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Last K-Days (Part 2)- Life’s a Beach

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My second day in Ulsan wasn’t as action packed as the first day, but I did manage to have some McDonalds and pay a visit to neighboring Gyeongju.  The only real food highlight of the day was when I managed to try a new type of 호떡 or hotteok which is like a sweet pancake.  Normally, they are fried and filled with a sticky, sweet syrup, but the variant in Ulsan I found to be more pleasant.IMG_2088  First, instead of being soaked in cooking oil, they were baked in a small oven.  Second, inside the hotteok there were more sesame seeds and honey instead of syrup which led to a more interesting and varied taste. IMG_2089 Plus, it wasn’t as messy as the original hotteok I tried in Myeongdong in Seoul.  Lord knows I don’t like to have half of my food still on my hands when I finish eating.  I made it to the seaside town of Busan.  I had visited the city before where I tried some deadly fish soup and had a “sexual” encounter in the Jagalchi fish market, but this time we were going to explore the art village on the other side of the harbor.

The first food I tried in Busan when we got to the art village was this Dalgona cookie that smelled pretty good from far away.  However, this was no ordinary snack.  I saw people fiddling about with their cookies on metal plates for some reason, so I learned hat you can cut out the shape imprinted in the cookie with a needle as a type of challenge.  If you cut it out perfectly without cracking the shape, then you get a free one.  Dalgona cookies seemed to be a simple treat to make since it was only made of sugar and baking soda that was heated to a high temperature before being spread on a small griddle where it cooled.

IMG_2099 You then got your choice of shape you could press into it.  I decided to do a gingerbread man shape since it looked pretty easy…or so I thought.  I took my seat next to the other kids at the table and proceeded to get to work. IMG_2166 It was harder than it looked because the cookie was wafer thin yet extremely brittle which required the steady hands of a brain surgeon with the needle.  I was making great progress as I cracked parts off around the upper torso, but a random fault line erupted as I rounded the crotch.  All my hard work was for naught, and my Korean audience was disappointed after watching my splendid progress.  I vowed to come back and try it again. IMG_2163 Even though the cookie was extremely sweet and crunchy, there was a burnt, bitter aftertaste that may have been caused by either the singed sugar or my defeat.

 I highly recommend a trip to the art village as it’s very quirky but tasteful if you like random artwork integrated into a mountainside community.  On the way back to the car, I got another Dalgona cookie with a fish this time in honor of the seafood hub that is Busan.  This time around, I cut the shape out with four quick jabs with the needle.  I was satisfied with overcoming the challenge.IMG_2159  However, these snacks were a mere prelude to the food extravaganza that would soon follow in the city as I went to Gukje Market.

When we got there, it seemed like the entire world was out and crowded around these food carts.  I would come back to these carts later, but first we had to try some of Busan’s famous mini kimbap (think California sushi rolls with different fillings).  We went to a food tent that specialized in these mini kimbap, and there was plenty of variety in terms of ingredients we could choose. IMG_2101 You ordered by placing plastic kimbap on each flavor tag, and then the woman behind the counter would whip them up in a jiffy. IMG_2102IMG_2103 I was starving at that point, so we ordered almost all of the flavors.   I saved myself for the parade of little rolls that made their way onto our plate which included the following flavors:  spicy pepper, flying fish eggs, anchovy, spicy tuna, spicy pork, spicy beef, kimchi, and dried squid.IMG_2104IMG_2107  I loved nearly all of them, but the spicy pork and spicy beef were the most disappointing.  It was more like eating liquified, overly salty mystery meat puree in a sushi roll.  Not my kind of dining experience.  I really enjoyed the spicy pepper kimbap since they were spicy but filled with lots of pepper flavor.  The flying fish egg kimbap were surprisingly good since the eggs brought a different texture to the rolls as I enjoyed popping the little orbs between my teeth.  I eventually slowed down, but the food crawl didn’t end there.  We then moved down the main pedestrian area of Gukje Market to get 납작만두 or napjak mandu which are essentially flat dumplings or potstickers that came with a side of 오징어무침 or ojingeo muchim which is strips of squid and vegetables in a chili sauce.IMG_3616  It was one of the many food carts that had a mob of people around it jostling for position to taste some of the wonderfully grilled dumplings, and I quickly made a hole in the crowd for us to stand.  It seemed like people would put the vibrant red strips of squid and vegetables in the dumplings and then fold them like tacos to eat with chopsticks.    Overall, I would have enjoyed them more if I wasn’t so full of kimbap, but they were delicious.  The dumplings were crispy around the edges, and the dough had a buttery taste that gave way to seasoned vegetables inside.IMG_2110  Combined with the semi-sweet and spicy squid and vegetables melange, my palate was fully satisfied.  As we made our way back to where we entered, I stopped for a quick drink at the convenience store.  I saw a drink that was called “pine bud drink”, so I got it. IMG_2108 It apparently was made from pine tree needles, and the taste isn’t good.  I took a big swig and was intrigued by the taste. IMG_2158 It kind of tasted like Gatorade at first, but then I was blasted with a shot of a flavor I could only describe as pine tree mixed with menthol.  Strangely, I enjoyed it for some reason I couldn’t quite put my finger on.  Then again I like green tea flavored products while my other foreign friends can’t stand it.  Try it at your own risk.  Finally, there was the 씨앗호떡 or ssiat hotteok or seed hotteok.  We could only get it at the severely crowded entrance where we were quickly ushered in line by a guy working for the food cart.IMG_2116

