Tag Archives: food

An In-Depth Guide to Visiting a Korean BBQ Restaurant (in Korea)

One of the most daunting things to do in Korea is to go to a Korean barbecue.

I’m ashamed to admit it took us a few months to go to a barbecue by ourselves We were fearing the whole situation because our Korean was so bad and we didn’t know how it all worked. We didn’t want to mess up or commit some major faux-pas so we mostly hid at home.

In the end the only thing that set my mind at ease was doing copious amounts of research so that I was completely prepared before I stepped through the doors. Later – after going to restaurants a few times – I realised we were scared for no reason at all. Going to a Korean barbecue is simple!

Continue reading An In-Depth Guide to Visiting a Korean BBQ Restaurant (in Korea)

Advertisements

The Best Places to Not Visit in New York

3056953388_4512c89d0a_b

The main aim of all travel is to have a good experience. Something we’ll remember for the rest of our lives.

When we travel we go to great lengths to produce a memorable experience for ourselves. Spend bags of money trying to create the perfect moment or memory. The ironic thing is that years later the things we remember aren’t what we originally set out to see.

A few winters ago, my girlfriend and I visited New York City. If you ask me what I remember from that time then I’d have to be truthful and say not a lot. My memories are hazy, made up of small seemingly meaningless images or moments that seem unconnected by any theme. The only connecting factor is that they happened in New York.

Continue reading The Best Places to Not Visit in New York

The Shame of Eating Hamburgers Abroad

12315877_4ba1998e4b_o

The further you get from a country, the worse its food tastes. Maybe it’s because the further you get, the less likely you are to have your food cooked by a native cook. Possibly the same fresh regional ingredients are impossible to come by in other parts of the world so the meal could never taste the same. The best place to eat sushi is in Japan, cooked by Japanese chefs with Japanese ingredients. The worst place would be in Brazil, cooked by Brazilian chefs with Brazilian ingredients. 

Continue reading The Shame of Eating Hamburgers Abroad

A Guide to Korean Fried Chicken (치킨)

If you find this guide informative, be sure to check out my Korean BBQ guide.

If there’s one thing Koreans love, it’s fried chicken. Fried chicken places can be found on almost every block, just look for the hanguel 치킨. This hanguel phonetically sounds like chee-keen and is only used to signify fried chicken, so if you find it in the name of a shop it’s almost definitely going to be selling fried chicken.

If you’re somehow unable to find a fried chicken place, type 치킨 into Google Maps or Naver Maps and it should bring up every chicken seller in your area. Many are independent businesses, but just as many are major franchises.

Walking into one of these places can be quite intimidating, as often they’re small, dark and empty. Most people ring up for delivery (which you can do too) so often you’ll just find a kitchen and a cook in a tiny room. But don’t be too intimidated, these guys want your money, so they’ll be patient while you attempt to explain what you want. Don’t know what you want, or can’t read the menu? Forget about it. Daniel is here to help with ㅁ handy list of common items. I would say this list is good for most chicken places (inc KyoChon (교촌치킨), Boor (부어치킨), BHC, Toreore (또래오래), Hosigi (호식이치킨)).

Often chicken places have little magnetic menus to put on your fridge. If you find a good chicken place nearby, take their menu home and translate it, that way you’ll definitely know what you want each time you go in. It’s a pathetic way of living your life, but it’s better than starving.

<한마리> hanmari – one portion / one whole chicken
<두마리> doomari – two portions / two whole chickens
<반> ban – half portion

<순살> soonsal – boneless chicken
<윙> weeng / <날개> nal-gae – wings
<봉> bong – drumlettes
<다리> da-lee – legs
<텐더> tehn-daw – tenders
<콤보> kom-boh – combo, usually a mixture of chicken cuts (wings and drumlettes usually)
<국내산> gook-nae-san – domestic chicken (from Korea)

Usually menus are split up in some way, either by amount (look for doo <두> (2) and han <한> (1)) or by type of chicken. Set menus <>  are common, which will often be two items separated by a plus symbol (+), so if you want two boxes of chicken go for one of these, usually a set menu also comes with a bottle of cola and a disgusting packet of pickled radish. The standard box of chicken is a whole chicken that has been cut into pieces and fried. If you’re not a fan of boney chicken, ensure you pick an item with <순살> in it.

