Lazy weekends in Cheongpyeong


Stephen Chow’s Kung Fu Hustle is playing – if you haven’t seen it, go rent it right now!  It’s a great comedic portrayal of ordinary Chinese people (who happen to really be Kung Fu Masters).  You’ll see how we aren’t so different, no matter where in the world we live.

Right now, kitty spit is rolling down my sideburns as Momo is nibbling away at my earlobe, purring.  It’s getting more and more perverse and ludicrous, this ever-growing cat comforting herself like this, but I feel guilt for not being an active enough buddy, for being gone all day, and for giving her herbal sedatives to calm her only natural instincts down.  So if her manic personality needs to counter hyper-activity with dry nursing, I guess I’ll put up with it.

I spent all Saturday on-line reviewing for the umpteenth time the best theme options for the new website.  So difficult to shop when you know just what you want and there are literally thousands and thousands of designs to study.  I also spent a lot of time shopping for sheets for my Korean floor mattress.  My kids would heckle me for this, (because I’m the type that gets upset when I have to buy new clothes hangers that don’t match my old ones) because I already have mis-matching bedding enough to keep me warm – I’d just like to bring this with me to America for guests to sleep on if they come visit, and I’d like at least one thing from Korea that looks nice!

Today I went out searching for lunch, but I always forget that Sundays in the country half the restaurants are closed.  I went to the restaurant I ate at with my school once that served that jae yuk kimchi bokkeum stuff I love so much, only was refused because you have to order for two, minimum.  Then I went and found a place that had sorry can’t remember and the restaurant owner was serving three men, only she shooed me out and told me they were closed.  Then I went to two other restaurants where I had no idea what anything on their menu was, and then I just gave up and ended going to a place I always go to, the Solleuntang place where I get my fix of sweet & shiny radish and cabbage kimchi and Trot music on KBS.  Anyway, in the spirit of yet further adventure I ordered the only other thing on the menu that was available to a single person, and it turned out to be….cow head.   You’d think once burned I’d know better, but with my aging memory cells, I’m not that capable.  I picked out all the jelly-like head – whatever that stuff is- meat and made a meal out of rice and banchan.  The owners chuckled and gave me lots more banchan to make up for my stomach turning.  At least the tang was good.

btw, I always thought that since tang was so thin and watery that it would be the quickest Korean soup to make, yet I learned from my students that tang actually takes the longest to make.  It’s milky color is a result of cooking soup bones for many hours, until all the marrow and every nutrient has been extracted.

*****

Speaking of soups, I actually made some yesterday.

Soup is something we don’t have often in America, and it’s usually only during chilly weather, and it’s often from a can.  But here in Korea, it’s with every meal, and often for breakfast too, and probably why Koreans don’t drink much water.  It’s a marvelous way to squeeze some more mileage out of the food scraps you have, and I’ve always been impressed how nothing goes to waste here.  In a less industrialized time, to not do so would have been criminal, and even today the scraps not fit for soup are collected from all our households and fed to livestock.

So every day at school we have a soup.  Most of the soups are recognizable:  the seaweed birthday soup, the haejangguk, the kim chi chiggae, etc., only a little more watery since they aren’t the main course.  But a lot of the soups are literally just thrown together from whatever’s left over.  Some of these left-over soups have become famous in their own right.  Like the ones with hot dogs and spam floating in them.  (the lunch ladies know I won’t eat these due to the chemicals, so they often will give me extra banchan or sometimes even bring me something special as a substitute!)  So that’s what I made, only because I don’t cook much I bought vegetables especially to made a copy of a left-over soup.

So my experiment was made with vegetable bouillon,  cabbage, radish, green onions, and ground perilla (like sesame) seeds. (which makes the soup an unattractive oatmeal color, but tastes really rich and nutty)  And since I was making it my whole meal, I added some diced chicken breast.  Amazingly, it tasted just like the school soup I was copying!  Only mine wasn’t overly salty like theirs always is, (yayy!) but I added too many perilla seeds so it was too thick.

After Christmas when school is over for the year, I’m on my own as far as meals go, so I think I’m going to spend some time teaching myself to cook Korean.  There’s always http://Mangchi.com and there’s also http://www.koreanhomecooking.com/  But I’m more interested in replicating some things I haven’t seen on either of those two resources for westerners.  It’s too bad I’m single and therefore miss a huge portion of what is to be had in Korea.  I really wish they would do something about that…

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3 thoughts on “Lazy weekends in Cheongpyeong

  1. ED – yeah, I’m a little late to the action (as always) but ha,ha, so is Korea! It’s really really funny…and I actually had a landlord like that once…

    Speaking of being second runs, most of the American t.v. shows we get are released at minimum one season after-the-fact, and the movies in general are released only after sufficient hype has built in America or it’s bombed in America. This is why DVD’s are region-coded so that pirate-happy Asians & Russians especially can’t copy and play them until Americans have maximized their profits first. This is probably also why we can’t stream a lot of on-line t.v. show content because the networks are hoping to secure syndication abroad for material that has already been released in the U.S. The America’s Top Model, Project Runway, American Idol, Dr. Oz, etc. I catch are all one season to a whole year old here.

    DAVID – omg, that would be awesome! You know, we could collaborate on a Vegan Korean cookbook, either self-published or on-line. You’d get all the credit for the recipes and you could add commentary. I could test them and organize & present them.

    Things that frustrates me are: a) how to identify some of the ingredients, since some of them seem very esoteric to us westerners and/or we can’t read them, b) how to reduce the portions, as these recipes are family-geared, and c) how to incorporate it into a busy active life, especially since most of us can’t create enough banchan to give the proper variety and because we don’t have the extra refrigerator storage for the food once prepared and while still produce. So I think it could really help out a lot of singles and couples if we could sort this out.

    Anyway, something to think about for next year?

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