Apparently this is the original food cart that started serving the hotteok.

Apparently this is the original food cart that started serving the hotteok.

It snaked around as more eaters rushed around us, and we eventually reached the front of the cart where the entire order and buying process took maybe 30 seconds tops.

The batter

The batter

Pre and post fry

Pre and post fry

IMG_2115

I’m nuts for it!

These hotteoks were fried like the ones in Seoul, but they were stuffed with honey, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds.  It was the best hotteok out of the ones I have tried.  Not only was the dough chewy and rich, but the seeds made it taste like peanut butter when combined with the honey.  Plus, I loved the crunchiness that served as a counterpoint to a mostly soft dessert.

After getting back from Busan around 11pm, we tried some gwamegi or dried herring which is normally served with lots of side dishes to cut through the salty flavor, but we only really had chili sauce, garlic cloves, and some wonderfully strong and berry flavored Chinese baiju liquor.IMG_2123IMG_2122  It was ok, but I did enjoy the smoky elements of the snack and the fruity aftertaste of the baiju which reminded me of my time in Beijing.  We soon headed out for a late night snack of mayak jjimdak or drug chicken soup.IMG_2126  Now don’t order this dish expecting to find some magic herbs and spices given the name.  The “drug” element comes from the idea that the soup is so incredibly tasty that it’s addictive like a drug.IMG_2127  I would have to agree with them as the fiery red broth was thicker than a normal Korean jjigae or soup, and there were plenty of pieces of juicy chicken throughout the meal.  I would have to check into rehab if there was a drug chicken soup spot by my house back home.  With that spicy and “illicit” meal behind us, my third day in Ulsan drew to a close.

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May the Odds (and Ends) Be Ever In Your Favor

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What is going on everybody?  Welcome to a slightly different Mastication Monologues where I will be bringing you a random smattering of unique foods that I have sampled in the past few weeks that you can’t get anywhere else and may have never seen before.  I’ll begin with cactus chocolate from Jeju.

The last weeks of the Korean school year shouldn’t even exist since the kids essentially tune out from anything and everything educational since there are no tests to study for.  This is something that all of those world education studies praising the Korean school system don’t mention.  However, my students also became really respectful towards me suddenly since they found out I was leaving.  Too bad they didn’t do it earlier in the year when we actually had to do work.  With this newfound respect came lots of candy as well which I wasn’t complaining about.  One of the trinkets that caught my eye was the brightly wrapped Jeju cactus chocolate.  IMG_1973

Jeju is an island off the southern coast of Korea, and is considered to be the Hawaii of Korea due to its beautiful sandy beaches, mountain climbing, and outdoor sex museum (wait, that’s not right…but it’s true for Jeju!).  Culinarily, they are known for their black pig barbecue and even horse meat, but throughout the year my kids would always give me Hallabong chocolate which was often in the shape of these mini-Easter Island-esque stone statues that dot the landscape around the island.  The Hallabong chocolate would often be infused with fruit flavors especially Jeju orange and sometimes raspberry.  However, I had never seen this crunch chocolate until last week, and what made it especially unique was the cactus element.  I knew that Jeju’s climate was warmer than Seoul’s, but are there really are cactii on this volcanic island?  When I unwrapped it, I was confronted with what seemed to be a naked Crunch bar with a moderate coating of pink chocolate. IMG_1974 When I bit into it, my assumption was confirmed as the small, crunchy orbs gave way to creamy raspberry chocolate.  Where the cactus element came into play was a mystery to me.  It was a sweet little treat though that I enjoyed a bit more than the next “sweet” thing I tried:  walnut cakes.

