Tag Archive: food


Chuseok

One of the biggest holidays in Korea is Chuseok.  Everyone has days off to celebrate together.  Essentially it translates to Korean Thanksgiving and celebrates the Korean autumn harvest.  Everyone travels to see family and spends time eating with them.

There is a special type of dduk, a rice cake called songpyeon, that they during this time as well.  My kids were writing about it in their journals for weeks leading up to the holiday.  They all were excited about the special dduk.  I had some and it was quite good.  They do put it in bags with pine needles which was a bit strange, but definitely tasty. The link to Wikipedia tells you all the deliciousness inside.

I had the honor of being invited to spend the day at Eileen’s grandmother’s house with her family.  I have spent time with them before if you remember at her grandmother’s 90th birthday party.  Her family has been really kind to me this year, and I am really thankful for them letting me be a part of their celebrations.

So I woke up early and met Eileen and her mom for our journey down to Suwon.  We took the subway for over and hour and then a bus for about 40 minutes.  Finally we arrived.  There was so much food.  Kimchi, of course, jeons of all kinds, egg battered veggies, sides galore, and this delicious soup yukgaejang,  which I call six things soup because its name sounds similar to the number six.  Eileen laughs every time, but it totally makes sense to me.  Her grandmother made it with chicken and it was so tasty.  We ate and ate and I was so full, but then her grandmother kept bringing out fruit and snacks and she kept personally handing me things being the good Korean hostess, but I was so full.  It is rude to not accept things offered to you in Korea so I just kept eating until I finally just said I’m sorry but I am just too full. Saying I’m full is one of the things I learned early on in my year here.  Haha you hear people saying it all the time. Sadly, I didn’t take any pictures of the food because there weren’t many people there and I kind of wanted to just enjoy being there and not being the weird foreigner with a camera, so sorry about that, my words will just have to be enough.

Side note: The word for stomach in Korean is bai.  This word is also the word for sheep and pear.  So sometimes I just sit and giggle at all the ways you could get all three of these words mixed up in a sentence taken out of context in translation.

Anyway, so after so much eating, which was totally ok because it’s a holiday and those never count, plus the food was amazing, we were asked to go help pick some veggies.  Eileen’s grandma has small portions of these community gardens near her house.  It’s really interesting because these plots are on the sides of these hills almost up into the trees.  To get to one of them you have to climb up these makeshift dangerous rock stairs.  It was fine though I suppose because if her 90 year old grandma can climb them like a champ then we figured we should too.  Though I am still not sure how grandma did it, to be honest.

I did take pictures of this 🙂

Eileen borrowed some clothes from her grandma so that she wouldn’t mess up the nice clothes she was wearing.  Of course you can’t work in a garden without a hat, so we borrowed those too.

She totally looked like an ajumma, it was hilarious.

I was in charge of picking peppers in the first garden we went to.

Eileen and her grandma.

Then we went to the second garden, and there were so many mosquitoes it was crazy.  I think I ended up with 15 bites by the next morning.

Also, in the middle of the second garden there was this make shift sitting area.  I am pretty sure its where old men go to drink soju while they garden haha.

Again, we couldn’t stay long because of the mosquitoes. We did get some good veggies though.

After we were finished and had helped clean up her grandma start packing food bags for all of us. She even sent some left overs for me.  They were so delicious and I was surprised she even sent some for me.

Overall, it was a good day and I am really glad I got to experience my last holiday here properly.

I wish you all could smell my apartment right now.  It smells like food heaven in here.  I finally, after a ridiculous amount of time scouring the internet, found a recipe for stuffed chicken I could actually get all the ingredients for. I actually had feta in a seasoned oil and added some dried basil and fresh garlic on top of these ingredients.

  • 6 boneless skinless chicken breasts, tenderized
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 3 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese
  • 1/2 cup baby spinach leaves
  • 8 slices ham, thin

I made it for one soooo I used small handfuls of everything and no ham since  I try and avoid pork unless I just can’t. I don’t have an oven though which has been a HUGE hassle for me this year.  I never realized just how dependent on the oven I was.

I decided I had to get creative and do a trial and error with this one.  I wrapped the chicken in tin foil and put it in my steamer basket.  I put just a small amount of water into the pot and let it steam for about 25 minutes.  Once the chicken was done I transferred it to a pan for just enough time to brown it on both sides.  It tastes and smells like the best thing I have ever eaten maybe in a very long time.

