Foodie’s Delight: The Street Food Of Korea. Part 2.

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Korean street food is made in many different ways, including in movable stalls to small kitchens that are tucked into ground floors of old buildings, with much of the cooking spilling out into the street in front of the store. There’s no place to sit and eat at many of these so it still is very much street food, but with a more permanent location. Locals often get take out from these places on a regular basis.

There’s a great place in Namdaemun Market which sells the most delicious steamed buns. There are a few different fillings to choose from, but the absolute best one I had had a delicious pork filling. It was served piping hot and passers by laughed at me as I was doing the whole ‘too hot, but so good’ dance with the first bun. One older gentleman asked us if was good and a couple of others encouraged us to eat well. I think they liked watching us enjoy their local food.

Another type of street food stall can be attached to a sit down restaurant where some items are cooked in areas open to the street and you can just buy food to go, or go inside and sit down. Many of these have very basic interiors. These photos show all sorts of vegetables and meats being fried in a light covering of batter. I did enjoy these, but at some places they were a little greasy for my taste. You can tell how incredibly popular these fritters (Jeon) just by looking at how many these ladies are preparing.

You can also find great food inside some of the markets, with some markets having better reputations than others. Here you usually find a place to sit to eat if you can, although at some places people stand as well. There’s a huge selection of different types of food to try, but you need to be confident and a little adventurous as the ladies are usually busy and don’t have much time to spare if you ask too many questions, plus most are unlikely to speak English.

In Dongdaemun market we opted to try a lady who had a tiny eating space behind her stall, as we felt we would be out of the way of the main crowd. Unable to communicate except by pointing and gestures, the lady finally just gave my daughter a plate and a set of tongs and told her to put what she wanted on the plate.

This was all reheated so that it was piping hot and delivered to our table. The kimchi pancake was really, really good. I also enjoyed the little dumplings (mandu). We of course had some banchan on the table and a beer to drink. Surrounded by working people on lunch break we were totally immersed in the local eating culture. Not a place to sit and linger, many people came and went quite quickly as they hurried back to their daily routines.

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While eating all this street food might make you thirsty, don’t despair, vending machine drinks can be found almost everywhere……

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Have a great day everyone.

You may also enjoy Part 1,  Pojangmacha: Better Known To Some As A Soju Tent,   Korea Without The Chili Pepper,   and Korean Tea.

Please do not copy or use without permission and accreditation. Photo credits to Elle Marzec.

Pojangmacha: Better Known To Some As A Soju Tent.

 

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In Korea Pojangmacha means ‘tented’ or ‘covered’ wagon/cart, so it actually means all the plastic and tarpaulin covered food carts, as well as what many of us call as soju tents when they show up in Kdramas. The ones serving soju appear after it gets dark, and disappear again before daybreak. Many are operated illegally and the Korean Government has been cracking down on them, calling them ‘unsanitary and eyesores’. Fortunately for us the Seoul City Government has finally recognized that they are a ‘cultural presence’ within the city and have recently stated granting permits to some. Nevertheless there are far fewer than there used to be.

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With their origins beginning just after the ending of the Japanese occupation of Korea in 1945 they quickly became ‘the place for commonfolk and salarymen to go to relieve the stresses of life’. Not fancy, or made with comfort in mind, just a place to be anonymous and to eat and drink the stress away. It was 0k to go and drink alone, or in companionable silence, to grab a quick bite before the long commute home, or to meet up with old friends.

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In Kdramas they are also the place to get over heartbreaks, to spill secrets,  drink away disappointments, and to get drunk enough for the hero to piggyback the heroine home.

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Our soju tent experience happened by chance and turned into one of the highlights of our trip. We were actually looking for a restaurant for dinner, but as anyone who has been to a 24 hour food street in Seoul can tell you the number of choices is somewhat overwhelming. Instead we saw a line of 3 soju tents at a busy intersection and randomly chose the first one after the crosswalk. It was early so there were only a couple of people inside. After some confusion with us not knowing you had to order ‘anju’, food that goes well with alcohol, before you could order the soju, we sat down on little plastic stools. The owner spoke zero English, but tried his best to help us order, which was tricky as he only sold seafood, most of which we didn’t recognize, and that was still alive in baggies filled with water.