Types of Chicken

<양념> yeung-nyam – fried chicken tossed in sweet sauce
<간장> ganjang / <소이> soh-ee – fried chicken in soy sauce
<후라이드> who-la-ee-duh – plain old fried chicken
<오리지날> oh-lee-jee-nal – original chicken (plain old fried chicken again)
<매운> mae-oon / <매콤한> mae-kom-han / <핫> hat – spicy chicken
<파닭> pa-dal – topped with raw onions
<마늘> ma-neul – garlicy
<크리스피> kuh-lee-suh-pee – crispy
<불닭> bool-dal – very spicy chicken

These are some common items found on fried chicken menus. Unfortunately it would be impossible to list every chicken item, as often chicken restaurants have their own names for their chicken which tell you nothing about the product itself. Think of it this way, if you’d never been to McDonalds before, would you even know what is in a Bigmac? When in doubt go for yeungnyam chicken, it’s the tastiest for sure.

Random Menu Terms

<소스> soh-suh – sauce
<맛> mat – flavor (eg. <매운맛> – mae-oon-mat – spicy flavor)
<콜라> koh-la – cola
<생맥> saeng-mak – draft beer
<맥주> mak-jew – beer
<세트> seh-tuh meh-nyoo – set menu
<시리즈> see-lee-juh – series (used to denote a category of chicken)
<만> man – only (eg. <다리만> – legs only)
<와> wah – with (eg. <날개와다리> – wings with legs)

How to Buy Korean Fried Chicken

Here’s a step by step run down of buying chicken in Korea directly from the chicken shop.

1. Walk into the shop. As I mentioned they’re usually tiny places, so you’ll be noticed immediately. Saying hello will be a great first step. Sometimes they’ll give you a little menu, sometimes they’ll point to a menu on the wall.

2. Decide what you want. The majority of the time, the menu will have pictures making this as easy as pointing. If it doesn’t you can do the classic travellers technique of picking something random. If you’re not that adventurous and know a little hanguel, you could use the food guide above to choose something. My suggestion is you just buy some <양념치킨> yeungnyam chicken (yeung-nyam chee-keen juseyo), it’s usually the tastiest and is available at pretty much every chicken place.

3. If you want to have your chicken delivered, hand your address over. I find its much easier to just write my address on a post-it and hand it over, that way there’s no miscommunication and it’s easy for them to know I want it delivered. If you choose a nearby chicken place, they’ll have no problems knowing where you live either.

4. Hand over your money and leave. If you don’t want your food delivered, take a seat and wait, it usually takes 15-20 minutes. Easy.

My level of Korean is pretty much 1/10, but I’ve managed to order Korean fried chicken multiple times. If in doubt, use the age old technique of shrugging while looking confused. You’ll look like a schmuck, but you’ll get your chicken eventually.

Good luck.

———–
Photo by hermitsmoores on Flickr.

Tasting Garlic Ice Cream


As soon as I heard that there was an ice cream parlour in Vancouver that sold garlic ice cream, I knew I had to go. I’m pretty adventurous in my tastes, and I love to try new crazy foods – even if they do sound disgusting – so off I hopped to La Casa Gelato with a spring in my step.

If Willy Wonka ever decided to expand his candy business to ice cream, he’d have a tough time competing with this place. Upon entering, I let out an immediate groan. There before me were an amazing 218 different flavours of ice cream, all lined up in a row. Some people might think this is a good thing, but personally I think so much choice is a bad thing. It means going through the horrible process of deciding what you want. Who the hell likes deciding stuff?

Often I’ll end up spending 20 minutes looking at a menu in a restaurant, staring at a number of choices, wishing I was a cow with multiple stomachs. “Should I have the steak…or the hamburger. Hmmm. I’ll have the hamburger. But…but…the steak looks sooo good. Ok, I’ll have the steak….but what if that hamburger is juicy and tasty? Ok. I’ll have the hamburger…” Usually, I can never actually decide and I instead have to flip a coin. This is never fool-proof though, and often I’ll still end up changing my mind again. And again. And again. As I said – who the hell likes deciding?

So there I am, trying to decide, strolling along the many flavours (and I mean strolled, 218 flavours in a line last for about half a mile!) noting down the most interesting varieties, trying to make my decision.

First there were the classics of the ice cream world, your Strawberries and Vanillas. Then there were the more modern flavours, your Rocky Roads and Cookie Doughs. After that there were what I’d like to refer to as the “awesome flavours”, the types that make you shout “OH MY GOD! YOU PUT NUTELLA INTO ICE CREAM! I LOVE YOU!” These would be your Nutellas (obviously) and, your Candy Canes.

