Monday, May 17, 2010

RE:turn to Korea

Well... once again I find myself adjusting to Korea culture anew. I did have several advantages this time knowing what exactly I was getting into arriving in a different season is all together a new experience and a different perspective.

From the second the plane landed my heart began to race even more so this time because I knew what was waiting... the smells, the bus ride, my personal bubble being popped. Its all just assulting to the senses to say the least but this time SHOULD be easier.. right? or so I kept telling myself. Six weeks away and I find myself not half as excited to go through culture shock as I was the first time around. Six weeks is just enough time to re-adjust to old comforts as the not so distant memories of cold showers and crispy air-dryed clothing fade away.

So here I am, back in Korea. Lots has changed and yet other things remain. The colors and smells have changed. The winter was brown and bleak when I left. I have returned to a vibrancy I never knew existed. I hardly recognized our street which is now lined with lucious leafy green trees. The fields big and small have sprouted and the brown and death of winter has all but disappeared. Its just incredible. Even the people have changed. Everyone is much more cheery. Kids are happy to be outside even if it is just to walk between school, Taekwondo lessons, and English school. The girls play jump rope in the school yard behind our apartment. They sing, laugh, and dance to their favorite K-Pop (Korean pop music) songs.

Even the grocery store looks refreshed and renewed. They did a reset of almost ALL the merchandise ( thank-you Ben for providing me with the correct terminology here back to the Coke stock boy days). It was like day one trying to find my way around the store. The fresh produce has thankfully become much more plentiful but there is still a lot to figure out. 

Example... these yellow things were every where clearly being the latest seasonal fruit. They are sold by the 20lb box, basketful, or individually. Of course I had to pick one out and try it. Here's what they look like inside and out (the ones here all have the white stripes many other pics I found weren't:

I chopped one up and removed the skin w/ a peeler as its not as think a skin as a larger melon. It was an odd taste to say the least. I was desperately hoping for it to taste like a Honey dew or even a cantaloupe but alas it was very odd. Maybe it just my palate but it tasted like someone had dumped and exhorbitant amount of salt on a honey dew... juicy and crips as it was I just could not get past the sea salty hardly fruity flavor. I'll still try another one because maybe this one wasn't rip or something but I was quite disappointed with the flavor. I love the look of them though, they are small but so bright and cheery and fun size! 

Being back also made me realize how much I missed Korean food oddly enough. I didn't think I'd grown so fond of it but apparently I did. I did so much that I was craving a few things upon arrival including a nice fresh roll of Kimbap (a seaweed roll with rice, pickled radish, cucumber, carrot, egg, ham, and ferns)

 there are several varieties but I tend to stick with the original version. Next on the list was bibimbap (one of the best known Korean dishes)

 and finally Ddeokbokki, a dish I came to enjoy as a result of time spent at Mr. Lee's house. Mrs. Lee makes the best version I've had yet. I decided I wanted to make my own version today after some research. Here was my result:                                 The raw ingredients ( I decided last minute not to throw in the Enoki mushrooms).
Napa cabbage, garlic, Korean sweet potato, carrot, ground pork, and the rice 'cakes' are in the pink bowl on the left.

It didn't turn out as good as Mrs. Lee's but I altered the recipe a bit by adding a few more veggies and the ground pork to make it a little more substantial and for the extra flavor boost. The sauce just wasn't quite right either, I like how creamy and flavorfully spicy Mrs. Lee's is, mine was good but not like I'd hoped. More research and I'll give it another go another day. 

Another thing I learned I took for granted.... ice cubes. Silly as it is when you are all jazzed up ready to have a delightful iced beverage on a day when its 80 something degrees and there are no ice cubes to make it happen talk about disappointing. Here s a comparison:
                                          Korean ice cube tray.... these could hardly keep a Korean size drink chilled.

Amy's creative solution: Texas size silicone cupcake shaped ice cubes : )

So, thats about it for today.... 

1 comment:

Casey said...

OMG, our melons were not salty or briney. That sounds terrible. The ones we bought were really mellow and like a denser honeydew. Your ddukbokki looks good. We'll have to swap Americanized Korean recipes.