We played safe and ordered mussels, and the owner kindly offered to take our photos. Then luck, fate, or serendipity, whatever you call her stepped in in the form of three people who turned our whole evening into one of the best ever. Wanting to practice her English Hyelyn came over to chat with us, and then after a little while invited us over to their table.

Food and drink and conversation happened, with a lot of miming and laughing as we tried to overcome the language barrier. The evening progressed with us not noticing the passing of time.

Being the youngest, my daughter was ‘encouraged’ to try everything, however I was given the choice. I did try a couple of things which I probably would never choose to eat again, but everyone just thought it was funny watching my expressions. In the second photo you can see the walls starting to come down, we were there so long the owner was closing shop around us.

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Some of what was left.

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A few minutes later.

All that could be seen during the daylight hours.

There was no piggyback ride home, but there was a bit of staggering, as we had been in the soju tent for hours, but we had a great night and met some wonderful people who I’m now proud to call friends. I can’t say this would happen to everyone, but I can say it is worth trying a soju tent even though it looks a little intimidating. Just remember go to the bathroom first, be polite, say annyeonghaseyo when you enter, and ‘read’ the tent. If it is older single men it is probably a ‘local’ and a group of loud tourists might not really be welcome. Look for a busy one with a mix of different people in it. Check to see what kind of food is available, ours was only seafood, and remember the food isn’t cheap. It is about what you would pay in a restaurant. There have been some tourist complaints about soju tents so if you are worried try one with a city permit, or ask the people at the local tourist office.

Have a great day everyone.

You may also enjoy  A Look at Hongdae,  Seoul: Megacity,  Foodie’s Delight: The Street Food Of Korea,  My Favorite Place To Stay In Seoul, and A Walk Down KStar Road.

Please do not copy or use without permission and accreditation.

Photo credits to original owners. (First 5)    Photos 6-15 to Elle Marzec.

Foodie’s Delight: The Street Food Of Korea.

For travelers and tourists alike food has always been a large part of the travel experience, with great food being a huge draw to many, whether they stick to restaurants or adventurously explore the local street food. While in Korea we tried food in local neighborhood restaurants, as well as some in more touristy areas, along with occasional mall restaurants and cafeterias, plus of course lots of the ubiquitous coffee shops and cafes. We only ate in a couple of higher end restaurants because we discovered so many excellent meals in the low to middle price range. One of our favorite places to eat, however, was the street.

Korea has some of the most amazing street food of anywhere I’ve ever been, (about 36 countries so far). The sheer number of choices is both amazing and somewhat daunting. There are certain staples that you’ll find everywhere, like tteokbokki or odeng, particularly clustered along popular streets and near subway exits, but take a peek and you will often find that different foods are more popular in some areas than in others, and that yet other dishes are native only to certain districts or neighborhoods.

Different locations around the country have their own regional specialties too, for example all the different foods made with the citrus locally grown on Jeju Island. The ‘hallabong’, a sweet and seedless variety of mandarin orange, is particularly famous but other types of citrus are also popular.

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These little ‘dol hareubang’ pastries  replicating the ‘stone men’ of Jeju Island, are filled with a very yummy citrus cream.

There are so many different types of little piping hot sweet stuffed pastries in Korea that it would be difficult to track them all down. Some of the best have red been paste or custard cream fillings. They are also quite cheap with 5 for a dollar or two, depending on how large they are and how touristy the area. And if you’re really polite to the vendor you might get an extra one thrown in for ‘service’.

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One of the must not miss breakfast snacks is Gyeran ppang or egg bread. It can come in slightly different shapes and sometimes with extras, like tomato sauce squeezed inside, but all are delicious. Although it would seem like it should be savory it has a nice balance of sweetness too. Served piping hot in a little cardboard sleeve it is amazingly good on a cold crisp morning. You’ll often see people clustered around the Gyeran ppang street stalls in cooler weather.

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This particular lady also had piping hot sweet potatoes too, which help fill you up on a cold morning.

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Strolling down many of the pedestrian streets you will find street food stalls lining the way. This one is selling fish cakes, as well as rice cakes, and sausage, all served on skewers for convenience.

Korean street food also encompasses a wide range of almost familiar food, in that Koreans often take a basic food and add a Korean twist to it. This stall in Hongdae had the best sweet potato fries and fried chicken served in a cone.

