Saturday, June 30, 2012

Trevi, Ilsan

There are a lot of restaurants in Western Dom, most of which I haven't been to. Why? Because my co-workers claim that most of those places are awful and that we can't eat there because we'll regret every bite. Koreans tend to be quite opinionated when it comes to food.

So out of the many pasta places around here, I only go to two. The one I go to more frequently is called Trevi.

Western Dom
Janghang-Dong IlsanDong-Gu Goyang-Si Gyeonggi-Do 867

Telephone: 031.931.5450

경기도 고양시 일산동구 장항동 867

Koreans will typically order a few dishes and share when in a restaurant where Americans would order their own entree. Eating in Korea tends to be a communal experience, with everyone's forks (spoons, chopsticks) in everyone else's dishes. I don't mind, because it means that I get to try more dishes.

This is a typical salad in Korea, even if it is in an Italian restaurant. Overdressed, in my opinion (like all the pastas and most everything else!), and lacking real cheese. I miss real cheese.
See that dish of pink and green? Koreans eat pickles with pizza, pasta, Indian food, American food- any type of food where kimchi isn't served. They claim it cuts through the greasiness of the food, which is how they're able to eat carbonara with about a liter of cream in it.

The pizza's okay at Trevi. Much better than Pizza Hut (though Pizza Hut in Korea is worlds away from American Pizza Hut-- someday, I'll have to do a study comparing American and Korean versions of the same restaurants and fast food chains), though Koreans and their habit of dipping their pizza in honey (!) baffles me.
Me and my big honking glass of wine. Again with the pointy chin, so bizarre how it pops up in photographs. The bread at Trevi is decent, though their sweetish bread is better than their focaccia, which is very un-focaccia-ish.
Ricotta pasta. I really wished that this sauce had been paired with a sturdier noodle. Penne would have been much better than spaghetti, but Koreans generally have all sauces with spaghetti noodles. Those garlic chive sprouts were really strong but good. The ricotta tasted like nothing, but then again, all cheese in Korea tastes like nothing.
Squid ink risotto. The risotto didn't taste like risotto, as it seemed like regularly cooked rice, but it may be because Koreans reserve soft rice (juk, 죽) for the sickbed. Since I'm not a fan of risotto (I like chewy things, like super al dente pasta), I quite liked the texture of this dish. The squid ink was okay, it lends a briny flavor but not much else.

All these dishes (except for maybe the salad) are quite fattening. I find that this is especially true because pasta and pizza don't have that sticking power that rice does, for some strange reason. If I have pasta and pizza for lunch, I'm hungry again in a couple hours, so I'll find something to snack on.

Moderation really must be key, because though I have pasta and/or pizza at least a couple times a month, I don't really feel guilty for it and I don't think I put on an unnecessary amount of weight because of it. I did tend to have pasta more frequently in the States, because it's easy and satisfying and a great go-to, but because it tends to be slightly more expensive to eat Italian food in Korea than eating Korean food, it's not one of my go-to's anymore.

What I really want to find in Korea is a good lasagna. It's impossible to make at home, since I don't have an oven. It might be quicker to buy an oven and get my mother to ship the ingredients (real cheese!) to me.


Friday, June 29, 2012

(Eating) Night Out

I've found enough photos for several posts about food and eating in Korea. I'm going to kick off the thing with a typical night out for me and my closest friends here.

Namely, my favorite night-out food- cow intestines (소곱창), which I've mentioned before:

I'm pretty sure it's the combination of the intestines themselves and the chives (or little baby leeks? What are those green things up there called in English? 부추 in Korean), the grilled heart that comes with, which sounds horrible but is all kinds of delicious, the blood stew, which sounds horrendous but is delicious, and the soju that makes me love it so.
This is my favorite intestine place in Ilsan, and it's conveniently very close to my house. We usually have dinner at this place, indulging in a few bottles of soju and eating our fill, smelling of smoke and cooked cow and booze as we leave.
Once the intestines are consumed, there is the option to have fried rice, which is cooked on the same stone slab where the intestines and heart were sizzling mere moments ago. This rice is really good, but I can never eat more than a couple spoonfuls because I'm usually way too full by this time.

