Sunday, February 25, 2007

BBQ and Ray Ferraro

After bowling, we went to a restaurant called "Mapo Kalbi" (마포갈비) in a part of town called GangNam. It was packed, and we had to squeeze to get a whole hockey team's worth of people crammed together. The kalbi was very tasty, despite the fact that I had just had Korean BBQ the night before.

The next dish was pretty cool. It's just a "salad," which is really more like a slaw (mostly shredded cabbage), but the kicker was that it was laced full of wasabi or some sort of horseradish. Eating more than a small mouthful at a time got you a good kick in the nose. It was tasty, but take your time with it.

After dinner, we all went over to a nearby bar. We got some bar food... I ordered chicken tenders (or actually 치켄텐다/Chi-Ken Ten-Da) figuring that it would be good for sharing, but what I actually got more closely resembled chicken parmesan!

I'm not sure whether I just totally messed up the ordering process, or if something went horribly awry when the concept of "chicken tenders" was explained to the chef. It wasn't exactly like regular chicken parm either though (for one, it wasn't breaded). In any case, not what I had in mind, and not really good for sharing in a bar. It's a good thing my stomach has high capacity.

Tater tots! I have always liked tater tots, and nowadays they also remind me of the Vortex back home. Man, I'd like rare Vortex cheeseburger right now.

How Corny!

What is this, you ask? I found it in the ice-cream bin at the market. And, despite the obvious corn picture on the wrapper, it is indeed ice cream! Unwrapping it reveals:

So this is really more like a corn-shaped cone. The outer material had a consistency similar to the "cake" style "eat-it-all" ice cream cones (as opposed to sugar cones). Inside this outer corn-shaped shell was the ice cream. At first I didn't really notice it, but as I ate more, yes, I did start tasting corn as well... so it really is corn ice cream. The flavor was reminiscent of creamed corn. Eventually I even found a few kernels of corn in there as well as some bits of endosperm (the harder bit at the bottom of a corn kernel - I learned of that term from Alton Brown). Overall, it wasn't really gross, but when I want ice cream, I'm usually not in the mood for corn.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Nothing says "Pizza" like...

When you're craving pizza, nothing hits the spot like a good ol' fashioned pie... covered in sweet potato skins! (Or "skjins" in this case.) And this is at a Pizzeria Uno's! I don't know if this is simply a difference in tastes between East and West, or if there's been some horrible misunderstanding about what westerners like to put on their pizzas.

One was too hot, one was too cold, ...

One day for lunch, Sue and I tried this place that had "traditional korean healthy porridges" or something to that effect. It was actually quite tasty, although I was hungry again pretty soon afterwards (well, sooner than normal).

I got this sweet-potato porridge. It was actually very tasty. It also had some funny light dough balls floating in it (the light-colored spot in the middle of the bowl is one of them), along with a few red beans (and by few, I literally mean like maybe six of 'em).

Sue ended up getting something a bit more substantial. This is a rice porridge (like Chinese 粥/Congee) with mushrooms and oysters. This was pretty tasty as well if you like oysters (which I do). Anyhow, I liked this meal not only due to its taste, but also because it was pretty different in style than anything else I'd had so far in Korea.

Korean BBQ, Redux

Sue and I wandered around near the Apgujeong subway station. Our intention was to walk over to the main section of Apgujeong where there's a whole bunch of fancy-pants stores (Seoul's "Rodeo Drive"), but we didn't make it that far (partly because we didn't really know where we were going). Anyway, it was cold out, so we ducked into a random restaurant which turned out to be a Korean BBQ joint.

So here are some big chunks of fatty pork. Pork is always better with fat, which is why we all like bacon so much. There were some interesting side dishes that I had not seen before as well:

This pink stuff I think is probably in the family of 물김치 (mul kim chi, or "water" kimchi), which is basically more like vinagered veggies rather than anything properly pickled or fermented. The interesting part was its bright pink color. We were not able to identify exactly why it was that color; I would guess it had something to do with either plums or beets.

Another interesting side dish. Basically a scrambled egg poached in some sort of broth. This reminded me of how my mom used to scramble some eggs, pour it into a bowl, and steam it in the rice cooker... this had a slightly lighter consistency, but was fairly similar. Overall, a pretty good dinner.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


Sue and I tried out this Mandu (Korean dumpling) restaurant in Insadong that was listed in Lonely Planet. It was pretty tasty. Here's the before picture:

They just bring out everything in one big pot/wok and toss it on a gas burner at your table. You cover it up, let it heat up and cook, and then you get:

It was pretty tasty. The mandu are made fresh at the restaurant, and so the skins of the dumpling have that nice fresh pasta-like consistency and tooth-feel. There was also udon noodles, and then a variety of vegetables and of cource spicy chili paste which makes it red. I only wish that it came with more dumplings... I probably could have asked for more.

Nacho Libre

We saw a sign for a bar that said "beer/soju/nacho/quesadilla"... so we had to go check it out.

So each bar always gives you some little complementary snack to eat. Sometimes it's peanuts, sometimes it's cracker-like objects, and in this case, this was really similar to breakfast cereal. The texture was that of puffed corn (maybe like Post Honeycomb, but without the sweetness, and maybe a little less dense), and the coloring is consistent with Kellogg's Froot Loops. Not bad, not good, but visually entertaining at least.

So the menu was in Korean, but I was able to identify: 멕시칸 나초스 (Mek-See-Kan Na-Cho-Suh), or Mexican Nachos. So we had to order it:

The nachos themselves were closer to toasted pita points or something like that. They certainly didn't seem to be made from corn. Also interesting is that it's served with pickles on the side, 'cause nothing says nachos like pickles! Like the cereal stuff, it wasn't that great, but it wasn't offensive either. Probably won't order it again though.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Snacks, North Korean Cuisine

Throughout Asia, and probably any foreign country, you can find interesting, different and sometimes just plain weird food items. Paul spotted this particular gem in the market the other day.

They do look like little shake-and-bake coated chicken drumsticks, which I guess isn't quite "fried chicken", but it's still pretty cool.

The other night, Dr. Byun took us to a restaurant specializing in North Korean food. While the food items and tastes seemed somewhat similar to me (compared to the other Korean food I've been having), there were some subtle differences. The Pajon (pancake-like things) had a different shape and seemed to be more seafood-loaded than the other ones I've been having. They also had some pickles that surprisingly enough were very much like the pickles you'd find back in the US.

The pickes are in the bowl on the left. The dark stuff on the right is sausage casing filled with rice and noodles I think. I had a version of this before (see the earlier posting on street food). We also had some kind of dried fish (pollack, I believe), some sort of egg-coated meat patty, kimchi (of couse), and a rice cake soup at the end. Out front they had several baskets of the rice cake:

Growing up, I think I only ever saw rice cake in the shape of slices. Here in Korea, they seem to have been a lot more creative with it and it comes in many sizes and forms. These were sort of dumbbell shaped, or perhaps more closely described as two conjoined spheres (the nerdy first reaction I had was that they looked like a hydrogen atom or the shape of a p-orbital for those who remember what all of their electron distributions look like).