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And then there were waffles for dessert. These were absolutely delicious, if somewhat tricky to eat without getting cream everywhere. But maybe that’s the point, as a lead in to Kdarama style ‘cream kisses’ for date night.

All this writing about food has got me super nostalgic and extremely hungry, so I’m going to go eat. Have a great day everyone and I’ll write a part 2 about some more of the best street food in the world.

You may also like Korean Tea,  My Favorite Place to Stay in Seoul,   A Look At Hongdae,  The Stone Men of Jeju,  and Korean Salt.

Please do not copy or use without permission and accreditation. Photo credits to Elle Marzec.

Kimchi Pots: In Photos.

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Kimchi, the national dish of Korea, dates back many centuries and basically is fermented vegetables seasoned with various herbs, spices, and other ingredients. This means that Kimchi comes in many more varieties than one might imagine, and that each household would need pots of differing sizes to store each of the types of Kimchi.

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Before the days of refrigeration Kimchi was stored in pots, sometimes buried underground or in thatched ‘sheds’ to protect it from freezing during the cold Korea winters. Kimchi was a food that could be kept and used when little in the way of fresh produce was available.

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Although many Korean families now use special Kimchi refrigerators to store their Kimchi you can still see Kimchi pots on roof tops and in yards of family homes.

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Like most fermented foods Kimchi is remarkably good for you, as well as being a flavorful addition to a meal. It also can also age, like wine, to achieve more depth and complexity of flavor.

Quite a few Folk Villages and Museums have displays set up to explain the history of Kimchi to their visitors. There is even a Kimchi Museum in the center of Seoul that is easily accessible for most tourists.

Kimchi pots are often used for decorative purposes, and on Jeju Island there is even a maze made of them.

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Kimchi pots are beautiful, yet functional items that to me convey a certain familial, homey feeling as they can be seen to represent years of family togetherness and love.

Have a great day everyone.

You may also enjoy Hanji: The Paper of Korea,   Korea Without The Chili Pepper!   Ramie: “Wings of a Dragonfly”, and Rice: Feeding Half the World Every Day.

Please do not copy or use without permission and accreditation. Photo credits to me.

Korea Without The Chili Pepper!

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It is surprising to realize how many people believe that the chili pepper is native to lands where it was in fact unknown of until about 500 years ago. Korean, Indian, Thai, Hungarian and all other Old World cuisines which are famous nowadays for their spicy food and use of the chili only developed their ‘signature’ dishes relatively recently compared to the span of human history.Image result for columbian exchange map

 

The chili pepper was part of something called the Colombian Exchange, (after 1492 AD) which was when early visitors to the New World, (North & South America) took their plants, foods, and diseases with them to the New World, and brought plants, foods, and disease from the New World back to the Old. (Europe, Asia, & Africa). The most famous products from the New World included, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, corn, turkey, pumpkins, tobacco, and more, while the New World received coffee, sugar, olives, horses, pigs, smallpox, wheat and more. This ‘exchange’ is named after Christopher Columbus although the travel of goods took place over many years and involved sailors and ships of many nations. Image result for columbian exchange mapFor the story of the spread of the chili around the world one has the thank the Portuguese and Spanish Empires. These two nations competed to claim land both westward towards the New World and eastwards into the depths of Asia. India was one of the first countries to really accept the chili into their cuisine, and they are still the world’s top producer, consumer and exporter of chili peppers. Chili peppers were native to the area around the highlands of Brazil and were also unknown in N.America until they traveled north with the Spanish. By 1500 AD there are records of the Portuguese regularly exporting chilies from Brazil. The chili spread around the world like wildfire. By 1540 the Portuguese were trading in chilies in Indonesia. One odd fact is that Hungary, another country famous for it’s use of chilies, didn’t originally receive them from Europe, but when they spread backwards from India.

Chilies contain a chemical that is somewhat addictive. This chemical tricks the brain into thinking the ‘heat’ is dangerous and so releases endorphin which is a natural painkiller. This is partially why some people eat chili peppers, because they feel better afterwards. Chilies are eaten by more than a quarter of the world’s population every day, and may be the most used spice.

