iPhone Photoessay: (Delicious) Things I Consumed in Istanbul

Today is quite a busy day and I’ve little time for writing, so I thought it would be perfect for a little photoessay blast from the past. I’m not going to claim that I ate all the correct, culture-y foods in Istanbul, because I definitely didn’t. But my pallet still had a field day, rebounding off all of those Korean rice dishes and becoming wowed with interesting flavors and… bread. Oh, bread.

Before we get started, I’d like to apologize to my mother for putting one embarrassing photograph on the internet of her. I tried to make up for it by putting an embarrassing one up of me as well! That evens it out, right? Right?

[Related Post: Snapshots of Istanbul]

Anyways, here we go!

IMG_1199This obviously MUST be the first picture in a photoessay about food from Istanbul. Baklava is delicious, and we did our best to eat as much as possible and then a little extra. And that there is even more than one kind of baklava to try was mind-blowing to me. YUM!

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This photo is awkward, but there are two important aspects to it. One, I was drinking Turkish tea. Second, it’s inside the Grand Bazaar!

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This photograph, as far as photography goes, is a terrible picture and deserves to become corrupted and die. But it is a photo of two of my favorite food/drink things from Istanbul, and the lighting really was red, so I’ll allow it to see the face of the internet. This was out first evening in Istanbul, we were tired from flights but dragged ourselves out for food and, as you can see, dessert.

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The hotel breakfast was incredible, and it wasn’t even that incredible. Cheese, deli meat, bread, cheese, figs?! Apricot? CHEESE? BREAD?!!

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Straight out of the pomegranate, pomegranate juice. No sweeteners, no nothing. Super healthy, kind of (okay, realllllly) bitter, and for integrity’s sake we finished it anyways.

[Unrelated Post: iPhone Photoessay: Cats of Istanbul]

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During our first tour with Salih, he took us to this authentic Southern Turkish cuisine restaurant. We pointed to giant cauldrons and pots filled with food and they dished us out a large portion. The food was so strange, interesting and oddly, kind of healthy.

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The full spread. Look at all those colors! And weird shapes! And… BREAD.

 

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Street bagel/pretzel combos are a big thing in Istanbul, and if you want, they’ll even smear it with cream cheese or nutella.

[Unrelated Post: Featured Snapshot: One More Mosque]

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I’m so sorry, Mom, but this sandwich doner was too important to leave out of the photoessay. It was our first taste of the infamous Turkish food that’s now made its way to Germany (and then morphed a little). Junk food, but delicious junk food and I’m so glad I tried it.

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BREAD! This was on our second tour with Salih, and he took us to this family bakery in a neighborhood outside of the center. The bread was fresh baked and we got to check out the oven, too. Later we shared some bread and I can assure you it was better than the picture. It was also dirt cheap, my eyes bugged out at the (lack of) price.

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This juice was some kind of pickled radish/carrot situation and that face, right there, is exactly how it tasted. (Feeling better now, Mom?)

[Slightly Related Post: An Accidental Visit To The Princes’ Islands]

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We ended up at this restaurant three times in seven days of Istanbul. The servers were beyond kind, the food was quality and delicious, and it was close to our hotel. Sold! (Website for Fuego Cafe)

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Cheese! French fries! Grilled veggies! It wasn’t that spectacular of a lunch, taste-wise or creativity-wise, but it sure did look pretty.

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Toasting off our goodbye with some wine. And by some, I mean the largest glass of wine I’ve ever had delivered to me in a restaurant and tried to hold up in a picture.

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The classic “Starbucks with Mom” picture. Yeah, we went halfway across the world to look at stuff and then buy Starbucks coffee, try and stop us! Muahaha.

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What Istanbul food did I totally miss? What do you wish you were eating or drinking right now? Have you seen enough photographs of my face, now?

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7 Ways South Korea Has Changed Me

I’ve been a little retrospective lately, as my contract comes to a close this Christmas. A year and a half isn’t really a long time and the time has certainly flown by, but when sit down and really think about my earlier self, I realize that I have changed a lot. Some of these changes are surprising and others simply hilarious. (I also suspect that landing in the USA will reveal an entirely new host of transitions that I didn’t even realize I’d gone through.) For those hoping that my weird, not that funny sense of humor would be one of the things vanquished during my time in Asia, I have some sad news for you: my jokes are still horrible. Get over it.

I Stopped (Binge) Drinking

I mentioned this shortly in my earlier reflections after a year post, but this is a huge contrast to my college years. Grandma plug your ears, but oh my gosh did I drink a lot and do some really, really dumb shit. I guess everyone does, but my senior year most people had cleaned up their act and I was still drunkenly stubbing toes and getting rides in police cars. Anyways, those days are over. Either it was my overwhelming and new-found maturity, the $25 price tag on a taxi home (living in the countryside does that) or perhaps the uncomfortable reality of Korean-made beer that tastes like water, but it isn’t actually refreshing. By some strange combination of elements, I stopped drinking anything but occasionally and now actually enjoy my sobriety. I don’t even know who I am anymore.

