Korean Food

Oh Korean Food we love you! So many different flavors. Lots of fried goodness. Everything with intentionality. Beautiful presentation. Meticulous dicing and matchstick-ing of vegetables. We will definitely be hunting down Korean restaurants, ingredients and recipes once we get back to Orlando (beyond our favorite Korean BBQ Taco Box food truck).

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L to R: kimbap, sushi buffet, patbingsu, korean bbq, fancy traditional Korean restaurant, fresh fish at Jigalchi, fresh fish broth at Jigalchi, hotteok

Here’s some of the food we tried in Korea:

  • Gimbap / kimbap: sea weed wrap with rice, veggies, and meat. Kinda like meat sushi wrap in aluminum foil. Snack food or picnic food.
  • Chicken and Beer / Chimek: it’s a thing here, you’ll see tons of signs in English advertising Chicken and Beer. Syndrome was the name of one place, and after a few rounds of Chicken and Beer, you sort of feel like you do have a syndrome.
  • Dak galbi: chicken, veg and tteok in a spicy red sauce
  • Korean BBQ: frying pan and exhaust fan and all of the amazing Korean side dishes (banchan), wrapped in kkaennip (perilla, a big green leaf from the mint family) and served with lots of raw garlic cloves and delicious sauces
  • Patbingsu: really fine shaved ice, sweetened condensed milk, and traditionally red beans (sweet), ours was covered with peanut dust and had bits of tteok/dak (chewy rice cake)
  • Shabu shabu: rice paper wraps and various thin slices of meat and a variety of finely chopped vegetables; little hot pots next to you with your own broth and you cook ingredients at your own pace and make wraps, though it is a bit tricky to soak only one of your rice papers and not stick them all into one
  • Traditional Korean: all kinds of fish and kimchi and other side dishes, multiple courses, stunning presentation, but the hongeohoe was awful, see video below
  • Mandu: fried or steamed dumplings filled with deliciousness
  • Dwaeji gukbap: fatty pork soup served with rice and side dishes, Nate liked, Amy not so much
  • Kimchi jjigae: soup with kimchi, pork and tofu, brought out in a boiling pot – you get a spoonful of rice and dip it in – we had a few varieties of this with various meals.
  • Kimchi itself: always showing up in meals with different variations, vegetables, level of spiciness and stinkiness… almost always delicious
  • Fish at the fish market: some raw, some grilled, some as the freshest and most delicious fish broth we had ever tasted
  • Udon (thick noodle soup) at the 50 year old place that Samjang showed is near Jigalchi
  • Hotteok: Nate’s favorite sweet treat in the market, fried dough stuffed with seeds and nuts and butter and brown sugar
  • (name?): a restaurant we ate at after visiting the temple; we sat on floor, ate meat and kimchi and stuff
  • Korean buffet: a fancy place to go, not a bottom of the barrel place to go in this country (no offense to people who like buffets in America). Some of them have really fresh sushi, Korean-style Chinese food, create your own Bi-Bim-Bap and Patbingsu, and lots more.
  • Cooking at home: as much as we ate out, we did cook and eat at home as well. Spaghetti, eggs in a nest, lentil and potato dahl, fajitas, and more.

Busan Part X

Mon 7/11 – Wed 7/13, day 26-28

The last few days of our time in Busan run together: we all played basketball together, played cards together, got ready to travel to Seoul.

The boys all went out to Home Plus for dude time and to pick up some groceries. Asher and Calvin love this little “4D” experience for kids called “Max Rider” right in the store. The kids sit on a moving platform with polarized glasses on; the door closes and the selected animation plays. Kind of like a mini version of the Star Wars experience at Disney. Ice cream followed, and Nate was initiated into the boys club cheer: “Boys… to… the… end!” (picture one fist in for each word, then all exploding upwards). Fun times.

The girls stayed home and did our nails and watched some of the BBC Pride and Prejudice. Phoebe pampered me and made cute cat designs and paw prints on my nails, Maddy did pandas and bamboo on Annie’s, I did dot designs on Maddy’s, and Phoebe had lost interest by the time it was her turn. I will say that Phoebe and Maddy were not as enthralled by Pride and Prejudice as Annie and I were. The quality of the YouTube version wasn’t great either, but I still feel that Mr. Darcy translates well on a grainy screen and Elizabeth Bennett is as sharp and endearing as ever.

