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Christmas 2012: A Series of Unfortunate Dinners

12 Dec
This was my Christmas Tree last year. It is smaller than it looks. It's not just god, it's good enough.

This was my Christmas Tree last year. It is smaller than it looks. It’s not just god, it’s good enough.

So, Christmas is coming up fast.  I will be spending Christmas with friends in New Zealand this year which I am excited about.  For me, spending my Christmas away from my family is difficult.  There are a lot of things about being an expat that are difficult and you tend to think of them all at Christmas.  Beyond being away from my family which is by far the hardest there is: the food, the egg nog, hearing Mariah Carey’s All I want for Christmas is You, for the billionth time at the mall, to name a few.

I don’t want to end up like last Christmas.  My first Christmas living abroad.  It started off beautifully. I spent time with other expat friends.  Someone gave me eggnog that they bought from an army base.  On Christmas day, friends were coming over for a Christmas party.  I decorated, bought food and drinks, made a Christmas playlist. I knew that I would miss my family but it was going to be fun anyway.

The beginning of a series of unfortunate events started on Christmas eve 2012. I met up with a friend for chicken soup at a Korean restaurant.  We sat on a heated floor in a tiny family restaurant and were served samgyetang, a beautiful whole chicken soup with chickens stuffed with Korean ginseng, dried jujube fruits, garlic and glutinous rice.

Then I went home early to ensure that I was prepared for the next day’s Christmas party that I would host.  Long story short, I caught a stomach bug and ended up sleeping curled up in the fetal position on the floor outside my bathroom with a bottle of pepto bismol.  I cannot remember a time when I was sicker.   Merry Christmas!

This is the only picture I took On December 25, 2012.  Nailed it.

This is the only picture I took On December 25, 2012. Nailed it.

Fast forward to a week later.  I was walking around with friends again on a Sunday afternoon.  We were looking for a restaurant that was open on a Sunday afternoon.  Sometimes, this was difficult in our neighbourhood.  A friend wanted to try samgyetang because she never had it.  There were not really any other restaurants that were open that everyone wanted to go to.

You know when you get really sick after eating something that you never want to eat it again because it makes you sick again?  That will forever be samgyetang for me now (sidenote: It was not food poisoning, my fiancée was sick the day before in the same way and he did not eat the soup).

So we are outside the restaurant looking at the pictures.  As long as there was some other dish to order I said I would go.  There was some sort of dark meat soup on the sign that I had never heard of so I said I would order that, problem solved, everyone would be happy.

My friend asked me, “You don’t mind ordering it even though you have no idea what it is?”

“No, it’s fine.  I don’t mind at all.” I answered. The worst thing that could happen is that I didn’t like it.  I knew I wasn’t going to eat the chicken soup.

So we all order.  Five orders of samgyetang, one order of yeongyang tang. The man was a little sceptical about the yeongyang tang.  He wanted to know who was eating it. We assured him that I wanted it and did not think much of it.

As we were waiting for our soup, the fact that my friend was very surprised that I ordered a food that I had never heard of before kind of grated on my mind a little.  I decided to Google what it was to ease my mind.

Me Googling what this food is literally the Christmas Miracle of 2012. Turns out to my shock and dismay that it was dog soup.  Now, I am not going to get into the right and wrong of dog soup.  Some people eat it and some people don’t.  In Korea, you can eat dog soup at restaurants.  I have friends that have eaten it. I am just saying, it is not on my bucket list.  It was certainly not something that I wanted to do.

In a panic I told my friends to a mix of horror and laughter. I think the horror was mainly just me.  I had ordered it a while ago, it was definitely almost ready to come out.

Now, I had two choices here.  I could try not to insult the man who owned this restaurant.  I could let the soup come out and just not eat it and on my way out the door apologize for being sick and tell him it looked delicious.  Or, I could go to the man in broken Korean try to explain to him that I was very sorry but I could not eat dog.

I chose the second choice.  I really didn’t want it to come to the table.

I approached him sheepishishly and asked in Korean if the soup was dog.  He had no idea what I was saying.  I tried a few more times, he was very confused.  I ended with “Mung mung?” which is the equivelant of saying “woof woof?”  He had a good laugh at that and confirmed my soup was indeed dog.

I made an “X” with my arms (the universal “NO” in Korea) saying in Korean, “I can’t eat it, I am very sorry.”

