Sunday, March 27, 2011

I made gimbap! I made gimbap!

So today I decided I was ready to venture out and do something I haven't done yet - make some Korean food from scratch. Whew. I've made plenty of ramen, eggs, potatoes, etc., but really not any Korean food from scratch. So I tried something pretty simple, gimbap, which is very similar to sushi, except made with more humble ingredients like vegetables, canned tuna, ham, cheese, or kimchi. This was something I could handle. I love making sushi at home, and this was like sushi lite, totally doable. Well, I must say, the final product was delicious, and I didn't even NEED soy sauce. Yum!

My humble ingredients included egg omelette strips,
Korean radish, green onions, and carrots.

My delicious sticky rice (bap) with rice vinegar and sesame seeds.

The ingredients in the gim, ready to be rolled.
Then I added some wasabi paste on top.

The final product, chopped into pieces and ready to eat!

This experience with gimbap has really boosted my confidence with making Korean food. This was a pretty simple dish, but turned out great! I ate two huge rolls! Now that I know I can do it, I am going to make more Korean food, and will definitely be filling you all in about that when I make it. Next challenge, kimchi jigae, kimchi soup!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

One Month in Pohang

So tomorrow, March 28, it will have been one month since we arrived in Pohang and I am absolutely floored. Could it be? Could it really have been a month ago we arrived here in Korea?! Was it really a month ago that we first stepped foot in this most foreign of places, and the time has flown by since then?

It has. A small part of me feels entirely integrated here, but the rest still feels that I am still in a place I know nothing about. And I don't. I don't know the language, I don't understand the culture, I don't even know the social faux pas I am likely committing on a daily basis. That bothers me, but I am slowly coming to terms with it.

Neither Rich or I would either try to say that this last month has been easy. It hasn't. We arrived with very little money and unprepared for just how different our lives would become. We've struggled with jetlag, sickness, fatigue, hunger, and culture shock. There have been days when I come back from work and only have energy to make some ramen and go to bed. These days have been few and far between. Most days have been great. We've had some amazing food, have met amazing people, and have experienced far more joy and laughter than sadness and tears.

Our jobs also are getting better. The days are long, and kids are exhausting, to say the least, but it's growing on me. Our classes are much smaller than you'd see in a public school here, which we're very grateful for. Rich and I have classes that are no larger than 12 student. Twelve 5 year olds is still a lot to handle, but we're managing so far. Our fellow foreign teachers have also been great to us and have been showing us the ropes.

Neither Rich or I could say we've been disappointed with the food, however. It's absolutely fantastic. We've loved nearly everything we've tried and it is all very reasonable. For a large lunch or dinner, you can generally get a meal for 7,000 or 8,000 won. That is about $6 or $7. For that price, you can get a large bowl or pot (to share) of boiling soup and 4 or 5 banchan, with a side of rice. The service is great here, AND there's no tipping. That's a win, win, win!

The next month has a lot on store for us as well. This first month we have not left Pohang, because of a combination of money, illness, and dogsitting (we're dogsitting for another teacher who is on vacation in America until tomorrow). Next weekend we plan on checking out some Buddhist temples, and the week after, heading to Seoul for a Cherry Blossom Festival.

Buddy, the little dog that's shared our apartment for the last couple weeks.

So here's to the next month, hopefully a joyous one, and to the spring and summer that is soon approaching.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Suh-teelers-uh! Suh-teelers-uh!

Our first Saturday here, now two weeks past (sorry for the long wait to this post...), we went to the season opener for the Pohang Steelers, the city's soccer team, with the other foreign teachers from our hogwan and spent an afternoon drinking Hite, eating Korean stadium food, and cheering on our local team!

Pohang Steelers, in red and black stripes.

We sat in what must have been a foreigners section, since we were surrounded by other waegus (foreigners). I must say, this sounds a little critical, but I was not impressed by my fellow Americans at the game, at least those that were sitting around us. They were very loud and obnoxious. Now yes, understandably, this was a soccer event, but their behavior did not blend in at all with the Koreans sitting around us. Us Americans get stared at enough here as it is, you never need to give someone a reason to stare here... I felt people staring at our section. I was a little disappointed as a fellow foreigner in Korea. Hopefully this won't become a pattern that we see while we are here...

There were thousands of these flags in the stadium,
it was beautiful when they were all being waved at once.

We didn't let it ruin the game for us though, there was far too much more to experience and see. I should explain, the Pohang Steelers are rightly named. Pohang is home to POSCO, which stands for POhang Steel COmpany, the second largest steel manufacturer in the entire world. It provides most of the steel for the largest companies in Korean, including Kia and Hyundai, which is partly why these cars are so cheap and abundant here in Korea and abroad. POSCO also happens to own the Steelers, as well as the stadium they're housed in, The Steel Yard. It's located right across the street from the steel mill. Ahhh, the smell of steel in the morning. So thanks to POSCO, we enjoyed a great afternoon of soccer. Unfortunately, they're also the reason we can't drink the water. Boooo.

