June 30, 2010

drink local

taking a break from the korea posts to share some favorite watering holes.

sunday nights at ra sushi, one of those americanized sushi joints. happy hour starts at 8 pm. they recently raised the sake bombers from 5 to 6 bucks, but still a good deal.
you get a small hot sake (about 3-4 shots) + a 22 oz kirin. the sake is pretty harsh, but just drop it in your beer and you'll be alrite kid. i've tried a few of their hh menu items, none of them very good. but when you're paying 3.50 for a roll, you've pretty much lost your right to complain. get there early cuz this place is poppin and gets packed fast! (i go to chino hills, but i can imagine it's the same all around cuz the drinks are cheap)
the next place is on an inconscipuous corner in fullerton in a warehouse. most of these pictures from here on out were taken courtesy of the young and upcoming jomo.
bootlegger's. i had been looking for some local microbreweries nearby besides the chains and thanks to a tip from my friend paestry (who has now been transplanted back in sd, god bless her), mission accomplished.
a list of their refreshments. i felt like a kid in a candy store the first time i came in here. (~20 beers god damn!)
the sample flight is a good way to go to be able to try a variety. 5 2 oz pours for 3 bucks, what?! in general, their prices are pretty reasonable and a little lower than what you'd expect at a craft brewery. you'll find no pretentiousness here as you're free to ponder life while wearing an old t and shorts while sipping on beer in a mason jar. my favorites so far would have to be their golden chaos and cherry Chernobyl (which sadly is no longer offered). oh funny story the first time i came here. i noticed these two older biker gentlemen, waiting for their beer. these were some tough looking mother effers, tatted up to the gills and donning their worn out jeans and leather vests. everyone had their eyes on them as they left...in a scion xB.
i did say it was in a warehouse right? a small but chill place, much like the bruery. my only complaint is that the tasting room is open only thurs-sat and they close at 9. you can often find food trucks here which is a bonus since you don't have to go chasing after them nor deal with annoyingly long lines. staff is friendly too even with an ignoramus like me.
speaking of which, the bruery is another small but rising player in the world of beer.
i was introduced to this place by a friend. same deal here...enjoy liquid bread in the same warehouse they make their beer...food trucks sometimes...mixed easy goin crowd. you can do a sample flight here too. it's around 8 or 9 bucks, but you do get to keep the glass to bring home for your kids. lots of interesting libations to enjoy although not as many offered compared to booty's.

June 28, 2010

gyungjoo and sulaksan

took a bus from busan to gyungjoo and picked up a snack at a rest stop.
hodo gwaja (walnut "cookie")
filled with sweetened red bean and bits of walnuts, these things were delicious to eat fresh and probably one of my favorite snacks to get whenever i could.
as well as these hodduk, a thick somewhat oily hotcake filled with honey and bits of peanuts. this guy manned his station like a pro.
we visited the chunmachong (heavenly horse tomb) and other tumuluses, which were a bunch of grassy mounds over a tomb where royalty were buried. the h.h. tomb, named because of a painting of a pegasus (which regretfully went extinct last year) was found in the tomb, was estimated to be around the 5th or 6th century.
lots of rowdy school kids, awaiting in line to go inside the tumulus.
in case you were wondering why some people were sitting on the hills. maintenance!
boolguksa, one of the many temples we visited.
outside, a halmunee (grandma) was doing her thing on the streets and i bought a cup of ginko nuts from her.
check out that building with a pagoda cut into the whole structure.
spotted some young soldiers. korea has a mandatory military service for males.
another pit stop, but this one selling both dried and preserved fish and other seafood like squid.
do you see the grill in the back?
some fish were thrown on and cooked on it, shoot was shot, and cups of home brewed makguhlli were poured and passed all around. makguhlii is a type of fermented rice wine that was originally drunk (as a previous writing tutor, i think the correct form is drank, but when i say it aloud it doesn't sound right). it seems like it's having a popular resurgence in korea (and consequently, the us) as of late, but when i had it bottled here, i found it to be watery, bubbly, and overall bland. although the drink isn't very strong, the stuff i had here was thicker, darker in color, and sweet, overall, a delight to drink.
nearby, a lady hauled her cart filled with yut, a korean malt taffy. you know i had to get some of that sweet that chewy stuff.
the next day, we went up to the sulak mountain.
a long way up via cable cars.
from there it was a short walk to the top. it was hard to see how high we really were since it was so foggy.
there were a bunch of rocks, stacked on top of each other. it's said if you put a rock on top of one of these towers, you can make a wish. i believe this is a Buddhist practice and saw these things all over korea.
you have to do a bit of rock climbing to get to the top, but it was fun and even old ladies were doing it. on a side note, the korea/uruguay and usa/ghana games this past weekend were heartbreakers.
once at the bottom, i picked up some bbundehgee(silk worm larvae) and some little snail like things ( i have no idea what these are called). the larvae smelled and looked horrible. i never had it before nor did i ever really want it although they do sell these things canned in the US. but i decided to give it a shot and found it to pretty good if you can get past the smell. it had a very nutty flavor to it.
there was also an enormous Buddha statue on the grounds. growing up in cali, 99% of the koreans i know are either protestant or catholic. but seeing temples all around korea, i was reminded that at another time, korea was once largely buddhist. it made me reflect on the effects of westernization and its missionaries. on a bigger scale (and by this i mean how it relates to me because i am the world), i thought about my own korean heritage and what it all meant as we took a long bus ride to seoul.