On this particular night, we decided to go to Kkanbu Chicken (깐부치킨), which is a fried chicken joint. Yes, I know-- fried chicken? We actually didn't have any chicken. We go to Kkanbu for the fries (these are the spicy potatoes, whereas the normal fries are big wedges that are not very good). I mean, after a meal of cow intestines, one's system shouldn't have to handle fried chicken.
And yes, despite indulging in my love for fried animal and French fries, I have still managed to lose weight here. It may be because I don't really have cocktails, preferring to drink soju here (see above, my friends were drinking beer and I was drinking soju), so I don't drink as many calories. It's probably more to do with the fact that I don't eat like this that often.

... Well ... some weeks are better than others with the frequency of drinking. This week, I've been good. Some weeks, a girl just needs to have a drink (or twelve) to combat the inner demons or to celebrate conquering said demons.

Korean lesson of the day- Koreans have some funny nicknames that are related to drinking beer:

- chi-maek (치맥): chicken and maekju (맥주, which is beer).
- so-maek (소맥): soju and maekju, which is, you guessed it, soju and beer mixed together.

There's actually some more slang, but my tired brain isn't working. I left work at 5:00 in the morning yesterday (er, this morning) so I'm dragging today. Hopefully, one more late night tonight and then a restful weekend. I really need to clean the apartment and do a boatload of laundry. And try to convince my hair to grow a half inch before Monday.


Thursday, June 28, 2012

My Korean Diet

... And by "diet" I mean "eating habits," not "that torturous thing that people do in a misguided attempt to lose weight."

First off, have I mentioned that I've lost some weight? I tend to gain weight when I'm back in the U.S. and then lose it when I'm in Korea, though I don't have noticeably different eating habits. The two main contributing factors:

- I don't own a car in Korea, so I walk wherever I can, including to and from the office.
- Korean food, in general, is healthier than American food.

The car thing is an obvious one, of course. Nothing really to explain further about that.

The Korean food thing, though-- I'm not saying American food is unhealthy, per se, but the food that I eat on a daily basis for lunch is generally healthier in Korea. Thinking about what I used to eat out for lunch in the States sobers me up, generally. Lots of Mexican food, pasta, burgers, Indian food, Mediterranean food, with occasional salads tossed in. Greasy and salty and delicious.

In Korea, it's mostly rice with soup and lots of side dishes (banchan, 반찬). I don't generally eat an entire bowl of rice (usually half) but I eat side dishes and the main dish (generally some sort of stew or chicken or something) until I'm stuffed. Every once in a while, we'll have fried pork cutlet or pasta or something, but it's generally Korean food.

I'm preparing some posts dealing with food- I think it will serve two purposes: enable blogging and also show parts of my life in Korea, which I haven't been posting about nearly enough. I've already started culling photos to use, and that's a big step in my blogging process.

Though people have told me that I've lost weight (and my clothes size has changed when I went shopping in LA in May), I didn't really think I had lost much weight. Until I saw photographic evidence. So here it is. Take it with a grain of salt; I don't mean to toot my own horn, but I'm quite photogenic (prepare to be unpleasantly surprised if you meet me in person):

This was in 2006, after we won the visual effects Academy Award for "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe"-- look at my orange hair, good gravy. I'm so rotund and so tan here! My eyes look positively tiny.
February of this year. I had been back in Korea for almost a month at this point, having gained weight whilst in LA over the holidays. I think I'm not quite as big as I was in the previous photo, but close. My eyes look slightly less small.
In Latvia in April. Less chins than previously, so that's good. I was stressed out, running around a lot, and not eating particularly a lot all through April and most of May.
Last week. Rounder than when I was in Latvia, methinks, but progress in the overall scheme of things.

I didn't set out to lose weight or anything. I actually set out to remain somewhat healthy during my travels in the spring, and I think that the concentration on health actually helped me to drop a few pounds.

I undoubtedly have a long way to go. I don't know how much I'll be posting about weight, because it's just one of those things that I don't want to get into the specifics of (since I don't have a real plan or anything) and I don't know if I want to.