Once we were all back together (meaning the men came home), we had a dance party. Well, it was more Maddy and Phoebe, but when Sia’s Alive is played, I can’t help but dance around. We also showed the girls the very interesting, but definitely odd Sia’s Elastic Heart video of Shia LaBeouf dancing with the strange little girl. It’s captivating but a bit disturbing: of course interpretive dance is up to interpretation, but it seems like they are acting out the battles and difficulties that fathers and daughters sometimes have. Phoebe kept on asking, “What is this video about?” She was definitely not satisfied by, “What do you think it’s about?” We tried to explain, but she thought it was just weird. Perhaps it is. But the girls were inspired by the style of dance all throughout their performances. It was really fun to watch them dancing and expressing themselves in this way.

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On Wednesday the weather was clear and we all piled in the van for one last excursion: the Mountain Temple.

Before we headed out, Maddy and I needed our date time together, so we went down to the basketball court and had a little bit of 1-1 training. It was hot, but we had fun. I love teaching and she loves learning. We made a good team. After about 30 minutes, we hopped in the van for the Mountain Temple.

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It was a beautiful day to be outside. We walked up and up to the temple complex through a nice little forest with running water beside it. Through the temple gate, there were large (and ominous) Buddhists figures stomping on the heads of people. In each little temple, there were people praying. As an observer, I knew that if I took my shoes off I could go inside, but it felt different than going into all of the churches in Europe. I was welcome to go inside each temple, but for some reason I stayed respectfully outside.

Most of the paint work and decorations have been redone over the years and it is stunning. Vivid detail and inviting colors. Monks walking through the courtyard on their way to prayer time. Quiet people respectfully bowing their heads to their ancestors.

The kids were outside and wanted to run around; we tried to get them to be quiet, but I remember thinking adults were always trying to get us to be quiet, when I was a kid. But in a holy place, even if it’s not your holy place, teaching them to respect the quiet and contemplation is still important, and a challenge.

There is a beautiful wooded area with climbing rocks like a staircase just off of the main temple court. It is a place of quietude. I was seeking solitude in this peaceful place. A few monks climbing and a noisy family of 8 (us). It was like Muir Woods. I felt forest alive. I don’t know if that’s a thing, but I could have set up camp here as well. In normal life, in the outskirts of Orlando, it is difficult to feel nature’s calming force. Spending time in these temperate forests, makes me want to explore the natural beauty of Florida. The main problem there is when you actually do find yourself surrounded by nature, it 90 some degrees and a hundred percent humidity, thus making it difficult to enjoy said nature.

We picked up ping-pong paddles the next day and the girls and Nate and I headed down to the very nice new tables in the apartment complex. Maddy and Phoebe haven’t played very much so it was mostly us teaching them, trying to get some volleys going. The girls are both very performative, so as we took turns, when their turn would come up they would each have a “dramatic entrance” (think Kung Fu Panda 3, if you’ve seen it). There was also a lot of dramatic commentating. A lot. A bit later, Dan and the boys came down, and Nate and I each got in a few good games with Dan, in between giving the kids turns. Sweaty once again, we all headed upstairs for dinner and a final hangout time before our early departure the next morning. Nate got in a little time playing video games with Asher and violin with Maddy. It had been a packed, amazing two weeks, with lots of food, laughs, sites, unique experiences, and quality time. Thank you Collins, we are so grateful for our time together!

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Busan Part IX

Sun 7/10, day 25

Church was easier for me today and I even interviewed a Canadian about the political situation in the US and his perspective of Korean politics as an expat. After church, we debated for a little while about what we wanted to do. Nate was feeling pretty tired and in need of some alone time. We had planned on just relaxing at home after church since we had been doing a lot. But the weather had cleared up and Dan & Annie’s friend Samjang was available to be our guide to Jigalchi fish market, so we collectively decided it was too good of an opportunity to pass up. Not everyone was excited about a possibly stinky fish market, but it is one of the largest in the world. I had to see this. A few months ago, Conan O’Brian went to South Korea and visited a bunch of stuff around Seoul. It is hilarious. We wanted our own little excursion like his.

We sent Asher and Dan off to the other campus to preach and the rest of us headed to Jigalchi in the van. As we mentioned before, the van is big and stick shift and not Annie’s favorite thing to drive, so Nate drove, following Samjang all the way there and then through what seemed like an hour wait in line at the nearly full parking garage. Apparently everyone else in Busan had decided to go as well. Driving in Korea is an adventure – you have to be both offensive and defensive. The things people do on the road don’t really make sense. Tons of lane changes, lots of honking and close calls, motorcycles going the wrong way through red lights, people not stopping for pedestrians at a crosswalk or honking at you if you do… but we made it.