I totally forgot to take pictures but I promise you its delectable and I totally recommend anyone giving it a try.  It would be even easier since you probably have an oven.

Last week Rachel, Sara and I decided to take a day trip to the beach. I was looking forward to the trip all week.  These 8 months are the longest I have ever spent not going to the beach or just a body of water since I was 12. I was feeling so landlocked and trapped in this city.  I need a break from it something terrible.

Then on Friday night we met up with J and her boyfriend Jackie.  They wanted to go to the beach, too, and Jackie said he would drive us.  He is Korean and his cousin owns a car rental place.  We all told him we would chip in for gas, and the plan was set.

We left my area at 8:30 Sunday morning.  We had to ride the subway for about an hour to the stop where we decided to all meet up.  We had to transfer once and somehow managed to miss that there was a branch poorly labeled and the train made no effort to let us know that we would need to be careful in choosing which one we got on.  Sure enough we ended up on the wrong train and at the wrong stop.  After a lot of phone frustration we realized we were at the place.  Luckily. it was only 10 minutes away from the right place and since they already had the car they just came to pick us up.

Sara took a picture of us ‘looking lost’.

Once we were in the car we drove another hour or so down to where the airport is.  There are a lot of little islands dotting the coast and a lot of coastline just waiting to be laid on.

Before we got to the beach itself we decided to get lunch.  Of course seafood is always best at the coast even though it is still really fresh here in  general.  If you order seafood here most of the time one of the servers goes out front and picks your dinner out of the fish tanks outside the building. The ocean is no more than 3 or 4 hours away on either side.

So Jackie ordered us some really delicious seafood noodle soup and then this crab soup.  Both were really good but the crab was a disaster for me.  I have never eaten crab out of the shell that I can remember so I had NO CLUE what I was doing.  We had chopsticks and a pair of scissors that Koreans use to cut everything in their kitchens.  Jackie cut the crabs in half.  I had no idea what I was supposed to eat or not.  Then I cut my finger. Basically, I was a hot mess.  I wasn’t the only one, though!  J also struggled while New Englanders Sara and Rachel went to town. Once I finally got some meat I mixed it in with my soup and decided it was all totally worth it.

Crab soup before it cooked and everything cooked down.

Just a crab hanging out cooking and stuff. Getting ready to make my life difficult and cut open my finger.

This soup was soooo good. Light and peppery.

The aftermath of shells and legs.

After lunch it was time to hit the beach!

Okay so you should know that in Korea people don’t wear bathing suits.  It is becoming slowly more popular, but even if they wear them they wear all of their clothes over them.  Koreans will play in the sand and water and be covered head to toe in wet gross sand in their full clothing outfits.  I know it is their culture, but I would not want to be the mom that had to go home and wash those clothes. no way. not ever. But with small children I swear I saw more naked bottoms than ever.  Kids were playing in full clothes and then slowly would work down to their underwear and then waddle to the car naked with no towel or anything. Or the kid who was wearing his little green shirt. That’s all. no pants. no underwear, just a long sleeved green shirt.   I just don’t really understand. We foreigners get looks outside the city as it is, but foreigners in bikinis most assuredly brought us attention.  We were openly gaped at, received icy glares, were told to put on clothes, and asked to be in pictures.  Pretty much a normal day for a foreigner in Korea. It was kind of amusing and we didn’t let it get us down at all.

Of course we saw a ton of umbrellas.

He was sooooo excited about the water.

Our little set up on the sand.  I didn’t get burned this time! yay!

Everyone decided to have a race.  Jackie gave the girls a 20 meter (66ft)  head start. He definitely almost beat them.  I really like this shot I got of him.

Action jump shot on the beach! I had such a great day with these girls.  It was perfect.  No stress, no drama. Just good fun and sun.  There were plenty of times where no one was even talking.  We were just laying there silent and listening to music, napping, or reading.  Just what a day at the beach should be.

When the tide went out and it happened way fast and went out super far.  I am not sure if it had to do with the full moon or what but it was crazy.

Once we decided to leave the beach we went to get some dinner.  Jackie took us to a seafood place that was famous for being on a Korean drama. We got a plate of hot prawns and basket of shelled things and cooked them on the grill at our table.

There was a mussel the size of a human face in there.  At first I was a little apprehensive because I have a terrible fear of getting food poisoning from seafood.  Everything was fine, except I felt like everything I ate was sandy. Still soooo good though. Especially the scallops. They were divine.

