Sunday, May 30, 2010

Making Calamari

The boyfriend finally did what he's been trying to do since I met him, and that is to cook up some squid at home (or is it cuttlefish? I'm never clear on the distinction). Now, it's not that I hate squid, but I'm just picky about how it's prepared. Sometimes it tastes great, and sometimes its rubbery and gross. So, generally, I just avoid it. But, I have tried 어징어튀김 (fried squid) that we might call calamari, and that's quite good, so I finally relented when the boyfriend decided to make calamari. Since I've never seen squid prepared before, I took photos of the process.

You can buy 오징어 (squid) at emart for about 1,000 won a piece, aka super cheap.

First step is taking out the center part of squid. It's full of some nasty brown stuff.

When you take out the center part, it looks like this. Don't eat this. Throw it away!

The boyfriend had some fun playing with the eyes. But, be careful. They will explode and squirt purple liquid. Remove the eyes until you're left with just the tentacles.

Cut off each tentacle and throw away the black mouth part. You should be left with the body and the tentacles to eat. Cut them into strips for frying.

Next, you'll need to prepare your 튀김가루 which is a kind of flour used for deep frying. You can find it at emart in the flour section. According to the directions, first cover it in plain flour, then dip it into the batter, then put it into your pan full of hot oil.

here's the squid getting covered with flour.

Here's dipping the squid into the batter, and putting it into the pan with hot oil.

Deep frying the squid (sorry, this is the best photo I could get). Be careful of spitting hot oil!

Once it's fried, remove it and when it cools down, it's ready to eat! It turned out quite tasty for the first time. Now we have two more squids in the freezer that have to be eaten!

Super easy, huh?

Language notes:
튀김(twikim)- battered and deep fried things
오징어튀김 (ojingaw twikim) deep fried squid (calamari)

튀김가루 (twikimkaru) - flour used for deep frying
밀가루 (milkaru)- Flour
고주가루 (gochukaru) - hot pepper powder
if you add 가루 to the end of something, it generally means it's some sort of powder.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Election Season

June 2nd is election day and the candidates have been reving up thier campaigning these past two weeks. Although, the only thing that I can figure that these guys are campaining for is to be the most annoying candidate possible. Evidently, in Korea, it's normal to campaign mainly by trying to pass out the most buisness cards that people will then throw on the street, or to shout the loudest from bongo trucks that cruise the streets with megaphones or loudspeakers. Now, I usually try to be sensitive to cultural differences, but this one is really getting to me. Why? Well, it's not that the trucks wake me up at 9 am with their blaring music, and it's not the fact that I can't walk for 5 minutes without seeing about 5 trucks pass me blaring music. It's the fact that these trucks pass by our school several times an hour blaring their music and my kids can't hear me over the din. Or, they are distracted by the music and start giggling or talking about it. Their campaigning is keeping me from doing my job as well as I could.

Now, personally, if I could understand and recognize these guys, and if I could vote, I would personally choose the least annoying of the candidates. I've asked several Koreans opinions on the matter, but they are just used to this sort of campaigning and don't think anything of it. They don't even find it that annoying. I wish I could have this attitude too. But when your hagwon is at an intersection of two main roads, it's hard to ignore their blaring sounds.

That's my two cents. I wish I could tell you more about election things, but this is all I've figured out about elections. The only other thing to add is that June 2nd is a national holiday and most companies and schools will have the day off. Not mine, but we do get an extra day at Chuseok as compensation, which for me is much better. But... I don't have to vote...

Monday, May 24, 2010

Culinary diary from my Beppu/ Kitakyushu, Japan trip

I totally forgot I planned to make this post, just like I did from my trip to Tokyo. Some foods I'm not sure of the name, so if you know, any help would be appreciated.

Japanese food is amazing. It's so completely different from Korean food. While Korean food tends to be very spicy, Japanese food uses more subtle flavors to tantalize the taste buds. Our trip to Tokyo became one giant food eating spree, and we decided that our trip to Beppu and Kitakyushu wouldn't be right if we didn't try the same. We basically ate small snacks every few hours so that we were always comfortably full.

