Photoessay: (Delicious) Things I Ate on Jeju Island

I really loved seeing all the scenery on Jeju Island, but I’ll go ahead and admit that it was the weird food that won my heart. Being a Korean island, there are plenty of shops that serve the same old, same old; samgyeopsal, kimbap and noodles are all easy enough to find. But if you’re on Jeju Island, don’t do it. Find the specialties. They are awesome. I know they’re awesome, because I ate (some of) them.

Black Pig Barbeque (흑돼지)

Apparently, in old times, this used to be a shit-eating pig. I kid you not, people would poop in holes and the pigs would be underneath, eating it. GROSS. Anyways they don’t do that anymore, they feed the black pigs real food, so you should feel perfectly fine about sitting down for an order of this, since it tastes like (meat) heaven. (Waegook Tom agrees, he wrote an entire blog post about this deliciousness.) IMG_6301 ED R It also comes with a special Jeju-only dip called Myeolchiekjeot (멸치액젓) which tastes like liquid anchovies, and you’re supposed to drop hot pepper and garlic in the sauce while it cooks on the grill. I’ll chalk that one up to an acquired taste, because I was not a fan. Eek.

Green Tea Ice Cream (녹차아이스크림)

Fittingly, this was consumed during a brief stop at the Tea Museum. I wish I’d gotten the “Twister” though, green tea and vanilla frozen yogurt together, because those first couple bites were like licking green tea powder. Once I got used to it however it was great. I mean, it’s ice cream, how could I not be happy? IMG_6412 ED R

Grilled Octopus (문어구이)

If you’ve never nommed on octopus before, then you should probably give it a shot for the experience. The stuff you get on Jeju, though, is all particularly fresh from those famous female divers pulling up seafood all day. IMG_6549 ED R

Abalone and Rice Porridge (전복죽)

Ear shells or abalones are one of Korea’s, particularly Jeju’s most prized health foods, but they’re pricy as a result. A popular way to eat them without blowing the budget is getting this porridge, which is what Koreans call a “boring food”. The best way to eat it is by putting pieces of kimchi on your spoon with it to add some flavor. I thought it was perfectly fine without kimchi, myself. IMG_6835 ED R

The Best Cup of Coffee I’ve Ever Had In My Entire Life Ever (조르바 커퓌)

Coffee with a spiced twist; it included cloves, cinnamon, other unidentified powders, and star anise, a thing I’d never heard of until they told me the name and I googled it (you’re welcome). I can’t get over how awesome this cup of coffee was, it was like a winter day’s dream, and it was a winter day, so it was a freaking dream, people! IMG_6846 ED R On the other side was a honey mandarin latte, which apparently was also quite heavenly. Details for this coffee shop can be found here, partway down the page. The baristas speak English, but their menu does not.

Spicy Noodles with Raw Fish (회국수)

When you’re on an island, you should probably eat some raw fish. Alright, so just fish in general, but I’m a big Hwae/sashimi fan, so I’d advocate for that. This was mixed in a variation of the spicy pepper paste you can find everywhere and included noodles and lettuce, which tasted pretty awesome together. Which was weird: noodles + lettuce?! But yes. Noodles and lettuce. IMG_6887 ED R

Sea Urchin Egg Noodle Soup (성게국수)

No, I don’t mean egg noodles, I mean sea urchin eggs in the noodles. Their flavor wasn’t particularly anything, but the soup as a whole was warm and made me happy and full. Plus, now you can officially call me a baby killer and it won’t even be a lie. IMG_6888 ED R Honorable mentions include a shrimp as large as my face, a cheese muffin that didn’t taste horrible or even remotely like cheese, and a breakfast the super-nice hostel lady made for me with cheese straight from Norway and mandarin orange jam. This was a horrible post to write in between meal times. See you later, guys, I need a snack.

squiggle3

Have you ever been to Jeju Island? Could you eat sea urchin eggs? Did reading about sea urchin eggs make you more or less hungry?

You can also find me on the ABOFA Facebook page, Instagram and Twitter. There’s also an email list, if you’d like to subscribe.

Language Misadventures: How I Adopted and Unadopted a Dog Before 8am

I’m all about going with the flow, saying yes to opportunities that present themselves and diving in when I have no idea what I’m doing. This has brought me nothing but interesting opportunities, if not sometimes mildly uncomfortable, but always something manageable and usually a good life experience, to boot. But this morning, that tendency lead me to end up in the most absurd situation imaginable. I still don’t believe that just happened. It’s not even 9am, but I need a beer.