I may have stopped binge drinking, but Koreans did not.
I may have stopped binge drinking, but Koreans did not.

Road Rage

I’ve always been a patient driver in the USA, allowing people to be stupid, slow down in the middle of the freeway and calmly maneuvering around them. I used to let strangers merge ahead of me during rush hour, and condescendingly reprimand my cousin when she screamed at cars on the way to Denny’s. Those days are also over. Driving in Korea has made me an angry, angry, unforgiving and ruthless driver. My mouth is about as clean as my bathroom floor 95% of the year and thank goodness my windows are tinted because I have flicked a lot of birds. As soon as I step out of my vehicle, though, all is well and I’m a content, zen-like human being again. Still to be determined: if my road rage will diminish in the USA or if it’s here to stay.

Nothing Sudden Phases Me

I’m not talking about ghosts popping out from behind a tree here. I’m talking about life’s little surprises, also known as the tendency of fellow Koreans to not tell you what’s going on until immediately before it happens. Like when I have several extra classes and I’m told at 9:15am that morning. Like when my coworkers are missing, I go to find them and discover it’s picture day, my turn to sit and I haven’t showered. Like when all of my classes are cancelled for unexplained reasons, then rescheduled, then cancelled again, all within a three hour time span. I’ve become a strange life-events Gumby and sometimes it weirds me out. Today, some martial art competition was happening next to the building where my class was and some strange competitor decided to show me his abs. I calmly shut the classroom door and continued with teaching. Sometimes I walk around a corner and see the building that was there yesterday has now burned to the ground. Interesting. Next week it’s two new restaurants. Korea’s taught me to just roll with it.

So you went camping on the sidewalk... interesting.
So you went camping on the sidewalk… interesting.

I Understand How Studying Works

Yes, this was the skill set that I was supposed to learn in high school so that I could use it in college. In reality, I was too smart for my own good and somehow just remembered enough from class to get by with A’s and B’s. I honestly graduated university without knowing how to really, hardcore study. Insane, right? That’s not to say I’ve never studied in my life, I have, but not for long periods of time and never on a schedule. Korea, land of kimchi and student suicides because they study too much, made me realize that I totally didn’t even know what real studying was. Learning Korean to the less-than-stellar level that I’m at now required me to really sit down, study and then repeat. Regularly.

Honestly, I still really suck at studying. But at least I understand now how the whole thing works, and how to do it successfully, even if I’m not always able to execute it well.

I’m a Modest Dresser

The USA and South Korea have a complete opposite view of modesty. Arms and shoulders and chest are scandalous when they’re shown off too much in Korea, but in the USA, a v-neck shirt is pretty standard and certainly nothing to look twice at. Tank tops are everywhere. Hell, belly shirts are totally in fashion now. But none of that flies in South Korea, particularly in a professional setting, even more particularly in a rural professional setting where you work with a bunch of middle school kids. Even outside of work, I live in a building full of single, middle aged laborers and a town equally as populated with grandmothers. I just don’t feel comfortable going anywhere in a shirt without sleeves. Or shorts that look sexy. Or a shirt that is v-necked and wide shouldered. Yeah, that tube top I packed has definitely not been put to good use, and I honestly don’t even feel comfortable in it anymore. I don’t see us having a very promising future, that tube top and I.

I Like Spicy Food (or at least can always tolerate it)

My older brother was always the one with sixteen different hot sauces from Arizona sitting in the family kitchen. At least one of them had a skull and crossbones on it. I always, always ordered mild salsa with my burrito and did not participate in the extended family Quaker, Steak and Lube atomic wings challenge. (Yes, this really happened.) Well, in Korea I’ve had no choice but to eat spicy food all the time. Spicy chili paste is a staple ingredient in, well, everything. Ever. To enjoy my time and food in Korea, I’ve had no choice but to go in with an optimistic, “Yes! Spicy! I’LL EAT THE SPICIEST THING YOU HAVE AND LIKE IT, MUAHAHA!” attitude. Somehow it worked and now I kind of like spicy food. Some of it. Anyhow, I’ll be trying that medium Mexican salsa from now on.

Chili peppers, kimchi and other unidentified red specks? Alrighty.
Chili peppers, kimchi and other unidentified red specks? Alrighty.

I Don’t Care About Beauty

Korea is a really superficial culture sometimes and rocks their plastic surgery capital of the world title with no shame. Even more uncomfortable, the only compliment I get when I meet someone is that I’m pretty. The people I least expect sometimes surprise me by whipping out their new Dior brand foundation with a big smile. To add to it all, South Korean women are straight up tiny. I’m officially an extra large size in pants when I go shopping, as opposed to my usual single digit pants size in the USA. Instead of worrying about being up to snuff, I’ve found myself completely rejecting this obsession with image. I haven’t touched my high heels in months and partially in an effort to be an example for my students, mostly because I stopped caring, I haven’t worn make up more than three times in the last six months. I don’t even know how much I weigh, because I can’t justify spending money on a scale. My style has now become the style of being clean, wearing clothes and brushing my hair regularly. I just can’t be bothered to care about looking more “beautiful”, because it simply doesn’t matter to me anymore.

