My landlady is a prime example of Korean kindness; any of the foreigners in my building can attest to that. She treats us with such care and consideration and I am very touched that she takes the time to look out for us. In some ways she is very motherly to us, and that quality does not go un appreciated.
Today I was walking home from the grocery store and I heard an “annyeong” from behind me. I turned around to find that she had turned the corner just after me. First let me say that my conversational Korean is very lacking; I am doing well with vocabulary, but putting sentences together is still somewhat challenging for me. My landlady is always interested in talking with me when she sees me around, and I try my best! Unfortunately I usually play most of my conversational role as a listener, but that is still good practice!
Today we talked a little about what I had bought; I told her I was going to make some jajangmyeon (a korean/chinese noodle dish). She asked me if I liked jajangmyeon, and I told her that I did. I must say that I make a pretty tasty jajang (the sauce that goes on the noodles). After a couple blocks she starts on the topic of Kimchi, asking me if I like it. I told her “Ne, kimchi johayo” which means “Yes, I like kimchi”. After that I was not able to fully understand what she was saying due only to my need for improvement in Korean. I do recall her saying something about “not spicy”; this made more sense to me later.
After I got home I had a thought. It was not news to me that she was a very kind lady, for chuseok I was given some seongpyeon (rice cake). So as I was chopping onion for my dinner I was thinking that she was probably going to knock on my door and give me some kimchi. I was entirely correct. Not even five minutes after I got home, I heard a knock on the door. I answered the door, after putting the knife down, and greeted my smiling landlady. She handed me a styrofoam container and told me that it was kimchi! I of course gave her my thanks and she went back upstairs.
Later that night I had some of the kimchi and I realized why she was saying something about “not spicy” earlier in our conversation. The kimchi was very mild and delicious (though I enjoy spicy kimchi as well). It is so wonderful to have such a kind and caring landlady!
When ordering a meal in Korea you will often get at least kimchi as a side dish; at most you will have your table overflowing with vegetables, greens, noodles, sprouts, sauces, and a wide variety of other Korean side dishes. Here I will discus a few Korean side dishes. First we have one of my personal favorites, jabchae (잡채). These are a mix of noodles and vegetables that are seasoned with sesame oil and other traditional Korean flavors.
Next we have the ever popular bean sprouts (콩나물). This is a nice and refreshing side dish that is not spicy.
Next is a style of fishcake (어묵). Fish cake is also an incredibly popular food in Korea. It may sound strange to a western palate, but it is very delicious.
The captions are above the pictures; this red dish below is dried radish (무말랭이) with chili pepper powder. Radish is also very common in Korea, but usually it is in a type of Kimchi.
Here we have the ever famous Korean kimchi (김치). Kimchi is cabbage that has been put through a specific fermenting process with chili pepper powder among other wonderful ingredients. It is a bit spicy, but the spice varies from kimchi to kimchi
Finally we have a dish called acorn jelly (도토리묵). In my opinion, acorn jelly has almost no taste other than the spice that is drizzled on top. It’s not bad, and I think it is probably good for you.
Here you have seen just the tip of the iceberg in the world of Korean side dishes. To introduce and explain all of them it would take a book. There are many dishes that are specific to different regions, so it may be hard to find them unless you visit.
As I have mentioned, this winter I went to Gyeongju for the second time. I had planned to take one whole day to hike around Namsan, a mountain south of Gyeongju. Namsan is a great place, but I will write about it exclusively in another post. As I arrived at the beginning of the path I found myself hungry; I decided to try a nearby Kalguksu (칼국수) restaurant.
Kalguksu (칼국수) is a special type of noodle; it is a freshly made soft noodle. The name literally means “knife noodles”. This type of Kalguksu was different than any I had tried before; the broth was nutty and thick rather than thin. This is because it was a very special broth made from many different grains. The server said that it was very healthy, and that it would be good for hiking. Another interesting thing was that some of the noodles were made from cactus. Cactus is not common in Korean noodles, but it was a tasty dish that gave plenty of energy for hiking!
Today was a TOUGH day. not because I had too much to do, in fact I had little to do. It is because I had a medical check-up at 2:30PM and I had to fast for 6 hours before! I had a cookie on my way out the door in the morning, but that was like trying to keep the tide back with a broom! by 11AM I was dying, well not dying, but my head was hurting and I was on empty for energy!
So during the checkup they did the usual things, height, hearing, sight, etc. I knew they were going to take blood, and I was prepared (as much as I could mentally prepare myself). You see, I suffer from a very bad reaction to intravenous needles. I get very light headed, and usually very faint. Today was different! The nurse did an excellent job of poking me, so that part was painless. On top of it all, I barely had any nervous reaction! Mom, you would be proud!
I ate dog today! Well, kinda. I saw this little guy at Dunkin’ Donuts and I had to buy him. . . and then eat him. He was so cute that I felt it necessary to cover his eyes with a napkin. He was delicious though!
So after the checkup and the lunch (we went to a small noodle shop) and the Coffee, we hopped on a train back to Jochiwon. I was really surprised, it took only 15 min and it cost only 2,600 Won! Today that is about $2.32. Plus, the train station is about a 10 minute walk from my apartment!