It is difficult to determine exactly when the chili reached Korea. Some historians claim they spread from China, although most evidence suggests that they were introduced to Korea from Japan. In the 1540’s Portuguese Catholic Missionaries introduced the chili pepper to Japan and Korea probably became acquainted with them soon after through trade and by the Japanese Invasions of Korea, (1592-8). Although Korea was familiar with them at this time under the name of Japanese Mustard they could not get a hold of any seeds with which to grow the plants themselves, as Japan was tightly holding on to their monopoly. King Sonjo (reigned 1567- 1608) repeatedly asked the Japanese and was rejected. Somehow Korea did however get a hold of the seeds, and the pepper plants liked the soil and climate and Koreans everywhere began to grow them and incorporating them into their cuisine.

In 1614 Yi Sugwang, called chili peppers ‘a great poison’ so not everyone took to them immediately, but he goes on to say that they were often served in drinking-houses, so his comment may be a class bias statement. His comment is, however, useful as it shows that by 1614 chili peppers were widely available in Korea. So in just over 400 years chilies have become so tied up in the Korean way of life and it’s cuisine it is hard to comprehend that it wasn’t always so.

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Personally I love spicy food, although mostly in the mid range of heat, so eating out in Korea is something of an adventure. I love the flavors, but can’t always take the heat. It was the same for me in Hungary and Mexico, but fortunately someone usually takes pity on me and gives me some yogurt, milk or bread to calm the heat, and I’m back out the next day savoring that addictive food I love so much.

Have a great day everyone.

You might also like Korean Salt, Korean Salt. Rice: Feeding Half the World Everyday, and Open Sesame.

 

 

Photo credits to me and/or original owners. Colombian Exchange map  and Early Exploration map found on Pinterest.

A Visit to SUM Market, Gangnam.

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In the basement of SM’s building at 648 Samseong-ro, Gangnam-gu, you can find SUM market which is targeted at those Kpop fans who particularly love artists from SM Entertainment. It is fairly small, although densely packed, with enough items to tempt any fan.

Some of the things were quite fancy, but you could buy bags of chips or nuts if you were on a strict budget. All the groups were well represented with goodies, although EXO merchandise seemed to be particularly popular during our visit.

I did stop to look at the patches, but after mulling it over I decided to continue just making the patches for my jacket myself.

 

Once you left the market you passed through an area with some artwork before heading upstairs to either the exit or the cafe. We didn’t go to the cafe this trip, but if you have time to spare there’s a slim chance an SM artist might drop in for a coffee or snack while you are there.

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Have a great day everyone.

You might also enjoy A Walk Down KStar Road,  KBS Studio Tour,  SM Town COEXartium, and BigBang10 The Exhibition A to Z.

 

All photo credits to me. Please do copy or use without permission or accreditation.

A Look At Hongdae.

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Hongdae, a large area near Hongik University, is in many ways the pulsing heartbeat of the young and hopeful of Seoul. For the past few decades it has been where talented students, and others, have spilled out their ideas and designs in art, fashion, and music to share with other like minded youth. There is a passion in Hongdae that may not strike one at first glance, but the longer you stay and the deeper you delve into the back alleys, basements, and hidden corners the more obvious it becomes. Filled now with tourists and other Seoulites drawn to one of the most jam packed areas of shops, cafes, art galleries, clubs, pubs, noribangs, and live performances in the city, it still maintains its forward thinking and creative soul.

One visit is not enough, in fact a month or more of visits might still not cover all the area has to offer. The density of cafes and restaurants, not to forget street food stalls, means you would never have to go to the same place twice to eat. Bars, pubs, and places serving ‘to go’ alcoholic drinks are numerous, as are entertainment places like noribangs, and PC cafes. Music abounds within regular clubs and bars, as well as those which showcase live performances. Street performers are also a common sight in Hongdae, with some going on to become famous. Shops selling all sorts of fashionable clothing and accessories entice those looking to be on the cutting edge of what’s new and hip, while art galleries showcase young urban artist’s most innovative and avant-garde work. Art can also be seen in the ever changing street art and graffiti. There are also monthly markets featuring handmade items from students, some of whom study at the Fine Arts College of Hongik University, one of the nation’s top such colleges. The Trick Eye Museum has a location here, and there are a couple of theaters as well as a few Kdrama and movie locations. Regular festivals are also held throughout the year, most with themes that state more liberal views than those that are popular with the older generations. Even after saying this I am sure I’ve missed pointing out some of the other obvious charms and attractions of the area.

