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“Aloha” Means Both “Hello” and “High Prices”

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Hey, everyone!  Welcome to another edition of Mastication Monologues!  Today’s post is about a little establishment called Aloha Table.  I recently went there to celebrate my friend Jasmine’s new job she’ll be taking up in China.   I chose Aloha Table because neither of us had been there, and I also had never tried Hawaiian food.  It’s located at 364-14, Seogyo-dong, Seodaemun-gu, Seoul, and here is their website.

When we got there, it was a little bizarre in terms of its entrance comparative to the sign that advertises the restaurant.  If you see the small, overhanging Aloha Table sign, don’t go into the door directly below it since it is a simple cafe that isn’t affiliated with the Hawaiian eatery.  Instead walk past it, and you’ll find the exquisite, black lacquered wood entrance complete with tropical plants and tiki torches at night.

Trying to be Korean with doing hand signals in pictures

Trying to be Korean with doing hand signals in pictures

We ended up being blessed with beautiful weather at night to enjoy the crowded patio.  At first, they said there was no room for a table of two, and then asked whether we’d prefer the inside seats or the outside seats.  I voiced the shared opinion that we’d like an outdoor table, and within two minutes, we were seated at a cozy table and within view of the open air grill.

The beautiful patio

The beautiful patio

The smell alone was worth the price of admission.  There were mostly Koreans there, and when we saw the menu, we could see they adjusted their prices for that reason since Koreans love to spend money on expensive food.  That and some of the ingredients are hard to get in Korea.  However, I was highly suspicious of the menu when they had pho on it, but no Hawaiian staples like Spam and poi.  They had different types of grilled meats (chicken, steak) along with burgers and salads.  Either way, we were starving and planned on making the most of our adventure.  We started with splitting a  pitcher of Blue Hawaii (30,000 W) which made sense economically since the average price of a drink was 9,000 W.IMG_0980  The downside when it came out was the fact that the pitcher was smaller than we thought as shown in the following picture.

I seriously don't have Shaq hands

I seriously don’t have Shaq hands

That and the fact that it tasted like we were drinking juice didn’t really justify the price.   As for food, I got a loco moco which is a Hawaiian classic dish that was invented in the 1940s and is extremely popular throughout the Pacific Islands.  I thought it was funny because it literally means, “crazy mucus” in Spanish, but my ahi ahi bowl (16,000 W) didn’t contain any bodily fluids thankfully.  My dining companion got the spicy pork rib (27,000 W).  When they both came out, I felt like I should have got the ribs with how hungry I was, but the ahi ahi moco didn’t let me down.IMG_0983  Not only did it have tender pink pieces of tuna, but the avocado, sprigs of green onion, and wasabi all mixed together within the fresh white rice to create a light yet satisfying dinner.  The lettuce on top was like a mini salad since it was drizzled with a ranch-esque dressing that didn’t quite possess the same spices like ranch dressing back home.  It was the opposite to the hulking plate of ribs on the other side of the table. IMG_0982 Not only was there a molehill of meat on the plate but a mini corn cob and a smidgen of mashed potatoes.  I didn’t try the potatoes, but the corn was perfectly grilled sans butter.  As for the ribs, they were great.  Not the best ribs I’ve ever had, but they had a great smoky sauce that is quite rare to find in Korea since Korean bbq doesn’t have any equivalent.  They also had little to no fat on them, but they weren’t overloaded with meat on the bone.  I could tell that traveling through the American South had spoiled me.

We both left greatly satisfied with our meal but not too happy with the prices.  Plus, on our way out we had our picture taken by and with fellow Korean diners we didn’t even know. IMG_0989 Why?  I have yet to hear an explanation to this phenomenon, but it was an odd end to a wonderful dining experience. So if you want to try Aloha House, remember that you’re getting high quality food with equally high prices, but it’s still a great place to try out.

 

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Make Your Own Froyo? YOLO!