It all started last week, Friday, at 6:15am, as I made my way to the exercise track near my school with Mary in tow. As is usual, some Korean ladies on their way to… somewhere… stopped me and asked about me and my dog, commenting on how cute she is. One mentioned that she had dogs at home, but one died. We spoke in Korean, which means that I was understanding the gist of everything, but would occasionally miss a sentence but could struggle through. For some reason, which I couldn’t correctly comprehend, they (or she?) wanted to meet me. I reluctantly agreed to meet the following week, at 6am, in front of the school. Maybe they or she wanted to meet to exercise with me? One lady or two? To show me her dog?  To feed me kimchi? Who knows. I said yes and figured that I’d find out Monday morning what exactly we were meeting for.

Oh boy, was I in for a surprise.

Monday morning, I groggily dragged myself out of bed at 5:45am, knowing that I was supposed to meet this lady whom I knew nothing about for unknown reasons in 15 minutes. I threw on an exercise outfit, put Mary on a leash and we headed out into the freezing cold. She was nowhere to be seen, so I headed to the track to begin running. About 6:30am, one question of mine was answered as I saw one figure walking towards me with something in her arms. The sun was still hiding and a full moon was shrouded in dark, ominous rain clouds, but as I got closer I was able to see that she was holding a dog. A cute, white, shaking, adorable little dog wrapped in a blanket like a baby.

We conversed in Korean, in which I understood really just one thing. This was her dog, and she had kept her promise to meet me. (Indeed!) She asked me a question in Korean, which I guessed to mean “do you want to hold her?” I motioned “holding” and we were both a little confused, and I said yes. She repeated this question, I said yes again. That verb I don’t know, it must mean “to hold”, right?

Damn me and my “yes.” I didn’t know it yet, but I had just agreed to keep her dog and raise it with Mary.

She motioned for me to walk with her, which I did, wondering when I was going to hold her dog like I’d just agreed to do. A question I am well accustomed to and understand clearly, always, she asked me where my house was, and we started walking towards it. I understood at this point that my run was over. Answering, I told her where I lived, at which point I gathered that perhaps she was going to leave the dog with me for a time. To play with me at my house? This was turning out to be more than I’d hoped to agree to.

Mary doesn’t even like other dogs, how are we going to play together at my place?

She told me about how she loved the dog and her younger sibling also loved the dog, but no one else in her house liked her. It was a sad tale, and I felt her pain. I answered a weird question about where my dog sleeps, which now in retrospect, was a question about where poor little Parry would sleep. “Oh, you really speak Korean very well, Sally!” she said. She asked when she should visit, which I assumed meant pick up the dog and take her back.

Suddenly I wasn’t so sure at all what I had agreed to. The verb “방문” means, very clearly, a visit. Not a return. A visit.

Confused, I carried a swaddled dog in one arm and pulled Mary on her leash back to my home. Mary hadn’t yet noticed that I was, indeed, carrying a dog and hadn’t commenced her usual aggressive barking when another canine is near. She was oblivious. I was also oblivious. And really, really confused.

Parry wasn’t in my house more than ten minutes before she shit on the floor.

As sweet as little Parry is, there is no way I want to have an unhouse-trained dog in my house, even to play. Even if her little white tail is dyed orange. It wasn’t even 7am yet, but I figured I could use some help from a Korean speaker. I called my boyfriend, woke him up, and was yelled at for telling this stranger my house address. I don’t even know her! Now she knows where I live! It’s a weird situation, what if she’s trying to farm my organs or something! His grumpiness, unclear morning thoughts and paranoia about my safety combined into an unfortunate combination. I sent him a picture of Parry and the lady’s phone number, amid cleaning dog shit off my floor.

Mary finally noticed that there was another dog in the house, and barking hell broke loose. I shut her in the bedroom, separate, and mentally apologized to all my neighbors that weren’t up already for work. She was one unhappy puppy, clawing at the door and barking, even though little Parry didn’t respond one bit.

I poured myself a very much needed coffee.

After a few minutes, my boyfriend called me back and I was not prepared to hear what he had to say, as the official translator. I’d ignored my deepest suspicious, that I was supposed to keep this dog, because it seemed like way too strange a scenario to be real. My gut already knew, though. This lady that I had met twice, randomly, had given me her dog to keep. She couldn’t afford to raise it anymore, because extra family had moved in recently and they didn’t like poor little Parry. She thought I would be a good candidate, because I already had a dog and like dogs and I’m nice. Apparently I had gone along with it the whole time.

I had accidentally adopted a dog.

image

My official translator then communicated to her that it wasn’t possible for me to keep little Parry; I have dog allergies (true, Mary is hypoallergenic) and I’m leaving soon for the USA. I had misunderstood. I thought I was just supposed to play with her for a little bit and then give her back. I thought I was babysitting. I, sadly, can’t keep the dog and raise her. Mary doesn’t even like other dogs. I’d meet her at 7:50am and bring back Parry, and she’d have to find a different home if she couldn’t keep her.