On our recent trip to Seoul we stopped in at Hongdae on a couple of evenings, once as part of a long night of ’rounds’ of which Hongdae was just one part, and another where we were looking for a couple of specific places. One of the places we were looking for was a craft beer place. Craft beer arrived late on the scene in S.Korea due to the domination of the big brewing companies and the unfavorable tax and distribution laws. However, in 2014 some of those issues were addressed and new legislation lessened the financial hurdles small brewers had to face. New craft breweries have been popping up all over Korea and ones who had moved their companies overseas have begun to return. So we wanted to see what we could find in Hongdae. There are actually a few places which serve craft beer, you can also try Magpie, and Neighborhood, but we chose to go to Platinum Craft Beer Brewing Company, one of the better known brands.

A little off the beaten track, down a side alley, the site was a somewhat tricky to find on a dark rainy night, but it was a homey place with most of the tables having groups of friends trying out the brews. We tried a couple and they were decent, probably in the 3.5 out of 5 range, and we were pleasantly surprised that the Stout was better than we expected.

Another place we wanted to try was a Board Game Cafe, one of which we found down a somewhat sketchy staircase which led us down to an interesting old basement. We were seated at one of the last 2 empty tables and a charming young man tried to explain how the cafe worked, and the prices, to two non Korean speakers. We were the only foreigners there, which was great because it really allowed us to see a representative slice of Korean social life. We only stayed an hour or so, but had fun and would definitely return next time we’re in the area.

While strolling around we managed to catch a couple of street performances, one a singer, and another a group of dancers. On previous visits we have also been lucky enough to interact with the performers. In the photos below you can see my daughter chatting and then introducing an excellent musician whose name unfortunately is unknown to us.

The really nice thing without the street performances is that they are so varied and eclectic that you don’t know what you’ll find each time you visit. We’ve seen magicians, and comedians as well as musicians and dancers. You can sometimes see guerilla style appearances by semi established groups as well as random idols. You just have to go often and keep your eyes open.

The last place I’ll mention is a chain restaurant called BHC which has a location in Hongdae as well as others around the city. It is a chicken and beer restaurant, and what I liked most about it was the way you helped yourself to your beer from the coolers and then put the empty bottles in a basket and your total bill was then calculated from those empties. The chicken wasn’t bad either.

It is hard to describe the size of Hongdae in terms that everyone can understand, but it covers many multiple blocks of area, plus many buildings have up to 6 floors of different places going upwards and then basement levels going down. For people who are familiar with 6th Street in Austin, Hongdae is that, if it were a cargo ship, on steroids. If you’re in Seoul be sure to check it out and give yourself time to discover some of the best food, drink, and music around. It is a famous spot for the young, for couples, and for groups of friends, although we saw people of all ages including groups of very respectable middle aged businessmen. (Much later we saw a group trying to get a very drunk senior manager type into a taxi, and similar to Kdramas, there was much bowing and exclaiming and carefully half lifting him into the cab.)

Hongdae stays active and awake long past when the last subway stops running, so make sure you know your Korean address and have taxi fare on you, or do like many Koreans, keeping partying until the subway starts up again the next morning.

Have a great day everyone.

Photo credits to me and Elle Marzec. Please do not copy or repost without permission and accreditation.

Seoul Bamdokkaebi Night Markets.

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Seoul is a city that never seems to sleep, maybe because there’s just so much to do at night including shopping. Most people have heard of the Dongdaemun Open Market which doesn’t even open until 10pm and stays open until 5am, but Seoul also has some seasonal night markets, including one at Dongdaemun Design Plaza, that are perfect for those who want a fun night out. The Bamdokkaebi Night Markets are only open on Friday and Saturday nights from late March until late October.

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They are called Bamdokkaebi after a Korean folk figure. Bam means ‘night’ while  a dokkaebi is an ogre, demon, giant type mythic figure who can be frightening, or in this case humorous and friendly. So Bamdokkaebi is a friendly giant who only comes out at night and disappears during the day, just like these markets. The dokkaebi carry a club that is somewhat like a magic wand and they help out good people while tricking and punishing the bad.