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So I’m sure that you have read all about my terrifyingly spicy experience at Onnuriye Donkatsu in my last post, so here is the follow up to what happened after my challenge.   My stomach still was feeling a bit funky even with consuming the antacid, white rice, and milk, so we decided to get frozen yogurt to sooth my scorched tummy.  We ended up going to Snow Spoon Cafe which is located in Hongdae, Seoul.  You come out of exit 9 at the Hongik University stop.  Then you turn left and turn right at the first street on your right.  There should be trees on both sides of the street.  You keep walking till you cross another street and keep heading straight until you see the Super 7 club on your left hand side.  The cafe occupies an entire corner of the building, so you can’t miss it.IMG_0702

When we walked in, it was semi-full of college students seemingly unable to choose what they wanted because not only did they have 10 different flavors, but they also had a fixins bar that seemed a bit healthier than the froyo places back home, i.e. more fruit and nuts instead of brownie bites and cookie dough chunks.  I guess Koreans haven’t gotten the hang of making healthy things unhealthy like Americans can do so easily.  If you don’t want frozen yogurt, they also have gelato, funny looking ice cream bars, and ice cream sandwiches. Flavor-wise, they had some stalwarts like plain, chocolate, and strawberry, but then they became a bit more mysterious.  I decided to get one flavor that was simply called “Blue”, and it had a picture of Santorini’s classic whitewashed houses interspersed on a mountainside while an endless blue horizon spread out behind it.

Greeks:  known for Democracy and ice cream?

Greeks: known for Democracy and ice cream?

What it would taste like?  I had no clue.  Maybe it would be indescribable, or maybe it would taste like gyros or souvlaki given the Greek picture.  Then I moved down the line to get the rice flavored frozen yogurt.  You read that right:  rice froyo.

Only in Asia

Only in Asia

Though this wouldn’t be the first time I ate ice cream made with rice.  The last flavor I got was blackberry.  I can only take so much razzmatazz in one cup.  I garnished my creation with some trail mix and gummi bears since I can’t say no to any form of gummi candy.  They charge you by weight, so I paid about 5,000 Won for a good amount of ice cream.

As for the actual flavors, they quickly put out the fire burning within my lower torso with panache.

Diabetes?  YOLO

Diabetes? YOLO

The blackberry flavor was delicious since it actually tasted like eating fresh blackberries minus the pesky seeds.  Then came the rice which was really odd because I couldn’t determine whether it had more of a vanilla flavor profile to it, or perhaps it was more like the plain frozen yogurt option.  Finally, there was Blue.  It definitely was the superstar of my cold creation much like the Eiffel 65 hit circa 1999, but it definitely wasn’t played out by any means from my first spoonful to my last.  Turns out it tasted like a tropical fruit punch of sorts. As a whole, my experience was a satisfying spectrum of flavors that ranged from more conventional to the more bizarre yet surprisingly delectable.

A French flag of funky flavors

A French flag of funky flavors

So if you’re looking to eat some delicious frozen goodies in South Korea, check out Snow Spoon.  It’s the perfect treat anytime whether that is after surviving one of Hongdae’s ear-splittingly loud clubs or just on a whim to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Hell Hath No Fury Like a Pork Cutlet

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Well, this is a historic moment in not only Mastication Monologues history, but also in my own personal history of pushing the gastronomic boundaries of my stomach and will to eat whatever comes my way.  I have had numerous experiences with eating legitimately spicy foods like chicken wings coated with sauce that was equal to law grade pepper spray (See Devil Wings), and not so “spicy” foods especially when it came to Korean food.  Now, I’ve tried many different types of “spicy” Korean food like buldak which are popcorn chicken pieces in red chili sauce, or tteokbokki which are gelatinous rice cakes in chili sauce.  However, neither  lived up to the spice levels I’m used to back home where I put Sriracha chili sauce on everything like ketchup, and you could get spicy Tex-Mex food anywhere you looked.  However, I finally met my match tonight.  Out of all of the spicy foods that I have eaten in my life, I never ate anything as spicy as the Drop Dead Donkatsu at Onnuriye (Around the world) Donkatsu located at 355-23 Shindaebang2-dong, Dongjak-gu, Seoul (온누리에 돈까스, 서울특별시동작구 신대방2동, 355-23).  Go to Sindaebangsamgeori station and leave exit 3.  Go straight, and turn left at the CU.  Then make a right at the next street and walk five minutes till you see a restaurant where the menu is literally on the ceiling inside and there are pictures of their famous breaded pork cutlets or donkatsus.