I literally burst into a fit of laughter, because I didn’t know what else to do.

I also felt stupid, stupid and really stupid for somehow agreeing to keep her dog and simultaneously really guilty for letting her hopes down. In my guilt, I put together a little package of dog food and grape juice packets as an apology gift. An “I’m sorry I pretended to speak Korean, adopted your dog and then unadopted your dog immediately afterwards,” gift. I got a fair warning from my boyfriend to not say “yes” to questions that I don’t understand and a nice apology for yelling at me when he was tired.

I continued laughing.

As Mary barked repeatedly, still scratching at the door, as the little white dog pissed on her own blanket only twenty minutes after shitting on my floor and as I continued to try and choke down some caffeine so I could understand what was happening in my absurd life, I laughed out loud until it hurt. I bellowed.

7:50am, waiting outside my school, I held little Parry in my arms as she shivered in the cold. The same Korean lady walked up, a big smile on her face of amusement (and probably a little hidden disappointment) and took Parry back. I handed her the bag of goodies, my apology gift, which she graciously accepted as well as my apology, in Korean. She didn’t try to say anything else in Korean to me, probably out of fear that I wouldn’t understand. Her fears were grounded in a very recent reality of huge misunderstanding.

I walked into work, still in disbelief, recounted the story to my early morning class and took a moment to breath. By 8am, I had accidentally adopted a dog and then unadopted her. This story was one for the books.

Sometimes, I don’t believe my life.

image (4)
Sorry, Parry, it just wasn’t meant to be.

squiggle3

I would ask whether you’d ever accidentally adopted a dog before, too, but I feel like I’m alone on this one.

You can also find me on the ABOFA Facebook page, Instagram and Twitter. There’s also an email list, if you’d like to subscribe.

Pepero Day in Korea

Today’s blog post was a no-brainer, because it’s one of my favorite holidays in Korea: Pepero Day! Yes, the holiday is totally invented by corporate magnates who wanted to sell more of their Pepero. Yes, there is no real meaning behind the holiday, and it’s only on November 11th because 11/11 looks remotely like four Pepero sticks in a row. I get it, I’m buying into the system and it’s stupid, etc… but look. I’m a teacher, so I’m pretty much exclusively on the receiving end of this tradition. So celebrate it, I will! I love Pepero Day!

In Korean, it’s spelled 빼빼로, which if I do say so, looks adorable.  Pepero is actually a brand name and it’s also acceptable to buy the competing brand named Pocky. (Like when you buy Puffs instead of Kleenex and still call it a Kleenex.) Pepero are essentially just pretzel sticks, unsalted, and dipped in chocolate. They come in multiple flavors and this year, they came out with some pretty rocking new ones. I received just the classics, though.

Today's bounty of deliciousness.
Today’s bounty of deliciousness.

The typical flavors are: plain chocolate or chocolate with pieces of almond in them. An older but less popular flavor is the reverse of a classic Pepero, where the chocolate is inside of the tube. The new flavors are pretty awesome: strawberry, melon (surprisingly incredible), and the best flavor ever and ever and ever, cookies and cream. There may be another flavor I’m missing, but it doesn’t matter. Oreo.

pepero oreo
Creatively called “white cookie” in Korean. Nom.

So the tradition itself is really quite simple. Buy Pepero and give them to someone. The boxes even have blank space for writing notes on the back to the lucky recipient, if you’d like to go so far. So when 11/11 rolls around and it’s Veteran’s Day in the USA, maybe the best way to remember those brave souls is to give them a box of Pepero, available for purchase on Amazon, of course.

Happy Pepero Day, Happy Veteran’s Day, oh and Happy Birthday to my little brother! I love you almost as much as I love “white cookie” flavored Pepero.

-~-

Find me on the ABOFA Facebook Page or subscribe to the email list, if you’d like.

Weird Noms: Salt & Seaweed Flavored Pringles

This past year, my friend Haley moved to Thailand to teach English. About six months ago, she posted this photo to Instagram. I was jealous, really jealous. Because I freaking love seaweed. And Pringles. A combination? I wanna try those!

Then this week, I was cruising slowly around my local grocery store, as I often do in both curiosity and indecision. Something caught my eye and low and behold, it was nothing other than Salt & Seaweed Pringles! My wishes come true. The price, 2,750 Korean won, or about $2.50, was not one of my wishes. Regardless, immediately following my return home, I sat down and cracked open the can of Pringles, stopping only long enough to take pictures before inhaling the entire can. Thankfully, I can do that on occasion, because my little rescue puppy drags my butt out of bed to go running six days a week. Jerk. But also thanks, Mary.