On the same day of my cactus chocolate adventure, I tried some interesting snacks that aren’t what they seem.  Turns out they’re cakes made to look like walnuts, and they do do quite an impressive walnut impression.IMG_2021  The exterior mimicked the deeply grooved facade of its namesake, but that’s where the similarities fade.  Actually, fade doesn’t do justice to describe the shock I received after biting into it.  Naturally, I was greeted with a big mouthful of my old nemesis:  red bean paste.

It shall forever haunt me.

It shall forever haunt me.

Koreans love the stuff, and I can’t stand it for the most part.  I’ve found that anything that you would assume would have chocolate in it in the West, i.e. pastries, rolls, buns, fudgsicles, instead has red bean paste in it in Korea.  It’s considered a “sweet” delicacy to Korean palates, but I come from the land of rampant diabetes, so the sweet factor is lost on me.  The dough itself is fine, and the crunch walnut in the center made up for the red bean paste that left me shaking my head once again.  I thought I learned my lesson after the red bean popsicle incident but apparently not.  I’ll close this semi-gross scene with a fun fact.  These walnut cakes were made by a bakery called Cocohodo which is based in Korea but also has branches throughout California in the United States.

I also finally managed to try 족발 or jokbal or pig’s feet.  I got a half spicy-half mild plate of pig feet which wasn’t what I expected since they carved all of the meat off the actual hooves even though some of the bones were still there.

Hog heaven

Hog heaven

The mild meat tasted like a cross between a glazed ham with the pork element, but the skin was carmelized which had a sweetness to it like Peking duck.  As for the spicy half, I was in heaven.IMG_2035  Some pieces were crispy like bacon while others had a more tender texture like pork chops, and the spiciness was around a jalapeno level with a sweet aftertaste which was probably due to the soy marinade.  I would have eaten more if it wasn’t for our teachers’ farewell dinner beforehand where my table consumed this bad boy below.  What a way to say “thank you” and “farewell”!1904234_3177324309091_1094229150_n

Also, I hadn’t mentioned this before, but check out my friend’s podcast I did a couple weeks ago.  Not only do I talk about my trip to North Korea, but also I elaborate on some of my best food adventures which I have detailed in Mastication Monologues!

Hong Kong (Part 3)- A Lil’ Dim Sum-Sumthin’

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What is happening, everybody?  Welcome to another edition of Mastication Monologues!  If you didn’t read my last post, I finally made it to the century mark in terms of blogging, i.e. 100 posts.  So this a small step towards the next 100 posts.  Today continues in the same vein of the last couple of posts where I talk about my food adventures during my Korean Thanksgiving vacation in Hong Kong (Post 1, Post 2), Macau, and Taiwan.  Today I wanted to bring you the food that I enjoyed during my last full day/night in Hong Kong.  We begin with my journey to the quaint fishing village of Tai-O on Lantau Island.

I originally went to Lantau to see the big Buddha statue that I saw on posters and on friends’ Facebooks, but while doing my research, I found out that a lesser known attraction is Tai-O fishing village.  Naturally, I always prefer checking out lesser known spots that aren’t crawling with tourists like a honey-smeared popsicle chillin’ (see what I did there) on top of an anthill.  When we arrived, I saw on my map that the little blurb said that the village was once known as the Venice of Hong Kong due to its location in relation to the sea, and all of the houses are on stilts which creates mini-canals for their boats.  Plus, they have wild pink dolphins.  That’s right.  Flipper and friends got a new paint job courtesy of excess blood vessels under their skin.  If you go to Lantau, skip the Buddha and go on the dolphin tour.  Nothing like whipping around on a tiny fishing boat and seeing these unbelievably beautiful animals in the wild.  Food-wise, obviously it’s a fishing village, so they’re known for their dried fish filets and shrimp paste.

Mmm, dried fish

Mmm, dried fish

However, I’m not the biggest seafood fan, but I do have a sweet tooth.  So, I found another Tai-O specialty:  nougat.  I got a variety pack for 20 HKD that contained black sesame, plain, and green tea chunks, and I did not regret it at all. IMG_0819 It made a great snack while hiking up to see the Buddha and also look out at the pristine forests of the island.  My personal favorite was the black sesame because it tasted like a mix of vanilla, sesame seeds with a slightly earthy aftertaste, and lightly salted almonds.

