Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Seoul Train Part II - De-kimchi-fication Galore

November 11.


On that day, Tuesday, it was Pepero day! As TaeWoong explained, it's like Valentine's Day or some other modern holiday. It's in honor of the snack called the Lotte Pepero. It's a line of pretzel-like snackfoods that have two distinct looks: like a thin Champola wafer stick or like those mini-pretzels with sugar outside. Only there's more variety to those two major types.

For the Champola look-alike, there's one filled with lemon cream (think Rebisco sandwich), mocha cream, and some chocolate-with-something combination that's absolutely addictive!

The other form reminds me of Jack and Jill Pretzels. There's a variety exactly like that: thinner pretzel sticks dipped in chcolate. There's also the "naked Peparo", as KiKeun calls it: like sugar-coated Mini-Pretzels of our childhood. My favorite variety is the one that's double-dipped in chocolate then rolled in crushed almonds. Mmmm... I am so addicted to it that i vow to bring home BOXES of that stuff. Perfect for Christmas!

It's my twelfth day here and so far, my life is made up of: the cold, the food and the new discoveries.

Discovery number 1: Persimmons

Robby's old entries declare her love for persimmons. Back home, I have seen and eaten persimmon only once: Mom and I bought a few pieces (it was about 3 dollars per kilo. Doh!) while Christmas shopping. When I peeled, sliced and took a bite I found them bland. Like papaya sucked dry of its flavor.

Ohho, but Seoul's persimmons are a revelation. That delicate thin skin. That juicy flesh. Those perfect brown seeds that remind me of oversized Coffee Beat candies. Luscious... Mmmm... And at around 1.50 USD per kilo, it's a great buy!

Discovery number 2: Unknown plant life in the form of kimchi-like salad

It's sour, it's salty...a little bit spicy but crisp and fresh! It's not kimchi but it sure looks like it! There's a salad with frissee-like greens, another with what looks like Money tree leaves that taste like gumamela leaves (let's not talk about why I know what gumamela tastes like), and yet another that reminds me of oregano (only this one is less fleshy and is a darker green). After walking around the grocery store, I discovered that they were sesame leaves. Yum!

Discovery number 3: "Fishballs"

They're actually sheets of mashed fish, flour... and Lord knows what else. They look the way orlians do, only rolled flat and without the anise aftertaste. Here, it is sauteed in chili (served as a side-dish during meals), cut into strips and dropped into hot soup, pierced by huge wooden skewers isaw-like and simmered in spicy broth and sold off the street for about 50 US cents. I happily chomped on one in front of the Doota mall in Dongdaemun (shopping isn't my thing but street food definitely is!) and yet again outside the office before heading on home. Yum yum!

Discovery number 4: The Typical Korean Meal

It has four major components: rice, soup, kimchi, at least two other side dishes aside from the kimchi.

I think I have enocuntered kimchi if at least ten different sorts in the two weeks I have been here. Off the top of my head: radish, bokchoi (Chinese pechay in Manila), cabbage-lettuce hybrid...thing, the aforementioned money-tree-tastes-like-gumamela, the frissee-like thingie, something-that-resembles-sponge-gourd-in-life (patola in Tagalog), and a yellow rootcrop (not kamote, not potato, no idea what it is).

I have also seen different sorts of stuff thrown into soups: mung bean sprouts at least 3 inches long, tofu blocks, fish balls (sheets), radish strips, leeks, celery tops (or what looks like celery tops)... even shreds of chicken and beef bones.

Rice...ah, the rice! The rice is absolutely gorgeous! Those sticky little grains of starchy deliciousness... Mixed with barley, rye, purple rice (traditionally called tappol), and on its own - it's a meal in itself!

I love rice. I can never survive South Beach Diet... rice is just too good to pass up!

Discovery number 5: Chilsung Cider

It's a soda drink by Lotte. It's clear like Sprite, but the flavor is more like Mountain Dew with more of a lemony-limey taste. I buy the stuff at the grocery by the bottle (a liter and a half each). It's cool, refreshing...and makes great chaser for Soju. Speaking of Soju...

Discovery number 6: Soju

Soju is an amazing thing! It's 20% alcohol, a bit like your regular vodka or gin or tequila. It's clear and has almost no alcohol-y smell. The taste? It's smooth and crisp. Swabe... and it's easy to down one shot after another and not feel dizzy at all. But try standing up and you'll feel it hit you in the face... and everywhere else.

Ah, I hate traitors but when it's in the context of an alcohol kick, then ILOVEIT! Hahaha...

Hmmm, I think above entries would have been more appropriate in the other blog... Oh well!


The weather is great! It's nice and cool with a little bit of wind. This week, it averaged 7 degrees at noon - bearable without a jacket, provided there is no wind. Jacket-weather or not, I go walking around the blocks surrounding the office, just observing and enjoying the weather. I will miss this when I come home to Manila.

During my walks, I encounter lots of convenience stores and vendors. I try to buy something from vendors when I see them. They're nice and chatty, even when I don't understand 99% of what they're saying. Most of all, they provide lots of new discoveries for a Seoul first-timer like me.

I have about five more weeks here before I come home to Manila. I'm sure there are new adventures waiting for me out there. You can bet your pwet I will blog about those too.

By the way, Yahoo Weather says there'll be scattered snow showers on Thursay. Looks like winter is finally here. Brrr...

Now excuse me while I bury myself under the sheets.


Listening to: Mariposa - Sugarfree

"Nagsisising matatapos ang gabing alam naman nating
Mayroon nang taning;
Nagsisising nagising sa katotohanang
Di ka naman talaga akin;
Di mo lang alam
Inaasam ang panahong
Makapaling ka sa una't huling pagkakataon"

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