instead.

Got spicy?

There was also lots of fish (and other creatures of the sea). Some things were frozen, some were live in tanks/buckets.

Various mollusks (clams, oysters, baby octopus, ...)

Braided fish? I guess maybe for air drying?

There were a few stores that just specialized in ginsengs of all sorts.

Korean BBQ

Paul (the TA for Venkat's class) and I wandered around last night looking for a restaurant. While standing outside one, the waiter opened the door and invited us in so in we went. We ordered four different kinds of meat at random (turned out to be beef and pork). It was very tasty. One of the pork items was *very* spicy, but good. We'll have to visit this place again.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Food and Drinks

The second TA (Paul) showed up this week. The night after he got in, we went out to dinner with Younggyun and his parents.

Here we have the bulgogi (marinated beef) and various banchan. Quite tasty (mmm, raw garlic). Younggyun's dad wouldn't let me pay for dinner (Asian customs and whatnot), so I took Younggyun and Paul out for some drinks afterwards.

In Korea, you never just sit around and drink... you always eat something while you drink. That actually makes a lot of sense and is probably a lot safer (and tastier!). This was some sort of pork dish, kind of cartilage-y (but that's fine with me, I grew up eating pig ears so it was no big deal).

Younggyun introduced us quite a variety of Korean drinks. I don't have pictures of all of them, but they were:
  • Baek-sae-ju (literal translation in hundred year wine - I think that's what's in the picture above)
  • Dae-po
  • Dong-dong-ju (milky in appearance, weak similarity to peruvian chicha, served in a tea pot - see below)
  • Dae-tong-ju (not sure what it is, but it was served in a piece of bamboo - see below)
  • Heuk-ju (literally black wine, but it really wasn't that dark in color)
  • San-sa-choon (made from fermented berries, very sweet)
It sounds like we drank a lot, but you drink from these tiny sub-shot-glass sized cups most of the time so it's really not too bad.

Dong-dong-ju. I think this was the only case where we didn't drink from small glasses, but from metal bowls instead! Luckily, this stuff wasn't very strong so a bowlful isn't all that much.


Sunday, January 14, 2007

Korean Products

This was pretty interesting... green tea breakfast cereal! The flakes are actually green. It smells like green tea ice cream, but when you eat it, the tea flavor is not particularly strong. It's pretty similar to Special K or similar flakey cereals.

I'm sure Alex would love this. Spaghetti ramen! I haven't tried it yet, but I have the feeling it will taste more like Ramen than Spaghetti. In the bottom left corner, the package says "Italian Type Spaghetti."

East Meets West

First sighting of Krispy Kreme doughnuts in Korea! I looked online and there's actually a pretty large number of Krispy Kreme stores in Seoul.

Not surprising at all is that there are Starbucks in Seoul. What was surprising to me was the sticker shock. If you click on the picture above, you can see the full version and read the prices. An example is a tall Americano costs 2,800W (approx. $2.98USD, and it only costs $1.90USD at the Starbucks in Tech Square in Atlanta). The worst one is the Grande Java Chip Frappuccino which weighs in at 6,400W or $6.82USD). I don't think I'll be visiting Starbucks anytime soon.

Street Food Galore

Insadong had a lot of street food vendors... so here we go:

Ok, so this first one wasn't from a street food vendor, but all of the little cakes and whatnot just looked very pretty so I took a picture.

Item #1: Some sort of glutinous rice cake (mochi in japanese). This kind was made with a black rice, so it had a dark purple color. The filling was some sort of peanut paste. This tasted very good.

Skewers of meat products, like yakitori. I had a skewer of chicken meat, and a skewer of chicken gizzards. The gizzards were actually better than the regular meat (which wasn't bad, it was just not that special).

At this stall, I got a rice cake fried on a stick (the ones in the middle wrapped with seaweed). The rice cake is wrapped in some sort of batter-like material and then fried. The guy at the stand offered ketchup, mustard, and some mysterious green sauce... or you could get it "multi-delicious" (all three sauces). This was pretty good as well, but I think I'll skip the multi-delicious next time.