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There are 4 Bamdokkaebi Night Markets each with a different theme or concept. There’s the World Market at Yeouido Hangang Park which overlooks the Han River,  the Youth Runway and Dance Night at the beautiful Dongdaemun Design Plaza, the Sports and Health one at Mokdong Stadium, and lastly the Seasonal/Holiday Market at Cheonggye Plaza which has limited opening dates.    (Please check times and dates for all of them before you go as they vary slightly for each venue.)

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We only managed to visit two of the four, Yeouido and Dongdaemun, and thoroughly enjoyed both of them. The World Market at Yeouido was absolutely heaving with people who were enjoying everything the market had to offer. The lines at the 30 or so food trucks were long, but since there was a lovely cool breeze off the river and the city lights sparkled in the distance, most people didn’t seem to mind the wait for food from different places around the world. The handmade craft booths were interesting although not particularly world representative. There were busker like performances as well as a stage set in the Han river. Families and couples were sat on the banks on the river relaxing and enjoying a pleasant evening outside, whilst groups of friends could be seen chatting and laughing with each other. There were a few tourists, but the crowd was mostly made up of locals out for fun on a Saturday night. It was a perfect place to be part of the experience instead of an outsider watching from the sidelines.

The Market at the Dongdaemun Design Plaza was extra special, mostly because of the setting. Although originally there was some controversy over the design when it was first built, the Dongdaemun Design Plaza really is a spectacular piece of architecture, especially at night, when different panels light up and glow. It is a free flowing large scale work of art, and having courtyards and hidden nooks made it a perfect place to hold an event such as this. There were performances on the main outdoor stage as well as musicians and buskers hidden around the curves and contours of the building. The craft booths had a variety of items for sale that were geared more towards the young and fashion conscious. The Meokgeori, or Food Truck Street, was extremely busy, this time because the focus was on young, innovative styles of food. Cutting edge chefs and fusion style foods were on offer from a multitude of food trucks. (I too see the irony in my photo showing a hot dog stand, but I was too busy having a great time to take appropriate photos!)

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All in all we enjoyed both night markets and they were perfect for a stop on a typical weekend night out in Seoul, which usually involves multiple ’rounds’ at different places and not ending until the wee hours of the morning long after the subway stops running. Just as well taxis are cheap in Seoul!

Have a great day everyone.

 

Photo credits to me, Elle Marzec and our friend Hye Rin. Please do not copy or use without permission and accreditation.

SAUCE Tonkatsu Restaurant Gangnam: Review.

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I read quite a few restaurant reviews and am always impressed and envious of how the authors manage to describe the flavors and tastes to such a degree that it makes me wonder if they all truly have that sensitive of a palate. I appreciate good food, good service, and a good atmosphere. Cleanliness, cost, and location are also important, and so I do applaud the efforts involved in finding that perfect meal, in that perfect place and then sharing it with us. But don’t expect that from me. I tend to review the places that a regular person would go and as such the basic criteria is would I look forward to eating there again.

 

While visiting Gangnam a few weeks ago there was no shortage of choices of places to eat, from high end fancy restaurants to those owned by celebrities, or their close family members. You could eat at a different restaurant twice a day for months without running out of choices. (Seriously, Seoul has more restaurants per person than almost anywhere on earth, and Gangnam has a good proportion of said restaurants.) So why am I recommending this particularly restaurant tucked just off the main drag when there are so many amazing choices available?  For a few reasons including the wide variety of customers. There were a couple of delivery men sat in a corner, a group of well dressed company workers, a few middle aged people, a very smartly dressed lady, a couple of suits, some teens, and us as the only non Koreans. Most tables were occupied even though we arrived a little past lunch time. Everyone else seemed local and familiar with the place which is always a good sign. The service was quick and even though the staff spoke very little English the ordering went smoothly. The atmosphere was nice, the decorations quirky, and it had a nice relaxed feel. The building itself was a little older than the surrounding ones and it looked like it had once been someone’s home. The prices were extremely reasonable, especially considering it was in Gangnam, with my meal being under ten dollars.

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I ordered the plain tonkatsu and my daughter the cheese one, and both were excellent, served piping hot with a wonderful crisp batter on the outside and moist succulent pork on the inside. As is usual it came with a number of sides, as well as a really light and refreshing shredded vegetable salad. I ate every last bite, which means it really was good as I’m kinda skinny without that large of an appetite.

