Monday, August 22, 2011

Korean-Japanese Food, Western Dom

I've been working here in Korea since July 11 (over a month ago!) and had lunch out pretty much every single workday. There is only one (one!) time that I've been to lunch at a restaurant that I had already been to. Yes. Over a month of going to a new restaurant every day. There are a LOT of restaurants right around my work because I work (and live) in the busiest part of Ilsan (일산). There's not much just outside this area- which is to say, there's not much outside of Western Dom (웨스턴돔) and LaFesta (라페스타), two large, outdoor shopping areas (sorry, neither of their websites have English versions).

Western Dom (no 'e', I promise), in particular, is literally right next to work. I've been out to lunch in Western Dom more than anywhere else. There are tons of restaurants and tons of coffee places (including a newly opened one, called Beans & Berries, which is pretty cute).

One of the types of food we eat quite a bit is Korean-Japanese. Much like Korean-Chinese food, there is (usually) a Korean twist to the Japanese food here. I couldn't say for sure, as I've never explored Japan or China, but it seems to me that Korean-Japanese is a lot more authentic than Korean-Chinese. From what I've experienced in the U.S. and here in Korea, Korean-Chinese food is quite a departure from "real" Chinese food, whereas Korean-Japanese is passably Japanese (other than the fact that Koreans like spicy more than Japanese do).

I've been trying to remember to take pictures of things (very difficult sometimes, as I'm distracted by all kinds of things in this rather hectic city), and what better to take pictures of than food? Who doesn't love food? (I don't want to know if you don't love food, that's just wrong.)

So, a couple photos of recent Korean-Japanese lunches.

Curry (Koreans distinguish between Japanese-style curry (카레) and Indian-style curry (커리) with slightly different pronunciations) at Abiko (아비꼬, あびこ), on the second floor of Western Dom.
Donburi (Koreans call this 덥밥, which translates to "covered rice") at Millefueille (밀피유), also on the second floor of Western Dom.

Yes, I've been eating a lot of donkatsu (돈까스) lately (Japanese-style fried pork cutlet). The donburi was actually really very good, with runny eggs covering the whole thing. I don't like donkatsu in donburi, and I've always known it, but I always get it anyway. I like my donkatsu to be crisp and crunchy, and when it's covered with cooked soft eggs, the crisp and crunch disappear.

I bought Western fast food for the very first time today (Burger King) because I had to run home for lunch (I left my access card at home) and I had left really late (around 1:30). Burger King is on the first floor of my building, so I dashed in, dashed out, went upstairs to my house, inhaled my food, then dashed back to work. Burger King is, not surprisingly, better in Korea than in its home country. Sigh.

This past weekend was my first really social experience in Korea. I belong to a Facebook group for people in Ilsan (apparently, we're called Ilsanites?)- specifically, foreigners and expatriates. Since I'm mostly foreign and somewhat of an expat, I joined the group. Saturday night was a pub crawl fundraiser in Ilsan, right near my house, so I decided (with only a little bit of trepidation) to meet some English speakers and check out the bar scene here.

The fundraiser, by the way, was for a little girl named Hannah Warren, who has a rare condition that requires that she get a tracheal transplant. See her story and donate here- the fundraiser ends on October 22. She's really adorable, it's impossible to see her little face and not donate.

Drinking, meeting new people, and doing it all for a good cause? It seemed like a great idea, and it was (for the most part). One thing I've realized is that having a pub crawl in Korea, while a fantastic idea, is really difficult, especially when the crawl only includes Western bars.

Pub crawls are easiest if all the locations are right next to each other (i.e. downtown Culver City, or Abbott Kinney for First Fridays). This Korean pub crawl had four locations (all bars- Intos, Whiskey Weasel, LePub, and Old Rock) that were in something like a four-block radius (city blocks). But because addresses are non-existent in Korea and none of the bars were on the ground floor, they were a bit hard to find.

A group of four of us got lost on the way to LePub and wandered around Ilsan late at night (we eventually found the place). I wasn't going to judge the bars during this pub crawl because it was a biggish event, and I knew the bars wouldn't be their typical selves, with their regular vibe. They were okay, as far as bars go, and I didn't dislike any of them. My favorites were LePub (lots and lots of cocktails, if that's any incentive) and Old Rock (good atmosphere- the wall behind the bar is stacked with records (vinyl!) rather than bottles of booze).

The hundred or so people that convened for this fundraiser were all English teachers and their significant others. I was literally the only person (of all the people I met, anyway) that didn't teach English. Also, they were all really young. I mean, that's logical- when you're thinking about what you want to do with your life and decide to go teach English in a foreign country for a year, you're generally young, trying to find yourself, and/or trying to travel when you have no money. New college graduates, kids that haven't started a "real" career yet, etc.

I don't know if I was just in that sort of group, but I only met two Americans! The vast majority of the people I talked to were Canadian (with a couple Brits and an Irishman sprinkled in), mostly from around Toronto (I think). I've never been so happy to meet Americans before, by the way- it was a strange sensation and I pounced on my two countrymen (a Texan and a San Diegan).

Despite the fact that I felt old and suddenly very Korean in the group of young Westerners, it was a good experience. I got home past 4 a.m. and only slept a few hours before suddenly jolting awake (I don't sleep much if I drink, I find). I was exhausted yesterday (Sunday) and didn't really get to enjoy the lovely weather. The weather today was very nice and clear, sunny without any clouds, but then the thunder just started about half an hour ago and there are little bursts of rain. I didn't bring an umbrella today, so here's hoping that I don't get drenched on the way home.

Oh- the best part of this pub crawl? I walked home and it only took about ten minutes. I really do enjoy being in a walking city.


Majid Ali August 22, 2011 at 1:44 AM  

Please for Christ sake help this poor boy from Haiti