Archive for February, 2010


Not Real, but Real Tasty: Korea’s Taco Truck!

February 28, 2010

Often when we talk about food being good, we talk about it being “real” and “authentic” when talking about the relative tastiness of food. In a way it provides us comfort, to have things like we expect it from back home…. and I’ll admit it, many a night I have longed for a suadero taco from Taco Zone, or a tamale from the Farmer’s Market, but you know, I think sometimes, one has to evaluate food on its own terms. A lot of the time interpretations of other culture’s food here are Korean-ized, but you know, some of that is just plain delicious. I guess this is why I stood by the broccoli burrito from Dos Tacos for so long, because it was different enough to not be evaluated on the forearm-lengthed California Burritos of my youth(oh with french fries in it! Another “non authentic” yet fuckin’ fabulous variation. It is my own personal belief that there should be french fries in everything). I don’t go much to Dos Tacos anymore– why would you when there was Taco Rico around–but for awhile I would get cravings for broccoli and cauliflower in a burrito– it was interesting, at least.

The taco truck has come to Korea! It even has it’s own twitter account (though they don’t tweet much, won’t you follow me, Taco Taco Habanero?)! It’s like Kogi in reverse. It’s actually run by a Korean guy who lived in Irvine for awhile. The results are quite good.

He uses cabbage instead of lettuce, but there are dollops of cilantro in there. Also, the rice is kinda perfect. Straight out of a rice cooker. I want his recipe. He does offer also, a tortilla less version, which he dubs salsa bibimbap.

I guess I didn’t enjoy this one as much, because I think the flour tortilla balances out some of the saltier elements of the burrito’s insides. But this is a healthy portion (by “healthy” I mean, a lot– I don’t mean “healthy-healthy”) (Do you tire of my parentheses?) that lasted me a couple of meals.

Anyway, you can find this taco truck near an alley (the one with all the dessert places– btw, who wants to try that Chocolate Cake Cafe with me sometime? It is teal colored, always full– last time I tried to go, they wanted me to leave my phone number in case a spot opened up, but I was hungry– and it’s name is “Chocolate Cake”) near Seokyo Elementary School in Hongdae. He usually opens up around 5-ish.

Also, in Bupyeong (my old hood), I always want to go to this Korean-Chinese place (the one with the red lanterns– there are two– or actually that is ALL of them in Korea, but if you go to party-Bupyeong, there are two facing the other, pick the one where you can see into the inside) that serves this dish, with peppers and fried chicken with…

With tortilla chips! Oooh, how could something so right, be so right?

Though switching from a Mexican to a Japanese note– admittedly, I have yet to find a “real” or or “real tasty” or even, uh, acceptable sushi place in Korea. So if you have any suggestions (I heard there is one in Apgujeong, but I have a feeling that might set me back a stack of won so unless someone wants to treat me…. for the sake of journalism!)?


Neighborhood Shorties: Hyehwa

February 24, 2010

Too tired to write a a real writeup. Picture captioning will have to do.

I have a long list of FAVORITE STREET FOOD but, these swirly potato thingies, deep fried and dusted with cheese powder are fresh potato chips, shaped like spiral staircases of my dreams. Super good.

The Lock Museum, six stories (though only one story is the actual museum) of steel boxitude. Though I do miss the embellishments on the front. Here’s a photo from last year:

One last picture:

Chastity belt. Ouch. (What kind of google searches will lead to this blog now, I wonder?)

Of note: Mister Donut– thanks for the free donuts. Not the same as free pancake day, but you tried. 10×10 — I have never felt so directly marketed to in all my life: cute stationary, camera gear, cardigans, candy! You make me feel the shame of self-awareness.


The Flying Bird Teahouse in Insadong

February 23, 2010

Okay– so Insadong. You know about Insadong, right? The part of the city that emphasizes tradition, where you can get kitschy Korean souvenirs, and where you take your non-Korean parents when they come to visit. It’s kind of amazing that I enjoy the place so much, given that it is, um, sort of a, well, let me put this coarsely: a ching chong fantasyland. In more delicate terms, it plays off a lot of of the stereotypical perceptions Westerners have about Asian culture: the winged tiled roofs, people in period garb making glutenous rice treats, lots of silk fans and bags and green-sheened pottery. Sure, it’s Korea. Sure it’s what a lot of what people think about when they think of Asia. But if you think that’s all this country has to offer, well then you’re a f’n idiot.