June 23, 2010

jeju to busan

there's a trail that goes around the whole island. i would love to be able to hike that one day.
the weather here was great. i was worried that it would be hot and humid but it was def. under the 80s while we were here.
as mr. horsey can attest too.
jejudo, like a lot of korea, has drastically changed over the years with more and more buildings growing, and i learned a good deal of their economy is based off tourism.
the first week we were there, we went with a tour group and one of the places they took us to a place that grew sang hwang mushrooms. they sat us in a room and a man dressed up as some kind of worker started extolling the virtues of the magic medicinal mushroom, which cured cancer, regulated blood sugar, and helped with acne. they were selling a bottle of the stuff for about 120 bucks, and i saw a few people buy a box of the shrooms, well over a thousand bucks. what recession son?
a closeup of the fabled fungus, ground up. i washed it down w/ some ggool mool (honey water....love this stuff, partly because i wasn't allowed any soda growing up and drank this instead. probably also explains why i'm a candy junkie.). i sat there amusedly, watching the play act itself out. that's not to say that i think eastern medicine is rubbish. i find it pretty interesting and would love to study that in school. i simply thought that it was all a con to sell tourists something at an exorbitant price. so I looked it up later and was surprised to find that research did show it as a potential anti cancer agent as well as some other goodies. so you be the judge.
another thing characteristic of the island are these gamgyools. they look like small tangerines, but they have a bump on the top which you can kinda see in this picture. they were more on the sour side. at least the one i tried was.
hopped on the plane to busan, the second largest city in korea. went up the busan tower.
i grew up in the suburbs my whole life so whenever i go into the city, i feel overwhelmed, amazed that there are so many people compacted in such a small amount of space and to whoever first thought of building those high rises and apartments.
our hotel was right next to the beach, and the next morning i did an enjoyable jog following the shore and seeing everyone set up for the day.
for dinner we went looking for the pojangmacha aka street food. we soon found a little enclave of tents. people were on the hustle here (as well as other parts in korea) where they stood outside their place, beckoning you in, telling you they'll give you a good price/hook you up.
in case you couldn't see what this stand was all about
seafood is what they offered
the menu. a U.S. dollar was a little under 1200 won when we got there. soju is dirt cheap. at the markets its around a buck.
i'm not a fan of it, but then again, i don't really have much of a taste for any kind of hard alcohol (if you can even call soju hard). on the rare occasion, i can taste a sweetness to it, but for the most part, it has the disgusting aftertaste of rubbing alcohol to me (guess that just means i have to drink it more often). i usually mix it with beer and it's quite tasty this way. we ordered a bottle and were given some cucumbers with some dwenjang (soy bean paste aka miso) for dip as the halmunee (grandma) prepared our order from behind the counter.
while waiting, we ordered some odeng (fish cake) from the next stand for 2000 won. i've never really liked odeng, and this stick didn't change my mind about it. i can remember having it for the first time as a kid and thinking wtf. i thought the broth would at least be okay and taking a hopeful sip, i was disgusted by it. there are plenty of things to be angry about the world: the radical religious right, douchy liberals (refer to southpark s10e2), or corporate scumbags. but what the **** does that have to do with me? all i cared about was i didn't like the soup and i was pissed. and that's the truf mang!(for those without two gold front teeth that have a gap between them, you can just say "truth" as you silently read this). postscript: i no longer have such strong feelings towards the broth after talking things out with my psychologist.
sea squirts. it's been almost a month since this meal so sorry if i skimp out on the details. soft but some parts were a little hard, like eating those clam nigiris. tasted fresh and like the sea. dipped in some chojang (red pepper paste + vinegar), these were quite addicting.
some steamed mussels served in their own broth w/ bits of jalapenos
another type of sea squirt
some tomatoes to munch on as we took a break. the colors were so vibrant.
i think these were little eels grilled with peppers and garlic
steamed clams to finish off the meal. overall an enjoyable fun meal but i left not wanting to eat that kinda stuff for a while. too much of a good thing yknow?
and in case you had a weak stomach and needed to go to the potty...she had you covered mang! i definitely suffered the next day eating too much of the stuff.

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