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Jennifer the Turkey

turkey

I’ve never cared too much for turkey. Deep fried, baked, white meat, dark meat, gravy, no gravy–it was all the same to me. But this year, my second Thanksgiving in Seoul, I couldn’t get the idea of a big turkey dinner out of my head. I had to have it.

So, I found a couple options. I could spend $50 on a turkey buffet in Itaewon (the foreign part of town), I could indulge in a $70 sit-down dinner in Apgujeong (the Beverly Hills of Seoul), or I could pick up a pre-made dinner from the military base (enough to feed 10-12 people) for $100. It was a no-brainer.

I decorated the apartment with hand turkeys and Thanksgiving Day wreaths I made at school. I mopped the floors and scrubbed the stove. I made sure there were enough paper plates and plastic cups for everyone attending.

“Jen, do you need me to go with you to pick up the turkey dinner,” asked my roommate Cory.

“No, just pick up some wine and get excited for what’s to come,” I said. “I’ve got this under control.”

Leg

But I didn’t. Not at all. On my way back from picking up the bird, I somehow lost my footing and fell to the ground–the box landing on my ankle. I knew right away it was broken.

After the doctor confirmed my prognosis, my roommates came by the hospital to check on me, and to pick up the highly-anticipated Thanksgiving dinner. “Just make sure to save me some,” I said.

But, in true Korean fashion, I was out of the hospital 30 minutes later, hobbling to my apartment on crutches.

A couple glasses of wine, two plates of food, and a pack of painkillers and anti-inflammatories later, I was in my bed watching Anthony Bourdain with my friend Jason–trying to drown out the music and laughter from the living room.

“I know this sucks,” said Jason. “But you have to admit, that was some pretty damn good turkey.”

And the eating begins…well, sort of.

Me!Fully prepared to start checking off the items on my Korean Food Bucket List, I set off last Sunday with my friend Jason and a piece of paper. I had written down a few dishes I thought I could easily find in my neighborhood. But after walking around for 20 minutes, I realized why I hadn’t checked them off sooner. I definitely need to do a bit more prep work. Continue reading

Tea Time

Tea country

Every so often, the lights of the big city get too bright, the cars too loud and the people too rude. Lucky for me, there are a few groups of people (meetup.com) who are always looking to get away.

Leaves

Last weekend, about 35 foreigners and I took a 5-hour bus ride to Naejangsan–a mountain south of Seoul, known for its beautiful fall foliage. We spent most of Saturday hiking the mountain, then headed to Nagan Folk Village to spend the night in traditional Korean huts. The village was amazing, and so were the people. But sleeping on the floor, even after a year and some-odd months doing it, left something to be desired.

Huts

The next day, we visited a nearby green tea farm to pick flowers and drink tea. We also learned how to properly serve and drink the beverage, then took turns pressing and drying the leaves. As a reward, we got a box of loose leaf tea, a bag of green tea flowers and a big bowl of green tea bibimbap. Afterwards, we purchased green tea ice cream and an assortment of rice cakes and cookies for the ride home.

It was a good weekend.

Picking tea

HOGen-Dazs

fondue
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.

*May not be available in the States.

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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