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Archive for the ‘foreign food’ Category

I’ve been spending a lot of time in on the weekends, hiding out from the cold weather and trying to get things in order before we leave in less than a month (eek!), so I decided that I needed a night out with one of my best friends here in Korea, Chansong, and one of her friends from church!

We met in Cheonbukdae to chat and exercise our chopstick skills over a meal of shabu-shabu at a local Japanese food restaurant. Shabu-shabu refers to thinly sliced beef dipped briefly in boiling broth, then enjoyed with vegetables that also simmer in the same pot. The food trend, which began in Osaka, Japan has quickly caught on all around Asia and has taken on variations in each country.

In Korea, it is customary to serve the beef with a plate of vegetables (ours included three kinds of mushrooms, cabbage, carrots, squash, and a single mandu as well), with a tiny nest of fresh noodles to one side, and a small bowl filled with rice, nori and an egg to make jook at the end of the meal.

To begin, the girls and I dropped our veggies in our personal pots as soon as the broth began to simmer. While they bubbled, we dug into a complimentary salad of crisp cabbage, a ripe, juicy orange and tangy kiwi dressing. Yum! I practically licked the bowl clean. Once the vegetables began to soften, we began dunking our meat our pots and enjoying the combination of the produce and the beef.

I traded Chansong some of my mushrooms for her squash, since she isn’t a fan.

Once the meat was gobbled up (trust — it didn’t take long as I was starving after a long day of work), we plopped the fresh knife-cut noodles into the pot to make a mini version of kalguksu. After slurping up the noodles with the two delicious sauces (one was soy sauce based, the other a kind of gochujung) the broth had reduced quite a bit in the pot and it was time to drop in the rice.

The resulting dish was a creamy type of congee — a rice porridge called jook that combined diced vegetables, nori, rice and a single egg to produce a rich, satisfying bowl of comfort (especially on a night with temps in the 50s). I wasn’t able to finish all of the jook due to my bulging waistline at that point, but it was the perfect end to a perfect meal. My only regret is that I didn’t come to this restaurant sooner!

It was more than a steal at 9,000 won (under $9). I felt like I robbed the place blind!

Afterward we headed to Art and Travel for a night cap and more girl talk.

A few weekends ago, I was lucky enough to be around to celebrate Chansong’s 22nd (21st American age) birthday. Even though she has been able to drink legally in Korea for years now, I felt like this was a milestone that couldn’t go unnoticed. So, we spent a lively Saturday playing cards and drinking at Deepin.

She was a trooper and even accepted the shots of whiskey I bought her — the first ones she had! Happy times with a bestie who I will miss dearly when I go home…

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Korea’s answer to Valentine’s Day. You see, that hallmark day for lovers here in the East is reserved especially for females to go gaga over their guys, showering them with candies and chocolates. Now, the day has come for prince charming to woo his women — White Day has arrived!

White Day, a holiday celebrated in Korea and Japan, marks the day when it is the men’s turns to dote on their lady friends. It’s like having V-Day part deux, spinning companies such as Lotte (who runs approximately half of Korea) into a chocolate-pushing frenzy. Only one month after celebrating Valentine’s, the stores are once again chock full of candies and goodies used to make ladies swoon — but the presents don’t stop at treats. Jewelry, lingerie and marshmallows are also popular gifts for Korean men to give today.

Family Mart and GS 25 were fully prepared for the rush of ill-prepared men who are panicking for a last-minute gift to buy their loved ones.

Now, normally I don’t condone these ridiculous, made-up holidays where people feel obligated to buy cheap candy and dote on each other… but since I’m a woman, I will fully embrace this girls-only holiday! :P

At school, a kindergartener named Jin handed out goody bags to the teachers to celebrate. Score! We made out with two lollipops and about 8 packets of instant coffee — which begs the question, is Jin’s mother (who is a constant fixture in the mornings) trying to tell us something? Zombie reference or no, I’ll take it!

