Tag Archives: Korean cuisine

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!




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.