There is a kickass mall.

Anyway, I seem to have gone off track. What I mean to say is, that even with that slightly manufactured aura of orientalism for tourists, it is still a vibrant part of town, lots of people, lots of cool boutiques with handmade crafts, art galleries and the like.

I had the plum tea. Delicious. Those rice-honey things are pretty good too.

And there are tea houses. I have elaborated on the train tea house in a previous post, but this time, my friends and I decided to go to this “Old Time Tea Shop” that promised freely flying tropical birds. Up the creaky stairs, it was as advertised. It was prettily decorated, though a little unnerving– there were a lot of antiques everywhere, and though it was nearly empty, the fact that it was separated into little private rooms made it feel a little cramped. There were birdies flying everywhere.

Looks nice, right? It was, I’m not saying it wasn’t– but the whole thing, made me slightly uncomfortable. The ceramic vases, the landscape paintings– and the music, especially that music– the kind of twangy, supposedly soothing instrumentals most often heard in kung fu movies (which I know are Chinese, I am making a point here), just screams CCF–“this is all for you, foreigner! Look these mysterious Oriental things! Feel the mysticism!”– which I suppose I have no right to complain about it– by all intents and purposes, I am a tourist who is the one consuming, this what I am supposed to expect, and who’s to say that these things shouldn’t be up for sale… but it doesn’t make me feel good. For all I know, everything was a completely earnest depiction of traditional culture, but there’s also something sad in the way that even “authentic” things seem false and cliche nowadays.

Paragraph break! Look at some birdies!

I feel a multitude of ways about things like this, a lot of them contradictory. And I guess that’s a point which has been raised over and over and over again, and that even writing about it is cliche. If you really want to know, maybe it’s not how all this stuff is presented– but the way people (tourists) seem to react to it. Nothing irks me quite as much as foreigners who have a hard-on for cultural authenticity.  This is another rant entirely.

On a lighter note, dude, the bird cafe probably had the unsafest bathroom I have ever seen. Three out of three people in my party nearly slipped, hit their head on the cabinet, and landed in this gigantic stone fish bowl.

The koi is a sculpture, but the goldfish are real. Poor goldfish. It’s like living in a tiny one room apartment with a huge Olmec head in the center of it.


It’s Spring!

February 22, 2010

Warm and holding a free donut. Score.

Or a least it was warm enough on Sunday that I could walk around without a coat.

Behold! The sun! In all its shining glory! The wind! Not cruel, but gentle!

Good thing, I was starting to look really pale.

Of course, this does not compare to last year’s “first day, no coat!” picture, when my ebullience was more palpable.


I Like Your Geometry: Oksu Station

February 21, 2010

Oksu Station is pretty rad looking.

In other news, I cheated on my chejil pretty severely yesterday: kimchi pajeon, Vietnamese coffee, cheese tteokbokki, red velvet cupcakes. The justification was, “It’s the weekend!” which for me, isn’t really an excuse. I got a well deserved, “I hate you” from my stomach.


Becoming an accidental vegan for two weeks.

February 17, 2010

DOCTOR SAYS NO. The mac & cheese at Macaroni Market in Itaewon. Cheese, glorious cheese, onion crisps, bacon, and surprise, to cut the thickness, lemon slices. Wonderful to taste, but gives me headaches. ;_;

Okay guys, I think it’s safe to say from reading this blog, that you can tell I don’t watch what I eat. But lately, I’ve been feeling a little off-balance. I get headaches, I feel heavy, my mood swings from left to right. So… I have decided to go through a temporary detox. To help with this, I decided to go to the hanuisa with one of my co-workers to figure out which of the 8 Constitutions is mine. Needless to say, there is a lot I can’t eat (p.s. for more information on the procedure, head to Annalog).

My co-workers told me that I was this one type, which gets to eat most things, but in small amounts and no seafood. I was fairly okay with that…but as it turns out, I am a (tries to read the Hangul) Geum Yang Chejil. Or translated, I am have “Pulmotonia” which means I my lungs are too strong or out of balance with the rest of my body.

Here is a list of things that are bad for me:

ALL MEAT– at first I thought this meant only dead animal flesh, but Seong later told me that it also includes “anything from an animal” NOOOOOOOOOOOO…. this means, being a vegan is what is best for me. Which means no mac & cheese (pictured above) and no samgyupsal, even if it comes from KogiKogi (translation: MEATMEAT) in Apgujeong:

Ooooh and they even encrust their pork with herbs. Shown here, basil and paprika. SOOOO GOOD.

