For those wondering if the end was nigh, well, it’s here. Until my next trip to Asia, this will be my last East Asian post, and it’s about airport food. Hell what?! Hell yeah, airport food! In East Asia, specifically in Beijing, Incheon, and Hong Kong, unlike here in the States, airport food is actually good. I ate roast goose, hwedupbab (회덥밥, similar to bibimbab, but with raw fish), and hot noodle soup; all within fifteen minutes of my departure gate. Not a single overpriced shrink-wrapped sandwich, stale bagel, or a generic hamburger was eaten. MORE »
From the beginning, the stars weren’t aligning for me and China. My first application for a visa to China was denied. The reason, I work for a news/media company, and although I wrote on my application that I was going for pleasure, not business, I was rejected. Beijing may have hosted the Olympics, but that still doesn’t change the fact that China is a communist country. Foreign press is not welcome unless it is authorized. I argued and argued, but no one wanted to listen, and they just sent me to another line when they got tired of talking to me. Finally, after being shuffled back and forth between several windows, someone told me to come back with a letter from my work stating specifically that I was not going to Beijing on company business. An hour later, to the dismay of the people at the embassy, I was back with my letter, signed by my manager and on company letterhead. Another hour later, I had my visa. It took an entire day of waiting on line, running across town twice in the pouring rain, plus two application fees and one hefty expediting fee, but I got my visa. Unfortunately, I also got food poisoning from a bad gyro at the diner next door. I should I have seen it has a sign, but of course I didn’t. That would have been too easy. MORE »
There was so much food I wanted to eat in Seoul, but one week just wasn’t enough. There was the dduk I wanted to eat from the nice old ladies in the subway station (1 styrofoam tray for KR ₩1,000/US $00.84!), more street ddukboki, jajangmyun (자장면, noodles with black bean sauce), sweet potato fries, more samgyupsal (삼겹살, pork belly)… the list goes on and on. Fortunately, there was one thing on my to-eat list I made sure to eat before take-off to Beijing: my favorite, gobchang (곱창, small intestines). Well, not exactly but close enough, I ate daechang (대창, large intestines).
When Joo Hyun and Soo Hyun said we were going to go eat daechang, I was excited, but also apprehensive. The thing with large intestines is that it’s usually funkier than small intestines, and I mean funkier in a bad way. A little irony funk is nice, but too much and you need another bottle of soju to make it enjoyable. That’s been my experience so far in New York at least. However, when we got to Yeontabal (연타발), immediately I knew it was going to be different. First of all, the restaurant is strictly charcoal (숯불, sootbul). Meat always tastes better when it’s cooked on charcoal as opposed to a gas grill. Second, all the meat brought to the table was fresh. You could tell just from looking at it. But of course, even with the best intentions, food can be royally f*cked up. Happily though, with the help of Joo Hyun, I can report to the contrary. MORE »
When I went to Korea this year, one of things I insisted on eating was sannakji (산낙지, live octopus). I’d never had it. Years and years ago, I went with my family to a seaside restaurant on the Korean coast and I remember people eating sannakji all around us. I wanted to try it, but we ended up not ordering it because my little cousins (who by the way are not so little anymore and have somehow graduated from college) were going through a phase where they refused to eat anything except spam. Instead, we ate fish jigae (stew) and had the restaurant fry up some spam for the kids (if you can believe it, my aunt always carried a can in her purse).
So this time in Korea, as an adult who could set her own agenda and eat whatever she pleased, I told Joo Hyun and Soo Hyun we had to go eat sannakji. I’m pretty sure they weren’t too excited. Not because it’s weird, but because live octopus is one of those gimmicky foods Americans want to eat when they visit Korea. (It’s like, “Yeah, I’m in the Korea, let’s go eat something bizarre… LIVE OCTOPUS!!!”) Well, unfortunately for them, I am American, so off we went one night in search of sannakji. David oddly insisted on staying in at the hotel. MORE »
I first heard about Hyoja-dong Yetnal Ddukbokki (Translation: Old-fashioned Ddukbokki from Hyoja-dong) when Robyn posted about it a few months ago on Serious Eats. I’ve eaten a lot of ddukbokki, but never the stir-fried kind. When I was little, I used to fry up dduk with sugar, creating sugary crunchy logs, but I never thought to make savory versions. This was all new to me. So as soon as I got to Korea, I asked Joo Hyun about it. She said she never had it, but Soo Hyun had, and she was told it was greasy, but good. Mmmm, that was all I needed to hear. The next day, while David was out visiting a friend, I went on a search for fried ddukbokki. MORE »