Green Tea and Bamboo

When it took me so long to start it blog, I started to collect images and food stories. With a backlog of information, I realized that some of these stories were being held on for too long. It has been several months since I went on a trip with my friends of see the green tea fields and the bamboo forest (yes, I did these in one trip). And let me tell you, there was food galore.

I think when people from North America think about Asia, this is exactly what they think about. Green tea is everyone. There are forests of bamboo with happy pandas playing around. But here is the thing. Those things exist, but they aren’t everywhere (they aren’t even in most of Asia). So when my friend invited me to go on a trip, I knew that it was going to be worth the travel.

After several hours of travel, we made it to the town of Damyang. Damyang is home to a bamboo forest. We paid ~$6 to get to walk around inside and it was as serene and beautiful as movies make it look.

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Right next to the bamboo forest, there was a very nice, almost formal restaurant that served more food than I had ever seen in my life.

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The main part of the meal was the tteokgalbi, which was absolutely delicious. But the cool part for me was that the rice was served in an actual bamboo stalk. It gave the rice a somewhat nutty flavor. My friend even cleaned hers out and kept it as a pencil holder. I have been told several times that more side dishes equals a fancier meal. And this meal was definitely nothing to sneeze at.

Outside were food stands and booths for businesses, much like a normal festival or community event. We enjoyed bamboo ice cream and there was even bamboo heotteok (a kind of caramel and nut dessert pancake).

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A perfect green and white swirl – tasted like vanilla with a subtle, nutty-like aftertaste.

After spending a day and a half at the bamboo festival and Damyang, we boarded a bus and were off to Boseong.

Boseong has long been known for their green tea fields. Though they are open year round, we decided to go during the actual green tea festival.

It. Was. Beautiful.

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We were lucky enough to not have any rain on the day we were at the fields. All of the green tea bushes were green and lush. And the smell was so clean. As someone who lived in Colorado and has an affinity for the mountains, the views from the green tea fields (which were on a series of hills) were spectacular.

But you aren’t here for beautiful landscapes. You (and I) are here for the food.

Near the base of the hills is a restaurant, store, and cafe. Due to the festival, they had some specialty items to try. We decided to be brave and try the green tea tteokbokki, which are spicy Korean rice cakes. I was a little hesitant about having green tea with spicy foods, but I could hardly taste the green tea so I didn’t affect the taste much. It was very spicy and had both green tea pieces of rice cake and fish cake. On the whole, they weren’t that bad. (And yes, we got more ice cream. I know I have an addiction. Don’t judge me.)

We came back the next day and walked through the green tea museum. I can’t give you much information about the museum as everything was understandably in Korean, but what I can say is that Boseong has been involved with green tea for centuries. After making a green tea candle (and buying a bottle of local rice wine), we headed out.

If you ever get a chance to visit Damyang or Boseong, you should go for it. Both of these places has there own unique beauty and are open all year round. Though we went in the spring, you might have a completely different experience during the fall or winter. And no matter what, the food is worth the trip.

Thanks and happy eating,

Lauren

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More Korean Than Kimchi?

When people think about Korean food, a lot of people will automatically think of kimchi. It is the quintessential part of korean meals that most feel is absolutely mandatory. It’s everywhere in South Korea and can be purchased at any restaurant. When I moved here, it wasn’t surprising how much kimchi there was.

The thing I was surprised to see everywhere? Fried Chicken. Almost without fail, you can find a chicken restaurant on every block. It turns out that fried is almost as popular as kimchi here, warranting festivals and a hyper-competitive chicken restaurant market.

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Chicken can come as simple as this, with lightly seasoned chicken in a box. This kind is usually accompanied by a packet of flavored salt. The chicken itself is battered and fried in a very light coating. While I usually think of fried chicken in the US being heavy and sometimes soggy, fried chicken in South Korea is lightweight and crisp.

The white cubes at the bottom of the picture are mu, picked radishes. These are standard with ALL fried chicken meals. The vinegar in the radishes cuts through the greasiness of the chicken and keeps the meal from feeling too heavy. In this picture, the meal also came with plums. Those aren’t standard. I just went to a super friendly restaurant. But don’t be surprised if a restaurant has something special that they add to the meal. That could mean sauces, side dishes, etc.

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This is what it actually looks like when you go out for chicken. This is a super popular kind of chicken called “yangnyeom”. The breading on the chicken is pretty thick so it can stand up to the thickness of the sauce. The yangnyeom sauce is sweet but spicy, like a mix of honey and chili. This kind of chicken is what is usually sold by “Korean chicken” restaurants in North America.