Then there’s the disturbed ice creams. The types that were clearly thought up by some deranged psychopath, hell bent on making you vomit. The types of ice cream that could barely even be considered ice cream to a sane individual. I’m not lying to you when I say I saw the following flavours: Cheddar Cheese and Apple (really!), Pear and Gorgonzola (honest!), Jalapeno (no lying!), Bacon (seriously!), Dog Poo (ok, that’s a lie). Then, one of my personal favourites. Corn. Yup. Corn. Not Corn and Strawberry. Not Corn and Vanilla. Just Corn. Good old reliable Corn in ice cream… yum.

But let’s not forget the tastiest ice cream of all: Garlic.

With my heart set on the smelly stuff already, my decision was easy. But I also had to decide on a second flavour. Something that complemented Garlic. Hmmm. Strawberry and Garlic? Nope. Liquorice and Garlic? Bleurgh! Corn and Garlic?! Tempting…but…no thanks.

I ran along the flavours, trying desperately to find something to complement Garlic. Then I saw it. Right there in front of me, glistening in the sun. Pineapple. Good old reliable Pineapple. Pineapple goes with EVERYTHING. Pizzas, curries, desserts – pineapple is everywhere. I’d hit the jackpot here. The perfect flavour combination.

With a smile on my face I strutted over to the girl behind the counter. “I’ll have a scoop of Garlic and a scoop of Pineapple, please.” The girl gave me an evil smile. The type of grin that lets you know there’s a joke that you’re not in on. I should have known then that I was in trouble, but I’m never one to back down, so I paid up and she started to scoop my ice cream.

First she placed a scoop of Pineapple on the cone. Then she moved onto the Garlic. The tub was almost entirely full. “It’s probably so full because so many people buy it and you need to replace it all the time, because it’s delicious, right?” I exclaimed. The girl simply replied with her grin, before handing me the ice cream. “Enjoy” she said before cackling wildly into the air. I cowered from the shop, a little scared and as I left I’m pretty sure I saw her turn into a bat. (Which was weird, I thought, why would vampires be selling garlic ice cream?)

As I exited the shop, I realised the time to taste my glorious concoction was at hand. I brought my tongue up to the garlic ice cream, closing my eyes to increase my sense of taste. In slow motion, the creamy scoop touched my tongue and it was then, that I knew.

I had been duped

It tasted DISGUSTING. Imagine, if you will, that you are licking a giant wet garlic clove! Not the most tasty of things, I assure you. It tastes almost like a sweaty shoe (which funnily enough is the next flavour they’re going to make…)

Realisation quick set in, I was just another stupid tourist. Trying disgusting foods, just to say I’ve tried them! I felt pathetic. But that’s ok, I thought, the pineapple will still be enjoyable. But no, I’d been duped again! Now I knew, why the girl grinned so evilly. Now I knew the joke. To get to the pineapple, I had to make my way through the entire scoop of garlic. I cringed my way through it, belittling myself for being such a moron.

Thankfully the pineapple ice cream was almost good enough to make up for the punishment. But all day afterwards the smelly taste of garlic lingered in my mouth, reminding me that sometimes you shouldn’t do things for the sake of doing them. Especially if you know you wont like them. And especially if they take a whole packet of Tic Tacs to relieve.

Dealing With Culture Shock

Train arriving at Cairo's Sadat station

To visit a country is only to skim the surface.

You can never truly grasp a place in a few days. Sometimes understanding can take months, even years. When visiting a new country, the differences are something you appreciate, the differences are why you’re there, they’re part of the experience, you may even say they are the experience. Staring at the queer fruits and vegetables in a market you say, “Wow, we don’t get these back home!” It excites you. Everything excites you. The voices, the people, the food, the streets, the sky, the mountains. Everything.

Later, you leave, go back to the comfort of your own fruits and vegetables. Back to your own voices, your own people. Back home, to what you know and love. Back to comfort.

Culture shock happens when you try to change that home, even temporarily. When you try to make a transition between the new life you’ve started and the old life you’ve left behind. You can visit a country for a week and believe it’s the greatest place on earth. You can stay another week and the cracks might start to form. You can stay for a month and you’ll go crazy.

Those fruits and vegetables that were once so exciting fill you with resentment. Your mind struggles with the way things work in this new place. You don’t know the new systems. The magic has worn off. Nothing excites you. Everything around you is just a reminder of your old home, everything you are used to. You miss the way things were. You miss your familiar life. You miss your fruits and vegetables. You’re homesick.

In the past I worked with the notion that culture shock didn’t exist when going to a country much like your own. I’ve been to America a few times. People spoke the same language, ate the same vegetables and acted in much the same way. Their culture is the same, I thought. But, I was naive.

A culture is more than what’s on the surface, a culture runs deep. Even when the language is the same, the systems are different.

