Category Archives: food

Pohang Soju cocktail restaurant Damichon

A while back my school had dinner at a pretty famous-in-Korea restarurant/ bar called Damichon (다미촌).

The lady who owns the establishment is kind of like Tom Cruise in Cocktail, just taller. She started as a server but made so much money with her skillz, red lipstick and toit tops that she managed to buy her own place after a while.

The food was pretty decent but you can’t really go wrong with Korean BBQ. Two things set Damichon apart from your standard Korean dining experience: our Soju bottles were branded with the school name and logo and the after-dinner cocktail show was unbeatable!

There are loads of videos on YouTube– check it out.  My principal went nuts for this dame… I’ve never seen him bow to anyone before.

It’s a good idea to pre-book Ham Sun Bok (함순복) in advance so that she can entertain your table with her tricks!

 

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Dokdo bread

If you live in Korea you know that passions run high when it comes to Dokdo, that tiny rock near Ulleungdo that somehow got left ouf of the peace treaty between Japan and Korea after the Korean War ended. “Dokdo is Korea” as the slogan goes and although Korea currently occupies this tiny, unhospitable rock it officially belongs to Japan. I guess you can thank Uncle Sam for that one.

Someone saw a gap in the market and decided to start baking Dokdo Bbang (bbang=bread) here in Pohang. As it happens, the bakery is quite near my house so I couldn’t pass up the chance to buy my school leaving gifts there.

According to The Korea Times, owner Kim Ki Sun got well pissed off when he heard that a baker in Japan was producing “Takeshima bread” so he decided to retaliate!

I bought 3 boxes of ten, and was offered 2 samples and 3 freebies- pretty awesome! These madeleine cakes are orange flavour whereas Dokdo itself is blueberry. I liked it for the most part but it did have a slight aftertaste, like when you add too much baking powder.

You can order the bread cake, online or just pop into 소망 베 이커리bakery itself, located in Song-do dong (they’re open til 11PM and they also sell pizza).

They make the perfect gift for principals so they offer the perfect ending to a happy school relationship.

 

14 Things Korea taught me

1. Kimchi. You get so tired of hearing how amazing kimchi is that you get a bit blaze and cynical about it. The hype is true though: kimchi’s probiotic content is a godsend to your stomach. The only thing I’d cut down on is the salt content on this side dish to make it truly perfect.

2. Persimmon. This fruit has two varieties: a squidgy one (hongshi) and a hard one (dan gam). I prefer the hard one personally but did you know that a persimmon packs more punch than an apple? Check out its nutritional value.

3. Meals that incorporate loads of veggies. There is always an abundance of vegetable side dishes as part of any Korean meal. Again, the only thing I’d change is salt content, as many veggies are soaked in salt first, drained and then served.

4. Wrap your meat in leaves. Sesame (Perilla) leaves are my favourite discovery here.

5. Marmelade as tea! Best thing ever. You can also find quince tea which is perfectly spreadable on a piece of bread.

6. Walnut, almond, adlait tea. Used as a meal replacement drink or a snack, this tea nutty tea contains fatty acids that help reduce cholesterol and control blood pressure. It is unbeatable during winter time! More about the amazing world of Korean tea here.

7. Bone broth. Bones and marrow have fallen out of Western culinary favour but there are great benefits to consuming it! It contains calcium phosphate and collagen. You know how we always remark how Asians seem to age so much better than Westerners? Obviously genetics play a part but food also contributes to strong bones and nails, smooth skin and shiny hair.

8. Pig’s feet (Jokbal). I was so confused by this when I bought it the first time at emart. Ten dollars and it’s mostly bone and fat??! WHAAT??! But jokbal DOES have meat on it and again, the collagen content is beneficial to hair, nails and skin.

9. Black coffee. It took a while to get used to but a cup of black coffee has on average 6kcal whereas any shop version containing milk or cream is around 200kcal. Do the math!

10. Zero waste. Use as much of the plant/ animal as you can- waste nothing! I applaud thsi highly sustainable use of resources and I think if you’re going to kill an animal the this is the best way to honour its death.

11. Seaweed. Iodine and many other vitamins and minerals. Just don’t get addicted to kim sheets, the small ones you wrap around rice. They are only salt and fat. The nutrition’s been stripped from them completely. (They taste amazing though).

12. Outdoor gyms. They’re free, they’re everywhere and they use body resistance to build muscle! Koreans are active regardless of their age and you always see them at the outdoor gyms, walking backwards or hiking.

