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Posts Tagged ‘foreign food’

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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After the serious shenanigans at the school Christmas party, I was really looking forward to a few song-and-dance free holiday celebrations with my good friends, cousin Tim and Evan. Ask and you shall receive!

On Friday, Evan and I put together a wonderful Christmas Eve dinner consisting of scrumptious fried chicken, cornbread stuffing and cranberry sauce sent from home and steamed broccoli.

I cooked the stuffing on the stove, then transferred it to the toaster oven to crisp up a bit. I also popped the chicken in the oven for a bit to warm it up, oh man was it good. We bought the bird from E-Mart and did not regret the decision to go precooked. It was spicy, seasoned perfectly and the crunchy texture was a nice contrast to the tender broccoli and soft stuffing.

Of course, there were holiday songs playing while I cooked, and the presents were stacked under the plant :) Tim arrived that night, and after we filled our bellies we met up with some friends for beers at the Beatles bar. There, we were able to see our friends play some live Christmas music, which was a nice treat.

The party continued into the wee hours of morning at Radio Star (with more live music and beer, obvi)

On Christmas morning (afternoon) when we rolled out of bed, I got to work mixing some delicious lemon-ginger scones sent by the Naylon family in an amazing care package full of yumminess (including gorgeous jewelry and the ingredients for some seriously delicious polenta cakes we made). What a wonderful Christmas treat — thank you!

Evan had to open one present early (coffee from Starbucks) so it could brew, and Tim showed us one of his gifts also — WIRELESS INTERNET! Best gift ever! No more being a slave to the cord.

We ate the scones with eggs and slurped coffee while we watched Home Alone. I forgot how awesome that movie was.

After a cat nap and a shower, we threw together mashed sweet potatoes and gravy, then hurried out of the apartment to Beatles, where we were meeting friends for a potluck holiday dinner.

We hit the street just in time to see a flurry of snow fall from the sky. A white Christmas! I whooped and hollered, taking lots of pictures and even a video. Snow is still novel to me, okay?

The spread at the potluck was insanely good. The star of the table was the turkey from Costco — a rare and expensive find here, so I was grateful for every tryptophan-laced bite.

The sides ranged from vegetables and stuffing, to potatoes and bread, to onion dip, bread and cheese! It was a delectable feast that I grazed at all night. It had been so long since I had onion dip, so I was majorly hooked on it, and only stopped trying to scrape up the last gobs from the bowl when it was, sadly, removed from the table.

I opted for red wine with my dinner, but was in for another treat when Eric brought homemade eggnog. Amazing. It was so good! Just like Lyndon’s mulled wine/brandy, a Scottish traditional drink.

The layout was perfect for a holiday meal, with comfortable couches littered around the place and cheery carols on the speakers.

At one point, Tim got into an amusing Go Stop marathon with a lovely girl we met their, Jasmine.

They were pretty evenly matched, but Jasmine took Tim in the end (and the 8,000 won that was at stake on the card game). You win some, you lose some.

I particularly enjoyed singing carols onstage at one point, crooning and laughing into the mic. Dave took care of the guitar!

All night the snow didn’t stop falling, and a few times I caught myself in a trance, hypnotized by the soft, slow flakes that glided gently to the ground. It was picturesque, simply stunning, and mesmerizing.

After our bellies were full and the food was put away, we decided to throw on our dancing shoes and head to M2, a relatively new club in Cheonbukdae.

We went with a few friends, and met up with a few at the club!

The place was seriously poppin’ — Christmas isn’t so much a family holiday in Korea, so the twenty-somethings had no qualms about hitting the dance floor on Jesus’ birthday. While we were there, three different deejays took the turntables, and they were all awesome.

Here’s clown face spinner — a little creepy but spins really well.

We stumbled out of the club into the snow after 4 AM, then headed straight for KFC for some fried chicken. nom nom nommm.

A very Merry, and certainly memorable, Christmas <3

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Since we’ve been coughing our lungs out a bit sick this week, we decided to forego drinking and spend the blustery weekend snuggled up, eating snacks, reading, doing crossword puzzles and watching movies.

When Saturday rolled around, we felt well enough to leave our isolation but not so well that drinking and dancing at Radio Star sounded like a good idea. Enter Lotte Cinema!

Lotte Department Store is a colossal giant of an establishment — eight floors of endless merchandise, restaurants, a movie theater and even an arcade we could use to pass time. It is one of the few South Korean enterprises (including Samsung, LG, and Hyundai) poised to take over the country. I’m just sayin’.

We decided to continue our Harry Potter marathon from the few weekends prior (one day we actually watched seven hours of Harry Potter) a kick we had been on since Evan wanted to know what the phenomenon is about. Unlucky for him, since I love the books, I kept interjecting with tidbits that the movies left out (because they always leave some things out) but he listened patiently.