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Jigalchi is a huge indoor fish market, with hundreds of vendors. It has dripping water everywhere. Fish tank upon fish tank. Big fish and little fish. Fish that look really weird like male anatomy. Eels that have been skinned, but are still alive. Fish jumping out of their tanks, I guess committing suicide. It got a little bit crazy when someone bought a fish and had them butcher it right there. Calvin and the girls turned around to look and might have seen the big butcher knife lop off its head. Hopefully they turned away. If not, a real-world opportunity to talk about the circle of life.

Samjang asked if we wanted to try some of the fish. The easiest way is to exit the indoor market and head to the outdoor market with dead fish and a few tanks with live fish. We weren’t interested in a huge meal, just more of a taste. We wandered the outdoor market and it did not smell great. But the kids were troopers and it was something that they were at least curious about like the rest of us.

Samjang helped to translate and get some fresh fish, which they killed once we went inside the restaurant. She ordered just a small amount for the 3 adults and 3 kids. But I will say that a ton of food still came. Fresh fish, raw fish, fish head stew, and all of the wonderful (or not so wonderful) side dishes.

We were joking about who would eat the fish eyes. Maddy volunteered. Seriously? Yes, she was serious, but had to work up the nerve to eat the fish eye. She popped it in her mouth and tried and tried to chew it. Finally, after nearly half a minute, she spit it out. You can watch this action packed video too. We high-fived her and congratulated her on being awesome enough to try a fish eye.

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After the fish market, we headed to a big street market to try and get some souvenirs and sample the wide variety of street food. It felt like we stopped every few steps and ate another delightful (or at least interesting) treat: very fine, stringy, crunchy candy; pastries filled with honey and seeds; cotton candy is an art form here and seemed nearly as big as Calvin with multiple colors and in the shape of a giant flower; waffles with whipped cream; some kind of fried potato on a stick.

Needless to say when Samjang suggested that we stop for udon noodles at this special place she knew, we tried to beg off that we were already more than full. But to no avail. We went into this restaurant that has only done udon (thick) noodles for the past 50 years. You know it’s a good place when you have to climb little narrow stairs and bash your knees. We ordered a few bowls of udon noodles in a sort of soup. It was fantastic and we were full. Very, very full.

The street market is humongous and we had been walking for a long time, but the hunt for souvenirs was still on. I have a strange knack for finding postcards. We searched and searched and didn’t really see normal tourist shops or stands. Mostly electric fans and other home goods. Not really what I wanted to bring back as a memento. Finally, I walked down a lane and saw a few touristy things and inquired if they had postcards. They did! A big pack from in and around Busan. A few shops later and we had our South Korea flag patches and a few other fun small things to remember our time by.

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The sun was going down, but we decided to go on top of the Lotte department store and watch the sunset and the incredible view of the city. It didn’t disappoint.

We got home a lot later than we had planned, getting a bit lost on the way home, with Annie and Nate doing their best to navigate with the Korean-only app that can deal with directions in Korea, but we had a full and wonderful day. All’s well…

Busan Part VIII

Sat 7/9, day 24

Calvin’s present from us came in the mail and so Nathan and Annie spent the morning playing Chinese Checkers with the kids. We thought this would be a good gift, a) it’s a 6 player game, and there are 6 Collins, b) it was one of Nathan and Annie’s favorite games growing up, c) Amazon would be able to ship it before we left in a few days. A few things about Chinese Checkers, 1) it didn’t originate in China or anywhere in Asia, 2) it is based off of a game invented in Germany in 1892, 3) Chinese Checkers was the brainchild of the Pressman brothers in 1928 as a market scheme, their name Hop Ching Checkers was dropped for the simpler Chinese.

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By the time I looked up, the game had lost 3 of its initial competitors, including the birthday boy. Four might be a bit too young.

The weather was nice and the kids were dying to go to the beach. I normally try to avoid the beach because I am really good at getting a sunburn. I get burnt, then I feel sick, then I’m in pain, then I start peeling, and then I am pale again. Not super fun, but I’m game. It usually takes me an entire car ride to get sun-screened up. I think the kids were a bit worried about the amount of sunscreen I felt the need to put on. But it was a glorious day.