Besides the fact that most chicken restaurants will deliver for free, you can find walk-up chicken stands everywhere. I was lucky enough to have been introduced to cup chicken by a friend. It is literally a cup filled with yangnyeom chicken. In this case, the chicken is shallow-friend instead of deep fried and has no breading. Because this snack is so cheap and filling, it is hard for me to walk through the subway station without stopping for a cup.

There are all sorts of different kids of chicken, from soy sauce chicken, honey garlic chicken, bone-in or boneless (“soon sal”). I suggest trying all different types and figuring out what your favorite is.

*Word of ¬†warning to people who like to eat drumsticks or breast meat. What I have found in South Korea is that the meat isn’t divided into white and dark meat, or wings and thighs. The meat is cut up, cooked up, and served all together. Here, it is all just chicken.*

I was lucky enough to attend the Daegu Chimac Festival this year. “Chimac” is the combination of the words “chicken” and “maekju”, which is the Korean word for beer. The festival went on for five days and was filled with booths for chicken, beer, and much more. There were performances every night by top entertainers. I got to watch HaHa and Skull, a reggae group perform for free. The chicken was excellent, the beer was refreshing, and it was the perfect place to spend some time with another food-loving friend. If you get a chance to attend the festival, I suggest you go. The festival organizers want it to become a destination event for people around the world and I couldn’t agree with them more.

Thanks and happy eating,

Lauren

Too Cute to Eat

I had the fortune of visiting Seoul recently. Though I live in a city in South Korea, Seoul is by far the biggest and has the most stuff to do. So my friends and I visit fairly frequently. On one particular trip, we decided to stop at the Hello Kitty Cafe AKA the cutest cafe I had ever seen.

There are actually a couple different Hello Kitty cafes. This one was located in Hongdae, a trendy neighborhood around Hongik University. With how many businesses there are in such a small space, most shop and cafe take up a very small space. The Hello Kitty Cafe, however, had a big, metal gate that opened onto stone steps that led to a courtyard. The cafe itself was inside what might have been an old house or artist’s studio.

Now, the outside was cool. The inside, however, was as saccharine cute as I thought (and hoped) it would be. Every single thing was a shade of pink. Hello Kitty, her silhouette, or even her signature bow were on every surface. We picked a table near the windows so we could see all of the cuteness inside the store and still look out onto the courtyard.

Now, onto the food and drinks.

20170504_201729This isn’t all mine. I swear. I ordered the Chocochino (not a mocha?) on the left. To be honest, I’m not actually sure what the other drinks were. All I remember is that all three beverages were so sweet, I could feel them giving me cavities.

To go along with our liquid sugar, we ordered the strawberry cake. It was actually more of a strawberry mouse on top of a very good vanilla cake. We enjoyed it so much that we didn’t immediately realize that we were slowly eating her face (onto just a bit traumatic for elementary school me).

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Everything about this place was cute, inviting, and fun and I hope to return sometime in the future. Even if you aren’t a huge Hello Kitty fan, it is still a good place to go to escape the busy Hongdae streets if you are in the area.

Goodbye and happy eating,

-Lauren

Making My Own Korean Food

I love Korean food. Like…a lot. But I thought it would be good to actually try making some for myself. Of course, I wasn’t going to start my Korean-food making by myself. A food informed me of a Korean cooking class through the YMCA (yes, there are YMCAs in Korea).

After recruiting some friends, we signed up to make Galbi, which is marinated beef. We were super excited to learn. We weren’t, however, prepared for getting lost on the way.

Apparently, we were foolish in just thinking that there was one YMCA in our Korean city. Thankfully, we arrived at the wrong location early and had enough time to hop back on the subway and get to the correct location right on time.

The class was being led by two little old Korean ladies, accompanied by one younger Korean lady who was there to translate for us. The teachers were so nice and seemed very excited to cook with us.

Here is the thing: there was no recipe. They had the ingredients already measured out for us to use. We cooked up the beef, throwing in sugar and water and soy sauce and some other ingredients (I think there was garlic?) but there was absolutely no mention of the amounts. After the beef was mostly cooked, we added in chopped bell peppers, onions, green onions, and more that cooked down a bit. Finally, we added in uncooked glass noodles. They softened up in the hot liquids.

I got to say that this was a delicious meal. We made enough for four people (but finished it with only two). I just wish we could have had a physical recipe so that I could recreate it in the future. Oh well. I guess I will just have to use trial and error until I find the perfect recipe.

 

Goodbye and happy eating!

