Sunday, August 31, 2008

Dinner at Noryangjin Fish Market

I thought that the Noryangjin Fish Market would be a great way to experience Korean seafood.

We passed vendors selling fish, crabs, and unidentifiable creatures. We decided on one crab and one prawn each, which cost $25 total. Inexpensive....
..until the lady carried our wet bag of seafood to an upstairs restaurant. The hostess was not happy to see our seafood. She said that she earns the most money by preparing sashimi, not steamed crabs. She asked for $23 to sit at the table and eat the seafood. No side dishes were served, not even rice!
We waited while the kitchen steamed our purchases. The prawn tasted good, but the crab required too much work to eat. We enjoyed the experience but all agreed we would not return.
The view from above: a plate to freshly sliced raw fish (sashimi) to go. The fish monger killed and sliced the fish on the cutting board. No cleaning involved!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Made near the DMZ

North Korea in the background but no North Koreans in sight. The DMZ gift shop sold DMZ shirts, hats, and chocolates stuffed with jalapeno pepper, sweet potato, ginseng, or orange.
The panch'eon served with our bibimbap lunch. The kimch'i was too spicy for my tastes.
Koreans pay more for products harvested near the DMZ. The most expensive red ginseng comes from this area. They believe the air is fresher and the land is unspoiled, creating a better crop. (This region is sparsely populated and undeveloped.) The government subsidizes the living expenses for farmers in this area. They earn roughly $85,000 per year.
The DMZ logo seems like a touristy gimmick, but perhaps the taste is better.

Surprising Sights at Lotte Market

It's no typo - $250 for a watermelon. The produce employee called it a good gift for Chusok.
Individually wrapped cheesecake rectangles - a great way to enjoy a sliver of cheesecake! You could choose from several flavors. Speaking of flavors, here are some non-Italian flavors of gelato: sesame, green tea, black bean.
For something else cold, how about a fruit smoothie made of tomatoes? You choose the cup of fruit for your smoothie.
And, finally, what my friend, Sandy, calls "sea tangles." (Black kelp?)

Monday, August 25, 2008

Sunday Snacks

I was searching for a unique baked good at the Lotte World food court...
...and found a green-tinged (green tea, perhaps) glutinous rice cake filled with brown sugar syrup.
Sandy opted for a chunk of pineapple on a stick at Namdaemun Market.

Lotte Supermarket Imports & Beverages

Campbell's Soup for a whopping $2.00 a can.
I wonder how many households serve pure maple syrup at $13-$14 per jar.
You'd think these basic nuts were a delicacy at these prices!
Plenty of choices for coffee and milk!
Probiotic drinks - you choose the bacteria and the flavor!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Lotte Department Store Market

No, these aren't crustless white bread sandwiches. They are compact triangle of rice with a tuna fish filling. The finishing touch is a seaweed wrap.
This little guy is cute. I wish I had taken this picture at an aquarium and not a market.
Shrimp wrapped with fried noodles. A mix of bean, glutinous rice, and possibly meat since I found it in the meat department.
Individually wrapped fruits.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Does Anyone Buy These?

Anyone care to spend $12.60 on an Amy's organic frozen pizza? And I thought $3.69 at the Commissary was expensive!

Flavored Vinegar Beverages

I tried a sample of this vinegar-based drinks at E-mart. It tasted like dilute, acidic raspberry juice. The bottles are concentrated and can make about a gallon of juice. The store promoted the juice as a "well being" product. I wasn't surprised, since apple cider vinegar is a staple among natural foodists. They believe that the vinegar treats diabetes, allows calcium to be absorbed from greens, and prevents obesity. To some extent, I can understand the obesity claim: simply use calorie-free vinegar in place of high fat condiments. However, unless I see more evidence, I don't believe vinegar offers a health benefit.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Trash Can Confusion

I guess every time I throw something away. I hope I'm not hurting their recycling program by mixing trash with glass (or vice versa)!
On Post we throw things away American style: eggs oozing between papers, oatmeal sticking on boxes. Behind the scenes Koreans under contract with the Army divide our trash. I always apologize to the faceless contractors when I throw things away. I even try to keep my trash as neat and organized as possible.
Off post everyone must recycle. If not, you can not throw away your trash. People buy different colored bags for each category of recyclables. People keep small "wet trash" bins near their sinks(my friend keeps hers on her counter) to collect the random pieces of food and gunk from plates. One friend of mine has the weekly chore of separating her family's trash.
Trash is collected at a local dumping point on the street. I often see colored trash bags in heaps. High rise apartments have tidier collection points.
Usually people who live off post bring their trash to dumpsters on post. That way they don't have to buy colored bags and separate the trash!
If the military would just teach us how to separate trash, so much money could be saved! I hate the thought of contractors doing our dirty work!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Good Advertising?

Here is a picture of an outdoor eatery at the Gangjin Celadon Festival. I've noticed that many restaurants place animal legs, hides, or live seafood at their entrances. I assume that the legs prove the meat's origins and that the seafood shows freshness. Perhaps these items even attract people to the restaurant. As for me, I find myself wary about eating meat when I see a squashed carcus.

