Freaky Food: Makchang (막창)

Sometimes, on Wednesday nights, the NETs at my school get together and grab dinner.  A few weeks ago we opted for a Daegu delicacy, makchang (막창).  Similar to chitlins, makchang is actually grilled pig intestines… sounds good, right? They belong to the anju food group, aka food to be consumed alongside soju.  I’m not a soju fan and I was sick… so I opted out.  It’s a popular dish, is appropriately freaky, and originated in this area, so we bit the bullet and tried a place near work.

our makchang on the grill

It was served with lettuce leaves for wrapping, onions, garlic, and some kind of ssamjang.  They also gave us a frosty cabbage soup and squid salad.  The pieces were pretty big so we cut them.

Ultimately… it was good.  It had a slightly sweet flavor, enhanced by the sauce.  We got the spicy variety but it didn’t pack too much heat.  Some of my fellow diners were put off by the chewy texture as well as the flavor.  My Korean coworker described it as “bold.”  Honestly, wrapped up in my lettuce leaf, I didn’t find it to be particularly strong.  Would I eat it again? Yeah.  For the price, though, I’d rather have some good samgyeopsal or galbi.

Freaky Food: Makchang
Verdict: Decent, but not worth the price

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Chuseok Vacation – Kyoto, Japan

Every fall, Korea observes its annual harvest holiday, Chuseok.  During Chuseok (추석), Koreans leave the cities and return to their ancestral hometowns.  In many ways, it is similar to American Thanksgiving (without the turkey!).

Unfortunately Chuseok fell on a Sunday this year (so much for the three-day holiday…), but we still managed to take a trip.  Andy and I choose Kyoto, Japan.

This post is very picture-heavy.  If you’re interested in seeing my photos, click the following link.

Andy at a ramen shop
conveyor belt sushi – this one is tuna
at Fushimi Inari, a Shinto shrine famous for its thousands of orange gates
5-story wooden pagoda at Toji Temple
maiko (apprentice geisha) outside of Gion Square, a well-known theater in the neighborhood
sukiyaki (Japanese hotpot with meat and vegetables) at an izakaya (Japanese pub)
Tenryuji, Temple of the Heavenly Dragon
Andy in the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
Salmon roe (fish eggs) for sale at Nishiki Market

The trip was super fast 🙁 although it might have been a blessing in disguise, because Japan is certainly the most expensive country I’ve ever visited.  Even more than Switzerland in my opinion, although some people might disagree…

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Andy’s Family’s Visit

Last month, Andy’s family came to Daegu.  Unfortunately, so did Typhoon Sanba – yet we managed to find some things to do.

First, there was a baseball game.

Samsung Lions (Daegu) vs. Lotte Giants (Busan)
Go Lions!!

Then we tried makgeolli and shabu shabu.  Yum!

During the storm, we ducked into an arcade for good old-fashioned fun.

The Champion

We feasted on duck-in-pumpkin… (Andy and I will find any opportunity to do so!)

at Goya in Igok-dong

And finally, we explored Apsan, one of Daegu’s protecting mountains.

I can see my house from here!

Andy and his family also explored Busan while I had to work.  Their trip definitely flew by!! It was really great to see some familiar faces.  Also fun to see Korea from a newbie’s eye – we might still be fairly new ourselves but it’s so easy to become accustomed to the oddities of Korean culture.

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Freaky Food: Beondegi Round 2

About 3 months, Andy and I faced one of our fears… eating bugs! Beondegi are super popular snacks at Korean events or even sold in stores, similar to popcorn or nuts.  I remember very clearly my distaste for this snack… but Andy wasn’t convinced.  A second round was in order.  Watch the verdict below.

Don’t forget my original post on beondegi!

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Thailand: One Night in Bangkok

The final day and a half of my Thailand trip was spent in Bangkok (Krung Thep to locals).  After almost a week in island paradise, Bangkok presented a sharp contrast to the relaxed lifestyle.  Like any city, the City of Angels was hot, noisy, crowded, and smelly.  But it was also full of beautiful sights, delicious food, and friendly (and not-so-friendly) people.