You may ask why we went to a tonkatsu, which is originally a Japanese dish, restaurant while in Korea, and the answer is the same as why does Korea have so many coffee places and Italian restaurants. Korea has a wonderful knack of taking good food from around the world and somehow making it their own, and often making it better. Tonkatsu is a very popular dish in Korea and has become a regular choice for many.

And to answer the big question. Would I eat there again? Yes I would, it was a delicious meal, in a nice place, for a decent price. What more can you ask for?

The address is 62-14, Cheongdam-1dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul-si, 135-948, Korea. It is one building back from the main KStar road down a small side street between a Banyan Tree Club and Spa (not the main one which is near Namsan) and a shop called Tehome.

Have a great day everyone.

 

Photo credits me and Elle Marzec. Please do not copy or repost without permission and accreditation.

 

 

 

Korean Tea.

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Tea is technically made from the leaves of the camellia sinensis tree, but around the world the designation ‘tea’ often emcompasses so much more. In Korea the word for tea, ‘cha’ can mean an infusion of almost anything, including the leaves of the camellia sinensis. There are Korean teas made from roots, fruits, leaves, grains, pollen, tree bark, honey, nuts, and even dried fungus. Korean tea can be served hot or cold, or even somewhere in between.14191934_10207121797113835_1200673316018098603_n

Green tea has been drunk in Korea for centuries, with the first written record of its use during religious rites being from 661 AD. Most people agree that tea drinking probably originated in China where it was first used, mixed with other ingredients, as a medicinal drink. The drinking of tea in this manner may date back over 3,000 years, although it was a long time before it became a stand alone drink. Han Dynasty emperors were said to have drunk tea and the first definitive written account is from the 3rd century AD. One of the earlier methods of making tea was by steaming the leaves, others ways included roasting the leaves and then crumbling them, pan frying then rolling and drying them, and by letting the leaves ferment over time before pressing the tea into molds. Black, green, and fermented tea could all be pressed into molds to become solid ‘bricks’ which were easier to transport and store than tea leaves. These bricks of tea were sometimes used as currency. By the 14th century loose leaf tea became popular.

With the close geographic proximity and the intertwining of Korea’s history with that of China, it seems probably that the Korean elite had earlier access to tea than the common people. Whether it was a drink that was drunk frequently, or whether it was reserved solely for medicinal use and ancestral rites is open to debate. It seems that the drinking of green tea had periods of popularity followed by times of little usage. This may be because although Korea does have a kind of native tea known as Paeksan-cha, and green tea farms existed on a small scale, most tea was imported up until the 1960’s when the first commercial production of green tea began. Nowadays the three main tea producing areas in Korea are Bosung County, Hadong County, and Jeju Province.

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O’sulloc is probably the most famous and popular green tea available in Korea. It is grown on Jeju Island, where conditions are perfect for the growing of tea. Other tea farms on Jeju also welcome visitors and we enjoyed a pleasant visit to Green Tea Maze Park, where we sat out a sudden squall in a tea house overlooking the tea plantation. We not only drank some lovely tea, but also had the most amazing green tea waffles and ice cream.

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Numerous companies, and individuals are trying to restore and revive Korea’s traditional tea history and culture, which had almost faded completely away. Korea’s ceremonial tea culture deserves to be preserved, even in the face of most modern Koreans preference for coffee.

Non camellia sinensis teas, which might perhaps be called tisanes and infusions by non Koreans, have always held a special place in Korean culture and many people still drink these forms of tea. They are often said to have health benefits and some are drunk for specific illnesses or just as pick me up tonics to increase energy and wellbeing.

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Teas made from roots include Insam cha (ginseng), Saenggang cha (ginger), and Chik cha (kudzu). While fruit teas include Yujacha (citron), and Daechucha (jejubes). Teas such as Taengja cha and Maeshil cha are made from fermented fruit whilst Bori cha (roasted barley), and Hyeonmi cha (roasted rice) are made from seeds or grains. Cha can also be made from leaves, dried fungus, pollen, tree bark and other things that over the centuries the Korean people have discovered to be safe and beneficial to drink. Many of these teas are really unique and are worth trying if you get the opportunity.

 

Let me know your favorite Korean tea and have a great day everyone.

You may also enjoy Green Tea Waffles.

Photo credits me and Elle Marzec. Please do not copy without permission and accreditation.