Sunday, June 11, 2017

It's Sunday evening here in Seoul, which also marks a little bit over my first full week in town.

I've spent a lot of my time eating and snacking on different things so far, ranging from street food to serious fine-dining. My favorite though has been the traditional Korean street food you'll find at almost any major subway stop or area. They're basically these tents or the backs of pickup trucks you walk up to and eat at while standing. You simply place an order for 1 serving of ddukbokki, kimbap, blood sausage, battered and deep fried squid/shrimp/vegetables, or fish cakes, and it's served right away. Everything is pretty much already made and ready to eat, but they'll quickly refry anything deep fried so it's nice and hot for you. And a small paper cup of the soup from the fish cakes will also be given for free as your savory beverage to sip on, so don't expect any water. This liquid will either be offfered to you directly, or you'll know it's self-serve by the ladle sticking out from the fish cake broth. Eating like this is great because I can have a feast on the cheap. Plus, it's also convenient for when I'm alone.

I've been particularly eating a lot of blood sausage called soondae, which I often crave in New York and have a small go-to spot in Flushing. But I do also need non-Korean food on a regular basis, so I've eaten great pasta and even the occasional fast food burger here as well. The dining choices are endless in Seoul, which is awesome. Another thing about Korean food culture is that they're absolutely coffee obsessed, so you'll find multiple cafes and Starbucks on any block. I personally avoid caffeine because it makes me feel crazy, but have had the occasional cup since arriving due to social situations. Korean people will meet for coffee at 10pm not for the caffeine, but just because it's an alternative to meeting at a bar in a culture that's so booze dominated. I've told myself no more coffee, though. My body just doesn't react to it well and I always end up feeling extremely wired and manic. The place where I'm staying at doesn't have wifi, so I have to go to cafes often for times I need to get online through my laptop. That's when I'll usually just order a tea to loiter for as along as possible, such as this very moment right now.

I had lunch this past Thursday at Jungsik, which is as fine-dining as you can get in Seoul. All of the food was spectacular, and the sommelier paired everything with some really great wines. A friend also showed me an area called Boseok-gil over the weekend, which means "jewelry road" and is a new neighborhood with a lot of small restaurants and cafes. It hasn't been completely overrun yet, which was a nice change to so many other main hotspots that are always packed with people and major chains. If you're looking to check out an up-and-coming area of Seoul, I definitely recommend it. My friend took me to a small Korean restaurant off Boseok-gil that's popular with young people for its newish, yet traditional, spin on Korean cuisine. It's called Jang Ggoma, and was super good. "Jang" translates to traditional sauces (think gochujang, ssamjang, etc), and "ggoma" means little kid. They don't have a lot of seating though, maybe 4-5 seats at the kitchen on the ground floor and less than 15 seats at a communal table on the second floor. You get to the upper level through a narrow staircase, and the communal table is made up of what used to be the door of a traditional Korean dresser made of beautiful mother-of-pearl. Eating there was such a fun and delicious experience overall.

I've been good with not going out at night or staying out too late because my main priority is getting work done. A lot of my friends and the people I'm working with drink daily until the wee of hours of the early morning, but I haven't done that yet. On the one or two nights I've gone out for a little, I've always tried to make the subway home before it stops running at midnight. But on those occasions, I will admit to ordering some Korean fried chicken near my place for when I do get off the train home a little tipsy. I think of it as my reward for getting back at what locals here would consider a modest hour.

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