Some black sesame nougat

Some black sesame nougat

The mix of sticky and crunchy really hit the spot.  After a long day of walking and sightseeing on Lantau Island, I had dinner.

I ended up going to one of the most popular dim sum restaurants in Hong Kong with a Michelin star:  Din Tai Fung located at 20 Canton Rd in Kowloon, Hong Kong. Let me warn you that the wait might be long if you don’t get reservations or are picky about seating.  Thankfully, I timed it perfectly. It was very busy, but I liked the surroundings in the shopping mall and my friend I made at the entrance.

Look at that punam.

Look at that punam.

Main dining room

Main dining room

I started the meal off with some xiaolongbao (小籠包) that had soup on the inside.

Secret soup attack dumplings

Secret soup attack dumplings

You had to be very careful not to bite into them too quickly or else your mouth would be treated to a piping hot broth bath.  So I saw the proper way to eat them was to nibble a hole in the top to let it cool and put some of the soy sauce marinade on the inside.  Then you could pop the little tasty pockets in your mouth once they cooled down.  Before I could even finish my second dumpling, they were bringing out the second and third plates.  One was a mini-bowl of longer dumplings filled with  shrimp and pork, and the other plate had orange spicy chicken. IMG_0828 The longer dumplings were extremely slippery and hard to grab with my chopsticks, but the struggle was worth it.  The skin was tough enough to hold the contents back from erupting all over the bowl, yet tender enough to give way with the slightest grazing of my teeth.  As for the filling, the shrimp and pork was simply decadent with a whole surf and turf meal condensed into one bowl of dumplings.  As for the orange spice chicken, I liked it because it was all white meat coated in a sweet orange sauce that had a gentle spice level, and the dried seaweed garnish was a good addition because it complimented the wet, sweet meat with some dry, crunchy vegetables.  Just when I thought this parade of great food would stop, they bestowed upon us a dumpling the side of probably a newborn baby’s head.

Big old softy

Big old softy

It was more bread than meat, and the bread was sticky yet soft as a cumulus cloud.  Inside I encountered a large, seasoned pork meatball that was similar in taste to the soup dumplings’ interiors.

Big dumpling fall hard

Big dumpling fall hard

I also ordered a bowl of beef noodle soup which is a Taiwanese specialty which made sense I had it there because Din Tai Fung is originally from Taiwan.  I can see why Taiwanese people always crave this national dish.

Elite beef to eat

Elite beef to eat

From the strong and salty beef broth to the tender pieces of beef, it was a solid dish that I’d ask for on any cold day in winter.  Oh yeah, and the noodles were not too bad either.  Finally, I had “dessert” in the form of taro dumplings.

Taro dumplings

Taro dumplings

It was a nice change of pace from all of the aforementioned meat laden dishes, and it was a refreshing way to cleanse the palate of the strong flavors with the slightly sweet purple paste that I always love in my boba tea. IMG_0833 It was a great end to my night, so if you’re looking for great dim sum, check out Din Tai Fung in Hong Kong, but be prepared to wait since the quality and price always ensure that there is a horde of hungry people waiting their turn to try the greatness that awaits them inside.

Next installment, I go to Taiwan and eat out of a toilet.  Need I say more?

An Elephant Never Forgets 100 Posts

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Hey y’all!  So this is another installment of Mastication Monologues from my recent vacation for the Korean Thanksgiving holiday.  Actually, now that I think about it, this is my 100th post!  I never thought I would keep up with my blog for this long, and I would be trying so many different types of food and sharing my findings with the world.  Thanks for all of your support!!  Yet I regret having not started it earlier to record some great restaurants I visited in Europe whose names escape me now.  Alas, the show must go on, and this will be epic!  So that brings me to today’s post where I traveled to the island of Macau.

Before I left, my friends told me to read up on the Vietnam visa on arrival program and to consider a work visit, I considered it for a long time before I decided to keep with my initial plans. I started my day again at a cha chaan teng where I had a Hong Kong breakfast of oats with milk and crispy buns with sweetened condensed milk.   If you don’t know what a cha chaan teng is, check out my last post.

Hong Kong's odd couple

Hong Kong’s odd couple

The oats were unfortunately more milk than oats, so I jazzed up the bland concoction with some sugar that was on the side.  As for my crispy buns with sweetened condensed milk, I should have just gotten two orders of these toasted nuggets of heaven.  Not only were they crunchy yet soft, but the salty butter mixed with the extremely sweet condensed milk definitely beat any doughnut I’ve probably ever had.  They were that good.  Once I downed that satisfying meal, I was ready to catch my boat to Macau.

