06 January 2010

Elle Magazine puts out a publication called Elle à Seoul that profiles trends, eateries, and shopping destinations throughout Seoul. It's one of those magazines that I would never pay money for, but can't wait to read for free at a cafe or salon. I love looking at all the glossy photos of pretty things and pretty places. This month's issue has a feature on two of my favorite things: Dessert Cafes and Winter Street Food.

I think the magazine did a particularly good job of capturing some of the most popular street snacks for the winter season in "겨울, 길거리 부페의 핫트렌드" (Translation: "Winter, Street Buffet Hot Trend"). I take some issue with the "Hot Trend" label. I mean some of these snacks (e.g, chestnuts and the sugar candy) have been around for a long time, but for the most part, it's a good list.

I wish I could provide you with a better quality scan of this article, but you'll just have to settle for my shoddy digital photography. Because I'm sure you're interested, here are my notes on each of these snacks. *Please note that the prices listed come from the Elle article. Actual prices may vary.

(Clockwise, starting with the bun int the dragon's mouth)
1. 용알 (yong al, Dragon's egg, 2000 won) I've never tried one of these, but according to the article, you can find them in Insadong. They're little buns stuffed with different fillings like bulgogi-flavored or mandoo-flavored stuffing. I will need to seek this one out.
2. 미니와플 (mini waffle) This mini Belgium waffle trend really started popping over the summer, but continues to persist in its popularity. You can get the waffle smothered in various flavors of syrups, ice cream, and whipped cream, but I prefer to eat it plain, fresh from the oven. What's not to love about a warm, MINI waffle that you can eat on the go? Plus, it's usually only 1000 won.
3. 왕슈크림 (wang shu curim, King Cream Puff, 1500 won) I'm not a fan of cream puffs, so I can't really endorse this one, but I've seem them sold all around Myeongdong. Sold at 1500 won, they seem like quite a bargain, but having seen the vendors prepare the cream puffs at their street carts, I have to say, they don't look very appetizing.
4. 모둠꼬치 (modum kkochi, Assorted food on a stick, 3000 won). Chicken on a stick. Sausage on a stick. Heart attack on a stick. Processed meat on a stick is a favorite amongst carnivores on the run. The "stick" pictured in the article consists of mini sausages and ddeok galbi: rice cake encased by mystery ground meat. I'm a fan of the ddeok galbi concept, but am not really impressed by its execution. It's the darn sauce. The ddeok galbi marinade is a mixture of goju-jang, ketchup, and sugar, followed by a liberal stream of mustard. It's sauce overkill. Like most of the food-on-a-stick I've tried in Korea, ddeok galbi is worth trying, but I don't think I'd eat it again.
5. 회오리감자 (Cyclone Potato, 2000 won) It's basically a deep-fried spiral of potato. It looks really appealing, but is rather disappointing in taste. In my opinion, it tastes like a spiral of soggy potato chips. On the other hand, there always seems to be a ton of people eating these potato spirals in Myeondong, so there must be something about these potatoes that I'm just missing.
6. 꼬치옥수수 (kkochi oksusu, Corn on the Cob) It's corn on the cob. You can't go wrong-- unless it's been sitting in a vat of murky water all day long...
7. 달고나 (dalgona, 1000 won) This candy is also known as 뽑기 (bbobgi) because you're suppose to punch out the design impressed on the circle. I can rarely finish a whole candy on my own, but that smell of melted sugar and baking soda is sure hard to resist.

(Clockwise, starting with the crunchy snacks in the baggy)
8. 강정과자 (gangjeong gwaja,
starting from 3000 won) This is an old timey snack made out of corn powder and a bunch of other things. It tastes like a peanuty rice cracker.
9. 풀빵 (pul bbang, 5 for 1000 won) It's a bite-sized, crispy-ish glutinous rice cake filled with a bean paste. The bbang is quite unappealing when it gets cold, so you'll want to gobble them up as soon as you get them.
10. 딸기빵&똥빵 (Ddalki bbang & Ddeong bbang, 4 for 2000 won) Only found in Insadong, these bean filled buns come in two very appetizing shapes. (1) Dalki, a popular Korean character with a strawberry-shaped head or (2) a swirl of poo. I've already written about these breads, but to keep it short, they're pretty disappointing as far as bean-filled buns go.
11. 꿀타래 (ggultarae, Honey Almond Candy, 10 for 5000 won) If you've been to Myeongdong or Insadong, you've undoubtedly seen a stall full of young men in white hawking these sugary confections of honey and almond. They're a little to sugary for my taste, but the candy seems to be a popular take-home gift for visitors. Even more remarkable than the candy is the little show they put on when they make the candy. If you haven't already, you should definitely watch them do their candy spiel. It's quite entertaining. Here's some footage from youtube user 1wd13mp.
12. 핫바 (Hot Bar, 1500 won) There's always a line of people waiting for this fishcake-on-a-stick in Myeongdong, but I swear, there's only a line because there is a line. It's sort of a monkey see, monkey do phenomenon. I've tried one of the ggae-nip wrapped, deep-fried fishcakes. Nothing to write home about. I mean, you can't really go wrong with fishcake. Just be sure to eat it slowly. Remember, it's been deep fried, so it'll be hot.
13. 케밥 (Kebab, 3000 won) Some savvy folks in Myeondong have Koreanized the chicken "kebab" by changing up the seasoning on the chicken and smothering the wrap in, what's essentially, thousand island dressing. Again, I think they're a little to liberal with the sauce, but it's not bad.
14. 군밤 (gun bam, roasted chestnuts, 3000 won) I can't believe I haven't eaten any roasted chestnuts this winter. Having grown up in a chestnuts-less locale like Hawaii, roasted chestnuts were a special occasion snack that came sold in those fancy red paper envelops at the Japanese market. Chestnuts are even better in the Motherland because you can buy them already peeled.
15. 구운오징어 (gu-un ojingeo, grilled squid, 2000 won) The Elle article describes the 2000 won squid, but you must go to Myeongdong and spring for the 5000 won bag of squid. I have no idea what the vendor is called, but there's a stand that only sells grilled ojingeo, and it's SO GOOD. They manage to someone maintain the squid's chewiness, but still infuse it with a nice smoky flavor. At 5000 won a bag, it's pricier than other street vendors, but the squid is definitely superior. It's best enjoyed right after it's been grilled. Note to self: Take a picture of the squid and post.
16. 옥수수 호떡 (oksusu hoddeok, 900 won) This deep fried, sugar-filled pancake is a street food staple. Though a big fan when I first arrived in the Motherland, I'm no longer a fan of the deep fried hoddeeok. It's too greasy. I prefer the "diet" aka "Chinese" aka "original" style hoddeok. It's grilled (?) instead of fried. It kind of taste like a crispy flour tortilla with a warm, sugary center.

