Category Archives: Food

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On November 11th, 2011, in Korea, it was known as Pepero Day in honor of Korea’s version of the Pocky sticks. They’re generally long and thin biscuits covered in some sort of sweet, sugary chocolate/frosting. Of course, there are several varieties out there and though Pocky hosts a lot more flavors, Pepero’s selection isn’t all that bad because it means I’ll eat less (or that’s the idea). There are the giant Pepero sticks the length of your forearm (this may depend on how long your forearm is but for the sake of visualising it, however long your forearm is is how long this particular snack is), the waffle-based kinds, the ones studded with almonds or peanuts, the strawberry flavored type, as well as Nude Pepero – which is my favorite. Nude Pepero is basically a hollow biscuit tube filled with chocolate.

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Mama’s Pie


I was visiting one of my friends in the city earlier today and she told me about this cute little mom-and-pops place that sold pies. There are some things you can’t really get in Korean and authentic, North American pies are one of them (unless you make a trip to Costco). It’s a nice little place off the main road and around a 5 to 6-minute walk from Timeworld Galleria in Dunsan-dong by the name of Mama’s Pie (and yes, it does bother me how the name suggests “Mama” only has one pie). There’s also a really nice-sized terrace with some seating and tables offered, topped off with umbrellas to fend off the sun’s harmful rays (un-pictured).

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A Taste of India

I don’t eat meat. I don’t like spicy food. It’s funny how one of my favorite ethnic cuisines included Indian back in the States, though I suppose the fact that Indian food is vegetarian friendly helps as well and as long as I had a cup of water at my side, I was safe. It’s also funny how I chose to live in Korea. Well, I finally visited an Indian restaurant in Daejeon last night while meeting some friends and their friends; they had come down from Chungju.

I was so excited.

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Ingeobbang: Sign of Winter

The other week, I saw these curious stands popping up at intersections in my neighborhood. They were orange and had these plastic covers around the stall itself – usually clear – and there were the hangeul 흑쌀 잉어빵* (heukssal ingeobbang) scrawled across the top. To translate, it’s basically a fish pastry with a sweet bean filling encased in a thin wheat and glutinous rice flour dough. What made this place even more special is that there’s 흑쌀 (or black rice) included in the dough so it comes out slightly golden but with a grey-ish undertone. I broke down one day and got three for 1,000 won. What makes this even better is that they come in this bag:

There’s nothing better than eating fish (to me, it’s eating fish) and knowing that the bag the fish was in (and therefore the fish themselves) were telling me to be happy. But they’re seriously very cute – and good! I actually got them two days in a row because the first time I got them, I forgot to take pictures. But it’s dangerous! The stall is on my route home from school, so I pass it once a day at least, and when I exercise self-control, my nose can smell the delicious scent of it cooking in the metal molds. It’s heavenly. ^^ It’s a good thing that it’s too early to be open when I’m walking to school every morning or I can imagine I’d gain weight fast.

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Korean Grapes

Yes, I know. It’s a strange concept that I ate fruit here willingly, but in my defense, grapes are one of the safe fruits that I’ll eat on occasion, unlike other fruits that leave my lips, mouth, and/or throat tingling. Plus, coming to a new country, you’ve got to try new things, right? I’ve had those weird yellow melon-fruits the Koreans here love eating (with the seeds) and I decided that I didn’t like it. However, these grapes are something else. Literally.

At first glance, it looks like your normal bunch of grapes, but then you take a closer look and you realise that the grapes are a bit more rounder. However, the taste is where you can really tell the difference from grapes back in the States. The first time I had them was with my coteachers during school lunch. Like regular grapes, I just popped them into my mouth, chewed it, and spit out the seeds – yes, Korean grapes contain seeds. Then, I started noticing something strange: the Koreans around me made the grape eating process a lot more complicated:

  1. Using a thumb and forefinger, they bring one plump grape to their lips and they start sucking on it while lightly pinching the other end. Interestingly enough, the flesh will neatly pop out (I’ve had instances where some juice squirted out the other end, though) and into your mouth.
  2. Discard the skin.
  3. Spit out the seeds and proceed to process the grape or lightly chew the grape flesh without breaking open the seeds and swallow.