Tempura and udon noodles


Steaming food over the hot steam rising from the earth in Beppu.

An egg cooked from the steam

(unknown- help?)

(unknown... help?) fried things on sticks

Yakisoba- fried soba noodles

Bento Box Shop

Koroke- kind of like mashed potatoes which were battered and fried... mmm, purchased from the Bento Box Shop

Japanese curry purchased from the Bento Box Shop

(unknown... help?)

Snack on the train- beer, natto, rice cakes and tempura

(unknown- help?) something yummy topped with a fried egg

Yakicurry- fried curry rice

Green Tea shake

Making Yakiudon- fried udon noodles


Any help to identify the food I ate would be appreciated. I'm no expert in Japanese cuisine....

Looks like I'm going to Cambodia for summer vacation

After much deliberation, I (think) I've finally decided to go to Cambodia for my week vacation this summer. Now it's time to figure out where I'm going to go once I get there. I should have about 8 1/2 days or so, which means going to Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and then one other place. I think I've decided I'd like to go to Battombang as the third stop. The itinerary in my head goes something like this:

Phnom Penh (3 days) --bus-->Battombang (2 days) --boat--> Siem Reap (3 days) --bus--> Phnom Penh and fly home.

People who've been to Cambodia: How does this sound? Is there somewhere better I should check out? Do you know of any cool places that might not make it into the guide books or might be easily overlooked? Know of any good hotels? I need advice people!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

First Birthday Party

In Korean culture, the first birthday party is a very important occasion. Parents generally throw a big catered party at a function hall and invite lots of people, not unlike a wedding just on a slightly smaller scale. And, just like a wedding, you've got to put your cash gift into the little, white envelope. The boyfriend was invited to his friend's baby's first birthday party on Saturday. In fact, this is the same baby I saw just after she was born just a year ago.

If you go to one of these parties, after greeting the family, first thing first, you got to eat your fill of all the free food at the buffet. I'm generally not a huge fan of Korean style buffets, but I can still get myself full on the few edible things there. If you like Korean style sushi, raw beef (that's a delicacy, you know), rice cake and various types of meat in mystery sauce, you'll be in heaven.

You'll probably see a photographer going around getting pictures of guests and eventually the baby fully dressed in hanbok (traditional Korean clothes).

Finally the main events will start. At this party, they first showed a slide show of of the baby's first year. Then they introduced the parents and the baby and they made a grand entrance. Once situated at the front table, we had a cheers to the baby. Then we all clapped and sang happy birthday to the baby. There was some cake that was cut, but I don't understand why there's always a cake at these events, but no one ever gets to eat the cake. In America, if we're gona cut a cake in front of everybody, we'd better be sure we have enough that everyone in the room is going to get some of that cake.

Anyway, the main event of the party, and the one that always makes it into Korean language/culture books is the selection of one object that will predict the child's future occupation or ambitions. In theory, if the baby is given the option of several objects, he or she will pick the one they are most attracted to, showing the child's nature. Parents can pick any objects they like, so its slightly biased as to the parent's wishes for the child.. hehe..

Anyway, at this party, there were several objects layed out for the baby to chose. First was yarn, representing longevity. Next was a pencil for hard studying. Next was a stethoscope, if she might want to enter a medical profession. After that was a microphone representing a career in entertainment. And last was money... for which I don't think I need to explain the symbolism.

The baby chose.... the pencil! She's going to be a great student! Or maybe she just likes long pointed objects. One or the other.

Other gifts I've heard of are an arrow symbolizing a warrior or a computer mouse suggesting some sort of career in computers. Have you heard of any other interesting gifts?

After this, there were some door prizes offered to some for the number ticket they received at the door, and to others for guessing how many teeth the baby has or how much she weighed at birth. Once this was over, the party, too, was basically over. We stayed around a little longer to chat, but most folks zoomed out pretty fast. The whole ordeal was less than 2 hours long. And we arrived late too...

While exiting, we were each given free towels as a gift of sorts. I now have such a collection of towels from various events I've attended in Korea that it's nearly blog worth in itself. I'll wait 'til I get one or two more towels, though, to make it a really amazing towel blog post.