Famous Tea Place in Samcheondong

My friends and I stopped at this famous tea place after a hilly walk through Bukchon. I had been craving its traditional red bean juk ever since trying it with a Korean friend. Koreans call this dish a dessert, but it's a rich soup in my eyes. Juk literally means porridge, quite a dreadful-sounding word for such a tasty food! The menu offered two herbal Chinese teas ($5-$7 each), a ginger tea, a persimmon tea, a rice tea, and this porridge. As per Korean culture, we received one menu for the four of us.
The sweet, thick red bean base was topped with cinnamon, red beans, and chestnuts. A glutinous rice ball lurked beneath the surface. I can not think of an American food equivalent to the rice ball. It took me awhile to adjust to the gummy texture. I can't help but wonder if the globule is now bobbing around in my stomach.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

More Probiotics

Here is a beverage with a bacterial boost: L. acidophilus, S. thermophilus, Bifidobacteria, and L. casei to be exact. The bottle contains only 1/2 cup of peach-flavored drinkable yogurt. The consistency resembles that of milk, but the taste is 100% sweet & sour yogurt.

Like the Denmark candies, this drink's label does not give the quantity of bacteria. Based on my personal experience, however, it clearly contains enough bacteria to do something. Perhaps something delightful is happening inside my GI tract, but outside my body the effects are not so pleasant.

The bearded man on the label, Metchnikoff, is credited for suggesting that bacteria may have useful effects on the GI tract. He won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1906 for discovering phagocytosis, the process important to white blood cells. However, he did not actually study probiotics. Another scientist, a Japanese man named Minoru Shirota, took Metchnikoff's idea and spent his life creating a unique bacterium that could thrive in the GI tract.

In 1935 Shirota created a milk beverage called Yakult that contained his healthy bacterium. This drink is available worldwide. Korea's "Metchnikoff Life" must be a variation on the Yakult theme. It's no surprise, then, that the shelves contain so many probiotic beverages: they've been commonplace here for 73 years!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Food Court Experience

The Gangjin Celadon festival had booths where people could make pottery, frames, t-shirts, and more. Each one had a name - "Coil Pot Experience," "Pottery Experience," etc. Well, here is the "Food Court Experience" I had on the drive down to Gangjin: The rest area food court had five different restaurants. Each one sold a particular type of food, such as naengmyun (cold buckwheat noodles). I opted for the Japanese udon noodles with fried tofu. One cashier handled purchases for all the restaurants. I simply said "udon with tofu," paid, and took my receipt to the Japanese counter (with help, of course. I did not know where to take my receipt!)
Here is Sandy waiting for her gimbap. The metal bowls on the left contained chopsticks and spoons. On the far left was a tin of radishes. The equivalent for American food would be pickles.
My bowl of udon noodles with tofu. The noodles were thick and tasty, but I avoided the salty broth. I don't like spaghetti noodles, but for some reason I enjoy udon. Note the side of radish. The ajumma coaxed me to take a few. I did to be polite. However, I opted for a fork instead of chopsticks.
It's a shame that American food courts don't offer such tasty foods!

My Favorite Rest Area Treat

Rest areas are festive places with food courts, individual vendors, merchants, and bathrooms with 40+ stalls (including 1/2-sized stalls for kids!)
The vendors sell the foods one would normally buy on the street. The walnut cookies are my favorite. A better name for them would be "walnut & bean filled cakes," but the Korean name literally means "walnut cookie."
The machine squirts the batter into small walnut-sized molds. A second machine squirts the filling into the center. The freshly made product is crisp on the outside, soft in the center, and very hot! If you like red bean buns, then you would love walnut cookies. One sack contains about 10-15 and costs about $2.
Crisp outside
with a mashed, sweetened red bean and walnut center.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Flapping in the Breeze

When I visited Dragon Rock on Jeju Island, I saw what looked like sheets flapping in the breeze: Here they are in packaged form, though Koreans also eat them roasted:
And here is how I prefer my cute cuttlefish:

Monday, August 4, 2008

Hello, Probiotic Candy!

The promise of probiotics and the reference to Denmark drew me to this candy. Originally I thought Korea exported the candy from Denmark. In reality, only the bacteria, the patented BB-12 Bifidobacterium, comes from Denmark. The candy company itself, Haitai, is Korean.

I keep writing "candy" to remind myself that these tasty chews are more candy than neutraceutical.

Probiotics are "friendly" bacteria that have a beneficial health effect on the GI tract. Many different bacterial strains are probiotics, and each one has a unique effect and dosage. Bifidobacteria, along with other species, are generally considered safe.

How much BB-12 is in each serving of candy? And how much needs to be consumed each day to have effects? And what are the effects, anyway? Unless these questions are answered, this product is simply candy with a gimmick.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Dog Days of Summer

We're currently in the midst of the hottest period of summer (Sambuk), according to the Korean calendar. Chobuk is the first day of this period, and Malbok is the last. Koreans traditionally eat certain foods during this time for stamina and cooling. Samgyetang is a soup with a whole chicken stuffed with sticky rice, ginseng, garlic and jujubes. The idea is to fight the heat with heat.
We found the tasty soup in packaged and deli forms at E-mart.
As Americans, we have our own traditional means of cooling ourselves: popcycles and ice cream. At E-mart you can fill a lined bag with popcycles of your choice. Kiwi, red bean, and green tea flavors were among the mix.
Dog meat provides stamina and energy. Two weeks ago seemed to be the peak in dog meat consumption. Many Koreans from my office were eating it. Gyeongdong Market showcased fresh meat, as shown by the intact paw.