Friday, February 19, 2010

Street Food – Hoddeok

Street food. It's everywhere. No matter the area or the back street you take, there it is... calling your name. Street food is an accentuated drive-thru, or walk-thru rather, with the ambiance of a home cooked meal.

Buying food from a street vendor is one of the best and most convenient places to get a quick snack or the midnight munchies after a night out. The foods they serve are usually good to eat while standing or wrapped to go (finger foods / food on a stick, or even in a cup). Some vendors have cheap chairs or benches to sit on while eating. Most of the vendors have carts on wheels and some of the better ones even have tarps up so that you can eat without standing in the rain. Some of the carts have natural gas tanks for the grills as well as generators for lights and other utilities.

Hoddeok Copy

Ho-ddeok or Ho-tteok 호떡 is a variety of filled Korean pancake, and is a popular street food of Korea. It is usually eaten during the winter season.  Normally it sells for around 500 won ($0.50).  This is another one of those snacks that isn’t good for you, but tastes so good.  But really, what kind of street snack is good for you anyway?  In December a little shop opened up that sell these wonderful and delicious snacks.  I figure if I stay away from them during the week and I can feel good about getting one on the weekends.

The dough for ho-ddeok is made from wheat flour, water, milk, sugar, and yeast. The dough is allowed to rise for several hours. Handful-sized balls of this stiff dough are filled with a sweet mixture, which may contain brown sugar, honey, chopped peanuts, and/or cinnamon. The filled dough is then placed on a greased griddle, and pressed flat into a large circle with a special tool with a stainless steel circle and wooden handle as it cooks.

The last time we went to our local hoddeok shack the lady had just opened and was just about to start making the hoddeok.  Using my limited Korean I told her we’d come back in 10 minutes (십 분 = ship boon).  She smiled / laughed and nodded.  When we returned there was another couple there and I overheard her call us friends in Korean (친구 = chin-gu), I think she likes us!

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Jana and Krista enjoying a fresh hoddeok

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Here is a short clip of it being prepared (click here if you’re viewing from email).

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Happy Birthday Krista and Dano!!

Happy Birthday Krista and Danielle!!

I just want to let everyone know that on this day, February 17th 19XX two blonde little girls were born.

I guess Krista is about 15hrs older than she really is or wants to be, but when we return to North America she will gain those precious youth hours back (She’ll take as many hours as she can get ;)

Please wish these too young ladies a very happy birthday. I hope you both have a wonderful day!

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Krista and Danielle on their birthday 2009

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Krista and Danielle in Minneapolis summer 2009

Jon, Krista, Dano, Todd

Jon, Krista, Danielle and Todd

Krista, Momma, Dano

Krista, Momma and Danielle Feb 2009

Krista prepared a special birthday video for just for you Dano, with the help of her students at iSponge English, take a look! (If you’re viewing from email, click here to view the YouTube video)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Korean New Year (Seollal)

Seollal 설날 or Chinese/Lunar New Year as it is commonly referred to in English speaking countries is Korea’s biggest and most important holiday. Seollal is a three day holiday beginning one day before and ending one day after the 1st day of the Lunar Calendar.

Early in the morning on Seollal, families observe a traditional ritual called charye. They also offer up "tteokguk" (rice-cake soup), instead of rice and soup, for the deceased ancestors. After charye, younger members of the family make a deep bow to their grandparents, parents and other elders, who in return, usually give a gift of money. During the bow they normally wish each other well for the New Year.

On this day people like to play various kinds of traditional games, such as yut (a board game where four sticks are thrown instead of dice), neolttwigi (see-sawing), yeonnaligi (kite flying), and tuho (throwing sticks into a barrel). These days, people can play them at folk villages or amusement parks.

This year it falls on Sunday February 14th which makes the first day of this holiday fall on a Saturday which is already day off for us anyway. This time we really only get Monday off. In 2008 we had three weekdays off plus the weekend so we spent the holiday in Beijing which was fantastic!

On Friday we kept with tradition and made mandu soup with the kindergarteners.

In the bowl there is the mandu stuffing - kimchi, noodles, salt, pepper, some beef and pork and veggies.