Chances are you’ve never noticed there are systems at all. Everything around you has always been there, you’ve lived in a place so long that you subconsciously know how things work. You instinctively know what to do in any situation. You understand your world.

Culture shock is understanding nothing. It’s being blind in a world where everybody around you can see. Life becomes a challenge. Riding the bus becomes a scary experience. How do you pay the driver? How do you queue? How do you get off the bus? How do you stop the bus (do you put your hand out, or does it just stop?) Everyday situations, in a new country, become obstacles, something you must overcome.

When you are faced with hundreds of new challenges each day, when buying a pint of milk becomes a task which you must consciously think about, that’s when you get frustrated, and culture shock sets in. But you can learn.

Here’s a skill you probably take for granted. If you have coins in your pocket, you can look at them in your hand and within a moment you will know roughly how much money you have. It’s something you’ve learnt at one point or another, but you never think about it. It’s almost always been there. But you must learn it again. You have to learn it all again.

The easiest way to get from A to B, where to go if you need toothpaste, who to ring if your car breaks down, what brand of tea is best to drink, where to go if you break your tooth, how to haggle at the local market.

Guides can tell you where to go, maps can show you how to get there. But there is no map to use for living. The smallest details are the most important and those are the details people never mention, because they never seem noticeable. But you will learn.

Some things come quickly – learning how to cross the street, mastering the bus, finding out how much those coins are worth. Other things come slowly – learning to talk like the locals, mastering your routine, finding out how to cook with those crazy fruits and vegetables.

Eventually though, there’s nothing more to learn. Life is no longer a challenge. Every little skill you’ve mastered is pushed back into your subconscious. You can look at the money in your hand and know what you have. You can feel comfortable knowing where you are.

Home.

——————

Photo is “Train arriving at Cairo’s Sadat station” by modenadude. Published under the Creative Commons license.

An Email Back Home (E-mail #1)

Hi guys,

So I’ve decided to send a group email out from time to time, as I think it’ll be a lot easier for me to do that than to talk with you all individually about the same things. If you’re not interested in receiving said emails, tell me so, or I’ll just keep sending them.

Anyway, on to business.

I had the best time over Christmas in Portland and was incredibly sad to leave it behind as after 3 weeks or so it was starting to feel like home. I had so much spending money that I could basically live like a king, and I spent a lot of my time walking around, finding nice places to eat, then walking around some more until I found another nice place to eat. I’ve searched my mind for a way to make money out of walking and eating, as it’d probably be my dream job, but the best I can come up with is a food critic and I don’t think that’s going to cut the mustard really.

Fortunately due to all of the walking I haven’t gained any weight. Unfortunately now that I’m in Vancouver my budget is much tighter and I’ll probably end up losing weight due to malnutrition. Have you realised how expensive meat is? (Hint: really fucking expensive!) Do you know how much bread costs? (Hint: A lot.)

I’ve already taken to shopping at the Canadian equivalent of Netto (Netto being a cheap British supermarket) and buying the cheapest unbranded goods. I no longer drink Dr Pepper, I drink Mr Popper. I no longer eat Cheerios, I eat Cheery-WOAHS. I no longer eat prime sirloin steak, I lay traps to catch squirrels in the nearby park.

Actually this is mostly a lie, I don’t buy pop (soda) because it’s too expensive.  I drink water. I haven’t eaten meat since I arrived because that too seems expensive. Possibly I’m just being really cheap, but I’m now almost a vegetarian. I look back fondly on the days when my parents bought all that yummy food for the house. Times are tough – and I’ve only been here a week.

Apart from the malnutrition, things are good. I’m currently living in the basement of a house in Kitsilano, a nice suburb of Vancouver. In the afternoon I can look out of our back window and see mountains across the water. At night (due to living near the top of a hill) you can see the city lights in the distance. The neighbourhood is lovely and my impression so far of Vancouver is that the further you get from downtown, the nicer it becomes. Downtown is all hustle and bustle, tooting horns and people – not my type of thing.

Today I accidentally found myself walking into (what I have now learnt) is the notorious Downtown Eastside. Imagine a place where dozens of prostitutes, crack addicts and the crazy loiter all day on the street – that’s the Downtown Eastside. I walked out of there pretty sharpish and met a Couchsurfer in the nearby park . I attach a photo I took in the park to give you an idea of the type of place the area clearly is.

In other news, I’m currently looking for jobs in the city. At the moment I’m just searching for office jobs, but in a month or so (or perhaps sooner once I really start to crave meat) I’ll start looking for other jobs. I’ve already contemplated a dish-washing job, that’s how much I want to buy steak and Dr Pepper.

That’s enough from me for now, hope you’re all doing alright.

Dan