After my friend, Steph, and I wandered up and down looking for it for about ten minutes, we found it.  It’s a traditional Korean restaurant, so there are no chairs, only cushions and low tables.  There are pictures of only about 70 people on the wall who have finished the Drop Dead Donkatsu challenge.  I read about it initially on the internet on CNN Travel, so I knew I had to test my mettle when it came to a spicy food challenge.  When we sat down, they saw that I wanted to try the spicy donkatsu (15,000 W), and they made me first taste a sample.  I chopsticked a piece into my mouth, and it was quite piquant.  A quick note, they make you bring milk with you if you want to do the challenge.  No milk, no challenge.  What happened next made me quake fear a little inside out of fear.  Once they saw that the first piece didn’t phase me, they opened my milk carton, poured me a glass of milk, and put a small, mysterious plastic packet in front of me.  The waitress didn’t speak any English and was explaining everything in Korean, so I figured out she wanted me to drink the packet’s contents along with the milk.  When I ripped the top of the packet off and started drinking it, I saw it was white and tasted really funny.  Then I realized it was an antacid to help me eat the donkatsu.  S&#t just got real.  Eating contest contracts be damned!

Eventually it came out, and they explained the rules to me in Korean.  I saw most of the restaurant was watching me as one of the spectators sitting next to me on the floor decided to jump in and translate for me.  If I finished everything on my plate along with a bowl of rice in 20 minutes, I’d get it for free and my picture on the wall.  I looked down at my plate which was bigger than a hubcap loaded with three mammoth slabs of pork staring back at me like a den of rattlesnakes about to strike.

Age of innocence

The age of innocence

It's garnished with hot peppers too.  Not overkill at all.

It’s garnished with hot peppers too. Not overkill at all.

I quickly got to business cutting each cutlet into small pieces faster than Edward Scissorhands on Meth, and I quickly was faced with a dose of reality when I popped the first two pieces in my mouth.  The first one went down fine, but the second one was way too hot temperature-wise.  The heat combined with the spice began to overwhelm me, so I took a good swig of milk which combated it quickly.  Then I got two more pieces down, but I realized my body couldn’t take it.  I started to hiccough, and my esophagus began to spasm.  Thinking quickly, I began to eat some of the plain rice in the bowl next to me which had a negligible effect on the shock to the system.  I got one more piece down, and my mouth, especially my throat, felt like I just swallowed molten lava.  I slowed down immediately, and I realized that I had finally been bested.  Eating the pickled radish and salad on the side were last ditch efforts to continue, but I threw in the towel due to being in so much discomfort.  I don’t know what their secret marinade contains, but it must be some sort of supernatural pepper grown to simulate eating a piece of the sun.  Our waitress just smiled and took away the plate like she has done it many times before, but thankfully she came out with a free dontkatsu for my trouble which was the best I’ve had since coming to Korea.

The pity meal

The pity meal

It was something about the breading that made it really shine.  It was crunchy with an almost buttery finish to it that went hand in hand with the sweet curry it was swimming in.  It was a nice change of pace from the blast furnace I just swallowed, and the cheese donkatsu (5,000 W) Steph had was perfect with the right balance of smooth mozzarella and succulent pork.  She tried a single drop of the spicy sauce and was in pain for a couple minutes.  That’s how bad it was.

The happier, pain-free side of the table

The happier, pain-free side of the table

Culinary adventures can only go so far until you realize that its your health at steak (see what I did there), and you have to live with the consequences of your choices.  I didn’t feel like leaving the restaurant with a colostomy bag since these pieces of pork practiced their own form of a slash and burn campaign with my gastrointestinal tract.  Word to the wise.   I have to qualify my experience with the fact that I think my resistance to heat has dropped since moving to Korea since I went from eating spice everyday to a very bland diet.  However, if you feel like you can muster up enough courage, and your organs are coated with teflon, please try the Drop Dead Donkatsu challenge.  Either that or just get the regular donkatsu and pass up the pain.  Either way, it’s quite the worldly experience at Onnuriye Donkatsu.

It’s Peanut Butter Jelly Time!

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Welcome to another edition of Mastication Monologues!  I’m quickly writing this post since I have to get started on creating my summer camp for school, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to be all business when it comes to the food.  Yesternight, I met up with my friends, Carolyn and Ravi, in Seoul, and we stumbled upon Burger Hunter located at Wonchang Building, 25-1 Mugyo-dong, Jung-gu (중구 무교동 25-1 원창빌딩) in Seoul.  Here is their website.  I was quite hungry from lunch at school since the only filling things they had were tentacles, chicken that was mostly bones, and some fruit.

