Monday, November 30, 2009

Korean Cooking.

For those of you that are regular readers of my blog you know that I often times talk about Korean Food. I talk about the good, the bad, the weird, and the ugly side of Korean cooking. Yet, rarely have I ever provided insight into how these dishes were made. To answer you quite simply, the reason for that was I had no clue how most of these were made. If I had an idea of how something was made, I had no idea where to buy the ingredients or what to call them. Well, today that may have just all changed.

I was looking around for Doen Jang Chigae recipies because I'm going to try making it soon. Along the way I found this website. This webstie:

gives you not only a demonstration of how to make it, but it also gives you the ingredients you're going to need, in ENGLISH.  For those of you that don't live with an Asian market anywhere nearby you are basically SOL.  Yet, for those of you who are lucky enough to have an Asian market nearby, you should be able to find all of the ingredients you need.  For those of you who want to try making some Korean dishes at home may I suggest you try the following recipies.

Rice mixed with meat, vegetables, an egg, and chili pepper paste


This is a simple peasants dish of vegetables and rice.  It is simple, filling, and great.  Don't worry, you don't have to use the egg.

Bean paste, tofu, and vegetable stew, and a mixed green salad

된장찌개, 겉절이
Doenjang chigae, gutjulee
Doen Jang Chigae is one of my favorite soups here in Korea.  Just to warn you though, if you do not appreciate the finer types of fermentation like good smelly cheese, don't try this stuff.  It's awesome, but the neighbors might be wondering what died under your house.

Ginseng chicken soup


I love this stuff.  In fact I love this stuff so much that I brought back packages of the ingredients to give to people.  Don't ask questions, just do it and love it.

Spicy fermented cabbage stew and a bean sprout side dish

김치찌개, 콩나물 무침
Kimchi chigae, kongnamool muchim

Love it or Hate it, you cannot get more traditionally Korean then Kimchi Soup.

Rice, meat, and vegetables rolled up into seaweed and cut into bite-sized pieces


The original Korean California Roll.

Vegetable pancake with Asian chives


This is more along the lines of a dinner thing, not a breakfast thing.  However, that does not stop it from being awesome.  There are hundreds of variations, but my favorite is the Kimchi Pancake with seafood.  YUMMY!!!!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

My First Thanksgiving.

I have to say that I may have just experienced my first real Thanksgiving at the tender age of 26. What makes this Thanksgiving different from the 25 previous Thanksgiving, was that I was the one doing the cooking for everyone. Every year before this, my mother, my father, my Aunt, my Grandparents, somebody had cooked. This was the first year that I actually cooked, and I have to say it came out better then I was expecting.

The menu was quite a simple fare given my surroundings. Turkey is not readily available here in Korea, and when you do find it, it's ridiculously over priced. Take you standard 13 pound turkey, and add about 40 dollars to the price. Add on top of this the fact that most the ovens located in this country could not actually fit a bird the size of a turkey and you have a recipe for Thanksgiving Chicken. While more of a distant cousin then an actual relative, the Thanksgiving Chicken is actually quite delicious. We started with two large chickens (normal size in America). To these wonderful birds I added bread stuffing that I had made. After thoroughly violating the perceived rights of the Chicken I gave them a bath and a massage. The bath was in Olive Oil, and the massage, well that was to work in the Italian Seasonings, Rosemary, and Pepper. I threw them in the oven for about 80 minutes and then set about the other small side dishes that I was making.

Mashed potatoes are a staple of almost any Holiday meal, and if I need to explain to you how to make them then you're probably already lost by this blog. To pair with the mashed potatoes I made orange infused sweet potatoes with marshmallow topping. Yes, those things. Originally the recipe calls for orange juice concentrate, good luck finding that stuff here. We have to settle for orange juice and orange peel infused potatoes. It still comes out tasting close to the same, but it looks nothing like the original. We pared these two sides with steamed Broccoli and garlic bread. Now garlic bread is not your standard fare at Thanksgiving, but it turns out that every time I make a meal for people I make garlic bread. I think it has something to do with the scarcity of ovens in this country and that is a requirement for Garlic bread. Either that or a large BBQ, which also tends to be a scarcity.

The last thing we had was stuffing. I actually made Bread Stuffing for the first time. I have to thank Mom for the excellent recipe. I knew that stuffing was relatively easy but given the pointers and the advice I received it made it quite simple. It was a simple thing to make, and honestly the two hardest parts where drying the bread, it took a while, and finding Sage. We had to use fresh Sage, but I don't think that anyone really noticed. To this I added dried cranberries, onions, celery, celery stalk, and a few slices of carrots. I accidentally over salted due to the discovery of vegetable bouillon at the store, so I had to add some more stuff to it. Honestly, I'm somewhat impressed with myself, and think that I will be able to not only replicate this stuffing, but make it better next time for Christmas.