Shopping success.
Shopping success.

They don’t smell very potent, for lack of a better word. Faintly salty, faintly like dried seaweed. Actual dried seaweed has a much stronger smell, I would know because I’m snacking on some as we speak. I told you, it’s delicious.

IMG_6162 ED R
The Pringles, right before I sniffed them.

As for taste, I was a little disappointed. Part of the issue is that the Pringles were imported and had lost some of their crunch and pizazz during the trip, somehow. So the original Pringle taste wasn’t quite up to par. The other issue is that the seaweed taste was too soft and subtle. Go big or go home, Pringles! I want to taste my dried, green, dead ocean plant, not kind of, but full on, potent and in my face mouth.

IMG_6164 ED R
Pre-demolition.

Then why did I stuff my face with all of them, in such a short amount of time, all at once, you ask? Because I’m just like that. Because I love junk food. And because while they weren’t the most delicious chips I’ve ever had, I still like chips and seaweed and I was hungry after work. So they were consumed, in mass, quickly.

The final recommendation: if I’m willing to eat slightly stale original Pringles (the only kind available in my little town), then I’ll be going for the seaweed flavor. Yeah, it’s not that seaweed-y, but I like the extra kick. So tentative, if you think your Pringles won’t be stale, then thumbs up on these.

But I’m in this teeny rural area, and it’s just safer to go with the tried and true sheets of dried seaweed when I need a snack. With the added bonus of having less saturated fat and costing almost a third less, it’s hard to imagine not snacking on dried seaweed. Delicious, cheap, not stale, a little healthy?

Sorry seaweed Pringles, in this case, you lose.

-~-

You can find me on the ABOFA Facebook Page or sign up for the email list, if you’d like!

 

Weird Noms: Baby Fish “Noodles”

If you don’t watch what you’re eating, you could end up with a mouthful of wide-eyed and slimy baby fish. Yeah… those aren’t rice noodles.

Thanks, Korea, for keeping me on my toes.

-~-

Find me on the ABOFA Facebook Page or sign up for the email list, if you’d like.

Mini Photoessay: Sudeoksa Temple Village

The little villages outside of famous temples are sometimes serious tourist hubs, in stark contrast to the zen-like feeling just a few miles up the road. This particular village sits at the foot of Sudeoksa Temple (수덕사), snuggled against Deoksung Mountain (덕숭산).

I went to Sudeoksa Temple for a temple stay as well; see the written post about that or alternatively check out the photoessay.

ginseng candy korea sudeoksa
The machine’s three bars rotate around each other, stretching the ginseng candy out until it’s ready to eat.
A shop selling weird things to eat or cook with.
A shop selling weird things to eat or cook with.
Any wooden souvenir your heart could desire can be purchased here.
Any wooden souvenir your heart could desire can be purchased here.
A rice snack vendor, where 5-10 grains of rice are steamed, flattened and somehow magically turn into these warm, crispy rice cakes.
A rice snack vendor, where 5-10 grains of rice are steamed, flattened and somehow magically turn into these warm, crispy rice cakes.

squiggle3

You can also find me on the ABOFA Facebook page, Instagram and Twitter. There’s also an email list, if you’d like to subscribe.

Weird Noms: Raw Beef

No dying involved, simply deliciousness.

My entire childhood I was taught that raw meat would kill me, but I woke up this morning still breathing, so I’ve concluded that this is false.

This is a Korean traditional food. It’s raw beef. Mixed with a raw egg. Sounds gross, right? But being adventurous, I’ll try any food once. I wasn’t expecting to like this one, but it was actually delicious.

I wouldn’t suggest trying this one at home… you know. In case you die or something.

squiggle3

You can also find me on the ABOFA Facebook page, Instagram and Twitter. There’s also an email list, if you’d like to subscribe.

moving home is for losers / goodbye, college

my lease on the house that I was renting ends tomorrow. I don’t leave for South Korea for another two weeks or so. this means that I have three options: refuse to vacate my house (occupy 3328!), find, interior decorate and live in a box-house in the streets of Pittsburgh (preferably PPG Plaza), or do what all the losers do after they graduate: move home.

obviously I picked the hottest, most humid day in weeks to move out of my so-not-air-conditioned house. yesterday I labored for hours, taking breaks only to drink powerade and eat freezy pops. I loaded up my tiny Subaru to it’s brim, fitting nearly all my things, and drove the grueling 20 minutes to my suburban family home. Continue reading moving home is for losers / goodbye, college