Have you been to a Korean first birthday party? Was anything done differently than at this one?

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Making Makkoli at Nana's Kitchen

As I mentioned in my last post, my friend organized a makkoli making day in Hongdae. The kitchen was beautiful and looked very new. I expected it to be a cooking hagwon, but it's more a place for catering and giving small private lessons. For various circumstances that happened before class, our teacher was not really in a mood to be teaching us how to cook, so we wound up not having a great explaination of the makkoli making process. My friend did her best to explain what was going on and ask the questions we were all wondering. Anyway, it was still fun to try, and we learned how to make a few other things too. Eating at the end, though, was the best part. We don't get to try our makkoli until next week though, as it takes a week or so to ferment.

First step to make makkoli was to add some pre-made makkoli to a bowl of steamed rice and yeast. This rice is a little bit different from normal rice, it's less sticky. The yeast is strange too, it's not a powder, but a rather hard, chunky substance. I guess you can add water to make it as well, but as we're novices, we took the easier route.

After adding the makkoli, we used our hands to mix the yeast and rice together, and make it into a big rice mush. It took about 10 minutes of mixing, breaking up yeast and squishing before our rice was ready to be added to to a common jar where our instructor will keep it at the proper temperature (not too hot, not too cold) and stir it every day to make sure it turns out alright. (The boyfriend tried making makkoli a few months ago, but it just turned to something more like vinegar because I guess we didn't keep in the proper conditions.) Sorry, no photos of this process, my hands were a bit busy.. and messy.

After making our makkoli, we learned how to make some 호박전 hobak jeon, or basically battered and fried zucchini and fried tofu.

It's super easy, though this method was slightly different than how the boyfriend makes this stuff. Basically, first cut up a zuchini. Then flour it on all sides. Then dip it in egg and fry. Super simple, super tasty. Same goes with the tofu. Just flour it, egg it and fry it. We all had a bit of a challenge picking up the tofu, dipping it in egg and getting it onto the frying pan with chopsticks without breaking the tofu somewhere in the process.

After making this, our teacher made some 파전 pajeon and 떡볶이 dukbokki. We didn't really get to learn how to make these, though, as she wouldn't share her "secret sauce" recipie. Anyway, it doesn't look hard, I'm sure it would be easy enough to figure out online.

Finally it was time to eat and enjoy the fruits of our labor. Along with some store bought makkoli in the spirit of makkoli making.

You might notice Tuttle from The Seoul Patch in this photo too. He found the ad for the event on my blog and decided to join us. It was cool to actually meet another blogger... it's the first time that's happened before (except for my actual friends that happen to blog too of course). I'll be interested to see his version of this story on his blog. :-)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

You can learn to make makkoli THIS FRIDAY!

My friend is holding a makkoli making class in Hongdae and there's still a lot of open slots. Anyone is welcome to come. Please read the following invitation if you're interested.

We will make Korean traditional rice wine using an easy, traditional hand mixing process that calls for 누룩 (nuruk, yeast), 고두밥 (godubab, slightly underdone cooked rice), water, and makgeolli (rice wine). Making makgeolli this way tastes better than the kind you would buy in a restaurant, and you get to enjoy the process, too.

Where : Nana's Kitchen, which is closed to Exit 2, Hongdae ipgu Stn

Meeting Place : Hongdae ipgu(홍대입구) Station, subway line no. 2, Exit no. 2

Meeting Time : Please come by 12:45 pm

Date : 21 / May / 2010

Time : 1pm to 3pm

Price : 25,000 won per person, You need pay it on the field trip day.

Maximum participant : 20 people for one time,
if there's more people we will make another class from 3:30pm to 5:30pm

What you can get after field trip : Korean rice wine and it's recipe.

Reservation is Essential : Please write mail to, and tell me your name, mail address, cell phone number. Then I will send you cfm mail for your reservation.