It took me the third time I encountered the grapes to try this new method of eating the little guys because, well, my taste palate isn’t picky. As long as it’s edible, I’ll put it in my mouth, chew, and swallow. However, I did taste something off — the skin of a Korean grape is rather thick, for one. The flesh itself is sweet but it’s also has a slightly slimy texture to it that isn’t found in the grapes I’m used to. It’s nothing big, but it’s present. The seeds taste like, well, seeds. Plus, this trying of local mannerisms is all a part of learning about the local culture and people, right? And so I tried it.

The first time I tried sucking out the flesh from it’s skin in order to consume it “properly”, there was a small explosion of grape juice coming from the side of the grape not in my mouth. Once you get that part down, however, it’s fairly straightforward as long as you’re familiar with the idea of mastication and swallowing. Then after several more tries, these successful, I decided I liked the method better because (1) I’m in Korea now, (2) it’s a bit more hygienic since I’m not actually directly touching the food I would be ingesting, and (3) I like the feel of when the flesh schloops into my mouth. Oh yes, and how could I forget about how utterly beautifully they’re packed? I only got two bunches for a little over 2,000 won  nestled in their own special packing paper on top of a styrofoam dish. They were absolutely pleasing to look at and none of the grapes looked to be remotely bruised or anything.

It was perfect.

Plus, I decided that I needed to branch out from my occasional banana buying; I needed a larger variety of fruits in the apartment and they seemed reasonable priced. You can also buy them in big boxes, that resemble potential gift sets, starting/averaging from around 14,000 won each – or 10,000 won on the streets. There’s just the problem that I’m only one person, so I opted out.

Anyway, with these grapes, you have people who love them and people who don’t. And then you have people who love them and also did their research. From that, I found out that these grapes actually hail from the States (or at least some guy in the States bred them) even though they’re more popular in Asia and that contrary to popular knowledge and belief, they’re not actually called Korean grapes at all. They’re actually Campbell Early Grapes (I’ve also seen it as “Campbell’s Early Grapes”) and they’re in season at around now (September/October).

…I prefer calling them Korean grapes.


Liquid Life: Milk

Okay, so that may not make much sense, but to me, milk is life. I feel sad when I run out of milk. Almost even lost. It keeps my body temperature down, it’s cool (cold), and it’s just refreshing and delicious. Just to let you know, I love it in the winter too. When I was living alone, I drank a gallon of milk within a week and it was great. When I travel, nothing changes, though I probably drink less than a gallon of milk per week, haha. Even so, milk is still a routine item on my grocery list, along with a host of other dairy products, hence the reason why I decided to do a post on milk and show you how much I love it.

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Vegetarian Goodness – Pulhyanggi Vegetarian Buffet

This is at the entrance - but it's really downstairs in the basement.

One of the first things you learn when you get to Asia, is that shops, buildings, and homes aren’t all horizontal. They go vertical. It’s due to the lack of space but within one building, you’ll see a ton of signs stuck to the side, telling you what that building offers, which may range from a market (usually found underground in Korea) to various hagwons, restaurants, and medical clinics. After two weeks, my friend and I finally made it to try out the second (out of three) vegetarian restaurant in town; they all seem to be buffets for some odd reason, other than a branch of Lovely Hut up in north Daejeon. I still haven’t been. I got there forty minutes early because I was intending on taking the bus, which would utilize most of that time. However, I ended up getting dropped off at a subway station after dropping off my laptop – which crashed, again – and then making it over from there. Subways are fast. Too bad I don’t live near one.