Place a spoonful of stuffing onto the Mandu paper, wet the edges with a little water and fold together.

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Hye Min finished making two mandu!

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Kelly working on her second.

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Chris and Hye Min waiting to start

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Left – Right: Seung Uk, Christopher, Kelly, David and Alex

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Our director also spent time with the students showing them how to properly bow.

Danny, Albert, Seung Uk and David

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Kelly and Hye Min

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Hye Min, Kelly and our director

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Chris, Christopher and Alex

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During major holidays in Korea people usually by gift sets of just about anything imaginable to give to their family and friends. This can include spam gift sets which we received for Chuseok during our first teaching contract.


This year Krista received a Clarins Beauty gift set and I received a LAB Series for men gift set. Our director said she could have gotten food gifts instead, but she thought beauty was more important…!

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Jon’s gift set with toiletry bag

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Krista’s gift set

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I also received a DAKS London set of 3 dress socks from one of my students.

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I also received a Dettol Gift Set, looks like we won’t be running out of soap anytime soon. Do you think this gift means I smell funny?

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For Christmas, Krista received a beauty mask set from our director

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I received a lotion and toner set.

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I wonder what kind of gifts we’ll receive for Teacher’s Day this year ;)

Here is a video of the students learning the traditions of bowing and making mandu. (Click here if you're viewing through email)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

My Favourite TV Ads in Korea

The first year we spent in Korea we never bothered to get cable TV, just internet. This time around we figured it would be a good idea to have some form of entertainment while we at home in the evening. We managed to get internet and a digital cable box with 180+ channels for about $35/mo, great price!

One of our favourite channels is OCN which plays many different American movies with Korean subtitles. We get many other movie channels as well as CNN, BBC, Discovery Channel, National Geographic and Fox Life. We manage to catch a lot of different sitcoms / dramas that air a bit later here than at home. We watch CSI, House, Criminal Minds, How I Met Your Mother (known as “I Love Friends in Korea”), The Mentalist and so on. A lot of the time we just download the show and play them on the TV with a USB stick because we’re not very good at reading the tv guide, or aren’t at home. I guess you could say it’s our own PVR.

One thing I do like about Korean broadcasting regulations is their TV ad rules. There are not many commercials during a show, instead they play about 10 minutes of straight commercials before a show starts and when it ends. It’s kind of nice actually, to be able to watch an entire show with minimal interruptions and then at the end have a 10 minute bathroom break before the next one starts!

Anyway, now on to what this post is really about – TV Ads. I’ll admit I can’t stand too many Korean Ads on TV. Most of my annoyance comes from not being able to understand them (obviously). Even when you think you know what the ad is about, it’s about something completely different. Another thing that gets me is the tempo of the ads, a lot are 15 second spots and they are speaking outrageously fast! Again, I will have to attribute most of my annoyances to my lack of understanding the Korean language, but I digress.

And the part you have all been waiting for… the video!

I’m not exactly sure what the commercials are about, but for whatever reason these ads are catchy and I love ‘em.

Won Cashing Version 1 (click here if you’re viewing from email)

Won Cashing Version 2 (click here if you’re viewing from email)

I welcome comments via the blog to anyone who wants to share their opinion of what the commercial is about!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Lunch is.. um, served…

12:10pm, the bell rings and it is now lunch time. The kindergarten portion of the day is half over and it’s time to refuel for the rest of the afternoon.

Everyday at lunch we have to eat with the kids in the classroom. Basically we’re babysitters telling them to eat all their food and to stop making a mess on the table and themselves. Rice is sticky, it sticks to everything including their clothes and even their hair, and yes it happens more often than you think. Once the kids are finished lunch they have to wash their hands and brush their teeth and then it is playtime (aka break time for teachers).

We’ve taken a few pictures to show everyone what we eat on a daily basis. But first, a little background knowledge. Korean food is base upon rice, noodles, vegetables, tofu and meats. Traditionally, Korean cuisine are most known for the number of side dishes that accompany short-grain rice.