Detail Schedule

12:45 ~ 12:55 meeting and check the attendance
12:55 ~ 1:00 move to Nana's Kitchen
1:00 ~ 3:00 Learning How to make Korean traditional rice wine and Korean pancake
after 3 :00 - Enjoy your holidays :D

Contact :

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Last visit to base and last time meeting Sean

Sean has been one of my best friends in Seoul and has always been "part" of Korea for me. We've always studied at the same Saturday Korean class and so even before we became close friends he was always in the background of my life in Korea. This Friday he leaves for good. He's in the US military, so there's no chance of him coming back if he can't find a job at home, or anything like that. I've said a lot of good-byes here, but I've also said a lot of hello agains too.

Sunday was the last chance for me to meet up with him, and so he took us on our last chance to visit Yongsan military base. First thing first was catching an 11 o'clock showing of Iron Man 2. It was an ok movie, but I never saw Iron Man 1 so I was a bit out of the loop as to what the whole thing was supposed to be about.

Next it was lunch time. Bringing an English teacher to eat on base is like bringing a kid to Disneyland. There are so many REAL western style food restaurants and chains to choose from. We nearly always choose the tex-mex place or, if we're in a rush, Taco Bell... but there's one coming to Itaewon soon so I figured not to waste a good chance on something I'll be able to eat whenever pretty soon. So of course we had to go to the tex-mex place one last time and enjoy our last real American style (if you can call tex-mex American) meal. Here's some of the food we got.

This was mine, of course, smothered in cheese, full of sour cream, guacamole, chicken, salsa, rice.... it was more or less a giant heart attack on a plate. I was a bit sick after eating nearly the whole thing... but I'm pretty sure it was worth it. I didn't eat dinner that night...

After that, we weren't quite sure what to do, but then we rememebred that there was a mini-golf place on base that we had always meant to check out. Koreans are huge on screen golf and driving ranges, but the whole mini golf concept hasn't caught on yet. I've only ever seen one here and it was a really pathetic looking thing on a terrace outside at Yongsan electronics market. I've never seen it open, so I have no idea if that place is popular or not.

We walked all the way down there and, while there were no windmills, and the waterfalls and ponds were all turned off and dried up, it was still quite a satisfying course and we spent a good hour or two playing mini-golf. I lost, despite all my recent efforts at the driving range thanks to the boyfriend.

After 18 holes of mini golf we were ready for something cool and refreshing, so we made our way over to the Dragon Hill hotel again for some ice cream. My friend Matt noticed that they had root beer for sale, which he's never had before since I guess it's not a very British thing to drink. We both decided to get one since who knows when I'll have another one. Plus some lovely chocolate chip ice cream with Reces Peanut Butter cups mixed in. Ah, heaven.

Finally, it was time to say our good-byes and head to the lotus lantern parade. I'm so sad to see Sean go, and I wish him the best of luck at his new assignment.

Lotus Lantern Festival Parade 5/16/2010

Sorry guys, this post is not quite what it should have been. My camera battery decided to poop out on me before the sun even went down. I only got photos of the first 15 or 20 minutes of the parade. Guess that's what happens when you don't charge your batteries after a long weekend in Japan, a day trip to Hadong, and random in between usage as well. I guess I should be happy I got as many photos as I did...

Here is the leading banner. It says Bucheonim Ohshinnal. Bucheonim is Buddha in Korean, and OhshinNal is literally the day he came, so in other words, Buddha's Birthday. This was followed by the taxis of Seoul, decked out with lanterns.
Then came a very royal procession, something similar to what you might see at a palace around Seoul, but maybe a little bigger.

I think nearly every temple in the area was represented here. You could see every temple carrying a banner with their name, then they generally had some group of music or dance performers, and maybe or maybe not a giant lantern (which may or may not have had animatronics or flame throwers) and then a big bunch of the temple's worshipers in the rear, carrying some kind of intersting shaped lanterns. My favorites of the evening were the umbrella shaped lanterns. Stupid camera...

Here's an example of one of the flame throwing dragon lanterns. I kept waiting for it to catch itself on fire. I don't know if you can see the fire coming out of it's mouth here.

Anyway, the parade was much longer than I expected. A bit more than two hours of watching lanterns pass by was a long time for my bum sitting on a very tall subway vent. But, we stayed til the bitter end. Anyway, it was a good time. Make sure you make it down next year!