Okay, now I'm hungry.
I'm going to go find me some roasted chestnuts.

04 January 2010

Current Obsessions: Current Snow and Eye Sight

I woke up this morning to see a massive blanket of snow across the whole 'hood. Apart from Tahoe, I've never seen so much snow in my life! It snowed a few times last winter, but I don't recall ever seeing this much snow in Seoul. Needless to say, I'm pretty excited.

Cyndi has a sore throat, so we decided to trek to the pharmacy. Very prudent, I know. The Iditarod dogs weren't available, so we had to settle for Piggy. Unfortunately, Piggy gave up after a few stomps through the snow. Piggy don't do snow.

Here we are bundled up like an Olsen twin. This is not me trying to be fashionable. This is me trying to protect my eyes... and obscure the fact that I'm in my PJs.

Look at all that snow. The snow is knee-deep. (Granted, my legs are only about a foot-long.)

Check out the walkway up to our apartment. We thought we were going to need to sled our way to the pharmacy. Man, that would have been so cool!

This is Piggy's first, and if she has anything to say about it, last time trekking through the snow. Before, y'all are like, "Poor Piggy!" please take a look at the next picture.

This dog is is 11 years-old. She's virtually a halmoni. We saw her prancing through the snow, and she seemed unfazed. She gave Piggy this look like "Ya, what the heck is your problem?" Piggy replied in turn with a gaze that said, "Bi***, please. I trained my humans to carry me around, and keep me warm."

Okay, enough about the snow. Take a look at this pic. This is the last time you'll see me wearing glasses (at least, ones with real lenses). I'm hoping that by the time I need to wear glasses again, I'll be too old to blog.

Last week, my cousin Daniel (Cyndi's bro) and I finally had the Lasik surgery done, dun dun dun. Daniel had his surgery on Tuesday. After seeing that his surgery went off without a hitch, I then followed on Saturday. I'm told that it takes about a week for my vision to recover fully, but so far I've had no complications. It's like I'm wearing contacts, except... I'm not.

Here's a pic of Daniel pre-surgery. (Dude, you weren't looking very So Ji Sub-like that day.) The Lasik may have taken care of his poor eyesight, but I don't know if it did anything for his pirate's stare.

They give you a little beany pillow to grip during the surgery. It was quite comforting.
The surgery isn't all that bad. The worst part is the device that pulls back your eyelids back. It's not painful, but it is uncomfortable (Just imagine someone pulling at all four corners of your eye). My eyeball was all numbed up, so I wasn't bothered by any of the scraping or lasering. I was surprisingly calm throughout the procedure, that is, until the doctor would tell me, "Don't be scared. It's just a little water. Don't be scared." That's when I did start to get a little scared. Fortunately, I was distracted by the machine's funny noises. It sounded like a copy machine from the 80s. It was very clunky. I also found the sound of burning eyeball flesh quite amusing. Is that weird?

It's been two days since the surgery. I go in for a check-up tomorrow. I can see quite well (though not quite at 20/20 yet). My vision is supposed to continue to progress over the next week or so. The doctor and the nurses kept warning me against touching my eyes, so being as neurotic as I am, I've become quite paranoid about my ability to control my compulsion to rub my eyes.

That's why I've been quite diligent about wearing my protective goggles. (Or, when I'm feeling cool, my sunglasses.) The plastic goggles make feel like one of those four-eyed NBA players. Pretty hot, right?

02 January 2010

New Eyes for the New Year

What the what? It's 2010! Where did the year ago?
I'm currently blogging from the eye doctor's office. That's right. I'm finally getting the Lasik surgery. I chickened out last year, but now I'm ready.
The next time I blog, I shall have 20/20 vision, or so they tell me.

See you later.