My elementary students gave me gifts as well, including a gaggle of lollipops and a delicious truffle-esque candy. Nom nom.

First Pepero Day, then Valentine’s Day, now this? I should move to Korea and start a chocolate manufacturing plant. For real.

Next up is Black Day, where all the sassy singles get together to eat jajangmyeon 짜장면, a delectable Chinese/Korean fusion dish that features thick wheat noodles, meat and vegetables slathered in black soybean paste. Evan and I prefer jajangbap (same dish, just made with rice instead of noodles). Seriously, jajang sauce is so good. SO good. We’ve frequented a Chinese fusion eatery in our ‘hood for months now — for pickup and eat-in. A post with food descriptions and drool-worthy pics to come!

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Last weekend, my girlfriends and I decided to escape to the big city for two whirlwind days of shopping, foreign food and live music.

I awoke early on Saturday morning to catch a bus to Seoul with my friends Rachel and Jenny Ryan. We headed straight for Hongdae upon our arrival, and dropped our bags at our crash pad for the night, Backpacker’s Space. The hostel, which was roughly 90% occupied by our posse, was adorable, clean and comfortable. It featured three rooms with bunks and fresh linen, one (western-style) bathroom with countless toiletries, and a vanity corner with a hair dryer and a straightener. I died, since I hadn’t straightened my hair in 10 months — I was waaaaay too excited.

The owner was pleasant and helpful, and a water cooler with cups was a welcome amenity during the wee, hungover hours of the morning. Plus, it was located in the heart of the bustling University district, so we were just a hop, skip and jump away from the clubs where we spent our night bobbing and dancing to jams.

So we ditched our packs and headed to Dos Tacos for some food. It was the same restaurant that we visited in Gangnam with my ‘cuz last summer, but the Hongdae location. Meat and avocado burrito, yummers. Just per-fec-tion.

Afterward, we took the train to Myeongdong to do some serious retail damage. I couldn’t get out of Forever 21 without a necessary top… or five. Oooops!

We also ran into a grungy, creepy Garfield in the midst of our shopping spree, nbd.

On our way home, we got wrapped up into a conversation and missed our subway transfer (whoops) but eventually made it back to the hostel! We grabbed some beer, dolled up and got ready for our night on the town. I chose one of my new tops from F21 and paired with with a black skirt, black tights, black boots and my Lady Gaga ring. Faboosh!

The crew, about 15 women deep, rolled to T Bell to grab some more Mexican grub before going out to Club FF. I ate a taco, and a burrito… and part of Sasia’s quesadilla… and Priscilla’s nachos. Yeah. Bad move leaving me around available food.

Club FF was awesome! The event was the 7 year anniversary of the hot spot, and had a bunch of great bands to celebrate the occasion. The first act we saw was Kingston Rudieska, an awesome ska band. At 11 PM, the bar started serving FREE cocktails that we enjoyed for an hour. Needless to say, I only bought one beer during our stay.

Later in the night, I decided to meet up with Alyssa at Shake! a mile-a-minute underground dance party. Alyssa popped into Club FF to tell me her location after her phone went missing, and we realized we were wearing the exact. same. outfit.

We had both purchased the same shirt that day without realizing it, and went on to dress ourselves in the same threads. It was hilariously mortifying — we looked like a Korean couple on their honeymoon.

We stayed at Shake for hours, went back to Club FF and shook it til the wee hours of morning.

I scraped myself out of bed in the morning, showered and enjoyed a picturesque cup of coffee while I waited for my ladies to get ready.

I also enjoyed the view of Hello Kitty cafe across the street. So cuuuuuute — where was Candace when I needed her? ^_-

After everyone was awake, we cabbed it to Itaewon to get some pub grub at Wolfhound. Rachel was sooo very excited to get her Bloody Mary. I skipped my own Mary for a pint of strong cider, and went crazy for their menu. In the end, I opted for a shepherd’s pie and a side salad with ranch. RANCH DRESSING! The second time I’ve enjoyed the creamy, fatty goodness in ten months. Yum!