I was originally drawn to Macau ever since my mom told me about her exhilarating ride on the hydrofoil, and how the island was a mix of both Portuguese and Chinese cultures.  So, I was determined to see this cosmopolitan island for myself while vacationing in Hong Kong.  Naturally, the food was another driving factor for me to go the extra mile and see the island.  I’ve always loved Portuguese and Brazilian culture whether that be Fado vs. a birimbao for a capoeira  roda or some Nando’s spicy piri piri chicken vs. some pao de queijo and brigadeiro.  One of the first noms that I sought out were the pasteis de nata or more commonly known as egg custard tarts.  I really wanted to try them in Macau because I had some in the Santa Maria de Belem neighborhood of Lisbon.

The original bakery.

The monastery next to the original bakery in Lisbon.

I bought them at the first bakery (Casa de Pasteis de Belem) that began mass producing these egg desserts in 1837 when the original producers, the Jeronimos monks, were driven out by the Liberal Revolution of the 1820s.

Ain't nothing like the real thing.

Ain’t nothing like the real thing.

They were amazing there with a little powdered sugar and cinnamon on top, so I was gunning to see if they were worth the boat ride.

I was a fatty even five years ago.

I was a fatty even five years ago.

In Macau, I ended up going to Margaret’s Cafe e Nata which is located at Gum Loi Building, Rua Alm Costa Cabral R/C Avenida de Almeida Ribeiro, Macau.IMG_0777  I saw there was a line, and a woman was directing the traffic for what seemed to be a sandwich line and a pastry line.IMG_0776  She looked at me, and I asked for “pasteis de nata“.  She looked at me like I was an alien.  I said it again, and she said, “Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, egg tarts” and then led me to the line on the left.  I thought she was just an oddball who didn’t speak Portuguese, but I told the woman behind the register, “Quero seis pasteis de nata, por favor“.  She was less incredulous, but still had trouble understanding.  I held up six fingers, and she rung me up.  Then when she gave me change, she said “obrigado” which only men should say.  I guess Wikitravel really was right when it said people don’t really speak Portuguese in Macau even though everything is written in it…so strange.IMG_0779  Anyway, I quickly opened the box to find six golden mini-pies that would eventually fuel my intense day of hiking and sightseeing.IMG_0780  The first bite revealed a crispy top with a smooth, vanilla taste accompanied with a slightly gooey egg interior and an extremely flaky yet sweet pastry crust.  Overall, they were pretty good, but they were a bit too gelatinous for my liking.  The originals in Lisbon were better since the egg custard was a lot creamier and didn’t feel like you were eating a sweet omelet.  While walking to the Sao Paulo Cathedral, I also have to mention the free beef jerky samples I got in the street.

A real meat market

A real meat market

These stalls are mainly by the cathedral.  I tried the spicy and honey bbq flavors, and it’s different than jerky back in the States.  The Maccanese version was flavorful and surprisingly moist like it was just cut off the cured hog.

After running all over Macau and hiking up a mountain to see a temple, I decided I needed to go to Rua da Cunha on Cotai Island.  IMG_2475This street is known for its Portuguese bakeries and restaurants, so I decided to go to Restaurante Dumbo.IMG_0786  It’s very well furnished inside, and the prices are a bit more expensive compared to Hong Kong restaurants. IMG_0783 I ended up getting a quarter of gallina a la portuguesa which arrived in a small pot at my table. IMG_0784 It was delicious as the top was crusted over with cheese, and then beneath the surface lurked large chunks of chicken along with potatoes, black olives, and carrots.  It was a hearty dish that obviously came from humble origins with the ingredients. IMG_0785 I would highly recommend this place to anyone who wants to try Maccanese cooking.  Then I got serradura for dessert.  Serradura means “sawdust” in Portuguese, and it probably was pretty apt since the crushed cookies on top looked literally like it should be on a steakhouse floor.IMG_2478  However, the taste was phenomenal.  It was like a rich vanilla ice cream cup covered with cookie crumbs.  It was a good end to my visit to Macau.

IMG_0798

Hey girl, can I take you home?

At the end of the night back in Hong Kong, a couple of the guys and I went out in the Wanchai neighborhood and found Big Pizza located at 89 Lockhart road.  I ended up getting a piece since what goes better with beer than pizza?  I opted for the chicken tikka pizza, and it was a slice as big as my head for only 20 HK.  Needless to say, the pizza was just what the doctor ordered.  The chicken was tender and had the proper Indian spices while the crust was firm, slightly chewy, and baked to a golden-brown.  A great way to end a great night.