As with the rest of this trip, nothing was planned in advance.  We caught a cab and told the driver to take us to Khao San, the popular tourist street.  Near this area we found a hostel called Wild Orchid, which I would recommend.  Definitely cheaper than the islands, if you can believe it!

While in Bangkok, we
– saw the reclining Buddha at Wat Pho
– were approached by gem scammers but avoided trouble and scored a cheap tuk-tuk ride and free visit to the Golden Mount (as well as a free admission to a fake Buddha)
– explored the infamous Khao San road… on a Buddhist holiday on which the sale of alcohol was prohibited! A few bars paid off the police and served alcohol in coffee cups, however.
– took lots and lots of riverboats

We only had one night… so we made what we could of it!

Khao San
Making our pad thai
in a tuk-tuk
Wat Arun from across the river
in front of the reclining Buddha at Wat Pho
Plinking satang (essentially Thai pennies) into 108 pots for good luck
A Thai man and a Buddhist monk
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Thailand: Ko Lanta

After exploring Ko Phi Phi, we took the ferry to nearby Ko Lanta.  Ko Lanta is considerably larger than the Phi Phi islands, but it’s not quite as touristy.  Pair this mellow atmosphere with ongoing Ramadan (most of Ko Lanta’s residents are Muslim), and you get a sleepy slice of paradise.  Just what we wanted.

Our beachfront bungalow
Lanta Miami pool with ocean view
So close to the waves!

Due to rainy season, accommodations were ~50% off and definitely available.  Some resorts do close for the low season, but many remain open.  Upon disembarking, we took a free taxi to check out a resort.  We decided it wasn’t for us and went through the hassle of finding alternate transportation to check out another place (by alternate transportation I mean sitting in the back of an open pickup truck).  Finally we settled on the Lanta Miami Resort, full of beautiful bungalows, ocean views, and a great pool.  We decided to “splurge” and got a room literally 10 feet from the ocean waves (and poolside).  The bungalow cost 2000 baht, or about $65.  Amazing.

On Ko Lanta, we mostly relaxed at our resort, but one day we did rent a motorbike to fully explore the island.  Highly recommended, costs less than $8 for 24 hours.

Since everyone on Ko Lanta drives scooters, you can buy bottled gasoline at any roadside stand.
Ban Ko Lanta (Lanta Old Town)
Fill ‘er up
Typical architecture in Old Town; dates back to Arabic & Chinese trade routes between Phuket, Penang, & Singapore
Rubber tree plantations covered the interior parts of the island


Another highlight was eating at the Cook Kai restaurant.  We actually ate there both nights since it was so good! One of the best things I ate in Thailand was yam wunsen, a glass noodle salad with lots of citrus and fresh seafood.  Sooo good.

Cook Kai, best restaurant on Ko Lanta!

We left after two nights in order to return to Ko Phi Phi (Leh this time) for some isolated camping. Read about it here.

a beautiful sunset
one final balcony view

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Duck in Pumpkin and my first Pimm’s

For a few months now, I’ve been hearing about a magical fusion food in Korea: duck in pumpkin (호박오리, hobak ori).  I’d classify this dish as “gourmet Korean food,” considering you have to make reservations several hours in advance so they can prepare the dish.  The duck and pumpkin are smoked for several hours beforehand… it’s so good!! A friend of mine wrote all about this restaurant and dish on her food blog, My Big Bite of Life.  I recommend checking it out because it has a lot more information, including the restaurant phone number and a map.

Somehow I managed to make a reservation at 고야 for 5 people on the phone… entirely in Korean.  Might not seem like much but it was a big hurdle for me! They obviously understood because after walking to the restaurant, the hostess ushered us to a prepared table and started setting up the banchan.  The restaurant smelled divine and we couldn’t wait for ducky to arrive! The waitress could obviously sense our excitement because she quickly came back with the chef d’oeuvre.

