What’s happenin’, everyone? Today is going to be another snack post about a bunch of small items I have been sampling as of late in Korea. Recently, my parents came to visit me during my summer break, and we traveled to many familiar places for me like Incheon’s Chinatown and some new places like Busan where I tried poisonous blowfish and penis fish (See: Food Porn). Another new locale that we checked out was the DMZ, but I didn’t know that I would be eating any sort of local delicacies when I went there.
A couple of months ago, there was a lot of fear back home in the States about whether or not Kim Jong Un really was going to start World War III just to solidify his power. Yet Korean people really couldn’t care less.
That was the general vibe I got when I finally made it to the 38th parallel. While we were absolutely forbidden to make any sort of gesture that would be used for North Korean propaganda or could be seen as a provocation for war while at the JSA, in other places it seemed like we were in some sort of theme park with colorful sculptures you could take pictures with. They even had souvenirs you could take home with you saying, “Hey, I survived going to the world’s most militarized border!” For me, I was more interested in the food and drinks you could buy. While there was North Korean liquor, I wouldn’t trust them making any sort of alcohol. It’s probably half kerosene and half paint thinner (then again, it sounds like soju). However, I couldn’t turn down the Paju chocolate (5,000 W). It looked like normal milk chocolate but the difference was that it was studded with black soybeans known as seoritae. I’m assuming that the South Koreans close to the border made it since Kim Jong Un is no Willy Wonka and would only kill children if they were disrespecting the glorious Juche philosophy. Either way, I was genuinely surprised. The chocolate wasn’t quite as sweet as chocolate back home, but it was quite creamy while the beans brought a subtle earthy element and a light crunch to each satisfying bite. I wouldn’t mind buying it as a snack if they actually made it outside of that one tiny region of Korea. My second snack treat came to me via Incheon’s Chinatown.
Incheon may not be the prettiest city in the world, but there are certain areas that are nicer than others. One of my favorite areas is Chinatown which is a bit different from the Chinatowns back home in say Chicago or San Francisco. While the American ones are more just neighborhoods celebrating a particular ethnic enclave, Incheon’s is more like a neighborhood built more for industrial purposes since Chinese workers are seen as cheap labor here just like in the US back in the 1800s with the construction of the railroads. However, that doesn’t mean they lack certain treats that give you a view into their own cultural heritage. I saw many different types of mooncakes, but I also noticed the mountains of round orbs that looked like bread. I bought one, and I saw on the sign they were called 공갈빵 or gonggalppang which literally means “hole bread”.
While it looked completely solid, as soon as I bit into it, it shattered like an egg shell.
I found out that there was nothing inside it except cinnamon. This made it even better since I love anything cinnamon flavored, and by the time I finished it I wasn’t extremely stuffed.
It was almost like a large, cinnamon-coated pita chip in semi-cibatta form. Then there is the funky ice cream from Fell + Cole that I fell in love with.
Yesterday, a blurb came up on my Facebook stalker feed that the annoying people from Eat Your Kimchi (an expat Korea blog) went to a gastronomic ice cream parlor in Hongdae called Fell + Cole that sold really off-the-wall flavors. So I decided to give it a shot since it’s blazing hot out in Korea, and I had a taste for something cold. Here’s the easiest way to get there: 1. Go to Sangsu Station (line 6) and take Exit 1 and just walk straight. 2. Turn right on your first street, it’s not a big main road, it’s just a side street. 3. The street will split left and right but just stick right and you’ll hit Fell + Cole. If you’re curious, the name comes from the intersection where the owner lived in San Francisco while studying for his MBA. When I walked in, it was a lot smaller than I anticipated, but it was very well decorated with a laid-back Cali vibe.
The owner was very friendly and allowed me to sample some of the flavors. I settled for the double cup (8,000) of Makkeoli (rice wine) ice cream and mango hibiscus sorbet. He gave me two pretty decent scoops, and I was definitely blown away by both of the flavors.The mango was on top, and I greatly enjoyed its tropical sweetness that was paired with a slight floral undertone.
As for the Makkeoli ice cream, I liked it better than the sorbet simply because I don’t know how they made it taste like a mind-blowing, decadent vanilla yet still maintaining that gentle bite from the wine.
Sadly, they didn’t have their bacon ice cream or their Sichuan pepper cream or their perilla leaf ice cream, but now I have three more excuses to visit this hip and modern boutique of icy delights! I highly recommend this place to anyone looking for a place to beat the Korean heat.