 

A day that is definitely in my top 3 favorites ever to be had in Korea.

 

Summer Soup

I have been craving summer vegetables recently.  Sadly, some of my favorites I can’t get in Korea like yellow squash, green beans, and asparagus.  Well, you can get asparagus buuuut it’s one million dollars sooo basically you can’t get it.

Anyway, I started looking for summer vegetable recipes.  I found this recipe and adapted it to what I had here and what I like best. I also found beef on sale for wicked cheap last week so I added that just because I have been working out more lately and need the protein boosts.

I started by stewing some tomatoes.  I hate when I get skin pieces in my soup soooo I blanched in hot water and cold water and it peeled right off. I also used canned tomatoes so I only used a handful of fresh ones.

Then I chopped some veggies

First, the onions and garlic. I added that to a pot with the meat, cumin, chili powder, cayenne pepper, salt, black pepper, and a little bit of paprika.

I sauteed and stirred and it smelled just like the beginnings of most dishes my mom makes so I knew I was headed in the right direction.

Then I chopped and added all the other veggies I wanted.

Carrot, red bell pepper, celery, zucchini, and spicy pepper.

I added them in and mixed and cooked some more.

Finally, I added a can of rinsed kidney beans, a can of diced tomatoes, and a can of water.  Then I let it all boil and cook until the vegetables were soft.

Super delicious!

Korean food is perfect for winter. Hearty and healthy.  Other than a couple of dishes though I don’t feel like there aren’t a lot of light summery dishes.  and I know hot soup isn’t really either, but I just wanted a break from Korean food and this is a healthy way to do it.

Makkoli night

My friend Jessica lives in Mapo and often spends weekends with us in Nowon.  She suggested that since we both share a love of makkoli, a Korean rice wine, that we get together and have a night of it.  I was excited and so Jessica, Rachel, Sara, and I headed to a cute little place to get our makkoli…only the place isn’t there anymore.

One of the hardest parts about living in Korea is that businesses come and go in the blink of an eye and you never know when something will just not work out and then suddenly 3 days later something new is in its place.

So we found a different place to go that also only served tofu.  We got some really delicious food, had some makkoli,  and some good conversation.

Jessica and Sara getting it ready.  One of the awesome things about makkoli is that you get to actually drink it by the bowlful, which is awesome in every way ever.

One of the dishes we ordered was this really good fish.  However, this guy shows up with his head and tail still in tact. He even had teeth!

and last night was also our friend Jun Soo’s 30th (31 Korean)  birthday party.  We went to Met to help him celebrate and play darts…basically the usual routine. It was a really good night.

more food!

This past week Rachel’s mom was here visiting.  We had dinner a couple of times together.  One night after work we went to get dak galbi which is barbequed chicken marinated in this awesome spicy sauce.  It was totally delicious and didn’t make me feel as awkward afterward as the pork galbi we usually eat does. We also decided to make Mrs. Shires try soju.  It was a really good night and again, the food was awesome. Also, Rachel’s mom told me like 30 times I should be a food photographer.  I told her I just like sharing my food escapades with you all.

 

cooking up nicely.

then you make a little wrap with lettuce, garlic, salady stuff, and whatever other sides you want. and then eat it up. yum!

Then after the meat we got these delicious noodles.  I thought they were buckwheat but Joanne says they are something else.  Either way they are on my favorite foods list.

We had some nice Korean guys take some photos for us, too.

Then Friday night after work Eileen made some really delicious soup for dinner.  I have had sundubu before but it has never been one of my favorites.  When she made it though I was in total bliss.  She used pork instead of seafood and it wasn’t as oily as the kind at our local Gimbap place.

We had a big spread of gimbap, kimchi, radish, these egg things, and such good soup.  Definitely something she promises I can learn to make soon.

sooo goood!

This week was way busy and I feel like I haven’t had time to breath but it was a lot of fun!

Grandma turns 90…

Well not one of my grandmas, but Eileen’s did. I hope all of my grandmothers make it to 90, though there is something different about the Korean lifestyle for sure.  I mean they eat their fair share of ridiculously fried foods but all of the other ways they take care of themselves more than make up for it.

Eileen’s grandma’s party was the first Korean birthday party I have attended where things were done in a really traditional manner.  Firstly, in my opinion the woman didn’t look a day over 75 in American years but alas she turned 90 last weekend.  She spent a decade of her life pregnant and birthed 11 children that all survived.  She never lost one. I think that makes her a strong woman for sure, especially considering only 2 of the 11 are boys.  I would pretty much runaway if I had to live with 8 teenage girls. No thank you.