-Lauren

Drinking on a Mountain

A little over a month into being in Korea, my friends and I decided to climb a mountain (and by climb, we mean climb to the cable car, ride it up, then hike the rest of the way to the top). The landscape was beautiful, the air felt fresh, and the view of the city from the observation deck was breathtaking.

Back in America, I had a certain view of foods you would eat while hiking. It was a lot of water, granola bars, and protein-filled snacks like beef jerky and nuts. But things are different depending on where you go. I learned quickly that people might bring kimbap, soda, and fruit with them on this type of trip. But at the top, we noticed something even more different.

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At the top of the mountain, we found a restaurant that looked out over the city. It looked like a pretty precarious location. Inside, there were rows of tables and at least four refrigerators filled with different brands of makkeoli, Korean rice wine. It seemed so odd to me that people would climb a mountain and then drink wine, but I looked around and saw that there was at least one bottle on every table. It was just part of the hiking culture.

Sticking with tradition, my friend asked one of the workers what was his favorite brand. He grabbed one out for us (costing less than $4 USD) and we ordered a seafood potato pancake (haemul gamchajeon) to go along with it. We sat at the windows, looking out over the side of the mountain while we ate. It turns out that rice wine and greasy potato pancakes are a perfect accompaniment to a trip up a mountain.

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Those brass bowls are the traditional way of drinking makkeoli. They are given to you chilled, keeping your drink cold (warm makkeoli isn’t the worst, but it isn’t that good either).

I was so surprised at how perfect this meal was after a long walk on a hot day. It was still refreshing and filling, with just a bit of “not-too-healthy” that made me forget how many miles I had just hiked. Needless to say, I think I can get on board with this different hiking tradition.

Goodbye and happy eating!

-Lauren

Better Late Than Never

Hello everyone,

I would like to start by saying that I’m sorry that the first actual blog post came so much later than expected. Adjusting and getting comfortable in South Korea took the front seat and everything else was pushed off for a while. I am now been here for three months, meaning that I owe you and this blog atleast six blog posts. Now that my head is in the game, I will be posting fairly rapidly to make up for my (blatant) laziness. Thanks and enjoy!

-Lauren


 

Mandu, Oh Mandu

 

For those who don’t know, mandu are Korean dumplings. There is something so comforting and warm about a fresh, steaming dumpling when it’s cold and rainy.

“Mandu” is the general term for dumplings that can take many different forms. There are steamed ones and pan-fried ones, meat-filled and kimchi-filled, etc. In general, most dumplings I have run into were round, steamed, and filled with pork, glass noodles (made from potato starch), onions, green onions, and carrots. Of course, there was also some juicy sauce inside, but the taste of that sauce is very dependent on the place.

Personally, I really like the traditional kogi mandu (meat dumplings).

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These dumplings come in different sizes: normal and wang (king-sized). The ones pictured are wang-sized and I would say they are the size of a small fist. Sometimes, I can get them fresh from my favorite supermarket. Otherwise, you can find these at specific mandu restaurants and at street carts.

 

There are also goon mandu, which are fried. They aren’t usually available in wang-size.

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These are filled with the same pork, noodles, onions, and other vegetables with which the steamed dumplings are filled. They are simply fried (shallow-fried, I think). These have a crunchy outside from the frying that tastes nice along with the fairly soft insides of the dumpling.

[Warning to vegetarians and vegans!!! It is hard to find vegetarian food in general in South Korea, but you will be hard-pressed to find vegetarian-friendly mandu. Even the kimchi mandu sometimes have bits of pork inside. You might be able to find specialty vegetarian restaurants that might make vegetarian mandu, but it will be challenge. Best of luck!]

I will be honest. Mandu is some of my favorite Korean food. It is so simple and yet so simple. It warms my heart, both emotionally and physically (this is some snow day food). I would like to say that mandu isn’t an almost weekly occurrence for me, but I would be lying.

 

Thank you and please check back soon. I will be posting almost weekly to make up for the GIANT delay. Goodbye and happy eating!

-Lauren

Hello and Welcome

Welcome to the first post of Have Another Spoonful. Though this blog was originally meant to showcase a foreigner’s take on delicious Korean food, I already know that my travels will take me beyond these culinary borders. My name is Lauren and I am an American foodie transplanted into the middle(ish) of South Korea, Daegu. What is to come, I don’t even know. But this blog will be filled with pictures, descriptions, locations, tips, and more when it comes to having culinary adventures inside and outside South Korea. Please join me on this quest to explore the new, the traditional, and the unique (as well as stuff my face with as much food as I can).

Sincerely,

Lauren (Foodie Abroad)