Next up, my last night in Hong Kong with sum dim sum action.

On a Spicy Wing and a Prayer

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Hey everyone and welcome to another edition of Mastication Monologues!  Things have been trying as of late at school with the crazy work schedules due to the Fall festival that is coming up, but that doesn’t mean that my appetite has been affected.  Today I will be talking about a Korean place that I have passed on my way to Geomam station probably 1 billion times already (rough guesstimation right there).  The reason why it stood out from the other Korean restaurants surrounding it was the fact that it specifically advertised spicy food.  It’s called 땅초 or Ttangcho Hot Food which are all over Korea, but the one I went to is located at 인천시 서구 검암동 606-7번지 네오프라자 106호  or Seo-gu, Incheon City Plaza 106 West geomamdong 606-7.  Here is their website (sorry, it’s all in Korean):  http://yupdduk.com/.  On the right hand side of the page, click on “매장정보” to find store locations.IMG_0681

Moving on from logistics, let’s talk about the food.  Now, where I live is a lot less cosmopolitan than Seoul or even other parts of Incheon.  Naturally, when I walked in I was greeted with a lot of curious stares.  Not only because I was a foreigner, but also because I was eating alone.  Group mentality runs deep in all aspects of Korean life even when it comes to eating, and I could see the server/staff become somewhat wary of serving me since I was alone.  In contrast, all the other tables were filled with Korean students digging into their tteokbokki while occasionally staring or offering a giggle/wave coupled with a “Hi!”.  Their most popular items like the 엽기떡복이 tteokbokki (sticky rice cakes in spicy sauce) or the 닭볶음탕 dakbokeumtang (a fried chicken stew) were in the 20,000 W price range since they were family-sized bowls.  Instead, I went for the more manageable 참숯 닭날개 (14,000 W) which I found out were spicy chicken wings.  When they came out, I not only got a small mound of wings, but also an egg soup ( 계란찜) that looked similar to the one I had when I ate the live octopus. IMG_0679 I was expecting the wings to be drenched in some sort of red gochujang sauce that Koreans are so fond of, but these wings looked to be treated with a dry rub that had sesame seeds mixed in with the spices.IMG_0680  Even though the wings looked diminutive, the bone to meat ratio was favorable, and the chicken was sufficiently succulent.  As for the aforementioned seasoning, I could definitely taste some cayenne pepper working hard for its money as I took each bite.  Mid-way through the plate, the guy who looked like the owner came over and said, “Too spicy?”, and I just responded with a smile and an “아니요” (“no”).  He found all of it amusing either because I used Korean, and/or that I could eat food that Koreans had trouble eating.  I’d probably rate the spice level between a jalapeno and a habanero.  I took a couple spoonfuls of the egg soup, but it was quite bland after eating the fire-kissed wings.

On the way back to the bus stop, I passed two old ladies in an open air stall selling these curious snack treats that I had passed by all over Korea but never tried one.  They are called 붕어빵 or bungeoppang which means “fish bread” (“Bungeo” is a type of carp, and “Ppang” means bread).  Based off my picture, they are quite obviously named.

The one that didn't get away.

The one that didn’t get away.

I saw that they were making two varieties of this baked good, the traditional red-bean filled type and a custard filled type.  Never forgetting my dislike for red bean flavored products, (See Ice Cream), I went for two custard filled carp (1,000 W).  I definitely made the right choice.  The outside was like a freshly made waffle with a sugary peck on the lips with every nibble while the inside was gooey and infused with a very delicate vanilla pudding similar to the filling of another Korean pastry, Manjoo Hana.

It's all about the creamy center.

It’s all about the creamy center.

It definitely supplied me with a sweet reprieve after my savory meal.

So if you’re looking for some quality spicy Korean food, check out Ttangcho Hot Food.  Speaking of spicy food, I will be attempting to eat the Drop Dead Donkatsu this weekend.  If I survive, expect a classic recounting of my adventure.  Until then, foodies!

Bits and Bobs

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Welcome to another edition of Mastication Monologues!  Today’s post is in the same vein as some previous posts where instead of offering reviews on local restaurants, I comment on some random, small snack foods that I have tried while living in Korea (See:  Got The Munchies?).  I’ll begin with probably the healthiest snack my coteachers have given me.  One day I was in my cubicle after lunch, and I noticed that my coteachers and other teachers were crowding around the table in our office.  I could tell they were eating something with their hands, but I couldn’t see what.  I approached, and they offered me a plate covered in small, bright red fruit.  They looked kind of like cranberries but tinier.