When we came in, it was decorated like an old-fashioned, 1950s American diner but with a lot of crazy road signs on the walls.  As I was scanning the menu, I saw that they offered a wide variety of burgers, including a vegetarian mushroom burger, and accompanying sides.IMG_0471  You can either get the burger alone or as a set which includes a soda or ade like strawberry-ade (lemonade+strawberry=you do the math) and fries.  However, my starving wandering eyes landed on the PB & Jellousy Burger.  I got it with a side of potato crisps.  Then I had to wait for my strange concoction to be made, and I was overjoyed when my buzzer went off to pick up my food.

When I sat down with it, it was like seeing a new civilization.  Sure, I know it’s a burger like I’ve seen before, but its garb and customs were completely foreign to me.IMG_0472  I peered at its innards to find two strips of bacon, strawberry jelly, and a moderately sized glob of peanut butter.

So wrong, yet tastes so right

So wrong, yet tastes so right

I finally took the plunge by sinking my mighty incisors into it and found a strange flavor bonanza that was quite satifying.  While the concept of it might make burger purists cringe, the actual combination is quite ingenious.  When you move past the velvety bun, the savory and smoky elements of the burger and bacon, respectively, synergize with the sweet and salty of the jelly and bacon, respectively.  Even if you will never have the chance to try Burger Hunter, I recommend trying PB and J on your burgers.  Even though I thought I couldn’t take any more, I was still hungry since the burger was Korean sized, i.e. about 3/4ths the size of an American burger.  So, I went for the Zeus burger which wasn’t too intimidating.  True, it was piled high with a patty, a slice of cheese, guacamole, onions, and some potato straws, but it didn’t possess much girth.IMG_0474  That was the main problem with the Zeus burger; it was too tall which led to the bun being eaten before all of the other ingredients which led to the equivalent of a landslide on my plate.  Not the most attractive thing to eat for your first date, but it was tasty nevertheless.  There was a downside to the burger which was the overpowering flavor of the guacamole and onions that drowned out most of the other flavors.  It was a Royal Rumble where a few players had their own personal grab for glory.  Overall, I left a very satisfied customer though.

So if you’re looking for a great Western burger with a bit of funk or a little junk in the trunk, make your way through the concrete jungle to find Burger Hunter.

Spice That’s Twice As Nice

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Hello everyone to another edition of Mastication Monologues!  Today I will be highlighting an expat haven in Itaewon where one can  find Western quality breakfasts, burgers, and wings when they grow weary of the kimchi and non-existent Korean breakfast food.  I’m talking about Richard Copycat’s All American diner located at 56-13 Itaewon-dong Yongsan-gu Seoul South Korea.

Now, I do enjoy Korean food and trying new things, but it never hurts to go back to food that is familiar to you.  That what I was looking for when I walked into the diner, and I found it and then some.  They have a pretty extensive menu that is filled with familiar breakfast staples like French toast, omelets, and skillets.  Even though they boasted about the quality of their breakfast options in the menu, I was feeling like trying a burger since it was closer to lunch time.  I ended up choosing was the wasabi burger.  It had cheddar and pepper jack cheese, jalapenos, and a wasabi infused mayo.  Yeah, you read that right, Japanese horseradish and mayo together in one potentially overwhelming combination.IMG_1305

When it came out, I was bracing myself for Western portions, but it was Korean sized which kind of wasn’t worth the 14,000 won.  Plus, as most people have already commented before on the internet, the service at this restaurant is very slow.  If you ask them for a refill or for free pickles, they either take twice as long as they should or forget in regard to drink refills.  Qualms aside, it was a pretty funky burger in a good way.  The bun was buttery and held the sandwich together quite well even with the copious amounts of wasabi mayo applied to the bottom bun.  The beef patty was thick and succulent, but the cheddar cheese was pedestrian even though it was so unnaturally orange that it almost looked like I was eating a sunny-side up egg.  However, I greatly enjoyed the spicy elements of this burger.  The jalapenos were pickled like back home, and the wasabi mayo became more and more intense as I proceeded to munch on the burger.  It wasn’t too overpowering like eating a whole mini portion of the Japanese horseradish, but I did have that burning sensation behind my nose that could send any possible congestion packing.  The fries that came with it were average, but I preferred them since they were somewhat underdone and not very salted.  So overall, I would recommend this burger if you’re into trying spicy things and like wasabi.  They do manage to take very potent flavors and pack it into an easy to swallow package.  So if you’re in Itaewon and want a little taste of home while still maintaining a foot in the Far East, try the wasabi burger at the All American Diner.

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