Evan probably would have guessed that my eyes won a competition over my stomach during this meal, but I ate every last bite. Nom nom.

Being the wonderful girlfriends that we are, Rachel and I popped into Quizno’s on our way home to pick up sandwiches for us and boyfs to eat for dinner, which I enjoyed with Ev after a sleepy bus ride home.

Successful, wonderful weekend getaway!

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Valentine’s Day was all sorts of perfect — I mean, what’s better than a day you get loaded up on chocolate truffles, students bring you gifts and tell you they love you, your boyfriend dotes and you have a heavenly V-Day dinner at your favorite restaurant?

This past weekend, I spent a few hours putting together heart goodie bags for our kiddies from the mountain of supplies sent in Valentine’s packages from my parents and Steve and Jill (thank you, thank you, they were fabulous <3). All of our kindergarteners squealed and gasped when they opened their baggies. Stickers! Heart-shaped rubber bands! Laffy Taffy! They were especially excited for the candy hearts with messages on them — they don’t have those little V-Day treasures here in Korea, and we recently read about them in a story, so they’ve had a hankering for them ever since.

Our students got us treats too. One of my students, Han Bit, gave me these luscious truffles… in Hello Kitty paper, obviously.

Another student, Ji Oun, gave Evan a miniature pen cell phone charm so he could give it to me. You know, in case he forgot to get me a present. She’s got my back!

Luckily, I have an amazing boyfriend who not only remembers to get me a Valentine’s gift, but this year gave me what is hands down the best gift I’ve ever received. In Korea, it is traditional to give a bride and groom a pair of wooden ducks on their happy day. The ducks symbolize the partners in the relationship, and since it is a Confucian belief that Mandarin ducks mate for life, they are meant to represent fidelity and loyalty.

It is believed that the man who carved the ducks passes on five fortunes to the happy couple: wealth, health, life-long marriage, a good wife and lots of sons.

Evan bought me a gorgeous set of ducks, which just speaks to how much he loves me and could be taken as a symbol of how serious our relationship is to him. I, of course, started crying at his gesture. I will always treasure our ducks <3

In return, I made my man a Headband Kitty valentine (because he likes when I wear headbands, and bow clips are so last year), chocolate (he’s an addict) and a date night gift certificate for T.G.I. Fridays and Lotte Cinema.

We topped off a great day by heading to Aladdin’s Lamb for salad, chops, soup and a bottle of wine. We savored the tender meat, tangy feta, rich wine and our company :)

Best Valentine’s Day ever, most definitely!

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In addition to our excursion to Taco Bell, we noshed on flavors that have been dearly missed from my palette. From Middle Eastern and Mexican to sandwiches and burgers, the food was so delectably different than the fare offered in Jeonju.

On Thursday, I was finally able to peel myself out of bed to meet up with friends for a delicious Arabic meal. We headed to Alyssa’s ‘hood, near Hongdae, to feast at Petra.

We started with a trio of hummus, baba ghanoush (eggplant dip) and labaneh cheese, with a side of warm pita bread (real pita, not the flour tortillas we so enjoy at Aladdin’s Lamb).

I barely got this picture before it was devoured.

We ordered another round of the dips for when Rachel and Greg joined us at the table.  I also ordered delicious falafel, tabbouleh and pita to mix with the tasty round of condiments. Oh em gee… the best falafel I have had in such a long time. I couldn’t stop myself from shoveling food into my mouth.

Ev got the lamb and cous cous. There was a lot of serious nom nom going on at the table.

The next day, we traveled around the city to shop and see the sights. After Evan got fitted for a custom-made suit (so handsome) in Itaewon, we stayed in the foreigner-friendly area to get a taste of a more “authentic” Mexican restaurant. Vamos comemos!