He asked me why a few times.  I just bowed a few times saying, “Jeoseungomnida, jeoseungomnida…” which is “I’m sorry, I’m sorry…”

He had a good laugh.  I ordered the samgyetang again.  I wanted to pay for the soup because I know he made it.  I knew I wasn’t going to eat the chicken but I felt like I should get something that I should pay for.  I am just hoping that he at least broke even because he wouldn’t let me pay for the dog soup.

I come home to this face everyday for over four years.  She would know.

I come home to this face everyday for over four years. She would know.

So to wrap up the Christmas Holidays of 2012: I ate at this chicken restaurant and that night I slept on the floor outside my bathroom hoping I didn’t die of dehydration and later at the same restaurant I ordered dog soup.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to be all Scroogey and woe is me.  I find it hilarious.  I still had lots of highlights from Christmas last year.   I won’t bore you with those.

I had my nails did for Christmas.  This was one of the highlights.  Getting a manicure in Korea is a pleasure!

I had my nails did for Christmas. This was one of the highlights. Getting a manicure in Korea is a pleasure!

This Christmas I am again going to be abroad once again.  It is a little bit difficult to get into the Christmas spirit but I don’t want to end up watching Micheal Buble’s Home for the Holidays Christmas special and crying while drinking an entire bottle of wine on a Wednesday night. Ok, that is inspired by a true story.  I actually did that yesterday.  Merry Christmas!

No, but really. I am looking forward to New Zealand and blogging all about it!

 

 

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Friday Photo: City Scape

6 Dec

Friday Photo: City Scape

This is the view from my window in my apartment in Seoul. I love that you can see I am surrounded by mountains.

Korean Food Delivery: Living in the Lap of Luxury

2 Dec
Here it is, wrapped up nice in saran wrap, stacked neatly and still super hot.

Here it is, wrapped up nice in saran wrap, stacked neatly and still super hot.

It finally happened.

I ordered food from one of the magnets that I have stuck on my door.

Everyday I come home to find another delicious looking meal magnet stuck to the outside of my apartment. I bring it in and stick it on the inside.  Read it, imagine that I am going to find the courage to call and order it but I never do.

My dream when I came to Korea was that I could call a delivery service, a scooter man would bring me a meal in a big plastic rubbermaid container, dishes and all. I would leave my dishes outside my door and he would come and pick them up again later.  No fuss, no muss.  Yes, these are the types of dreams that I have.  It is a glorious thought.

Someone asked me if I wanted to go bungee jumping today.  They were surprised when I said that is something I have no desire to try.  You can’t eat and bungee jump at the same time. In fact, bungee jumping might cause me to not want to eat anything (GASP).  Opening up that plastic treasure chest was thrill enough for me.

How to order Korean Delivery

Delivery is amazing in Korea.  It is probably more amazing if you can speak Korean.  I know very limited Korean. So, how do I order food you ask?

  1. I learn how to say my address in Korean and how to read the food that I want.
  2. I write it all down on a piece of paper.
  3. I listen to Survivor – Eye of the Tiger to pump myself up
  4. I call a take out number.  No answer. Probably closed.  Throw that one way.
  5. I choose another take out place and something else I want to eat.  I don’t write these down, I just remember them.  Ain’t nobody got time for that anymore.
  6. I call.  They answer. It goes like this:

Food Gatekeeper: “Yeobusayo?” (Hello)

Me: “Nae, waegookin-iyayo” (Yes, I am a foreigner) I want to warn them they are going to have a bad time.

FG:  “Yeobusayo?”

Me: “Yeah…uh…daebal? kinchanayo?” (yeah…uhh..takeout? Is that ok?)

FG: *CLICK*

So, they hung up on me.  This is actually a really hard blow to take.  They had food.  They were open.  I practiced saying your address.  Now I am hungry, depressed and angry.

There are two options now.  Text a Korean friend to call for you (this always works, but I hate to be such a bother). Or, order chicken.  I don’t know what it is about chicken. I can always order chicken easily.

I try again:

Chicken Peeps: “Yeobusayo?” (Hello)

Me: “Nae, waegookin-iyayo” (Yes, I am a foreigner) I want to warn them they are going to have a bad time.

CP:  “Yeobusayo?”

