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I was good all week. Veggie omelettes for breakfast, chicken salads for lunch, fish for dinner. Come Sunday, I’d had enough.

All it took was two glasses of wine and the mention of chocolate, and next thing I knew, I was sitting at the Häagen-Dazs café in Hongdae, staring at an enormous plate of bite-sized cheesecake, brownies, fruit, and a full sampling of the ice cream chain’s most popular flavors. And as if this weren’t decadent enough, it was served alongside a giant bowl of melted chocolate.

It’s called “Sweet Fondue,” costs 30,000 won ($26), and instantly adds about 2-inches to your waistline.

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Japan: Eat ‘Til You Drop

Any culture celebrating some form of excess has a phrase to go along with it. In America, a country of consumers, it’s “shop ‘til you drop.” In Korea, a country of alcoholics and binge drinkers, it’s “drink ‘til you die.” And in Osaka, Japan, a town full of hard-working foodies, it’s “eat ‘til you fall down.”

Kuidaore, a phrase derived from the proverb, “dress (in kimonos) ‘til you drop in Kyoto, eat ‘til you drop in Osaka,” has become synonymous with the Japanese metropolis. It’s not uncommon for a businessman to spend all his earnings on food, nor to eat at three different restaurants in one night.

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Holy Duck That Was Good

duck bbqBack in the U.S., if someone were to suggest duck for dinner, I would decline; assuming they had an expensive craving for French fare. However, when a friend asked me to join them for BBQ duck in my neighborhood (Jangan-dong) tonight, I didn’t think twice.

Korean food isn’t fancy. It’s not presented on pristine plates. It’s not drizzled with colorful purées or rich sauces. Meat is served as meat, vegetables as vegetables. And the cost reflects the simplicity. In fact, I can’t recall a meal in Seoul ever costing me more than 15,000 won (less than 13 American dollars). Tonight was no exception.

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Korea Runs on Kimchi and Rice

 This morning, I stopped by Dunkin’ Donuts for a bagel and cream cheese. “I am sorry, no bagels. No cream cheese,” said the woman behind the counter.

“Seriously?” I felt like asking. “This would never happen in the states—especially not at 9 a.m. on a weekday.”

But I bit my tongue and thanked her in Korean.

On my way out, I took a picture of what they did have to offer: kimchi croquettes and glutinous rice donuts.


Pigs in Heaven


Soft rock band Chicago once sang, “You bring meaning to my life, you’re my inspiration…” Sure, they were probably talking about some busty brunette; but hey, everyone’s different. The love of my life just so happens to be a pig.

I had been fantasizing about this particular pig since my co-teacher found out I was going to Jeju Island—the Hawaii of Korea—for my summer break. In true Korean fashion, she had stopped by the tourist office and picked up pamphlets, maps, and books to help me enjoy my stay.



I began flipping through the pages later that night, planning the trip: waterfalls, lava tubes, beaches, hiking. When suddenly, my eyes fell on a section marked, “A Taste of Jeju: Truly Authentic and Truly Appetizing.” Colorful, glossy pages full of raw seafood delicately placed next to artfully carved vegetables. A variation of fish stews and porridges. Buckwheat pancakes and local pheasant shabu shabu. And something called Heukdoeji—grilled slices of black pork.

“Indigenous Jeju black pork has long been one of the essential elements of energy and nutrition for the people of Jeju. Jeju grass-fed pork is renowned for its finely textured, light-colored meat and its abundance of high quality fatty acids. Don’t miss the opportunity to try the delectable grilled black pork.”

There was no way I was missing it.


Day one on Jeju Island, and all I could do was talk about pork. “We’ll check in to our hotel, put

down our luggage, maybe check out those waterfalls, then have that black pig dinner,” I told my traveling companion, Chris.

“You are a woman obsessed,” said Chris. “Do you know which restaurant you want to go to?”

“No, but I will,” I responded.

A few hours later, after viewing the beautiful foliage and meeting some new friends over beers, it was time to find the restaurant. “I’ll let my nose lead the way,” I said.

But as soon as we started walking, a team of soccer players with red faces and full bellies stumbled around the corner. They reeked of pig.

“I think we found our place!” I exclaimed.

We walked inside what looked like an abandoned log cabin, finding hundreds of people crammed around grills on wooden floors. Soju (Korea’s version of vodka) was being passed around tables. The smell of succulent pork permeated the air. Some old woman scurried over to an empty grill and signaled for us to come over.

It was time.


Seasoned with sesame oil and sea salt, grilled to perfection, wrapped in lettuce and dipped in hot pepper sauce. My mouth watered and I began to feel light-headed. “This is the most perfect food I have ever eaten,” I said, almost in tears.

Everyone nodded their heads, unable to speak.

“Would it be completely absurd to order another plate of pork?” asked my friend Chris, while scraping the grill for remnants of charred meat.

Our new friends called the waitress over, and ordered another plate. “To the Jeju black pig!” they cheered, raising their shots of soju. “To the Jeju black pig!”


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