remember when it was winter and i kept saying “i can’t wait till summer!” and everyone around me kept saying “no, summer is worse!” and i didn’t believe them?
i thought ‘how could summer be bad? so what, it get a little muggy. i’m from the east coast, it gets muggy there. and i’ve already braved the california heat.’
joke’s on me, of course. the east coast humidity is a desert compared to korean summer humidity. take it to heart when people warn you about mid-summer stickiness in korea. you’re looking at changing clothes a few times a day, unless you’re comfortable wearing soaking wet clothes with your underwear showing through.
before coming here, i couldn’t imagine a summer without sunshiny blue skies all the time. what was a summer if not sunny and blue skied? surely, they wouldn’t call it summer if it wasn’t sunny and blue. but alas, i am still such a rookie traveler and so i am learning all these no-shit-sherlock factoids about the world, like how different parts of it aren’t graced with the perfectly temperate four season year of california.
so here’s my recommendation for surviving summers in korea:
-lots of cheap, thin clothes
-flip flops or jelly shoes
-air conditioner installed above your bed
-cafes = free air conditioning.
-eat samgyupsal (but not too much)
-korean bbq ftw
-soju cocktail (kiwi only)
-stop caring about how your hair looks
on the up side, though, today was pay day. which meant a good celebratory lunch and a very cheap shopping spree where chris and i both finally scored new shorts (which chris desperately needed- i have no idea how the poor fella has managed this weather in a single pair of pants) and t-shirts for about $60 total (yes- for both of us). chris’ new duds looked so good on him i think i actually squealed when i saw him. like a valley girl.
also on the up side: i’ve concluded my research on korean stone fruits. turns out they mostly suck, with the rare exception of some plums, but the grapes are good enough to completely make up for it. they are not the watered down, bloated variety i am used to seeing at u.s. supermarkets. these are full of rich flavor and with a perfect texture.
grapes are for sale everywhere and they are awesome. my favorite part about eating korean grapes is that, as i was taught, you don’t eat the peel. so you squeeze the grape and suck out the middle, leaving the skin. i was told this is because of pesticides, but i do it mostly because it’s fun.
especially on a hot day, there are few things more refreshing than squeezing these grapes from their peels, with their perfectly firm jelly texture and complex, tart, musky flavor. the seeds in the middle are fun to chew on and the color of the grapes alone makes for a great aesthetic experience. they are perfectly formed, plump, well clustered, and with a thick, musty skin that separates easily from the pith inside.
with chris around, i’ve been able to discover a few great new restaurants as well. turns out, there’s a whole slew of them over by my apartment. we discovered this jackpot of restaurants when we followed the recommendation of a friend, who spoke highly of a particular soup restaurant. turned out, the place was surrounded by awesome looking restaurants.
we loved the soup restaurant, which served (among other things) heaping bowls of homemade noodle soup in a white bean broth. the long handmade noodles were various colors. beautiful shades of purple and sage green were sporadically mixed in with the regular noodles.
today we really hit the jackpot when we stumbled upon a killer traditional korean restaurant right next door to the soup joint. this place was just what i’ve been hoping to find in my neighborhood. you order an entree and it comes with a massive selection of side dishes plus rice and soup. we came at lunch time, when the place was completely swamped with middle-aged office workers and ajummas getting their lunch on in big, jovial groups. we were greeted by the most energetic and friendly man, and while we had our second encounter with getting our food later than everyone else around us, the experience was completely fulfilling.
we ate samgyupsal (triple fat-layer pork slices), seaweed soup, bell peppers in a thin mustard sauce, fish in red pepper sauce, fried fish skins in a sweet sticky sauce, lotus root in a cold and creamy peanut and walnut sauce, fresh and authentic kimchi, sesame green onions, japjae (glass noodles with veggies in oil), and a bazillion other mysterious, exciting, and delicious things we didn’t recognize. we practically had to be rolled out of the restaurant. and all of that healthy, homemade, decadent, artfully plated food for around $10 per person.
i’m going to have the hardest time adjusting to food costs in california after eating like a complete queen here in korea.
which brings me to my next point: still haven’t figured out what to do with my life.
but never mind all that.
the point is that right now chris and i are living the life abroad. with my work schedule recently having doubled in hours, things are a little hectic and our weekdays are taking on the rigid schedule of a family of 6, somehow. but we treasure our afternoon lunch hours, when we can lounge by the air conditioner and eat together.
we’ve also managed the ever-popular pinterest darling of all recipes: the microwave cookie.
first, some background: living in korea means living without an oven. this is by far one of the greatest sacrifices i have had to make. no baking. do you know how intensely delicious and tantalizing the very idea of a fresh baked cookie becomes when left to rise in your memory? it becomes like torture.
even still, i was really skeptical when i first saw the recipes for a microwave cookie. i thought ‘there’s absolutely no way this can be good.’ and while the first time was a big disaster, the second and third and fourth have all been perfectly impressive. as have the preceding twenty.
so, if you haven’t seen the recipe yet (because you live with your head in the sand), here it is:
melt about a tablespoon of butter, in a mug.
mix in two tablespoons of sugar. one brown. one white.
mix in one egg yolk.
mix in a little less than a 1/4 cup of flour.
add chocolate chips. or whatever.
microwave for 40 seconds or so.
it will still be a little gooey on the top when you take it out. this is good, because the mug gets hot and will continue to cook the cookie after you’ve removed it from the micro.
while we’re talking about baked goods, i’ll dish out my final and best recommendation (you faithful readers get the goods!).
go to the baking store! it is awesome and easy to find. the people are cool, some of them speak english, and they have all kindsa awesome products at cheaper prices than a lot of the main stores. peanut butter is cheaper, too, which is essential in our household since we put it on everything (the egg is the only comestible that has escaped this fate). there’s also massive bags of parmesan cheese (grated, unfortunately, so not incredibly pungent in flavor but, hey, it’s real and it’s a really reasonable price). they have sour cream, whipping cream, cooking and baking tools galore, bob’s redmill whole wheat flour, and awesome tortillas. the frozen tortillas can be re-enlivened by simply being placed in a hot pan for a few seconds.
take subway line 1 (red line) to daegu station. exit 4. walk straight. shop is across the street and down. the vertical yellow sign (reads: sam won) is visible from the subway exit. entrance is upstairs. for more details and pictures, visit this fellow bloggers great post here.
and with that, i leave you with a friendly reminder: about the elephants, don’t forget.