Spicy Korean life

Korea is known for its’ spicy food, specially kimchi. I think in most of the restaurants you get a free side of kimchi with your meal, which usually is not that expensive to begin with.

Side dishes to hotpot

The meal is a social event, where it is not uncommon to share, grill food together or to eat from the same small plates. Usually food is eaten with metallic chopsticks and a spoon. Scissors are used to cut meat and other food into pieces before serving.

Korean bar food: various fried stuff such as fish paste cakes, washed down with soju and magkeolli

 

Koreans eat a lot of meat. And by a lot, I mean a lot. However, it is possible to find non-meaty foods as well. There are numerous Korean barbecue restaurants, since meat is cheap and apparently rather good quality, too. And when Koreans go drinking, unlike in Finland, they order food as well. Healthy? Could be, if the food wasn’t all (deep)fried.

The bar food is similar, if not the same to the food that can be bought on the streets.

Tokbokki, fish paste and meat skewers and savoury pancake

There are food vendors and stalls in almost every street, and oddly enough most of them seem to sell the same stuff: rice cake stew tokbokki, skewers with fish paste&rice cakes and/or meat, savory pancakes, fried dumplings and the “sushi” rolls.  Generous amount of oil is used for everything, and most are probably rather spicy, too.

“street cooked” dinner, washed down with magkeolli (white fermented rice alcohol)

The “restaurant” stalls are also located in the various markets of Seoul, and in some streets and parks.

Market food
Market food

When a sweet craving hits, not to worry! On the streets, you can easily find the solution.

Fried “fish”cakes with sweet chocolate or bean filling

No pictures of the most famous sweet treat: hotteok pancake.

I wanted to end this post with the Korean equivalent of the Japanese “ittadakimasu” which can be translated to “bon appétit”. Unfortunately I have no clue how Koreans begin their meals.

 

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Japanistic Korea

Seoul and Beppu are different like night and day (go figure: one has 1 Starbucks, the other has coffee shops for probably every third adult of the 10.5 million inhabitants). In Seoul, I found many differences between Japan and Korea, but the countries do have some things in common as well.

 

Incheon in the foggy frisk morning

Beautiful views

Traditional Hanok village

Beautiful architecture and history

Navigation (or passing a car) can be a challenge!

Small side streets with no names

 

My first meal in Korea: bimbap with free sides of kimchi, pickled daikon and Korean soup!

Similar, delicious cuisine

Schisandra tea with pine nuts

Appreciation for  high quality tea.

When it comes to tea, I definitely prefer the Korean one. The various possibilities: Schisandra, jujube, ginseng, and all the other other herbs: the variations and possibilities seemed to be endless! Japanese matcha and sencha are nothing compared to these various powerhouses. The bimbap, or Korean sushi, on the other hand was not that convincing. Usually the Korean sushi roll consists of spam/ham, surimi (fake crab) and mayo, which are not the ingredients I’d want to put on my roll. The nori is seasoned with some oil (grape, olive or other), and there is no soy sauce for dipping. The Korean soup is not as delicious as miso, but it comes for free with the divine kimchi and daikon, with refills! Point to Japan for this dish, point to Korea for the drinks!

 

Both of the countries also use a sign language I cannot understand. The difference is that in Japan I can at least read hiragana and katakana, whereas in Korea I had no clue what most of the signs or texts said. Luckily it is possible to manage without knowing Korean. For some reason, I automatically and accidentally spoke what little Japanese I can in the shops and restaurants. Maybe the numerous Japanese tourists had some to do with that, or then I am turning more Japanese than I thought I would.

 

 

Break, 1st quarter: Finnish in Fukuoka

Last week we had quarter break here in APU, so I more than gladly took the chance to get away: first to Kyushu’s biggest city Fukuoka, and from there to South Korea’s capital, Seoul!

It took just two hours from Beppu to Fukuoka by highway bus, watching the beautiful fall scenery. During the two days I saw a lot, and visited all the main “areas”: Tenjin, Hakata and Canal City. It was great to get to a bigger city, and to get to eat good bread and “westernish” food!

More or less lovely Christmas decorations were all over the place

 

Besides roaming around all the department stores and malls, I found something quite peculiar in Fukuoka: The Moomin cafe!

Moomin cafe, selling oh-so familiar Lapin Kulta beer (yuck)

The Moomin shop sold Iittala and Arabia products from Finland as well as other Moomin-related stuff.

The cafe menu was not “Finnish”, even though they had bread rolls that were supposedly made by a Finnish lady whose picture was on the wall. Seeing those white buns, I doubt their Finnish origins. Notice the only Finnish thing on the bottom of the menu: glögi, our traditional winter/Christmas drink!

Cute, (over-sweet) dishes featuring Moomin characters

The Moomin cafe had Moomin books in Japanese, and the background music was actually Moomin episodes (nihongo, of course)! The slogan of the cafe is: “Kaikki hauska on hyvää vatsalle” which means “Everything fun is good for the stomach”. Cute!

I also stumbled upon this:

Kitchen, selling clothes

Oh yes, I do like Japan, especially the cities. You never know what you might find (in my case, that is not clothes, though)!

Next time, something about Seoul.

Japanese harmony and perfect fall weather

 

Something new

Life in a different culture can be, well, different.

There are things you are not used to, and some you won’t get used to, no matter how hard you try.

Toast, about the size of my palm, as thick as my finger and fluffy as a sponge, topped with natto

Some things are a bit scary.

Not my kind of doll
What style for tomorrow?

Others are rather interesting.

Soda can oden soup, with clear instructions

Life in another culture can feel like a dead end

Nice view and a lot of legroom

Or it can be something truly beautiful

Nature and culture in harmony

I am halfway through my exchange already, but I am not nearly done with Japan!

 

Gods or spirits with good style

Toire

Everyone has to “go”. In Japan, the “ways to go” are various!

Color coordinated atmosphere, seat with electrical lid

The Japanese love for technology reaches the toilet. There are more functions and possibilities to entertain yourself than I can possibly imagine – so far I have been too shy to even try.

Only thing missing is guidebook

Since the Japanese people are aesthetics, they of course want to make their toilet as enjoyable as possible. Note the tap on top: when the toilet is flushing, water runs from the tap so you can wash your hands!

Kawaii style, without the luxury effects

 

Afterwards, it’s recommended to wash your hands again!

One hole for soap, another for water; then move on to to drying (in front)

 

And, in case you don’t know what might happen, there is good to be some instructions.

Hot water can be dangerous, so be warned!

In some toilets (all of the toilets in APU), there is an emergency button, which should not be confused with the flush button. I don’t know what the emergency button is for: there has always been at least 2 rolls of paper, so it can’t be for that. What kind of “emergency” might occur in the toilet, and who would come to help?

 

It’s not always that pleasant

 

Japanese toilets do not have any hand paper – maybe it’s a way of compensating the disposable chopstick consumption and saving the nature. The Japanese generally carry a small hankerchief with them, which is used to dry hands.