Archive for the 'Korea' Category

Exploring Seoul: Tteokbokki Town

I love the social, hands-on aspect of going out to eat here. In addition to Korean Barbecue, there’s a lesser-known (outside of Korea) dish called Tteokbokki, which I’ve heard described as the Korean equivalent of macaroni and cheese because it’s simple comfort food. We decided to go to Seoul’s “tteokbokki town” to experience the phenomenon for ourselves.
We took the subway to Sindang-dong, and not far from the station exit, we saw this and knew we were in the right place.
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It literally reads “Sindang-dong Tteokbokki town” in Hangul.  The street has a number of restaurants, and they all specialize in Tteokbokki.
This restaurant is the original, and while they apparently don’t serve the traditional version of the dish, it was the most crowded restaurant on the street.  We took that as a good sign.
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The menu is simple – they only serve one thing, and you order based on how many people are eating.  Since there were two of us, we paid 10,000 won, or under $5 per person.
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All the tables have a burner in the middle.  The waitress brought us a HUGE pan with noodles, rice cakes, onions, cabbage, hard boiled eggs, chili sauce, and fried dumplings and we started cooking our dinner.
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The restaurant provides aprons for diners, because the cooking process can get a little messy.  As you can see, I was not the only person wearing one!
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Mike (who opted not to wear an apron) took over stirring duty as the water began to boil.
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After a few minutes of cooking, the sauce thickened and the noodles were cooked.
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Each person gets a small metal plate and fork, and you serve yourself from the pan.  It’s a really tasty, filling (and cheap) dinner!IMG_7099

Exploring Seoul: Insa-dong

Insa-dong is a designated cultural district that is supposed to look like a traditional Korean marketplace. As a result, it’s pretty touristy, but fun to see.   It’s a great place to sample a bunch of different traditional foods, because there are snack vendors like this all along the main street.
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Because the area gets so crowded on weekends, a lot of groups were out campaigning for various causes.  I’m not sure what these gold robots have to do with protecting the rights of African women, but they definitely attracted some attention
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Now that I can read Hangul (it’s SO much easier to learn than the Thai alphabet!) I think it’s funny to see English words or brand names written in it.  In case you’ve always wanted to know what “Starbucks Coffee” looks like in Korean, here you go:
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This man was doing some calligraphy, and attracted a small crowd.  Around this area, there were quite a few stores selling calligraphy brushes in all sizes, as well as paper, ink, and stamps.

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These two people were working together to make rice cakes (in jeol mi).  The man pounded rice with a giant mallet, and the woman reached in and clumped it back together.
IMG_7048Then they carried the rice cake over to these ladies, who covered it with toasted bean powder.
IMG_7049There was a “fighting fun festival” (that’s what the sign said), which we watched for a little while.  I’m not really into that kind of thing, but they did have a decent-sized audience.
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I’m just happy we finally ventured outside our own neighborhood.  I can’t wait to see more of this city!

Seoul!

We said goodbye to California
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and arrived at our new home in Seoul around midnight the next day. Because it was so dark, we didn’t realize we have this awesome view right our front door until the next morning.
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I had heard that apartments in Seoul were incredibly tiny, and I was bracing myself for that, but ours is actually bigger than both of the places we lived back home! We have two bedrooms, an awesome kitchen (with an oven!!), our own washing machine, and a nice little living room which we desperately need to get some furniture for. (Our “furnished” apartment just came with a bed, TV, and table…nowhere to sit).
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I wasted no time looking for some good Korean food, and already have a few favorites.
This fried rice with kimchi and egg is perfect for lunch.
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I knew I loved japchae (sweet potato noodles with beef and vegetables) before we came (Here is the recipe I use), but it was great to try it here.
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Gimbap is rice and various fillings wrapped up in seaweed, but you can also get it with a layer of fried egg, and it’s a perfect snack.
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I’m excited to get settled into a routine and start cooking some of this stuff!