I eated the red berries

I eated the red berries

I popped one in my mouth, and I was greeted with a complex rush of sweet, bitter, and sour flavors.  Plus, I quickly found out that they have a pit.  One of my coteachers told me that these were Korean cherries which made sense with the pit.  When the teachers saw my approval, they insisted that I eat the rest of the plate.  I naturally obliged as they were saying I wasn’t eating them fast enough, so I went from teacher to chipmunk in 1 minute flat.  I didn’t feel that bad because fruit is insanely expensive in Korea, and I can’t say that stuffing my cheeks with fruit is bad for my health.  Now that I’ve described the healthy food, let’s get to the good stuff.  First there are the spicy Pringles.

Now, I’ve had my fair share of Pringles since I love their flavors, texture, and I’m from Amurika, so I wanted to see what kind of flavors they would have in Korea.  I needed something to go with my kimbap lunch for my hiking trip, and I settled on the Wild Spice Pringles.

Tube of disappointment

Tube of disappointment

I read the can, and I saw that they were Thai in origin.   This made me really excited since some Thai food is spicy enough to leave you using a colostomy bag.  However, they were a very big let down.  They looked like normal Pringles chips seasoned with a light brown powder, but this supposed firework show of spicy hellfire was more like a damp sparkler, unimpressive at best.  It just tasted like a potato chip with some soy sauce.  However, it hasn’t all been doom and gloom.  I found some Korean bakery that was quite nice.

While I was waiting for my friend, who is currently visiting me, at Bupyeong station on the platform going towards International Business District, I managed to be lured to a small food stall by an enchantingly sweet aroma.  The board on the top of the mini establishment said, “Manjoo Hana”, and I could see that they were selling different types of waffles.20130105-235347[1]  However, I was intrigued by the conveyor belt that consisted of small metal moulds being filled with batter and custard and then being baked in an oven.  I went for a 3,000 W bag which got me about 15 of these small pastries.  They were fresh out of the oven, so I had to take care not to bite in too soon and have my fingers/mouth coated in the napalm-esque custard inside each pastry.  When they finally cooled down, I found them to be great finger food since I was starving after a long day of work.

A litter of newly born Manjoo

A litter of newly born Manjoo

The dough was soft and buttery like a cake donut while the custard on the inside was creamy and had understated vanilla notes.  It would go nicely with this 19 grain cereal milk my coteacher gave me this week in honor of finally finishing recording our final exams.

It does a waygook body good

It does a waygook body good

It tasted like a less decadent vanilla milk shake which was surprising since it allegedly contained wheat, kefir, buckwheat, and sorghum to name a few grains.  Oh, Korea.  You do surprise me sometimes.  Especially with the last treat that tasted a lot better than it looked.

Since Korean summer is starting to get into full swing with sunlight that can make you feel like a roasting pot roast and humidity that can make you feel like you’re walking in a steam bath, all of the teachers in my office got ice cream.  I picked one that looked like chocolate, but when I opened it up it looked like something a bit more unsavory.

Before...

Before…

What I was staring at was a chocolate popsicle that looked suspiciously like a log of stool.

After: A real poopsicle

After: A real poopsicle

I bring up this association due to the fact that Korean culture seems to celebrate poop and don’t see it as something that is an object of revulsion in the West.  So I eventually managed to open this tube after what seemed like an eternal struggle to find what was the equivalent of a fudgesicle inside.  It was a treat that managed to cut through this crappy summer heat.

So here is another small glimpse at the vast variety of snack foods that Korea has to offer.  Some may seem more appetizing than others, but the main thing is that I ventured out and tried something new.

Achin’ For Some Bacon On A Lazy Sundae

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Hello everyone to another edition of Mastication Monologues!  In this installment, I am not going to review a restaurant (tear tear), but I am actually going to talk about a couple interesting little snacks/meals I’ve had over the past couple weeks in Korea.  First, there are the school lunches.