Scary food #1: beondegi, or boiled silkworm larvae! For some reason, I expected these to taste sweet, but they're boiled in salty water. I wanted to like them, but they honestly weren't that good in my opinion. Sort of crunchy on the outside, but the "meat" of the bugs was too organy tasting (sort of like liver or kidney, but pastier). Oh well, it was worth a try! I'm not sure what was in the pot on the right... it looked like a whole bunch of mini-conch shells. Maybe next time.

The next course was some sort of little pancake-like pastry with sweet red-bean paste in the middle. These were pretty good, although I think they were slightly undercooked.

I didn't eat this, but I found it when we stopped briefly in a convenience store (to get out of the cold while we figured out where to go next). Mmmm, pre-packaged bacon. Note, the package reads "Fresh food, Good life"... so what kind of life do you get from eating pre-packaged bacon?

I actually got this on Sunday while searching for hair clippers. It's basically a sausage casing (i.e., intestine or some other part of the GI tract) filled with some sort of black rice... at first I thought it might be Korean Mustamakkara, but alas it was not. Again, battered in something and fried, and then dipped in some sweet and spicy sauce. It was actually pretty good despite being not-quite-a-sausage.

Thursday, January 11, 2007


Venkat and I went to lunch today with Profs. Chung, Lee and Kim. They took us to an old part of town that was pretty cool as it was very hilly with narrow, windy streets. The place we went to apparently specializes in buckwheat; I think everything on their menu uses it. We got some buckwheat pancakes (sort of like scallion-pancakes or a buckwheat version of korean-style pancakes (pajon)). Then I got a bowl of soup with noodles in it. At first, I thought the buckwheat noodles were actually slices of beef due to their dark color! It was all very tasty.

Later in the evening, I ventured out for some more street food. I really don't have much of an idea of what I got:

It was a potpourri of deep-fried objects, served in some spicy sauce with thick noodle-like objects. One item was deep-fried julienned vegetables. Another looked like thin, clear noodles wrapped in seaweed (then battered and fried). The other looked sort of like krab (imitation crab), but the texture wasn't quite right for that either. It tasted fine, although the seaweed taste in that one item was pretty strong. Anyway, it only cost me 1000W (~ $1USD).

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

GI Stew

Today's food item is Pudae Jigae, which translates into "troop stew" or "military stew". It's a very interesting dish that has relatively recent history. It comes from during the Korean War when everyone here was starving. The foreign troops here didn't make complete use of their food stuffs, and so the starving people collected whatever scraps they could and combined them with local spices and whatever else was available and made it into a stew. This particular stew that I had contained three kinds of noodles (ramyun (similar to ramen), udon-like noodles and macaroni), a variety of random meat products (baloney, pepperoni, ground beef, maybe some other stuff), assorted vegetables and I think there was even some cheese! It tasted very good, although I was certainly surprised to see pepperoni and macaroni! Even though Koreans are fairly well off these days, this dish appears to remain popular.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007


I found this to be interesting. A carton of eggs in Korea contains 10, not, 12 eggs.

First home-cooked meal. Simple noodle soup with cabbage and tofu, accompanied by pickled garlic, picked daikon, and baby daikon kimchi (and OJ of course).

BK, Dumplings and Tofu

You'll probably have to click on the picture to get the full view, but the option in the bottom left corner is a garlic burger, and the one in the top right is a chili burger (chili as in chili peppers, not as in chili con carne). Talk about having it your way.

Street food stall with hand-made dumplings and a variety of fried things that get dunked in some sort of red (I assume spicy) sauce. I got the dumplings this evening, random fried things will be for next time. There are too many goodies to try.

The dumplings themselves. For 2000W, you get about ten of them and a few pickles.

I thought this was kind of nice: the mini-mart sells fresh blocks of tofu (should I be worried that it's right next to the TP?). I bought a block to use for dinner tonight.