I’m a free spirit, ya’ll! Who wants free eye shadow? Because there’s no way I’m making space for something so useless in my suitcase, this time around.

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What To Eat in Korea: Sally’s List

After a few people came to Korea for the first time and I was bubbling with things for them to do and especially eat, I knew that this post needed to be written. I’m obsessed with food and I love eating. I’ll try almost anything at least once. This list is definitely not an exhaustive list of everything delicious in Korea; that’s just impossible to do. This is just a list of what kinds of food I would definitely force my family members to eat if they came to visit. That means what I find especially delicious will easily find itself at the top, it’s just the nature of the game. Soju & makgoelli are also on this list, despite being drinks.

I’ve grouped them into fives, the ones at the top are more important than the groups at the bottom. Meatless items have an asterisk (*) and full-blown, no fish and no meat vegetarian items are doubly starred (**). I’ve linked each item either to my own post, a Wikipedia entry or occasionally elsewhere to clarify what exactly it is.

Are you ready to eat? You’ll need a very, very empty stomach and perhaps a solid week to even manage all of these items. Here they are!

  • Patbingsu**: Ice, condensed milk, sweet red bean, rice cake, maybe nuts or other additives and you have one addictingly delicious dessert. That link leads to a guest post in which I raved for several paragraphs, in detail, about the food I’ll miss the most from Korea.
  • Instant Ramyeon noodles** from the convenience store, because when in Korea…
  • Hwae*, or sashimi (Wikipedia has such a weird spelling for this word, please disregard) is basically sushi, just without all of those unnecessary extras like rice or avocado. Raw fish, dip in spicy sauce, and eat.
  • Samgyeopsal or Korean barbeque is meat-tastic and delicious; technically samgyeopsal refers to thick pieces of bacon that you grill at your table, but the same shops will also sell several other cuts of meat like rib or beef. Eat with lettuce, spicy sauce, garlic and other additives for a mouth-flavor explosion.
  • Bibimbap(**) is a very typical cheap lunch with a rice base and several different kinds of vegetables that you mix together and maybe add spicy pepper paste to. You can ask for no meat, if you’re a veggie, and some versions already replace the meat with a kind of vegetable.
A classic Patbingsu without any of the extras.
A classic Patbingsu without any of the extras.
  • Hoddeok** is the sweet dessert of my dreams during the winter. It’s fried rice cake, filled with cinnamon and other nutty flavors on the inside.
  • Ddeokbokki* is a street food that’s especially good at night, after a few glasses of alcohol, with fried foods to dip in the sauce. Think hot rice cake and little bits of fish cakes covered in liquid spiciness.
  • Soju** tastes terrible but it’s a rite of passage, however don’t underestimate the alcohol content in it. It’s like vodka’s weak and grosser cousin that for some reason grows on you.
  • Makgeolli** is amazing when done right and an unfortunate decision when done wrong. Kind of like rice water with sugar and alcohol.
  • Sweet filled rice cakes**, preferably purchased from an elderly Grandma on the street are usually filled with things like honey, sesame seeds, or red bean. It’s always a surprise when you bite into one!
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A good candidate for buying rice cakes.
  • Fried chicken with sweet chili sauce. Self explanatory.
  • Mandu, or Korea’s version of dumplings, are addicting. Three typical kinds: kimchi (spicy!), pork and vegetables, or seafood.
  • Grilled eel* is exactly what it sounds like, and it’s yummy.
  • Raw beef and I promise you won’t die. Really. Mix with raw egg for the most tasty results.
  • Cold noodles(**), but proceed with caution because there is a large variety of tastes and some are quite strange, for best results, get a solid description in English (some noodles are in a beef broth, some are not).
No dying involved, simply deliciousness.
No dying involved, simply deliciousness.
  • Kimbab(*)(**), it looks like sushi but can have meat, tuna or simply vegetables inside instead of raw fish. It’s perfect for being on the go.
  • Dakgalbi is chicken, grilled at your table with spicy sauce, cabbage and rice cake. For some strange reason it’s really good.
  • Pork bone soup sounds terrifying, but it’s absolutely delicious. See the link for a more complete description: number 4, “Haejang Guk”.
  • Coagulated blood soup also sounds terrifying, but tastes so yummy if you can get over the fact that you’re eating blood jello. Don’t worry, there are noodles and vegetables too!
  • Squiggling, moving octopus* that you should chew very well before swallowing. This isn’t on the list for the taste, no it’s here because of the experience.
Delicious food for dinner helps soothe the pain of half an hour drives.
Pork spice soup, stacked high with kimchi, potatoes and other vegetables.

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