Me: “Yeah…uh…daebal. Sal sal Cheeken jusaeyo.” (Yeah…uhh.. daebal *confidence boost* sal sal chicken please)

CP: “something something oedie something” (something something, where)

Me: [Address that I have memorized]

CP: [Something else in Korean, I am not really sure but I know that they are really trying to get me this chicken. ]

Me: [repeats the food that I want and my address until someone says “yes” in English]

And it usually ends by someone telling me the price of the food, or reverting to English, or someone hanging up and leaving me wondering if the chicken is actually coming.  With chicken: the chicken always comes.  I don’t know why, but the chicken people just have my back.

How it Actually Happened Today

So remember earlier when I said that I ordered the food that came with all the dishes? Well, technically, I did.  I called them, twice.  But they hung up on me and I ended up texting a friend to call for me.  Listen, I almost got the woman who owns the 7-eleven downstairs to call for me.  I was hungry! It’s Monday.

BUT if I had decided to get chicken, they would have came.  The BEST part about calling for chicken. Since I already went through the awkwardness of calling and giving my address.  Every other time I call it goes like this:

Me: “Sal sal cheeken jusaeyo” (Sal sal chicken please)

Chicken Peeps: “Naaae.” (Yeeees)

*CLICK*

My number is on file, I just have to call and say what I want.  Then it comes!

Alright so, my friend called for me.  The food comes.  We take it out, feast too much.  I clean the dishes (I don’t think that this is expected, I just couldn’t bring myself to pack them back in there with food on them) and they are sitting outside my door right now.  Waiting to be taken away.

For a mere $14 CAD we got plates, cutlery, mains and side dishes and delivery.  This was definitely too much food.  There was also like five fried eggs.  I am not really sure why because we didn't ask for any. Pictured here is: kimchi bokumbap (kimchi fried rice), tuna kimchi jjigae (in the stoneware), donkassu (fried battered pork), a plate full of fried eggs, soup, kimchi and banchan (side dishes).

For a mere $14 CAD we got plates, cutlery, mains and side dishes and delivery. This was definitely too much food. There was also like five fried eggs. I am not really sure why because we didn’t ask for any. Pictured here is: kimchi bokumbap (kimchi fried rice), tuna kimchi jjigae (in the stoneware), donkassu (fried battered pork), a plate full of fried eggs, soup, kimchi and banchan (side dishes).

 

So if you are in Korea and you are not in the mood to go out and get your own food (you were out too late last night, or you had an exhausting day at work, or you just want to experience a new dining experience, maybe you have access to a rooftop!) give it a try.  It is really not that hard if you are willing to suffer through a few hangups until you get someone who is willing to try to decipher your thick, unfamiliar accent.

If you are in a hotel: lucky you! Just go to the front desk, they will hook you up with menus. They will call and have it delivered to your room for you.

Hooray for food!

At the Market

1 Dec apples, oranges, grapes!
apples, oranges, grapes!

I love the abundance of fresh produce that is so affordable (when it is in season). Fruit is one of the only things that I can buy at a market fairly confidently.

There are plenty of little open air markets all of Seoul.

Earlier in the fall I got out and snapped a few pictures at Suyu Market.  This is me trying to overcome my fear of taking pictures of things in public.  I spent most of the time red-faced, quickly snapping pictures and moving on.  I think it was the guilt of taking a picture and not buying anything.  Sorry!

This man is most likely buying a delicious treat for his offspring.

This man is most likely buying a delicious treat for his offspring.

This guy was buying stuff.  Actually, I totally would have eaten street food if I wasn’t carrying my camera around.  I had no excuse here.

I love seafood.  I wish that I could buy this stuff and know what to do with it.  I realize that I have been spoiled to have always bought my seafood cut and cleaned for me.  I don't know what I would do with any of this.

I love seafood. I wish that I could buy this stuff and know what to do with it. I realize that I have been spoiled to have always bought my seafood cut and cleaned for me. I don’t know what I would do with any of this.

More fish, but this time of the dry variety. Each stand has it's only very strict theme.  I do love when the cafeteria serves the tiny dried fish with spicy powder.

More fish, but this time of the dry variety. Each stand has it’s only very strict theme. I do love when the cafeteria serves the tiny dried fish with spicy powder.

This market has a little of everything.  The stalls are organized by product and colours it seems.  If I knew what anything was, I am sure that I would be able to easily find it.