So anyway I think 7 of her children were at the party and some of their families.  It was hosted by one of Eileen’s cousins.  He runs a Tae Kwon Do school outside of Seoul and so there was plenty of space.  It was a lot of fun.

Of course there was a demonstration done by his students.  There was kicks and music and board breaking and flips and it was impressive considering the oldest kid there was probably 15.

Grandma put on a hanbok a traditional Korean dress for the occasion.  It is also tradition that no one eats or drinks until the oldest person does so the party starts with a toast to Grandma and she drinks and the party starts.  Then there is a cake with a sword knife. no joke.

Then little Grandma used that huge sword knife to cut the cake. This all happened at the beginning before the meal or anything.

Then there was the gift giving.  The children line up and place the gifts in front of Grandma on the table.  Then they bow.  They had to bow twice though because the first time there was no food on the table because it was across the room.  In Korea the only time you bow without food is if the person has died and Grandma was very much alive and kicking.  So, there was food and a rebow.  The daughters went first, then sons and son in law, then daughter in laws, grandchildren, and finally great grandchildren.

Of course the tiny kids were the cutest.

Then we got to eat! The food was SOOOOO good. I ate so much raw salmon I thought I might just fall over dead from happiness.  It’s hard to find sushi as we think of it in America, and salmon in general is a really expensive fish here, sadly.

and that was just round one. I was so full and it was all so delicious.

After food and the older family members had drank a little soju and beer they started up the karaoke.  It was all in Korean and went on for a couple of hours but it was fun.  Everyone, including Grandma was singing and dancing and having fun.  There were also some of the cutest kids there and I wanted to snatch them soooo badly. Instead I just paprazzied them with my camera.

Eileen and her mom singing and dancing.

Grandma dancing.  The man in this photo was kind of running the entertainment part. He kept telling everyone where to sit and when to clap or dance and when he talked I felt like he was preaching to me, but Eileen says he is a professional announcer.  I could totally tell. It was funny.

Grandma belted out a few tunes and at one point they were dancing around her in a circle.  I have no idea why, but it obstructed her view of reading the lyrics and so it was funny.  She is a tiny woman the top of her head only came to my chest.

He was such a sweet baby, and check out that tiiiiny little tie he was wearing. So adorable.

I took about 30,000 photos of this little girl.  Her mom is a beautiful Japanese girl.  So her being half Japanese and half Korean is definitely working in her favor.  She was sooo adorable and she will definitely be breaking hearts when she is older. We played with balloons together for like half an hour.  I wanted to bring her home with me.

A picture of Eileen and Grandma in their hanboks.

Me and my lovely Eileen…at first…then towards the end of the party she got really hot in her hanbok.  She didn’t think to bring an extra set of clothes soooo I offered to trade with her. hahaha needless to say everyone laughed at us for sure. For one we are no where near the same size in any way at all.  So her hanbok was short on me and difficult to tie because I am so broad in the shoulders.  And she was swimming in my dress so we had to use bobby pins to keep the straps shorter.

Once the party was over her aunt and uncle drove us home.  We slept most of the hour long trip home because we were just exhausted.  I had so much fun though and I was really glad she had invited me along to be able to celebrated such a milestone with her family.

Octopus

A couple of weekends ago we all got together to celebrate the birthday of my friend Sarah. She decided to host her party at the soju tents we go to in Changdong.  We were all pretty excited as the tents are always a good time.

Gun the owner is a really awesome guy.  He always brings over things and wants us to try them, like the sea pineapple experience I had. Sarah’s birthday brought with it live octopus.  It’s funny because the boyfriend and I had just been talking about it and I swore I could never do it.  However, Gun brought over this plate with squirming, moving little octopus legs and I realized like everyone else, I was just going to have to try it.

Lucky for my a friend was there with his camera setting on video haha so you all get to see the experience just like they did. 🙂

So it was weird at first because it really does suction to your mouth so you have to chew it pretty quickly.  Also, octopus is cooked is really chewy and I don’t care for it much for that reason, however raw it really is an acceptable texture for me.

I would totally eat it again!

Last week in food

Last week I made two new things I had been wanting to try.  One is really simple and healthy and the other is like a Korean version of fried chicken…only you fry your tofu.