Duck in Pumpkin at 고야 (Photo Credit: Ché of mybigbiteoflife.wordpress.com)

After finishing up every scrap of delicious duck, we went back to my place for some Pimm’s and lemonade! For those who don’t know, Pimm’s is a spicy, citrusy English liqueur.  Our friend Claire was desperately missing the stuff, and so she had a visiting friend bring it in his luggage! I think Pimm’s is mainly a summer drink, and it’s mixed with lemonade (which is really Sprite, but in England they call it lemonade…) and assorted fruits.  As far as I know, Pimm’s isn’t really available in America, so it was totally new to me.  It was certainly tasty!! All of the following photos are from the talented Emily Bell:

Preparing the fruits
Oranges, lemon, and cucumber
Claire creating the concoction…
Tada! Happy Pimm’s face!

Since it was Saturday night… we headed to my local makgeolli bar, 대포 3000.  The owner was quite taken with 5 foreigners in his bar and gave us two dishes on “service” – free! All in all… a pretty good Saturday night!

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Delivery!

In Korea, you have to be very careful.  Not from the usual threats of crime or international peril, but from a much more dangerous hazard – delivery scooters.  Scooters are apparently exempt from all traffic laws (and a few laws of common sense).  Sidewalk? Fair game.  Stop sign? Just a suggestion.  Red light? Doesn’t count if you just honk your horn at full speed!

These fearless moronic men have an important job – delivering food to hungry Koreans.  It seems like every night, I return home from work to find my front door plastered with menus and ads.  As I absentmindedly flip through the booklets, my mouth begins to water.  I wish I could order food, I think.  How delicious and convenient. But alas…

Well, it’s been about three months and it finally felt like time to do something crazy.  Andy and I decided to try to order jjim dak (찜닭), a tasty Korean dish of chicken, glass noodles, and veggies in a sweet and spicy sauce.  Last month’s issue of the Daegu Compass (expat magazine) had a guide to order food… so I took a deep breath, dialed the number, and waited for the voice on the other end.  (For a copy of this guide, see the end of this post.)

Somehow, I managed to fumble through enough Korean to state my address and my order.  The man on the other end of the line was patient and actually understood me – to my shock and delight! Of course, we had no idea if the food was actually going to arrive…

A little while later, I got a call.  The delivery man wanted some clarification on our address.  It turns out I had mixed up the words for 1 and 2 (il and i, pronounced eel and ee), but after some massive confusion, we figured it out.  A knock on the door and our food had arrived!

Our Bounty

All in all, we got:
jjim dak, hanmari (한마리), (one chicken)
pickled radish, commonly accompanies chicken dishes and is delicious
a random bottle of Coke
4 sets of chopsticks… lol

Total cost: 19,000 won ($16.10).  That’s the price of the food – there’s no tipping in Korea.  Totally worth it considering it was delicious AND we have leftovers!

I am definitely going to order food again in the future.  When in Korea, right?

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Here’s a copy of the Daegu Compass guide.  Mine did not go 100% according to script, but it was certainly a good start.

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Video: The Battle of the Oyster

Last weekend I went camping with friends to Geoje Island.  I will do a full write-up at some point, but until then, check out this video of a Korean woman shucking oysters at the harbor market.  Two of my friends ordered them as a snack.  Who knew it was this hard?

(I am switching to Vimeo from Youtube for video hosting… let me know what you think in a comment!)

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Kimbap

Kimbap (김밥) is Korean comfort food.  It’s tasty and inexpensive, and can be purchased almost anywhere.  I’m assuming it’s not that hard to make, either, although I have never tried.  Kim (sometimes spelled gim) is Korean for laver seaweed, which is the dried seawood on the outside (similar to Japanese sushi rolls).  Bap refers to the steamed rice.  Inside can be all sorts of fillings – egg, vegetables, meat or tuna, and the list goes on.  Unlike sushi, all ingredients are cooked. But like sushi, kimbap is delicious! Kimbap varies in price from 1200-2500 won (~ 1-2 USD) for a roll of several pieces.

Platter of sliced kimbap

I recently found this great video showing the production of rice and kim for kimbap.  The seaweed scenes are filmed in Busan, and the rest of it is filmed in Daegu.  I hope you enjoy!

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