At last we were caught up, and wanted to see the new film that just came to theaters here. So we bundled up, and shuffled over to the cinema to buy tickets.

I couldn’t resist stopping in front of the dazzling tree out front for a photo op. It is beautifully decorated in twinkling blue/white lights, with a star (of David?) at the top. It looks more like a Hanukkah tree than a Christmas tree, which is strange because Jeonju is mostly Christians and Buddhists, but beautiful nonetheless.

The store was a zoo. Wall to wall people scrounging up presents the last weekend before Christmas. It was actually really fun being out while it was feeling so festive. There was Christmas music playing, and for a minute it transported me straight home, to the chaos that is holiday shopping.

Lotte Cinema is set up in a way that completely makes sense for the crowds that rush there to see new films. When you walk into the lobby, you are greeted by a ticker machine that spits out numbers for the people in line. That way you can relax on the oversized leather ottomans and wait to see your number pop up, DMV style.

We had awhile to wait.

This is how the bank works too, and surprisingly it hasn’t triggered any traumatic experiences I’ve had dealing with the Department of Motor Vehicles in Los Angeles. It’s quite effective actually, and you don’t have to worry about any ajummas taking cutsies in line. Because they do for everything else, and they would if lines existed at the movies.

We nabbed two of the last seats for the 8:40 showing, then headed to T.G.I. Fridays to eat because, well, we figured we could eat delicious food if we weren’t spending money drinking.

We even got an appetizer — fajita nachos. Nom nom.

I opted for the carbonara pasta with artichokes (!!) and tomatoes (and okay, red wine), while Evan got the half rack of ribs with prawns. Yum!

We still had time left before checking out the boy wizard, so we went to the arcade above the movie theater. We played some racing games, shoot-em-up games and battled it out at air hockey. I only lost the race because my punch button didn’t work (true story!) but Evan creamed me at air hockey fair and square.

Well, I helped him along by scoring about four goals on myself. Doh.

The movie ended up being brilliant, despite being forced to sit in the front row. Seeing all the movies made me want to read the books again… lucky for me, I’ll have plenty of time on my hands for that sort of thing come April :)

A much-needed date night success!

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I am oh-so-lucky to be a Paradise.

Not even one week after my sister and Evan’s brother/sister-in-law sent us goodies in the mail, I received another huge holiday package from my mama <3 I am so spoiled!

This package came with a wide variety of items, including:

– walnuts

– peanut butter (more! yay!)

three different kinds of chocolate covered pretzels (Evan’s favorite)

– two different kinds of beef jerky

– snap pea crisps (yum… yummmmm)

– Cheetos (my serious Achille’s heel)

– dried mango and blueberries

– a make-your-own gingerbread man kit (yay! Christmas activity!)

– arborio rice (risotto time)

– chocolate covered fruit

– chocolate toffee

– incense

– stickers/pencils/goodie bags for the kiddies :)

– smarties

– a thermal for Ev

– wool sockies

– flannel sheets (these will be so nice — I’ve been sleeping in sweatshirts!)

The Girl Who Played with Fire (YES! YES! I’ve wanted this since finishing The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)

The package couldn’t have come at a better time — I have come down with a nasty cold/fever and went to the doctor for another shot, IV and more medication. The good doc said I need to have a lot of bed rest… after school, of course :) An additional package came today from my seester, filled with The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, the final book in Steig Larsson’s trilogy. I can’t wait to start reading!

So while Christmas festitivies continue around the world, I will be here, snuggled in my new sheets, reading my new books and eating a plethora of snacks. Thank you so much for the lovely gifts — I miss you mama and dad.

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Thanks to the lovely Christmas care packages we received from our siblings, Evan and I had more than enough supplies to plan a stellar Mexican food night, and just in time too because it had been so long…

I started the process by cooking up a few chicken breasts with some diced green chilies from California. Yum!

Next, I warmed up some refried beans — the first I’ve had in eight months. They were perfect, smooth and creamy. The buttery texture paired nicely with the chicken. My happy orange spoon helped keep them from sticking to the sides of the pan :)

For toppings, I kept it simple with sliced pepper jack cheese and diced cherry tomatoes. Ole!

Last, everything was wrapped up in a soft, warm flour tortilla. The final product was truly a taste of home — and comforting after a long day at school and the gym.

Speaking of which, I ran three miles without stopping for the first time this weekend. I brag only because eight months ago, I was terrified of treadmills, and avoided them at all costs. It may have taken twenty-five years, but I’m finally starting to like running! I’ve even started reading fitness/well-being blogs like the (never home)maker for motivation to keep moving in the increasingly cold weather. Who knew I would take such a priceless gift home with me from Korea?

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