Saturday, December 5, 2009

Episode 38: In Which DFM Gets Kicked Out Of A Restaurant, And Visits A Korean Doctor (Fish)

With less than a month to go, and essentially only the weekends to meet people, the race is on to try and see all of my friends one more time before I leave Seoul for Ulsan at the end of the month.

Back in September I leant Charles a couple of my favourite books and I wanted to get them back, so I figured I would start with him. Since I had planned to meet some friends in Gangnam at 6 PM, Charles suggested we have lunch there at 1:30 PM. Conveniently, he only lives a 5 minute walk away (I, on the other hand, live about an hour and twenty minutes away by subway).

(The Samsung corporate building in Gangnam. Or at least that's what Charles told me it was.)

I can't remember what Charles and I ate exactly, but it involved mixing a package of store bought ramyeun noodles into a stew of vegetables, ddeok, and some sort of mashed up meat scraps sausage that tastes a little bit like pepperoni.

Charles told me that back when Korea was poor (about 60 years ago), its people were forced to eat anything they could find. One of those "anythings" involved collecting leftovers from the American soldiers, and that's how this soup (I can tell you it's budae jjigae, now that I've looked it up) came about. Apparently, in one of the first budae jjigaes, or "ham and scraps stew" as its also known, there was even a used tissue from one of the soldiers. Funny story aside though, I'm continuously impressed with the resourcefulness of Koreans when it comes to making food.

As far as I can tell, the traditional Korean diet consists of little more than cabbage, pepper, seaweed and rice/ddeok. With these few ingredients, and some minor tweaks (like adding ramyeun noodles), there have grown unlimited combinations, tastes and textures. I will surely miss Korean food when I return to Canada.

After finishing the budae jjigae, we went to have ice cream at my favourite ice cream chain, The Cold Stone Creamery. I told Charles to order me a medium, but he came back with the large size. When I finished I was stuffed full, but then the girls working at the front brought us a couple of small sample cups each, and asked us to fill out a taste test questionnaire. If there's one phrase that summarizes my two visits to Korea most completely, it's "getting free food."

Stomachs overflowing with ice cream, we slowly waddled our way to the Kyobo book store nearby (can you tell I love books?). I bought about $50 in books, although I'm not sure why because I don't have time to read them right now, but I guess your DFM buys books like some women buy shoes.

More notable though, I also managed to get wrangled into getting a Kyobo book club card. I had been trying to avoid getting any "points cards" of any kind while I was here, but this one was free and would give me 10% off my first purchase (the one I just bought). I suppose now I'll have to come back to Korea a third time to redeem my points. "Darn!"

A couple of weeks ago I talked about meeting Seung-bok in Sillim and naming some of his friends. Last weekend, while I was waiting for Mitja to phone me, one of those friends, Elizabeth, called me to set up a date this week. When I showed up though, I was surprised to see Scarlett too.

(Scarlett, on the left, and Elizabeth.)

I was still full from the ice cream, but neither Scarlett or Elizabeth had eaten supper, so we set off in search of some dalkgalbi (sacrifices must be made I suppose).

In the past I have told people that I liked dalkgalbi, but I now realize what I meant was, dalkbokki (the barbecued chicken on a skewer). It wouldn't really matter either way, because both dalkgalbi and dalkbokki are Korean food dishes, so they are equally delicious.

While the food was delicious, the restaurant at which we were eating was very busy this night, and we were asked to leave shortly after finishing. So again we braved the wind that was blowing blustery to find another place to chat.

In Korean Cop's sister blog, Kindergarten Cop, I wrote about a cafe in Edmonton called Block 1912 Cafe. Actually I didn't write about it at all, I simply said that I went to a cafe. That cafe though is called Block 1912 Cafe, on Whyte Ave, but apart from Indigo Restaurant in Haeboncheon, nothing else in Seoul had come close to it. I had even been led to believe that Seoul exists entirely of Dunkin' Donuts, Paris Baguette bread shops, and expensive Starbuks-like cafe chains.

This night though, we stumbled upon a wonderfully large and bright cafe. I can't remember the name of it, but you could buy waffles and dangle your feet in a pool of doctor fish. I couldn't believe it! Waffles and hot chocolate, and doctor fish all in one place (you can see from the picture that the chairs are soft too). This could be the best cafe in the world. It's too bad I'll never be able to find it again on my own.


  1. Hi David! I'm Elizabeth.
    I'm happy to read your writing.

    It's interesting to see your point of view how to describe Korea as a traveler. I'll visit this blog repeatedly.

    Ah! the cafe we visted together is 'Namu-gnle(나무그늘)'. Namu means tree and gnle is shadow. It's happy to see you describe that cafe was so wonderful. It's because I came up with an idea to go there.

    Anyway, I want to see you soon. But maybe it'll be difficult because you'll be so busy. I'm sorry to hear that you go back to Canada.
    But keep contact like this. See U :D

    (+Seung-bok name is actually Seung-mok.
    I'll not tell this part to him. Don't worry :P )

  2. Really? Seung-mok? I could have sworn he told me it was Seung-bok. That explains why everyone keeps calling him Seung-mok though. I never could figure that out.