13. Booze. Due to my apartment’s proximity to restaurants and bars I’ve heard my fair share of loutish drunken arguments this year. I could even hear my neighbours getting physically abusive with each other in the middle of the night. It’s given me a different perspective on the destructive aspects of alcohol consumption and I’ve curbed my own habit substantially.

14. But booze!! It’s not all bad… in moderation. Maesil (green plum) wine for example, helps with digestion.

I feel like many of the ideas around food used to be part of Western culture too, before the advent of convenience food. We’ve made untampered, real food expensive and made fake food cheap. We’ve become so fussy about what our fruit and veg should look like in order to be “edible” and the same with the meat we eat! The pre 1950’s generations recognised the nutritunal value of different animal parts and had no qualms about using them all. How many people have peanut allergies in Korea? Not many!!!!! This seems to be a Western problem! The only thing that Korean women avoid eating during pregnancy is raw fish. They still eat cooked fish, peanuts, chillies, dairy…

Sadly, the Western diet has made inroads into Korea in the last decade and you can see a lot more chubby kids shuffling around. Bread, burgers, hot dogs, pizza, lots of deep fried foods and dairy products are being intergrated into modern Korean culture and it will be interesting to see how this affects the nation’s overall health over time.

Thanks Korea for teaching me so many things about food and nutrition!

Cycling from Pohang to Gyeongju (40km/ 2 hours)

On Hangeul Day, a public holiday in Korea, I finally made time to cycle from Pohang to Gyeongju. The bus journey between the 2 cities takes 30-40 minutes and the straightest line (on highway 7) makes it just over 30km. But I’m not looking for straight lines. I’m looking for curves that will swoop around beautiful stretches of farm land, small villages, rivers and streams.

The first time I did the ride I had the good fortune to be stopped by a farmer who was having a barbeque with his family and friends. I met his family, horses, dogs and cows and sampled some really tender beef! It was a random but great encounter, just another example of the extreme generosity and kindness you will come across in this country.

The route back was slightly less auspicious as I left Gyeongju a bit late and got horribly lost on the small country roads. It took me 4 hours to get home, double the time it should have taken! It was a beautiful night ride though, the night after the lunar eclipse: huge moon, clear skies… you could even see some stars. The silence of the sleepy countryside was intermittently interrupted by the sound of a stream or river nearby. It would have been true bliss had I not been so lost.

I was determined to try the route again since it’s a nice easy ride that’s easy on the eye. I made a pig’s ear of  the route on the way there so I’m only going to post my return route (Gyeongju-Pohang).

Most of the route will be on quiet concrete country roads/ nice bike paths, maybe 55%, about 5% on road, 15% gravel and 15% side walk/ shitty bike paths. I did the ride on my road bike, which handled the gravel sections fine but beware of uneven surfaces just before leaving Pohang and when you’re cycling in Gyeongju (next to the main road – there are some truly awful bits that can give you a snakebite if you’re not on the look-out). Obviously it’s common sense to take a spare tube, patching kit and a pump with you.

Some cool restaurants  near the Express Bus Terminal in Gyeongju include:

– Hawa Dhaba 하와다바 (Indian food) – google 하와다바 HawaDhaba 경상북도 경주시황오동 108-2

– Kong Story  꽁스토리 (Falafels)- opposite the Express Bus Terminal. OMG so good.

– NeCoZzang 네코짱 (Japanese Ramen)- also very near the Express Bus Terminal.

Here’s my route on Strava: http://www.strava.com/activities/209040367/embed/dbbd52f4072d70d513c188145f42f5158175d1b1

My Pohang start/ end point is Posco bridge, since it’s a well-known landmark. My Gyeongju start/ end point is very near the Express Bus Terminal. Where you can see loops it signifies going off-route so just go straight (none of the detours are huge though, should they occur). If you are starting from Pohang, you will need to cross the road when you see the huge retail park between Pohang and Gyeongju, otherwise you’ll be cycling against highway  traffic coming around a corner. Do-able but not safe at all.

Adventures in Korean cuisine

When I dived Ishigaki (Japan) in January, the shop owner let us sample some 10 year old liqueur, stored in huge 5l plastic jars. The content looked pretty vile: rotten fruit and brown juice but boy oh boy, was it tasty!

During the hot summer months you can see large bags of green plums being sold everywhere in Korea. Curious, I asked my co-teacher about it and she explained that this plum variety, maesil, is used to make liqueur, maesil ju! Home made booze??! It was a challenge that simply had to be accepted.