We ended up at a place called Los Amigos, and while it wasn’t Baja Sonora, it certainly touched on my unsatisfied desire for So Cal Mexican food. We ordered chips and guacamole to start, then a combination platter to share. The plate came with plenty of food, and allowed us to try a variety of entrees instead of having to choose just one or two. We ate a taco, a burrito, a tostada and an enchilada complete with beans and rice.

It. Was. So. Good. They even had sour cream! Imagine me shoveling chips into this mess of a plate, then dunking them in guacamole and sour cream before taking a huge bite. I’m telling you, pure nirvana.

Ev was particularly stoked on the American-sized soda, which is about four times the size of the cups you get at Korean restaurants. No joke, I’m actually used to drinking 8 ounces at a time.

I keep thinking of that cheese/beans/sour cream combination, and it’s seriously depressing me when I have broccoli soup staring back from the fridge. Le sigh.

That night, we set out to find perfect, juicy American pub food to put us into food comas so we could fall asleep easily into our heavenly bed at the Astoria. Sam Ryan’s, the pub we visited our last time in Itaewon, fit the bill perfectly.

Evan’s order was a no-brainer — basically, if there is something that combines beef, cheese and bacon on a menu, you best believe that will be his choice.

I opted for the steak sandwich with chutney, cheddar and caramelized onions. Oh my. The juicy steak melding with the tangy cheddar, a touch of sweetness from the chutney and the onions melting when they hit your tongue… and the bread! The bread was fresh and soft. I die. This picture does this wonderful, amazing concoction no justice. It’s actually a terrible photo, but I was exhausted and impatient to eat. Be happy I snapped anything!

There are no words to tell you how much I dig sandwiches. The combination of textures, temperatures and flavors have always done wonders for my palette. Subway was a regular fixture on days I would eat out when I was working in L.A. How I took fast, cheap and flavorful sammies for granted!

In Jeonju, there are slim pickins’ for fixins’ and you end up with a sliver of meat, tired veggies and sub-par bread, all totally over-priced. It wasn’t hard to decide that on our last morning, we would get another sandwich after upping our temptation with the pub grub.

At Quizno’s, I ordered an Italian sub and relished in every single bite. Hot pepperoni, salami, crisp lettuce and tomato, gooey mozzarella, pepperoncinis with a kick. YUM!

Now I’m home, drooling over my memories and trying not to scarf down more snacks because I’m salivating.

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No, Kim Jong Il hasn’t recruited me to do any work for the North Koreans — I’m staying as far away from that border as possible. I’m talking TB baby, the one run I could never resist, whether it be early in the morning or late night in Long Beach, zooming through the drive-thru to get my fix.

Oh, Taco Bell.

This pseudo-Mexican eatery was our first stop during our five-day trip to Seoul last week to celebrate Solnal 설날, or the lunar new year. The holiday fell on a Wednesday — Friday this year (woo hoo) so we packed our bags, hopped aboard a bus and spent the better part of a week in the north.

While Koreans around the country dined on tteokguk 떡국 (rice cake soup) and bowed to their eldest family members, Evan and I headed straight for Itaewon (aka foreigner’s heaven) for five days of non-Korean cuisine. Starting with the Mexican fast food joint everyone loves as it’s going down.

You see, T. Bell is right up there with Ice Cream Snickers as a debilitating weakness of mine — I know it’s bad for me, I know its going to beat up my tummy for a few hours, but I just can’t resist the ooey-gooey refried beans, orange cheese and all the fixins’. Disgusting but true.

We arrived in Itaewon around 2:30 PM, just as the lunch rush came through. I was shocked to see how popular the eatery was with not only foreigners, but Koreans as well. The fact that Taco Bell closed their original Korea locations in the early 1990s due to lack of interest, and now they have lunch lines that stretch out the door, really speaks to how the demographic of this peninsula has changed. Not only are there hordes of waygooks from all around the world that call Korea home now, but the locals have embraced culture from the west more wholeheartedly — including the greasy, deliciously fatty food.