I am going to guess that these piles of spices are all very spicy hot.  I still don't know what they are.

I am going to guess that these piles of spices are all very spicy hot. I still don’t know what they are.

One of the first things I learned to say in Korean is "The apple is green." Too bad these ones are red. I can say that too, however.

One of the first things I learned to say in Korean is “The apple is green.” Too bad these ones are red. I can say that too, however.

I can always buy fruit!  Not intimidating at all.

AUG_2483

Everything is displayed just perfectly in every market I have visited.  Things are piled neatly.  I can't imagine even buying anything for fear of ruining all of these nice piles.  That, and I wouldn't know what to do with it when I got home.

Everything is displayed just perfectly in every market I have visited. Things are piled neatly. I can’t imagine even buying anything for fear of ruining all of these nice piles. That, and I wouldn’t know what to do with it when I got home.

And that is the mini-tour of the market.  If you get a chance to, definitely have a cruise around one of these.  They are really interesting!

Best (cheap) Wine to buy (on a budget) in South Korea

29 Nov
Picture here is the Cabernet Sauvignon and the Merlot.  Both highly recommended, I prefer cabs, but that is my taste.

Picture here is the Cabernet Sauvignon and the Merlot. Both highly recommended, I prefer cabs, but that is my taste.

Not going to lie: I am a few glasses in.  This is a passion post right here.

A passion for cheap delicious wine.

As I have talked about in a previous post I am moving to Chile.  I have been a fan of Chilean wines for years.  Chilean wine has been a boon for me ever since I attended a wine workshop at a waiting job I had years ago and the guy running it told me that Chile was fairly new to the wine world but had excellent wine that sold at rock bottom prices because they hadn’t grown a reputation yet.

I spent most of my adult life living in St. John’s, Newfoundland.  This is an island of the east coast of Canada.  It is difficult to travel to and from this island because of weather and geography.  Things are not cheap there.  I loved shopping for Chilean wine because a $12 bottle was like a dream.

Then I moved to Korea.  I discovered G7 wines.  rolling in at a mere 6,900 won (less than $7) it is the gear. It has been available at any Emart I have been to in Korea so far, it is my go to wine.

Now, I like to think that I have pretty good taste.  I have attended a few workshops, I have waitressed for a few years.  No, I don’t spend that much money on wine.  However, I feel like I have a fairly delicate palette (not true, G7 talking).  I know a few terms, legs, chocolaty, hints of fruit.  I have given people advice on what wine to pair with their $50 steak dinner (that is true).  I love the G7 wine.

The G7’s have yet to let me down.  They are the best bang for your buck in a bottle of wine at emart.  Emart usually hasd a pretty decent selection as well.  Before I left Canada I was favouring the Apothic Red which was coming in at about $20 a bottle, which I thought was a pretty good price.  I love Californian wine, which is what the Apothic falls under.  And it is availble at Emart as well, just a few feet away. I just can’t stray from the G7.

So, if you are in Korea and on a budget but looking for a decent wine to enjoy at the park, or in your hotel, or in your apartment, or at a potluck. I don’t know where you are drinking this wine.  For whatever reason, you are on a budget and you are looking for a nice wine that you can enjoy, find a local Emart and look out for the G7 series.

If you are in Korea and are looking for a little more expensive, bit higher class wine.  Get the G7 anyway.  Let’s be serious, you can save $30-40.  Go to Lotte World or buy a kimchi pot or something with the savings.  You and I both know after the first glass it all tastes the same.

Pajeon and a Travel Update (Mostly Pajeon)

27 Nov
It is so delicious.  This one, from Gwangwhamun Square was served on a hot platter.  It was crispy and so good.

It is so delicious. This one, from Gwangwhamun Square was served on a hot platter. It was crispy and so good.

Let’s take a minute to talk about pajeon here.  Pajeon is a traditional Korean cuisine.  It is best described (in my opinion) as a seafood pancake.  It is hands down one of my favourite Korean foods.  Pancakes in any form are definitely on my top food of all time so keep that in mind when I give it my five star rating.

A friend told me that pajeon is a comfort food to eat on a rainy day with Makgeolli, a Korean rice wine. Maekgeolli is alright, the price is right for sure.  I also find it fun to shake up.  It has to be shaken becuase there is white silt that settles to the bottom. IT is a little sweet and carbonated. It is like a milky white colour.  It throws me off a little bit.  Like beer and wine, maybe I just need to aquire a taste for it.