Monday, January 8, 2007

Sit-down meal

The restaurant we went to was aptly named "Korean Restaurant" (at least that was what was written in English outside). The food consisted of many rounds of banchan and other appetizers. I can remember kimchi, sweet-potato noodles, some sort of salad, jellyfish, raw oysters, octopus, blanched spinach, egg-battered mushroom and fish(?) slices, and some other vegetable (I think it was either a kind of seaweed or bamboo - I've had it before in chinese food, but I can't remember exactly what it is). This was followed up with a hot stone bowl of rice that was mixed with some purple rice and other things (I can only remember red dates and ginko nuts). You scoop out all of the rice from the stone bowl, and then they add hot water which allows you to scrape off any rice that has seared to the sides of the bowl and by adding some more flavoring, you can make a soup out of it. There was also some sort of marinated beef that was very tasty.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Sundubu, Street Food, and Noodles

Breakfast: sundubu jigae and gimbap. The sundubu jigae is a tofu soup with kimchi (or something spicy) and a small about a seafood (for xian1 wei4 or umami in Japanese). Gimbap is also referred to as "korean sushi", although there's no raw fish and the rice is seasoned differently... it's closer in form and taste to futo maki.

On the way to Dongdaemun, we passed a seafood restaurant with a few tanks of live critters out front. These baby octopi were quite active. I'm not sure what those other mollusks were.

Street food adventures begin! This is a skewer of some sort of meatballs, but I can't tell you what animal the meat came from. It's lightly battered, then fried, and then coated in some sweet and spicy sauce. It was tasty, but nothing super special.

Round 2: "peanut buttered roast[ed] squid" (you can see that on the packaging on the second photo above). Basically squid tentacles in some sort of peanut butter sauce, and then pressed in a grill that looks sort of like a panini press/George Foreman grill. It sounded so weird I had to try it. The squid was a bit on the chewy side, but the flavor was surprisingly good. There were some other odd items that I was tempted to try, but I'll save those for another day.

I went out to dinner with Younggyun and his parents. They took me to a 50+ year old noodle house. It was down some tiny, dark street; it's the type of place that no tourist could ever find on their own, so I was quite happy to have some locals take me to one of their favourites (Younggyun's father has been going to this place for 40+ years). The soju was good (Korean sweet-potato liquor, sort of like vodka but smoother and not as strong - approx. 40 proof). One of the appetizers that we got was egg-battered and fried slices of fish and beef lung (yup! at least that's what they translated it as). The lung was actually quite tasty and far more tender than I expected lungs to be. The other interesting appetizer was slices of raw octopus which I had never had before (the octopus that you get in a Japanese sushi restaurant or market is actually cooked). The rawness made it a little chewier and slimier than the cooked version, but it was very fresh so the taste was quite pleasant (if you like octopus in the first place, which I do). The main dish was some sort of noodles in a light broth; these were different than the korean noodle soups that Sue and I get on Buford Highway in ATL. The noodles had a pretty light flavor, but that was quite good after the richer appetizers. Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures from dinner (I didn't want Younggyun's parents thinking I was totally nuts for the first time meeting them).

Saturday, January 6, 2007

First day food

Here's the banchan (small side dishes) that came with the food I got this morning. The soup is just a thin soup (I think it's basically watered down fermented soy paste). The weird item is the one on the left of the plate; it was cold hotdog slices (uncooked I think) in some sort of spicy sauce. I forgot to take a picture of the main entree, but it was some sort of kimchi fried rice, but the weird thing about it (at least to me) was that it had cheese! That's the first time I've ever had cheese fried rice; it almost sounds southern.

The apartments come with a few appliances (no microwave, though!). I bought some groceries, including rice and tried to make some... however the rice cooker is completely in Korean. After randomly pressing the buttons in different permutations, I finally got it to work (it has like a dozen settings, but luckily only one of them had the Korean word "bap" which means rice). The other thing in the picture is a hot-water maker; it's rather insignificant except for the fact that when you start it, it sounds like a small airplane jet and it does indeed boil the water in a hurry.

Here's a couple of the items I picked up at the grocery store. In the middle-top is fermented soybean paste, middle-bottom is spicy-paste, and on the sides are two different types of kimchi. One's just traditional chinese-cabbage, but the other one is baby-daikon kimchi. I was pretty excited to find that as I haven't had that kind of kimchi since I lived in Seattle (Uwajimaya in the Int'l District carried a fairly extensive inventory of kimchi). Yum!

Friday, January 5, 2007

Gabe's Food

This is just an overflow space for all of the food-related pictures that don't need to get posted to the main Korea blog.