The menu had all of the cheapo staples on it (burritos, tacos, nachos, etc.) and the “lite” menu was much more extensive, but I was more fascinated with the items I didn’t recognize. Nacho fries? Oh em gee.

Thank goodness I have spent the better part of my year in Jeonju, where foreign food is relatively hard to find, expensive and the choices are limited. Basically, Korean food is always your best bet here. But despite my Asian-inspired diet, better understanding of reasonable portions and the recent controversy over the legitimacy of T. Bell’s “beef product,” I not only ordered multiple items from the TB menu, but ate them all until I was beyond full — and enjoyed every last calorie-laden, nutritionally-devoid bite. I literally fulfilled dreams I’ve had about Taco Bell in the past few months.

After inhaling my taco supreme, nacho “bell grande” (nacho supreme) and bean burrito, it took approximately 20 minutes for my stomach to begin feeling like a rusty meat grinder, but it was worth it. So worth it. Honestly, I considered ordering more food before Evan gently reminded me that, at times, my eyes can be a tad bigger than my stomach — and by a tad, I mean I order enough food to feed an army.


On our last day in Seoul, I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that we returned to Taco Bell directly after eating lunch to buy more food for the ride home.

Oh, and I tried to steal a bunch of hot sauce to take back home with me, only to realize that the bins of condiments next to the soda machine were ketchup! Barf. The Koreans must be on to the American way of hording packets from fast food, so we got a designated amount of sauce — from behind the counter — with our meal.

I justified these fatty excursions, along with the rest of my gluttony during Solnal, with the fact that I was on vacation!

Only nine more weeks until I fulfill the rest of my foodie fantasies in America…

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Last weekend, the Jeonju United Football Club hosted their annual dinner and award ceremony in an upstairs room in T.G.I. Fridays. The boys put on their Sunday best (WAGS too) and everyone toasted the players with the most as the certificates and trophies were handed out.

The formal evening began brilliantly with a phenomenally discounted meal, complete with plenty of beer, wine and wineade (which tasted like a Shirley Temple to me). Evan dressed to the nines in a shirt and tie, while I donned a black dress, shiny sparkling tights and ankle boots. I worried about braving the weather for hours beforehand, considering it got down to -13 degrees Fahrenheit outside… and I was wearing a DRESS! AHHHHH! Luckily we had a few drinks at the Beer Cave before dinner, where Rachel and I convinced everyone to take a cab, even though the restaurant is in our neighborhood.

Dinner was fabulous, except we ran into a group of our kindergarteners — one of which was celebrating her 8th (7th in American age) birthday. The children followed us around like puppies for awhile, bringing balloons to our table, charming our friends and asking for sips of mekchu (eek!). I obviously forbade it, telling them that it was “grown-up juice” until the birthday girl whispered loudly about it being beer. Still hoping that one doesn’t somehow bite me in the ass down the road.

After the ribs were picked clean and everyone’s cheeks flushed with the rise in our BAC, it was into cabs and onto Japanese soju, were we ordered pitchers of fruity cocktails and gossiped at multiple long tables chock full of foreigners and friends. The volume of our conversations increased with every strawberry and kiwi soju we put down, but the population in the University hot spot didn’t even notice. Our noisy mass fit right in :)

Finally, it was time to DANCE! The football lads and ladies made our way to M2, the favorite new spot for sick spinners, chic locals and disco lights until the wee hours of the morning.

Evan loves to throw down some hyphy moves on the floor with his pals — especially kitty cat Theo down there. One of his little-known and under-appreciated talents.

Inevitably, the dancing led to a high kick off, with bunches of alcohol-fueled friends tried to kick higher than each other, throwing up our feet to the beats.

I probably flashed a few innocent bystanders in the process, but I believe my kicks were high enough to deserve a shout out (from myself… whateva). It was another awesome night with awesome people that we paid dearly for the next day :)

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