For desert we demolished the Pumpkin Pie that I had purchased from Costco. The Pumpkin Cheesecake survive somewhat intact due to the fact that we were stuffed by the time we got to it. Still it lost about 1/4 of its weight. All in all, while a quite simple dinner compared to those of you in the States, it was greatly appreciated. It was nice to have some semblance of normalcy on this Thanksgiving. Last year we went to a nice restaurant and ate dinner. This year it felt like Thanksgiving. I was even exhausted after the meal because I had spent about 4 hours cooking in a small kitchen. Ohh well, Christmas should be just as fun.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Whole Vacation Thingy pt.2

I have considered the fact that I have left most of you waiting an inordinate amount of time between these two posts.  However, it basically took until now for my schedule to loosen up enough where I had time to sit down and put ponderous word upon paper.  Well, actually I hope that the words are not that ponderous, regretfully, I am not the one who is reading this, you are.  

Back to the story:

We arrived in Baltimore, Maryland on the afternoon of the 28th of October.  From there we quickly grabbed a rental car and began our trek to Dover Delaware.  The drive from Maryland to Dover is only about 2 hours, however, this did not stop me from napping for at least part of the way.  For those of you who have never been to Delaware, I can't blame you.  Honestly, I feel somewhat bad for saying this, but I really have no plan, nor serious desire to return and explore the state.  Its not that Dover was that horrific of a place, or we weren't treated fine, I just prefer to travel to places that feel like they have something to offer me.  It doesn't have to be much, but it has to appeal to me.  When we arrived in Dover we went straight to our hotels and checked in.  I was staying about 100 yards from my parents hotel.  As I was checking into the Holiday Inn express, I realized two things.  First, American hotels are seriously expensive compared to Korea, and second, that I had never checked into a hotel in America before where I was the only one staying there and I had paid for the room.  It was a bit jarring.  I have stayed in many hotels and hostels abroad, but this was the first time I was staying in a hotel in America that I had paid for.  Mental note, I need to travel America more.

We spent that night eating dinner at my sisters house.  She has come a long way from her first futile attempts at cooking, and while skeptical upon arrival at her apartment, she prepared a good meal.  I was impressed, perhaps one day she will be able to out cook me, but I don't think so.  The following day Ann, my dad, and I bolted out of Dover and went to Washington D.C.  D.C. is only about two hours from Dover.  While we were there we did the tourist thing.  We did the tourist thing on speed though.  We arrived in DC at 11 and left at 6.  In that time we saw the following things: Washington Monument, National Archives, National Gallery, Smithsonian Aerospace Museum, Marine Corps Monument, Vietnam Wall, Korean War Memorial, FDR Memorial, Reflecting pool, World War Two Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, The Old Post Office, Fords Theater, from a distance the US Capitol Dome, The United States Supreme Court, and lastly we saw the Jefferson memorial from a distance.  I dare you to find people who did what we did in the time we did.  I mean come on, not all this stuff is within five minutes walk of each other.  

Upon arrival in Dover, after an unplanned and unfortunate detour into Anacostia (hey how could I know there was only an on ramp going south from the map), we sat down to Dinner at Uno's.  There I was introduced to Yeungling beer (pronounced Ying Ling).  It was actually a decent beer and I must thank Mike for the introduction.  Thanks Mike.  I'll return the favor by sending you to the good stuff in San Diego.  After returning to the hotel, I collapsed onto my bed and fell asleep.  I was a little tired.  The next day Ann, Dad, and I took off for Annapolis and a partial day of sightseeing.  Now before you think the three of us were shirking our duties to help my sister with her wedding, we were told to stay out of the way and not cause problems.  We offered our services every day but they told us that we were not needed.  Annapolis was far better then I expected.  I will freely admit that I was quite skeptical before arrival.  Upon arrival I realized that the city has a lot of historical sights to see.  An unexpected delight was the Annapolis State House.  It was there that George Washington resigned his commission at the end of the end of the Revolutionary War.  It was unique to find myself standing in that room, and just sensing in a way the momentous importance of what happened in that room.  Deal with it folks, I'm an uber history geek.  I got chills when I was in Independence Hall in Philadelphia.

As we were walking out I noticed a bust of a Naval Commander named Winfield Scott Schley.  As I was looking at his statue I noticed that it had the word Korea and 1871 under it.  I realized then that this man was somewhat influential in punitive raids America launched upon the Korean mainland.  It was a punitive action for attack and burning of the British trade ship the General Sherman and the murder of its 20 sailors.  Sadly this moment was all but avoidable.  It was one misunderstanding after another, compiled with the desire to open Korea to trade.  In 1871 the American Navy launched a series of raids upon South Korea the led to the death of almost 300 Koreans and 3 Americans.  