The day also happened to be an outing for the Korean military men. Here, you can see that the army and navy take up about a quarter of the upper deck. For the first hour or so, I didn't even see that there were any people up there, they blend right into the stadium in their uniforms!

All the army men in their green fatigues and the navy in blue.

Two of our foreign teacher friends left early in the game to wander around the stadium to take some good shots, and we never saw them again, the whole game! We just happened to notice them sitting in another section very far away from us, eating big bowls of ramen and watching the game intently. Ramen, fried fish cakes, corn dogs dipped in sugar, and dried squid are the main stadium snacks sold, but what is more common to see is families carrying in their own food. We saw many dozens of coolers and take-out boxes carried in, some from Dominos, McDonalds, and the the like.

Our own little game of Where's the Waegu?

All in all, it was a great day and a good way to spend a Saturday off school. Hopefully we will get to another Steelers game before we leave here, but maybe next time I'll sit with some Koreans and grab me some dried squid or ramen...

Jukto Market: Part II

One of the many, many streets that lead into the market...

On the harbor, an example of a Korean fishing boat.

A big bag of dried anchovies (left) and another bag of dried fish (species unknown...)

Every Korean produce item you could ever want, in one place!

Another showcase of dried fish; these were on every block of the market.
Anyone know what it is?

Fresh octopus, displayed with perfectly curled tentacles for your viewing pleasure.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Jukto Market: Part I

Checking out Jukto Market was our first exploration of Pohang. The market spans many many blocks, and is a very important seafood market in South Korea. You can find any Korean ingredients you could want or desire here. Fresh fish and seafood of all kinds are available here, including king crab, sea cucumbers, sea squirt, octopus, squid, flounder, shrimp, anchovies, sea rays, and nearly anything else you might want. fresh fruit and vegetables are also quite abundant, and the most popular things are cabbage, Korean radishes (not a typical red radish, I haven't seen those here at all), prepared kimchi, sesame leaves, seaweed, Korean leaks (which look like big-ass scallions), dried sardines, mung bean sprouts, chili powder, and bean pastes (doenjang). On top of all this, many street vendors and small restaurant joints serve anything from sweet pastries to raw fish and squid.

This woman is deveining and chopping sea squirt (meongge).

Most alleyways at the market looked similar to this.

Freshly caught and gutted fish was aplenty at the market.

She was selling sesame leaves and Korean cabbage, which are both delicious with galbi gui which is marinated and grilled beef, grilled at your individual table in a restaurant.

A woman selling seaweed harvested from the ocean. Yum!

one week in Pohang

It's been a little over a week since we've arrived in Pohang, and it feels as if we've lived several lifetimes. We have already seen and experienced so many new sights, smells, and sounds. Korea is lovely. I can't lie, it's been difficult since we've arrived, but it's a great new adventure we're beginning here.

The first day we woke up on Korea, we knew this would be a whole new world to us. Hungry and jetlagged, yet motivated to explore, we ventured out from our motel and walked down our new street. Since neither of us can read Korean, we walked past every little shop and storefront down each block, eagerly sniffing the air to catch a whiff of an edible morsel. We walked past butchers, convenience stores, "business rooms", pet stores, and cellphone shops, but finally, we found it: a restaurant! We crept into what seemed to be the equivalent of a diner in Korea, and a small electronic bell chimed to announce our arrival.

Our waitress greeted us with "Anyeong-haseooooooooo", and ushered us to a table, then presumably asked us what we would like... in Korean. Rich and I looked at each other, and searched the room for what to do next. Luckily, there was a large poster with pictures of the food the restaurant serves, and we both pointed enthusiastically at a picture of big bowls of soup. The woman laughed and bowed knowlingly, and quickly scuttered off to grab water, glasses, and the various banchan (side dishes) to accompany our meal.

Not even knowing quite what we ordered didn't even matter to Rich and I at this point. What mattered was that we had FOOOOD on the way! When it arrived, we were not disappointed. We were delivered two big, heaping, steaming bowls of red hot broth filled with cooking beef, noodles, cabbage, and leeks. Our banchan included (clockwise from the top): kimchi, pickled turnips, wood ear mushrooms and sesame, sesame-seasoned seaweed (try saying that ten times fast), lettuce cups, and a small bowl of doenjang [middle (fermented bean paste)].

We DUG in like we hadn't eaten in years. The broth warmed us to the bones, and the beef, noodles, and cabbage made this meal a delicious stick-to-your-ribs instant classic. Korean food is very comfortingly warm, spicy, and filling, and our first meal was just this.

As we ate, other diners came and went. Another couple sat at the place adjoined to our table, and began to eat their meal; we noticed the man speaking in English, and we perked our ears. Coincidentally, he turned out to be an English teacher at a local public school, and had been teaching English for nearly 30 years. We conversed a while and talked about America, teaching in Korea, and his deep love and adoration of Pohang, the city we had just met.

It was a lovely beginning to our time here, and a lovely greeting to this strange, amazing, foreign place we will call home for a year.

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