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We got a beach cabana and Nate and the kids got the last inner-tube and headed to the water. It was really fun to see Nate play with the kids in the water. Dan, Annie, and I gave up on getting our other present to Calvin to work: a kite we picked up in Chinatown in San Fran. Apparently we needed an instruction booklet or YouTube tutorial. We were very unsuccessful and there wasn’t an absence of wind either.

When Nate and the kids got tired of being in the water, they worked on sand castles. The boys were fearless about going in the water and convinced of their swimming acumen. Nate asked if they could swim and they both nodded oh yes. Annie in the background assured Nathan that they couldn’t really swim. They however, were not deterred. Nate and the girls were busy flipping each other off the tubes and I was very content watching them swim in very cold water.

Eventually Annie, Dan, and I got in the water and played a bit. But Uncle Nathan was the star of the show.

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Busan Part VII

Fri 7/8, day 23

Nathan:

Early this morning I went on a hike with Dan up to the rocky peak of the mountain overlooking Jeonggwan, that you can see from the Collins’ apartment. He often mountain bikes this trail, up to a certain point where it turns into stone stairs. It was quite a steep route – not many switchbacks like you’d find in the Smokies; I guess the Koreans just want to go straight up. We passed a few people on the trail, including an old man in pajamas whom Dan said he sees often. As we got higher we saw more wildlife – a chipmunk here, a bird there – and started to get a view down into the valley. At the top, the view was breathtaking. It started out with a pretty clear view down into the valley. Then the fog rolled in and up the mountain, seeming to defy gravity and flow through the gap between us and the next peak over. You could still hear a lot of the noise of the city (mostly traffic, some construction) but when you pass over the peak to the other side with Jeonggwan behind you, that fades away and it’s quiet. Dan and I had a great conversation, catching up on what life has been like for him in South Korea for the past 4 years, and what he’s looking forward to in their move back to the States and his new role with TLI.

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Amy:

We also wanted to go and hangout with the girls on individual dates. Phoebe and I went to a stationary store and for boba tea and had a fantastic time swapping stories and doing origami. She is incredibly funny and talks a mile a minute. I’d ask a question and then she’d ask me a question, not in a lawyerly manner, but more in the way of old friends catching up after a long time.

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Nathan:

A bit later in the day I had my one on one time with Maddy. We also went to the boba tea shop, but they didn’t have any without milk, so after Maddy got hers we stopped by a coffee shop so I could get some coffee. Then we walked down by the river telling stories and asking each other questions. I asked about what she’s looking forward to in the US (snow) and what she’ll miss from Korea (food, freedom). She was just acting like a kid which was nice to see – she sometimes acts like a teen or an adult (9 going on 19) maybe partially due to being the oldest, and definitely partially due to her personality, so it was nice to see the playful kid side of her.

Amy:

The big event of the night was going to see the Lotte Giants play the LG Twins. Korean baseball is a lot more interactive than in the states. In one section, there’s a stage set up for dancers and a sort of mascot guy, not in a mascot suit, but with a cap. A weird Elvis of sorts. Nate learned a few of the cheers (there’s one for each player). There’s the typical Kiss Cam and Dancing Cam. Try as they may, the girls didn’t get on the screen. They danced their hearts out.

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As into baseball as the Koreans are, their sportsmanship is still maintained. So Dan shouting, “Hey batter, batter…swing, batter, batter…” definitely got a lot of strange looks. I loved it. As an avid and vocal baseball fan, I joined in a bit. Dan also made friends with the young Koreans around us by including them in his spontaneous cheers in Korean (making them up on the spot, I think). High-fiving everyone around us. It was great.

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At the 7th inning stretch, something very odd happened. Attendants started passing out orange plastic bags. Apparantly when the hometeam needs some extra juju, this is their style of rally cap. Let me describe: you blow up the bag and tie a good knot and then stick the bag on your head and then loop the handles over your ears and wear it like a hat. Very odd. But when in Rome….

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The score kept on going back and forth. LG was up in the top of the ninth. With two outs in the bottom of the 9th, and two men in scoring position, we were on our feet, but the rest of the crowd wasn’t. So Dan and I (mainly Dan) cajoled our section into standing up. I said obnoxious things like, in America we stand up when there are two outs (ok, granted two outs, two strikes). I desperately waved my hands. I’m not sure why I felt it my job to inform the Korean fans that they have to stand. They’re really quite accomplished in their baseball cheering skills without me. But many people actually followed our lead, well Dan’s anyway. They really like that he randomly shouted Korean things at the players and umps.

And what happened? Base hit and we won. Go Lotte, go!