Anyways. I got a haircut today. I look like a boy.
I don't know why my stylist decided to chop all my hair off, but I'm fine with it. I need to adjust a bit, because I still get a shock when I see my reflection anywhere. It hasn't even been a full day yet, so I'm sure I'll get there. Funny how pointy my chin looks in this picture, I'm really very round and not pointy at all in real life.
This was last week, before the haircut. I actually wish I look like this, but it's all a pictorial illusion! I'm great at taking self portraits, if I do say so myself. One of my co-workers actually told me that I shouldn't go on blind dates because my photos are so great that the guys will be misled. A little insulting and a little complimentary, all at the same time- typical Korean.

Self portraits, by the way, are called selcas in Korea (self camera). Oh, Korea, never stop amusing me.

It's just past 2:00 in the morning and I'm still at work, as I have been all this week. It's been grueling, but we're getting through it and we're getting the work done, so I'm not too upset.

Time to wade through a few more things, wait around for artists to finish up, go through some more things, send off some things, write a few more e-mails, and then stagger home.


Monday, June 25, 2012


My poor blog, it's fallen completely off my radar for a while!

After getting back from LA and my grandfather's funeral, my parents came to Korea (yay!) so I spent some time with them-- not as much as I would have liked, but they were mostly down in our hometown (Jeonju, 전주), and I had to stay up in Ilsan (일산) and work like a little demon. My parents actually came to Korea just before my birthday, but I didn't even get to see them on my actual birthday.

(The birthday, by the way, was the big three-oh and I was only mildly freaked out, unlike my twenty-fifth, when I had a nervous breakdown from perceiving myself to be getting old.)

Aren't my parents cute?? I worry about them a lot in Korea (I worry about them a lot in L.A., but even more so in Korea) and they think it's funny that I'm so over-protective of them here. But it's true! They're not very Korean anymore, they're quite Americanized, and not used to the bustle of Korea.

The weekend before they left, it was my maternal great-aunt's birthday dinner. My mother is very close to her aunt, and they're very alike, so I'm glad that they had a chance to catch up. My great-aunt's getting older, too, now that she's in her 80's, but her mind is still as sharp as ever.
I really should have taken the photo in a better location, but I was snapping pictures on my phone ... in the parking garage ... in MyeongDong (명동), one of the busiest shopping areas in Korea. In my defense, I had rushed to dinner after leaving work frantically early to try to make it on time, taking two subways for more than an hour. It was a madhouse for me, in other words, and my family's lucky that I showed up in one piece.

The dinner was nice because I'm still not used to seeing so much of my family together all at once, and I really love my great-aunt. She's opinionated, strong, loving, sweet, and painfully honest. All things to admire in someone who's just turned 81!

My dad left on Sunday and my mother left on Thursday. I was in Beijing from Monday to Wednesday last week for some meetings, so my mother and I escorted dear Dad to the airport then met with my cousin in Seoul (he and my mother are close), had dinner and coffee, and then my mother and I came back to my apartment, exhausted. I packed for China and my mother packed to go to my great-aunt's, where they could have some quality time together, and then we parted ways on Monday.
Beijing was Beijing, as it always is. It struck me this time around that it was my sixth trip to the city and I still had no idea where anything was and I'd still never seen any of the tourist-y sights. I've still not seen anything truly in that vein, like the Great Wall (which I really want to see!) or the Forbidden City. Maybe next time.

I got back to Korea on Wednesday, went straight into the office, and then went home to have a last dinner with my mother before sending her off to American on Thursday.

Saturday was spent working, but Sunday was spent missing my family. I am now, this week, starting to get back in the groove of things, a groove that I haven't had since well before flying to Australia. Who knew it could be such a long, hard road to normalcy?

Blogging is part of that normalcy, of course, so I'm going to try to stick with it. Even if it's just a photo or a couple dashed-off lines of text.

There is always, in the back of my mind, the wondering and the nervousness and the excitement of what's coming next. I don't know how long I'm going to be in Korea for, and I don't know where I'm going to be in three months. I can't wait to find out!