Where to begin with the school lunches?  From what I’ve heard from my orientation cohort, I think I got off pretty easy in terms of the variety and quality of food my school serves.  My favorite days are either tonkatsu or “breaded pork cutlet” day or curry day.  However, then there are days like when they serve a variety of cold seafood omelets where they try and see how many different types of mystery meat and tentacles they can fit in one pan.  Frankly, I’ve tried them all, and I’m not a huge fan.  One day, I even saw something that looked a bit familiar to me.  There was a pan filled with small, purple-ish/crimson colored disks.  Naturally, I scooped up a ladleful and put it in one of my tray compartments.

The sundae's in the upper right hand compartment

The sundae’s in the upper right hand compartment

I chopsticked one into my mouth, and I realized that it was 순대 or Sundae.  However, instead of a rich mix of vanilla, butterfat, and chocolate syrup, I was greeted with a semi-coppery flavor of blood sausage.  If odd textures disgust you, stay away from this sausage’s rubbery skin.  It was somewhat similar to the Polish kiszka, but the Korean blood sausage had noodles on the inside of it which kind of put me off of enjoying it more.  A more positive experience during school lunch was when they were serving stir fried baby squids.  Now, I’m not the biggest seafood fan in the world, but I’ve found after living in Korea that they make some mean squid dishes.  This meal was no different.

I love it when you can look your food in the eye

I love it when you can look your food in the eye

The baby squids were stir fried in a sweet, orange based glaze and were accompanied by dried squid jerky on the side.  I personally preferred the stir fried squids because the sauce really made the savory essence of the seafood pop, and the squid jerky wasn’t as good as the barbecue squid jerky they served on a separate occasion.  It was very dry and tough which made for an unpleasant eating experience.  Moving on from the more intense elements of my culinary journeys through Korea, lets talk about some junk food.

First, there was the discovery of bacon chips.  Yes, bacon lovers in Korea rejoice.

You can never have enough bacon

You can never have enough bacon

There are chips that are literally shaped and flavored like bacon.  I originally found them at a rest stop on my way to go paragliding, and I definitely made the right choice.  The texture could be likened to a veggie chip, and it was strangely colored like a semi-raw piece of bacon.  As for the taste, it actually tasted like eggs’ natural companion.  Not the most natural thing in the world, but I’m glad I tried it.  Moving from the good straight to the ugly, there is the Chicago Style pizza from Emart.  For those not living in Korea, Emart is basically a giant department store that sells everything you could ever need.  So some friends and I split the cost for a couple pizzas including one that was supposedly a “Chicago Deep Dish” style pizza.

Blasphemy incarnate

Blasphemy incarnate

When we opened up the box, it wasn’t the same as the genuine article back home aside from the crust.  That was the least of our problems.  The taste was terrible.  Do not buy this pizza from Emart.  Just get the regular 11,000 Won pizzas.  They are a much better deal.  Anyway, the taste to put it simply was everything that is wrong about Korean pizza.  First, I’m pretty sure they didn’t use real cheese since it tasted like we were eating sticks of non-salted butter.  On top of that, we were greeted with a lovely flavor wave of very sweet Korean pizza sauce.  I’m not sure if the pepperoni was real, but it was the only redeeming feature. In short, it was the perfect storm for a terrible pizza recipe.  Putting this unpleasantness behind us, lets talk about some sweet things.

I have spoken about my love for my Kindergarten classes before, but I might also be swayed by the fact that I get free food from the teachers every time I teach.  One of the best days was on Childrens’ Day because I got something that didn’t think existed:  Korean bakery.  Up to this point, I had been inundated with so many different types of tteok or “rice cake” that it would make your head spin, but today was a special day with special food.  On my tiny plate, they served me 소보로 빵 or Soboro Bbang which I could only describe as a type of peanut infused streusel bread.IMG_0091  The bread itself was light and airy which was complimented by the generous, peanut butter crumble topping.  It was like a messier and sweeter version of a peanut butter sandwich.  Not something I was really complaining about when I was siting at a table that was lower than my knees.  In more recent news, today I received another sweet treat from one of my coteachers that inspired me to write this post.  I don’t know what they’re called in Korean, but I’m going to call it a Yuja cookie.

Tasty tart

Tasty tart

Yuja is the Korean name for citron which is a fruit that is similar to a lemon.  I first tried the fruit in a traditional Korean drink, 유자차 or yujacha, and I was instantly hooked on  its sour and semi-bitter bite.  With the cookie, the bitterness of the jellied citron pieces was toned down to a certain extent, but it still blended perfectly with the buttery crust that was not too crumbly.  It was a pleasant surprise to start the week off right.  So that’s about it for now, but keep watching for my next post that will most likely be about the best fish and chips shop in Seoul.

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