I found a good recipe online for short-cut maesil ju- use equal amounts of plums and sugar and add 1 or 2 bottles of soju (I left out the honey). I filled 5 sterilized jars back in June, popped them in the back of my food cupboard and forgot about it until last week. You should let the concoction brew for at least 3 months.

Maesil has a few health benefits: it fights fatigue and aids digestion (good for a dickey tummy). It’s not just used to make booze though! You can also leave out the soju and just use sugar and plums, layered alternately and left for 1-3 months- maesil cheong.

On a recent cycling trip to Gyeongju I stopped off for lunch at a quaint Indian restaurant, Hawa Dhaba. The owner, ayoung Korean woman who spent some time in India, made me an amazing side salad, simple but punchy: shredded cabbage mixed with sunflower and pumpkin seeds, with a drizzle of citron syrup. It blew my mind. The next weekend, this citron syrup came my way again, this time in Busan. Our host made us citron tea in the morning and it was a sign that couldn’t be ignored any longer. I had to make citron syrup myself.

It’s the same idea: equal amounts of sugar and chopped lemon alternately layered in a jar and leave it for at least a month. You can also add honey to this mix. And hell, if you don’t like cooking and shit, just go to any supermarket in Korea and buy a jar, pre-made.

With winter soon approaching, this tea is a really tasty, hearty way of making sure you get a vitamin C boost your immune system.

I made my batch today so it will be ready just before winter really starts biting.

And since my inner ajumma took over today I also made ginger beer, because, why not?! 😉

I love these autumn days, getting everything ready for winter! I love the Korean traditions I’ve learnt about that I have been able to incorporate into my own life. Heck, I might even make good kimchi one day!

Eat this!

A couple of weeks ago we celebrated Teachers’ Day in Korea. A lovely day where your students give you kitsch presents and cute notes about how much they love you. Teachers also got treated to 수박 (watermelon). I asked my co-teachers if Koreans ever use the rind for anything since the culture is very efficient at preserving and utilising food. They told me that some old-school grannies make watermelon kimchi but none of them have actually ever tried it.

I grew up eating watermelon jam in South Africa so I asked if it was popular in Korea. They were stunned to hear that such a thing existed. My mind was made up. I was going to have to introduce them to the syrupy gingery goodness of subak jam. I collected the left- over rinds and they just looked at me a little bit strangely.

I found a great recipe online. If you’re going to make this jam, you need time. Time to soak the rind in bicarb of soda and time for it to soak in water- basically a day’s pre-prep. I reduced the amount of sugar to 1kg, although I personally think after making it that next time I’d cut it to 500-750g. Make sure you don’t overcook the syrup at the end!

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Here’s my end result:

jam

I took a jar into school for taste testing during my “Friday Fun English” adult conversation class.  Everyone was brave enough to try at least one bite and two people had seconds. Not quite the revolution I was hoping for but I’m glad that they got to try something new.

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I plan to introduce them to South African melktert, Bulgarian Tarator soup and I want something British but I don’t know what to choose. They’ve all had apple pie before so I’m thinking Eton mess, Bakewell tart or mince pies. Or spotted dick. I’d quite like to work that into English class conversation.

What is your idea of a classic English dessert?

 

 

Weird things Koreans do to Western food

Pizza:

Koreans have taken pizza to a different level.

Expect to find sweetcorn, potato and sweet potato on your pizza. Also, you may find it useful to know that your stuffed crust may not be cheese but sweet potato. Disappointing LOL!

Instead of a mozzerella shaker/ olive oil or pepper grinder on your table you can expect to  get a side of honey to dip your pizza slice in.

On the pizza theme, my students brought me a slice of home ec pizza- pizza with a rice base. I like this actually, crunchy rice with cheese on top. Nom nom.

Bread:

You may be able to find wholewheat bread in big cities but in smaller cities and town white bread is a staple.

Koreans love white bread. They also do some crazy shit to it.

Sweet garlic bread. Absolutely traumatic the first time this happens to you. I still don’t get why they’d take a classic and butcher it. Even if it’s cheesy garlic bread it will STILL be sweet.

Bread as dessert. Take a big chunk of bread. Slather in honey/ cinnamon/ butter. That’s the kind of thing I ate as a student when I spent all my pocket money on weed and my cupboard was bare! Here it’s a thing that people pay for. SMH.

Tomatoes as fruit:

Fruit salad with kiwi, apple and tomato anyone? How about an extra of breakfast cereal added in? I cannot lie, this was strange at the beginning but now I really like it!