Back to the point: I got there early and I remember from one of my co-teachers who said it was either in the same building or next to the building with the Africa Animal Hospital. I do remember it being across from Lotte Department Store, but that’s easy enough. Lotte Department Store is a good 12 stories high; you can’t miss it. This place, however, needs a little more effort to find. I walked up and down past the animal hospital and even further where I encountered a pet store. How convenient. Anyhow, I ended up looking up and I studied the side of the building. There it was. And then I looked down. A little further into a small alley but in the same building, I encounter an entrance and that sign you see pictured. In Korean, it says Chaeshik Buipae, or vegetarian buffet. On the upper right-hand corner, you see the English translation, but about a hundred times smaller. What I don’t get is why the sign for the place on the side of the building is near the top when the restaurant itself is in the basement. Also: signs on the side of buildings usually tell you which floor it’s on; this one didn’t. Well, I found it, and that’s what matters. 🙂

The sign of the price and hours..

Another thing I don’t get is why these places only open for such a short amount of time. My favorite vegetarian buffet in town, Marchera, up near Banseok Subway Station is the same, though I think they’re open for slightly longer and is a bit cheaper. However, the sign says:

Adults: 9,000 won
Children (ages 8 and under): 6,000 won
Lunch: 12:00 to 2:30
Dinner: 6:00 to 8:30

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The Beauty of Bakeries

I have a Korean friend who says one of the first things he does when he comes back to Korea is the hair salon; they understand what he wants for his hair the best. For me, one of the first things I do when I come to Asia is check out their bakeries. It’s no surprise that I love sweets of all kinds: cakes, mousse, smoothies, ice cream/gelato/frozen yoghurt, cookies, muffins, chocolate, candy, gummies, cookies, brownies, jell-o, pies and tarts… However, there’s a limit to my sweet tooth; not the sweets themselves but for exactly how sweet they are.

In my case, I go to the Asian bakeries because they understand my sweet tooth. They have pretty much everything for my snacking and junk food needs (and more often than not, their prices also control my desires) and it’s not as sweet as the usual fare in the States, or the western world, for that matter. Plus, they have the cool flavors you normally don’t find in mainstream bakeries. Depending on what region of Asia you’re in, there’s kumquat, sweet potato, yuja, green tea, taro, and even durian. Living in Korea, bakeries and coffee shops are seemingly everywhere – almost as if they’re stalking your every step, but I rather like this stalker. ^^ Just sayin’.

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Indulgence Corner: Tong San Ja

I was introduced to this beauty at school. In the “Other Subject” teacher’s office, basically home to the non-homeroom teachers, we have a nice little resting/kitchen area that boasts the Basket of Happiness. In this Basket of Happiness, there are snacks of every kind. One day, I found a rice-based snack in a plastic bag and I tried it. I immediately took a liking to it and so I asked around. Interestingly enough, the coteacher I questioned didn’t know – or forgot – the name, but she told me I could find it at Nong Hyup Hanaro Mart, which is a market boasting produce and merchandise from local farmers and/or Korean companies. When you shop there, you’re basically supporting the local economy.

And so I went and I found it. 🙂

Turns out it’s called 통산자, or tong san ja. I tried looking up more information on it, but nothing came up, though I did find some sites that sold this product. So, I’m only left with what my coteacher told me, which was how these little rice cake squares are usually offered on the memorial days and trips to the grave to honor their dead deceased loved ones. Well, I’m sure people eat them on other occasions, but she says that they’re often offered up for that purpose, because after she found out I liked them, she bought an entire box, rather like the one I purchased above, and all the other teachers ate it so there’s no taboo or anything surrounding it. I also tried looking up what the name meant, but what I got made little sense. According to what I found, 통산 meant to sum up or calculate and 자 meant.. I’m not quite sure. Something about everything. Basically, I gave up trying to find logical meaning to the name of this snack.

It doesn’t matter anyway, because I like it… whatever it is.

 

It sort of reminds me of a rice krispie – but not. Perhaps more akin to the Chinese sachima… or sha qi ma or 沙琪瑪, what have you. The former is because it’s a rice-based snack/pastry and the latter is because it’s soft and even the slightest bit chewy. However, it isn’t sticky to the touch, since it’s covered in the snow-white rice puffs, which tends to fall. Some bits may get stuck in between your teeth as your saliva begins to break down the molecules and it begins to become more malleable.

