Tag Archives: Korean food

Learning Korean culture through hiking.

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Remember how I told you guys we loved to hike?

That’s pretty much an understatement.

This past weekend we found ourselves back in the mountains after taking a two week hiatus while Tom nursed a sprained ankle from playing volleyball.  I probably said (at least five times) ” I am so happy right now.” It had been two weeks of not hiking and while I had really enjoyed two weekends in our lovely little city of Yeosu I was itching to get back to what we love to do- hike.

7 peaks later and at our 7th National park we found ourselves loving the beautiful fall colors. We started at 10 am and finished around 4pm allowing plenty of time for us to be in nature together, climbing mountain peak after mountain peak, and time to just- think. It dawned on me near the end of the hike that (almost) everything I know about Korea I learned from hiking. I mean we have spent hours in the mountains so perhaps I am bias. Everything from food, culture, terrain, and just life in Korea I have learnt from days we have spent in the mountains. Let me break it down a bit easier for ya. I added in pictures from our weekend hike in Naejangsan National Park.

Korean Kindness-

Our first hike in Korea and not knowing a thing about how long it would take, what to pack, how much we would wanna eat, etc. We set out to find ourselves just a bit exhausted and extremely under packed when it came to food. There have been countless times we have been offered food, drink, or even just company, and it helps refuel us through the remainder of our hikes. Which brings me to my next point…Korean community.

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Community in Korea-

Ah! Where to begin. Koreans love family. They love community. They love togetherness. To be quite frank- I love it too. We love that they sit together in circles sharing food, drink, and laughter. We have seen people dancing, eating, laughing, and relaxing together at the top of the mountains. We have been invited to join the fun and we have sat next to groups admiring the fun. The community reflects back to what I have seen while I have been teaching as well. The students try to share treats, they share picnic lunches, and their class becomes a family. It’s all about community in Korea…and I love that.

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Korea is stunningly beautiful. 

Whoa. We have sat at the top of mountain peaks overlooking beautiful fall colored valleys. We have spotted cities from afar. Seen the sea that looks royal blue for as far as the world goes. Islands littering the backdrop of what looks like a painting. Gosh, the list just goes on: rivers winding through the base of a mountain, waterfalls, people on other peaks, mountain ridges giving you 360 degree views of just plain gorgeous. We’ve seen the seasons change from spring, to summer, to autumn , and have learned that each season brings a new look at beauty as we discover it through hiking. We have learned about the land from hiking Korea and we understand how to adapt for hiking as the weather has changed.

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Koreans are committed!

The majority of people we see hiking typically consist of an older population. They don’t give up and they are pretty tough. I love passing climbers on the way up or down and hearing them shout excitedly after I greet them politely in Korean. Korean’s are the hardest working people that I have met, but they sure do know how to celebrate when they get to the top of a peak. Photos, food, and soju (traditional Korean drink) galore. If they are into hiking they are committed right down to their matching outfits and ridiculously expensive hiking gear/outfits. They work hard and they play hard. They are committed to finish what they start and will encourage you along the way with their greetings in Korean. I love when they shout “ASA” (sorta like: “get it!!!!”) and “FIGHTING” ( sorta like: “don’t give up!!!” which sounds like “Pi-ting”)

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Tom atop a busy mountain peak in Naejangsan National Park!

Food

Tom and I usually pack nuts, trail mix, ham sandwiches, granola, fruit, and lots of water for our hiking treks. Koreans pack full on meals when hiking. I have even seen them pack hot water in a canvas and concoct up some delicious noodles at the top of a mountain. I never underestimate what they will pack when it comes to food. I’ve seen noodles, Kimbap (Korea’s version of sushi rolls) plenty of soju, and entire ensembles of pots/pans and a full on meal. We have learned that Koreans love to eat (don’t ask me how they all stay so thin) and they love to go all out with their meals- even at the top of a mountain.

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We had an absolute blast hiking this past weekend and I love being able to document our life here on the blog! Here are a few more of my favorites:

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This guy and the beautiful Korean fall. I am one lucky lady.

This guy and the beautiful Korean fall. I am one lucky lady.

Exhausted and full of sweat.  Pure bliss on one of the peaks.

Exhausted and full of sweat. Pure bliss on one of the peaks.

Almost done!!

Almost done!!

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Every good hike must come to an end… finishing at Naejangsa temple.

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Korean food through the eyes of this American expat.

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I haven’t mentioned much about the food in Korea. The truth is: I LOVE Korea, but I struggle with the food. It isn’t Korea’s fault. They dig lots of spicy grub, chili paste, and fish (often raw plain sliced fish.)

and I am just a girl who doesn’t dig that stuff. I’ve also never been a big meat eater which has proven to be a bit of an issue living in Korea.

When I eat something spicy my mouth feels on fire. It hurts. The smell of raw fish makes my stomach turn…and chili paste is a staple ingredient in cooking here. Oh, and the garlic. It melts off the skin of those who eat, and love it in Korea. If you have lived here awhile- you know exactly what I mean.

I so desperately wish I could love the food like my husband does. He craves Korean food. I can’t even imagine what that feels like. I’m over here like #PassTheCheesePlease and #WhereMySaladBeAt?

I love Greek food, I CRAVE Italian food, I enjoy some delicious Mexican food, and yup. I’ll admit it. I love me some classic American food. Indian food?  You bet! I can’t get enough. Why, oh why, can’t I just love Korean food?

Here’s what a typical school lunch looks like in Korea. As a matter of fact this was my lunch today:

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I’d like to add that there was a spicy fish soup that came on the side that I couldn’t squeeze into this picture. So there was that.

…it isn’t  all bad. I have found some things in Korea that I do like, and I should also add most foreigners that I have met really love Korean food.  I’ll first explain the Hodok that is pictured above, and then I will show you 5 foods that I do like in Korea!

A new discovery! It’s sorta like a flat pancake with honey/brown sugar inside.

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1. Mandu:

If I had to explain… I would say it’s a cousin to the American “pot sticker.” Or maybe you call it a dumpling? Basically it’s a dough outside with meat/veggies inside. You can get all sorts of variety, but I stick to plain jane meat/veggie kind.

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2. Waffles:

It’s usually sold as a “street food” or sometimes in a coffee shop. I love them.

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3. Samgyetang:

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It’s fresh chicken soup. With an entire  mini chicken in it. It’s not spicy, and it doesn’t have garlic! The inside is stuffed with a little rice, green onions, and topped with just a bit of egg.

4. Japchae

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This doesn’t have seafood, chili paste, or a lot of garlic!!! Think stir fry. It has noodles made from sweet potatoes, sliced veggies, a pinch of mushrooms, and sometimes has slices of beef. They often times season it with soy sauce and/or sugar!

5. Pajeon:

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Also a pancake like texture. It is made mostly from flour, egg, and green onions. I like the one with sweet potato mixed in.

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Who knows, maybe by the time we leave Korea I will be a kimchi (fermented cabbage with chili paste) loving, spicy food craving, American kinda girl?

Dang. Odds are that I probably will never love that kind of food.

– I’ll just keep trying it with a smile on my face. (While my eyeballs feel like they are popping out of their sockets, and my tongue feels on fire.)

Do you enjoy spicy food?! I am still trying to understand what it is about spicy food that people love/crave.  I want to taste my food…not taste fire!!!

I’ll keep it cool over here :p

-elicia