Back to pajeon: it is made like pancakes, with batter, fried with oil in a griddle.  It has seafood and green onions and it is often served with soy sauce to dip it in.  I like it because it is hot, crispy, oily and there are tentacles in it.

Tentacles are the type of food that you think you should be averse to trying, but then you eat them and they are completely unoffensive and delightful.  I have been a tentacle fan for years.

On a note about the status of the blog:  If have been on hiatus for a couple of weeks here (despite saying that it wouldn’t happen).  Things have been a little bit hectic around here with my job and trying to move on with my career.  BUT in three weeks I am on vacation and in four weeks I am off to NEW ZEALAND.  I am really excited so there will surely be lots of posts about that.

But wait, there is more.  As you all know (probably not even true) I have been trying to improve my career prospects (life skills) by learning french which I have not updated, but it was going very well for the 30 days that I committed.  I feel like I am grasping the basics now.  I can answer questions and think of how to say things in French much easier.  I also feel like I have been more productive in my evenings.  French is continuing, but slower.

I am moving to Santiago, Chile in MARCH!  So, last week I started learning Spanish.  I have never studied Spanish before.  But it is coming along I think.  So in the next four months I am going from Seoul to New Zealand to Seoul to Canada to Chile.  I am really excited to start this new chapter.  These next four months are going to be a whirlwind!

Back to pajeon: Please try this.  You are supposed to share with the people you are eating with.  THAT pajeon in the picture was actually only eaten by me.  No, I was not travelling solo.  No, everyone didn’t order their own meal to consume by themselves Western Style.  We were eating communal shared dishes mostly.  I ordered that pajeon and I ate it all.  That’s how I roll sometimes.

 

A Guide to Hack into Korean Nightlife

3 Nov Korean Bar
Korean Bar

The name of this bar is actually Cheong Chun ShiNae

There was this bar that my friends and I used to frequent when I lived in Mokdong.  It became legendary because every time we came there we would meet hilarious, friendly locals that we would share drinks and laughs with.

We came to this bar because we could get good, cheap food.  Lots of beer and soju and more often than not, after a few jugs of beer and two bottles of soju, someone would raise a glass to “chunbae” another table and before long our tables would merge and there would be a lot of broken English and broken Korean.

The decor and food is enough that if you go with a group of your friends and don’t meet any locals, you will have a fun time.  This bar was fun because the ceilings were covered in newspaper style, black and white comic strips.  The walls are decorated with old Korean vinyl record cases.  There were half dozen television screens perpetually playing some weird k-pop music show.  Also, they served “pop-rocks” candy with the soju.  We always assumed that this was the soju chaser.  On top of all of this, they had the best cheesy ddeok-bokki I have had in Korea.  Their pajeon is also notable.

We always called this place the “K-Bar.”  That was not the actual name of the bar, but we called it that because it was our favourite Korean Style bar.  There were a lot of Western style clubs and pubs.  There are also a lot of Chicken Hofs selling fried chicken, beer and soju.  This one was unique in that it had escaped teh Western influence but was not too foreign to us that we felt uncomfortable (In fact, we took Korean friends here and they were shocked that we enjoyed coming here).

We met some hilarious characters here, like the older man whose knowledge of English, I can only guess, encompasses only the lyrics of “We are the world” the 1985 charity song.  There were the young girls that taught me how to “one-shot” makgeolli (a Korean rice wine) and I helped them practice their English.  There was also the pineapple salesman who was selling pineapples to pay for college.

This place was a hilarious introduction to the drinking culture of Korea.  I think that there are many places around Korea that you can create your own “k-bar” in.  I have learned the secret trick to breaking the ice with strangers; it’s as easy as raising a glass and sharing a smile.

I don’t spend a lot of late nights out drinking anymore.  Late nights make wasted morning.  Every once in a while it is a fun laugh though, and Korea is a hilarious place in the wee hours of the morning.  You can get your people watching in and experience a part of Korean culture that is just non existence during the day light hours.

If you are in Mokdong and you want to go to this particular bar, go to Mokdong Station (Line 5) exit 1.  Walk straight for a few minutes and it will be on your left hand side.  Look out for the sign in this post.  When it is warm, there are tables set up outside.  

For Google Map click here