How long have we been here?!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

The Art of International Dining in Korea

So, I've told you in the past about the adventures of dining in Korea. Here's another story to add to the list!

A couple of weeks ago we went to eat Italian food at this little bistro called Angelo's. Now, when dealing with any other nationality of food in Korea, you're pretty much taking your chances on what you're actually going to get. Korea is such a homogenous country they really don't have a wide variety of nationalities here, hence, not the best for international fine dining.

My friend Rob had been to this restaurant before so about 6 of us head there. It is a cute little hole in the wall, one room restaurant. The kitchen ran the whole length of the restaurant and there were two people working, a brother and sister. She provides us with menu's that are hand written on construction paper and tied together with yarn. Cute, if Ajenai had made them, not so much for a restaurant. However, I'm still open minded and up for the adventure in Italian cuisine.

There's not much on the menu, but about 3 folks opt for a salmon and pasta dish and I order pasta with chicken. Pretty safe I think, who can mess with rigatoni, linguini, penne, or fusilli, etc? So we order and about 10 minutes go by with us sitting, no water, bread, nothing. Now, all 6 of us are starving. I don't know what it is about Seoul, but we tend to eat something when we wake up (about 12!) and then nothing until dinner, which usually turns out to be about 8pm by the time folks arrive and we decide what to eat, etc. I've told you that the kitchen is right there and we can see them preparing the food as well as they can see, and hear, us. My friend Sha is loudly complaining about how starving she is. The waitress/chef is eyeing us with trepidation to say the least. Finally, some bread arrives at our table. They give us 3 pieces of about 2 inch thick slices of french bread with olive oil and garlic on the top. Sha says, "I guess we're supposed to share?!" Well, we do and the bread is not bad.

Another couple of minutes go buy and the waitress/chef comes back to our table and says, "So sorry, no salmon, all gone." Now, this is a phenomenon I have found unique to Korea. Restaurants typically just run out of food! You order something, and they come back and say, "so sorry, out of meat!" Not just hole in the wall restaurants either but also like Friday's and Outback. One Vietnamese restaurant we went to was closed at 7pm cause they said they ran out of food, everything! Do these people not know how to order supplies?

So of course, all 3 folks who ordered salmon are totally put out. I'm wondering, how did the lady not know there was no salmon when they ordered? The fridge is barely 10 feet from our table. We order, you open the fridge, see no salmon, come back and say, "no salmon". Not wait about 20 minutes!

Anyway, they all order new meals and we're straight. For awhile. But we're still really starving. So my friend Denise finally gets the waitress/chef's attention and says, "can we have more bread?" And the lady says, "more bread?" and Denise says, "yeah, more bread." and the lady says, "Umm, wait, wait." Then she goes back to the kitchen, puts on her coat, and leaves the restaurant!

Denise looks at us and says," she's going to buy some bread." I say, "no, that isn't what's happening. It's gotta be something else." 10 minutes later, the waitress/chef re-enters the restaurant carrying. . . a loaf of bread! Denise looks at me. Ok, ok, I was wrong. Then the waitress/chef brings over the bread. This time, we get no slices of garlic and olive oil on top, just a cut up slab of dry french bread thrown on a plate. Guess the waitress/chef is not that happy with us!

Finally, our food arrives. It's not looking bad and I'm getting excited for my rigatoni, linguini, penne, or fusilli,etc with chicken. Just so we're all on the same page here, when you see on a menu, pasta with chicken, what exactly comes to mind? You expect some form of pasta, (rigatoni, linguini, penne, or fusilli,etc) with sliced or shredded or cut pieces of chicken, hopefully chicken breasts, right? Apparently, not at Angelo's. My plate of dazzlingly red pasta is set in front of me, with chicken drummets strewn throughout the plate! Everybody looks at my plate and starts laughing. "Hey, that's pasta with chicken, right?" Not exactly what I imagined, but hey, it's Korea. And when in Korea, do as the Korean's do. So I ate my Italian spaghetti with chicken drummets without complaint!

Until next time!

Sunday, March 2, 2008


Hello, hello everyone!

Welcome to my blog! I'm so excited to invite the whole world along on my grandiose adventures, (even if they are only grand to me!).

Many of you have been joining me vicariously through my "Postcards from Korea", well this is just an expansion of that. My goals here are two fold, to really keep an accurate account of my daily adventures in Korea and to keep everyone at home entertained!

So feel free to check in every once in awhile and see what Ajenai and I get in to!

A Day in Insadong

A New Misadventure!

This Saturday was a Korean holiday, Indpendence Movement Day. I didn't know this until I was out in the street, but it provided a lovely opportunity for some cultural enrichment for me and the kid. We traveled with a friend to an area of Seoul called Insadong. It's like a huge shopping area for visitors. It's full of shops, and vendors, and food, and museums, and art gallery's, you get the picture.

The main street is closed to vehicles, so we got the opportunity to wade through a sea of living bodies as we explored the shops. Occassionally, we were with the flow and moved with the living sea, however, more often than not, we were going against the tide. When this happened, we got to seek refuge in one of the many shops lining the streets. There's a ton to see in Insadong and we tried to see it all.

The first thing we did was try out some traditional Korean activities that were part of the Independence Movement Day celebration. We drank citron tea and hot chocolate (Koreans eat with every event, just like black folks!) then we played a Korean stick toss game (I'm positive that is the traditional name!). Ajenai and I sucked, but my friend Keena got 2 sticks in the bucket! May not seem like much but she was the only one of about 30 people that could manage that!

Then we moved into this mall that is built around a central courtyard. It's kinda cool cause you walk up this ramp and it takes you in a spiral all the way to the 4th floor. I mean it's cool if you go with the flow of traffic. Sometimes we were swimming with the fishes on that score, but most of the time it was like a shark feeding frenzy and it was all we could do to duck and cover! Ajenai even pushed this guy cause she said she was tired of getting trampled!

Anyway, before I got side tracked, I was going to tell you that they had some men dressed in traditional Korean clothes and they were making this rice candy that is for sale everywhere in Seoul. The rice paste along with some green vegetable (didn't even wanta ask what it was exactly!) are placed in a wooden bowl and they are mixed together by pounding with a heavy wooden mallet. The man was picking folks from the audience to try and pound the stuff, so of course, I shoved Ajenai forward! She barely pounded the stuff once! And it took her 3 tries to lift the mallet. The audience clapped for her and everyone said how cute she was, and of course I agreed. Then we went into several shops in the mall. It was nice, they had hand made paper stores, clothing stores, and a gang of jewelry stores. The most interesting items were the korean foods (from yummy to icky, mostly icky) and I have attached a link with pictures so you can see everything in living color.

Until next time!