After the State House we went down to the Naval Academy and caught them at lunchtime formation.  Everyday these kids have to stand in formation and march to the cafeteria.  Meanwhile the band and silent drill team perform.  If you ever get the chance I suggest you check this out.  On our way out of the academy I stopped by the Navy Mascot to take a picture or two.  It was then that I notice the mascot had recently been vandalized.  Well ok not vandalized, but attacked by some snarky Air Force people.  I know this due to the blue AF on one side of the statue, and the much larger, but washed off, AF on the other side.  GO AIR FORCE!  As we walked out of the academy the three of us realized that it was time for lunch.  Hello deep fried soft shell crab sandwich.  We also ate some awesome crab cakes, and I sucked the brains out of a Crawdad.  This was met with a little bit of repulsion from my Father and Ann.  The brains of shellfish taste awesome and y'all can just deal with it.  

We explored some more of downtown Annapolis and then headed back to Dover for a nice dinner.  The restaurant we went to was consistently rated in the top of Dover's restaurants.  Our server was sarcastic awesomeness and the food was excellent.  I ordered the clam, mussel, scallop, seafood mix combo.  I have gotten use to eating really good cheap seafood here in Korea, and honestly I am going to miss spending 3 dollars on big ass shrimp.  We all headed back to our respective abodes and awaited the next day.  Halloween, and now my sisters anniversary.  That morning we awoke and went to set up the country club for my sisters wedding.  After a few hours we had everything set and then we returned to get dressed for the Wedding.  Now, I must warn you that costumes were acceptable at this wedding.  I was not wearing one, although I could have been.  In Annapolis I found this perfect purple felt hat, that would have gone excellent with the white suit jacket I found in Ohio.  The only problem was that I didn't buy the jacket because I didn't have the hat, and I didn't buy the hat because I didn't have the hat.  

Upon arrival at the wedding I quickly realized that Mike needed some help.  Buddy, you can kick and scream all you want about this, but you were a nervous wreck.  Yes, things fell behind schedule, but everything went fine.  The only reason I'm throwing you under the bus right now is because you were claiming so often that you were fine.  It was really obvious that you weren't.  When the wedding started everything went off perfectly.  The only unexpected thing that happened was that it took a ton of effort for me not to cry.  Honestly, watching Hollie walk down the aisle was more then enough to make me start crying.  I was barely holding back for the first five or so minutes.  After that things got a lot easier, but I was really happy for her, and I was really proud of her.  Everything went well, and you did a great job Hollie.  It's still freaky to think you're married but I guess I'll eventually get used to that idea.  

With the Wedding done the drinking could commence.  I quickly grabbed Mike and I a beer.  He needed a drink and I was more then willing to provide one for him, at my father's expense.  Wait, I should say at my mother's expense.  We went out to take the millions of pictures that always accompany weddings and then proceeded to eat and make merry for the rest of the time.  It was during this time that I went for a quick walk outside, and I realized that I was ready to return to Korea.  I had done what I came to America to do.  90% of my shopping was done, I had visited my Grandparents, and I saw my sister get married.  Mission accomplished, and it was time to get ready to get back to Korea.

After a quick demolition of the wedding accoutrement my parents and I met for an hour in the Hotel bar.  It was here that we said our goodbyes.  I was flying an earlier flight and had a different ride to the airport.  It was sad knowing that I won't see them for another year or so, but by this point I've grown somewhat accustomed to it.  I awoke that morning at 4:30 finished packing my bags and headed down for my ride with Ann to the airport.  I arrived at the airport with 1 hour to get checked in and through security.  No major problem.  I walked onto the airplane right when my boarding group had been called.  I even had time to buy a sandwich.  After de-planeing in Salt Lake City, I decided to have some lunch.  It was at this time that quite possibly my worst traveling mishap happened.  

As I reached into my bag to pull my wallet out, I found that I could not find my wallet.  A little disturbed I figured that I just left it in the seat back pocket of my seat.  No big deal.  My plane was still at the jet way and the wonderful personnel at Southwest let me walk back onto the plane to grab my wallet.  Well, my wallet wasn't there, or if it was there I couldn't find it.  Needless to say, I freaked the hell out.  Well I wasn't ranting and raving, but I'm pretty sure that is the closest I have ever come to having a panic attack.  In fact I may have had one.  Here I was in St. Lake City, heading to San Diego, and I had potentially left my wallet in Baltimore.  More importantly I was slated to leave the country the next day.  Luckily I still had my passport and did not need to worry about leaving.  