So, what you need to know: it’s basically a rice-based square with roughly 5 to 6-inch long sides and they usually come packaged in fives; since I brought it home, I already ate one… and a half. >.> The square itself is lightly sweet and the texture, as you break it to get a bite-sized piece, is a bit like foam as it gives in relatively straight lines, though softer and it doesn’t make as much noise as the pieces separate. The outside ‘puffs’ are light and relatively tasteless – think of the soft puffs of a popcorn, but broken into bits. I love chewing into it and feeling it give in between my teeth. I love the texture and the soft and chewy aspects of it at the same time. I love how it’s made from rice and I love how I can probably eat the entire box without noticing. On second thought, that’s probably a bad thing. >.> Anyway, I don’t know why I like this so much, but I do know it can get expensive, though I have no clue why. The one I got cost 2,100 won, so around $2, though the box next to it in the traditional snacks area was around 5,000 won. I can tell you that this one tastes perfectly fine, so perhaps it’s just a difference of brand.

Anyway, if you think about it, if it’s good enough for my deceased loved ones, then it’s definitely good enough for a living me. :]


Indulgence Corner (of the healthy sort): Homilhodu

I work at one of the few schools with a female Principal. She’s nice, I guess, but we don’t really interact much. It turns out that she used to be the head of some English department for the government… and yet she doesn’t speak English to me. The Vice Principal’s a jolly man who enjoys calling out, “Hi, how are you,” and “I’m fine, thanks,” in a rapid-fire order in the classic Greeting Foreigners Formula that Koreans have ingrained into them, whenever he sees me, whilst holding up his right hand in the British Royal way of “waving”. At times, it’s pretty amusing…

Principal: Hi! How are you?
Me: I’m doing pretty good. How about you?
Principal: I’m fine, thank you! And you?
Me: ..I’m doing well…

He totally rocks. Well, when he sees me, he would normally say that, but at around lunch, as is custom, he always tells me to eat a lot and to eat well – in Korean, of course. At lunch, he normally sits with three other men around his age, one of whom is the traffic director at the front of the school and we always make it a point to smile and wave to one another when I pass the school gate. One day, I was turning into the hallway that led into the staff lunchroom; it’s essentially the science lab. Yes, they have a fully-equipped science lab. First person around the corner was the Principal who told me to eat a lot, then was another of his Lunch Posse who nodded at me and smiled. Then there was the last member of The Posse; the traffic director. He also told me to eat a lot of grabbed one of my hands to place a small, round object wrapped in white tissue paper and told me to eat it along with a barrage of Korean; I decided he was telling me it was good for me so I must eat it. It was from Homilhodu.

It’s a chain of stores and cafes that specialise in sweets featuring walnuts and what he handed me was their signature product. It’s this ball of dough surrounding an entire walnut within as well as a ball of sweet bean filling in the middle. There’s actually a small, but cute branch within my neighborhood that I often pass by on the way to school, but I never went in at first, because I didn’t know what they sold. Now that I know, I plan on visiting very soon as their products appear to be pretty healthy and delicious. It just hasn’t happened yet because there always seems to be food in my apartment and there’s only me to eat it all, so I haven’t gotten around to it. :/

Sadly, I don’t think the branch in my neighborhood features everything that could be found in their cafe, but some selections include their signature item (the walnut-paste-ball-of-happiness), stuffed buns and other bread-pastries, as well as pies (or so they call it – looks more like tarts instead), cookies, and waffles.

All I know is that this place screams out for my family; it’s exactly what my mom and sister would fall for. Nuts in a subtly sweet dough and a bean paste in the middle? Yes, well, I come from a family of health nuts (pun not intended though appreciated) and I supposed I’m a bit influenced as such. Even if you’re not into that, just look at what you find inside the wrapper!

Basically, just try it out if you haven’t already. 🙂 Yes, that’s the main point of this post.