NO WHALE MEAT– Total bummer. Though, my friend who taught in Japan says it’s rather buttery and good (shrug).

NO ALL FRESH WATER FISH– how am I supposed to know?

NO COFFEE AND TEA — WTF. So basically I have to give up cafes. How am I supposed to do work? I am most upset about this.

NO ARTIFICIAL SEASONING — no MSG, basically. That shit is rather tasty.


NO EXCESS SUGAR — okay. Now this is just mean. No ice cream. ;_;


NO HOT BATHS — No jjimilbang?! DAMMIT.




NO ALCOHOL or CIGARETTES — Not a big deal, really. I’m a notorious poor (err, problem– as I become a problem) drinker. And I don’t smoke.

DON’T GO HIKING OR LIVE IN THE WOODS – Yes, my ambivalence towards nature is endorsed by health care professionals!

NO EXCESS COMPUTER USE — probably not going to happen.

As you can see, this list is full of sad face.

DOCTOR SAYS YES. Hwe Dup Bap. Sashimi mixed with rice and leafy greens.

Here is the good news. These are the things that are beneficial to me: all oceanic seafood, mussels, rice, barley, red beans, mung beans, cucumbers, cabbage, lettuce, leafy greens, egg whites, dextrose, cocoa, chocolate (YES– but no sugar? How is that gonna work?!), banana, strawberry, peaches, cherries, melons, ice, breathing exercises, vitamin E, and the color blue.

I am starting today. Here’s my scoresheet for the day:

Dolsot bibimbap for lunch:

  • rice +
  • leafy greens +
  • kimchi –
  • egg whites +
  • egg –
  • ground beef –

Afternoon at Ho Ho Myoll:

  • Banana/Chocolate muffin – plus for banana, plus for chocolate, minus for flour, minus for excess sugar
  • Strawberry tea – minus for tea, plus for strawberry

Score for today: -1

Hey, I tried. Try better tomorrow.

In conclusion, I don’t think I’ll stick to it 100%, but I’m gonna make an effort to reduce the things that are bad for me, and eat a lot of the things that are good for me. I guess this will be, at least, a lesson in self-control. That is, if I can pull it off. I have been rather over-indulgent lately.


Journey to the Isle of Song (or… The End of the Incheon Line)

February 16, 2010

A classic photo of an alley in Creepyong [Bupyeong].

Incheon and I don’t talk much since I left, because of winter, I don’t even want to leave my own -gu or -dong, on some days and well frankly, there isn’t much out there. Yes. I did sound like a snooty Seoulite there, I apologize. Incheon has a lot of treasures, I’m just lazy. Well, one thing Incheon does have is friends. And I went out there yesterday because Russell is leaving next Saturday for the States. He’ll probably come back though. They all do.

Anyway, we thought we’d check out the newest area added to the Incheon line, the island of Song. Or Songdo, if you want to be less poetic about it. We’ve been hearing about the place for awhile in ads all over the Seoul Metro decreeing it as some sort of futuristic wonderland, home of the Global Fair, and fancy-ass buildings.

I have elaborated on the inconsistent nature of this ad in a previous post.

So we wanted to see what it shaped up to be (I should point out that this was all RUSSELL’S IDEA). So we headed on the subway to find out. After about 30 or so minutes from leaving the Arts Center, the map said we were on Songdo. A few people got off at the Campus Town stop, so we decided to poke out heads out and see if we could find a place that sold coffee. Nothing but apartments and dirt. So we continued on to the very last stop… and saw the subway empty out…


But anyway, we got off at the fancy smancy sounding International Business District and admittedly, the subway stop is pretty swank:

Though, outside it is a bit anti-climatic.

Okay, okay, there was some stuff in the distance.

But, alas, the wind was slapping our faces, and the desolation made us fear that we would be witness to the mob dumping some bodies, so we decided to head back to Arts Center. P.S. screw you, Olive Tree and your 5,000 won for three chocolate dipped strawberries– you are grape juice, so stop pretending to be champagne. Even in Apgujeong they wouldn’t be that much. And they would be gold flecked.

I’m sure Songdo will be pretty kicking in about two years, but for now.. don’t bother. (Though, if you do a google image search there are some rather enticing photos… maybe we got off at the wrong stop? But most of them also are computer generated).