Upon arrival in San Diego I talked to the ground staff and they informed me that nobody in Baltimore had turned in a wallet.  Somewhat dejected I called my friend  and he came and picked me up.  We headed off to my old house and I unpacked, did some laundry, filed a report with Southwest, and then headed out to a good Mexican dinner with my friends.  This dinner was one of the few things that I had planned to do with my time in the States.  Everything else was relatively free form.  I met with my friends at Coyote Cafe in Old Town San Diego.  Here we sat down to a wonderful Mexican dinner and a margarita.  It was just good to see some of my friends and to deliver some presents that I had accumulated during my time abroad.  

The next day I boarded my flight out of San Diego to San Francisco, and then boarded my flight back to Korea. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Whole Vacation thingy. pt. 1

After a brief respite from life on the Korean Peninsula I have returned to my working ways here at Seodong Elementary.  Yet, I realized that in my haste to depart Korea I neglected to mention where it was I was going, and what it was I was doing.  Well for those of you who are still reading this blog, and honestly I still can't figure out why, I will explain to you where it was I went and what glamorous things I did.  Well, maybe I'm lying a little bit.  The whole thing about glamorous is severely overrated.  I am not a glamor queen.

When I decided to re-contract and stay in Korea I was given a two week vacation to go and do whatever it is I wanted.  After some quick negotiations with my school I convinced my school to let me delay my vacation to the end of October that way I could attend my sister's wedding.  Yeah, I know, scary thought.  My sister got married.  No, there were no ritualistic sacrifices nor the shedding of small animals blood, although I kept suggesting it.  With this in mind I headed off for another flight across the Pacific Ocean.

I arrived in the port of San Francisco after a 9 hour flight from Korea to San Francisco upon Singapore Airlines.  I highly suggest this airline to anyone.  This was by far the best service I have had on an economy international flight.  British Airways is not far behind, but these guys were good.  Upon arrival at the airport I cleared myself through customs, and may or may not have lied when I said that I had no fruits or vegetables with me.  Well it turns out that the packages of soup mix I had contained dried dates.  Luckily they were dried and the people at customs really didn't care all that much.  I had a connecting flight out of San Francisco to St Louis in a few hours upon US Air.  This airline has once again reminded me why they cannot run at a profit.

For starters upon check in they slam you with a 25 dollar fee for checking your bag.  Now, when I booked my flight I did not know this.  However, I was expecting it after I checked their policy online.  25 dollars to throw my bag on your plane, thanks.  What was worse however was the response I was given at the check in counter.  I was curious to see what response I would get to questioning the bag fee.  Now I wasn't irate or even refusing to pay.  I just made a comment that I did not know they were charging for bags now.  The response I was given is just ridiculous.  I am directly quoting this woman, and am in now way, shape, or form changing it "Ohh.  That's because we care about your bag."  Give me a freaking break.  The same people who work for Southwest, Singapore Airlines, Delta, American, etc handle my bags.  You put my bag on a conveyor belt and then stuff it into your plane.  There is no care for my bag.  My bag isn't in the bottom of the airplane getting a massage and pedicure.  Just tell me the truth and I would be happy.  Simply say we are struggling to make money so we are taking it out on you the customer.

Ohh well, just another reason to love Southwest.  Upon arrival in St. Louis at 12:00 AM, no you didn't misread that wonderful fact, I walked off the plane to find my Father waiting for me.  During the 2.5 hour ride back to Decatur we chatted about this and that, in what was an effort to keep both of us awake.  Plus my dad complains that I don't call him enough so he had a captive audience for 2.5 hours.  Jet lag be damned he was going to utilize the time.  We walked into the house at around 2:45 AM and basically went straight to bed.  My body not entirely sure what decade it was in a the moment acquiesced and let me sleep, that was till I woke up around 9 AM and could not for the life of me get back to bed.

During the day we discussed options for visitng my Grandparents in Ohio.  My Grandmother's health has taken a bad turn the past couple of months and we decided that it would be good to go and spend at least one day in Mansfield.  Off we went to Ohio to fulfill familial obligations.  I also wanted to do some shopping for Ohio State gear and Illinois doesn't have very much of it.  They have Illini gear, but who wants to root for the Illinois Fighting Illini?  We spent our time in Ohio with family and shopping, and I was intensely grateful to be given the chance to see my grandparents again.

After our trip to Ohio we settled in for a long three day period before we headed out to Dover, Delaware to prep everything for Hollie's Wedding.  This three day period was spent watching football, eating good food, and even cooking some food.  I decided it would be a good idea to make Stuffed Chicken Soup for my parents.  This stuff has become one of my favorite foods here in Korea and I wanted to try making it for my parents.  It came out well and I was delighted to think that I had actually managed to bring back/impart some Korean food upon my family.

We left Illinois on Wendsday the 28th and headed out for Dover.  However, the second part of this trip will be dealt with in another blog.  That's where the story actually becomes somewhat interesting.