First up Jap Chae! Don’t let the complicated picture fool you.  It literally took me about half an hour to make and its uber healthy and delicious.  I didn’t have any spinach on hand and I had some eggplant and zucchini in the fridge so I did a little substituting. I also didn’t cut down my veggies quite as far as I should have but I was lazy and I really don’t think it made a difference.

I love glass noodles and had some left over from when I made a bul go gi soup and really wanted to find a good light recipe to add them to. This was the one.  I ate on it for a few days too which is always helpful.

Next up the lovely and delicious Tofu JoRim.

This was delicious.  It is meant to be eaten as a side so you need rice, kimchi, and some other delicious treats to go along with it.  I ate it on its own but the Korean teachers at school quickly let me know I should have been having rice with it.  Again didn’t take me very long to make.  The only thing I would do differently is use a light soy sauce.  It pretty much doesn’t exist here at all, but for those of you that want to try and it and are lucky enough to be in the vicinity of some I would highly recommend it. Its also a dish that has no spice in it, so if you want Korean food but aren’t a fan of spice this would be a good easy skill level recipe to try.  I added pepper flakes to mine.  It’s awful pretty much unless food has spice to it I feel like its just not edible anymore.  It just tastes bland and weird.  Thanks Korea.

I was just talking to my mom about how I have beautiful peppers in my fridge and no idea what to do with them.  Normally I would make a yummy stuffed Mexican chicken and cheese stuffed mix but since I have no oven that just isn’t feasible.

So, we had this conversation:

Me: I have a big yellow pepper in my fridge. What should I make with it? I’m out of ideas.

Mom: I don’t know.

Me: Well, I have other veggies too, eggplant, zucchini, carrots, potatoes, onion, and stuff. What should I make?

Mom: Well do you have rice? Make a stir fry.

Me: Is that a real question? Do I have rice? Mom, I am living in the land of rice. there are 4 different words for the word rice in Korean. 4!

 

Not sure whats up next maybe some eggplant bokkeum, or curry bap, and eventually even some kimchi.

 

Foodie

I have been such a foodie lately eating so many good things.  Unfortunately not all of them healthy. I have eaten more galbi than I care to admit within the last few weeks. I have been testing out more Korean foods and realizing Koreans make it sound a lot more difficult than it really is.  I think they do this on purpose because whenever I mention that I made something they look at me like I suddenly have 3 heads and proceed to be shocked when I explain it was relatively easy. So it goes.

Anyway in the past 2 weeks or so I have really mastered the kimchi bokembap. I crave it constantly but I limit how often I make it because it is so carb heavy. I also forget every time to take a picture of it.

I got brave and decided to try my hand at dak galbi. It was delicious.

and just to get in a little closer:

I have fallen in love with this very common Korean snack called Dduk Bbokki.  Again, super easy to make and uber delicious. Though mine isn’t so bad I still prefer the little vendor outside my apartment building.  The woman and her husband run it, and they are so incredibly kind and awesome.  I wish I could watch her make it, because its just the perfect amount of sweet and spicy.  Also, it isn’t supposed to have mushrooms, but I like them in everything and they were starting to go bad so I figured what the heck and threw them in.  I am sure my Korean co-workers will have something to say about that. 🙂

I realize that these dishes kiiiind of look the same, but I promise they aren’t. ^_^

Then this week I tried some new things.  One dish I had out for lunch on Saturday is called bibim naengmyeon.  It was delicious.  It will probably be something I live on in summer because it is such a common summer food.  I totally understand.  It is so light and delicious.

Then I had something a little more obscure that was kind of a mental challenge for me to eat.  It is called Al Tang. It literally is fish egg soup.  The link will take you and show you pictures of red eggs, but the ones we had were white and in these white casing and it was just a little overwhelming for me to get over at first.  However, once I broke all the eggs apart from their clumps I realized it didn’t taste bad, it was actually pretty good.  Still, not something I will try and make, or really go around wanting to have again.

On Saturday night we went to a Vietnamese place.  I love Pho. absolutely adore it. I was getting pretty full though and asked for a to go container.  The guy looked at me and then looked at Eileen and was astonished because if I took it home the noodles would blow up.  I chuckled.  In the US I eat left over pho and I like it.  I don’t think it’s too weird but Korean really get concerned about their noodles.  So the guy comes back with a bag and literally he has given me a bag of fresh noodles and broth so that I can just make more.  I felt bad but it is just how Korean are sometimes.

All in all, I am definitely eating well!