Our meals are served in box like dishes that have 4 separate sections. The largest section is for rice, the main component of the meal, the other three are for side dishes. The food here does not get mixed on top of one big plate like it generally would at home. Also, there is always a soup of some kind that is served up as well. Let’s take a look…

Lunch Box

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1. Rice 2. Jelly cubes and zucchini 3. Chicken, potato & carrots 4. Jelly cube, quail eggs 5. Kimchi radish 6. Bean sprouts 7. Egg drop soup

The rice and the bean sprouts are good, as well as the quail eggs. Surprisingly, the chicken and potatoes were decent that day also. We don’t particularly care for the kimchi radish (even though we like kimchi) so we just leave it.

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1. Rice 2. Kimchi 3. Rotini noodles and cocktail wieners 4. Sesame leaf covered in think red pepper paste 5. Bok Choi / Chinese cabbage that was pickled (we think) 6. Meat patty of some kind 7. Cabbage soup

The plain rice is ok, the kimchi this day was not good. Of the regular types, baechu kimchi there is “old or new” kimchi. New is recently made and has not been fermented as long. Old kimchi is MUCH better, and yes we can tell the difference. I don’t touch new kimchi, it smells and tastes funny (That may sound like an odd statement considering kimchi itself has a distinctive smell that lingers in your fridge and home). The noodles were “so-so” (that is a common phrase here) and the cocktail wieners were cold. I should also point out that most people call hotdogs, sausages, and other similar meats all sausage, or as Koreans pronounce it – sausagey. The meat patties again are so-so, but I like meat so I finished them off, with the a nice dollop of ketchup. The soup was pretty good and as for the Chinese cabbage, I didn’t try it (and yes, I do eat quite a bit of veggies otherwise here)

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1. Rice 2. Kimchi’d radish cubes 3. Small pieces of beef 4. Pickled cucumber (tastes nothing like a real pickle) 5. Squid and some veggies in a light red pepper sauce 6. Some kind of shellfish in a think salt red pepper paste 7. Seaweed Soup

Plan rice again.. I don’t care much for the kimchi’d radish cubes. The meat was mediocre, but the squid was delicious as always! The pickled cucumber was decent enough to eat. The shellfish was too slimy and the sauce/paste was too salty. The seaweed soup is hit and miss, sometimes it tastes too much like the ocean, other times it is a good filler for the soup and adds texture.

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1. Rice 2. Pork 3. Lettuce leaves with red pepper sauce 4. Kimchi 5. Noodles 6. Black beans 7. Cabbage soup

Surprisingly the lunch this day was not bad, minus the lettuce leaves. Krista loves the black beans! The soup was spicy and warmed us up that cold afternoon.

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1. Rice 2. Battered and fried pork 3. Fish with skin and bones 4. Zucchini 5. Daikon Kimchi (made from a root) 6. Spinich 7. Light potato soup

The battered pork was good, but then again, anything battered tastes good. I hate the fish. I’m not a fan of pulling of the skin and picking out the bones to try and get the fish, which isn’t always tasty, yuck. Krista is getting much better with her chopstick skills and ate both of our fish, sans bones. The zucchini and daikon kimchi are good and so was the soup.

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Each student has a metal dish like this. Rice on the left, soup on the right and side dishes at the top. Usually their lunch is slightly different than hours. Sometimes we have better side dishes, sometimes they do. Depending on how hungry the kids are, there can be extra dishes on the cart for us teachers to grab :)

Since our school is fairly new, we only have 9 morning kindergarten students in 3 classes. Instead of hiring someone to cook at the school, lunches are catered and delivered each day. Our lunches come in the black boxes and the students dishes are shown in the picture above. Each student brings a lunch box/tray from home each day. The rice comes in a small cooler that keeps it warm, although I see our lunch boxes get nuked in the microwave each day, with the tinfoil in it!

As you can see for yourself, these lunches are not very exciting. I try to fill up on rice and soup when I consider the side dishes to be “craptacular”. On a more positive note, we eat for free..yay!

In case you’re wondering what it is really like eating lunch with these students, take a look at this video.. priceless!

(click here if you’re viewing from email)