Day one. Thanks for reading, and welcome to my blog!
This is my first foray into the blogosphere, and I haven’t had a chance to check out many other blogs yet, so bear with me as I explore the world of blogging. I’ll try to keep these posts short, sweet, and as close to worldwide web-worthy as I can get. I hope the many pictures of food I plan to take will aid with that last objective. Everyone likes to look at good food, right?
Just to give you a little background… I’m a rising third-year student at the University of Chicago majoring in Public Policy, and I am spending my summer continuing my Korean studies at Yonsei University in Seoul, Korea. I took 2 intermediate-level Korean courses at UChicago this past year, so I’m hoping that these ten weeks of immersion will solidify my conversational skills. I am a 2.5-generation Korean-American – my mother immigrated to the States when she was 13, and my father was born and raised in Los Angeles and Hawaii. I have family in Korea and have visited multiple times, though it’s been a while (almost 5 years exactly) since I was there last. While this blog will primarily chronicle my travels through a gustatory lens, I’ll also be writing about my experience as a Korean-American living in Seoul (I’d say 10 weeks constitutes more than a visit).
I’m actually typing this as I sit on the plane, so by the time you read it I will have reached Seoul and will likely have successfully moved into my 하숙집 (hasookjip: a boarding house, typically for college students). Despite the fact that I’m on a giant Boeing 747, thousands of feet in the air, I do have a delicious first meal to report on.
My 13-hour flight includes lunch, which was a choice between steak (boring) and bi-bim-bap, a traditional Korean dish (see below).
Bi-bim-bap is essentially a mixed rice dish – you’re given rice, a variety of cooked vegetables, and ground beef, which you mix with 참기름 (sesame oil) and 고추장 (spicy red pepper paste) to taste. Bi-bim means “mixed” in Korean, and bap is “rice”. The Asiana bi-bim-bap meal was right on point. (I’ve only had Korean Air’s version, which is so good you forget you’re eating plane food and is one reason why my dad likes Korean Air). At the top (between the fruit and the water) are small sides of 김치 (kimchi: spicy fermented cabbage) and 콩 (kong: sweet soy-sauce-flavored fermented beans?). Kong is one of my favorites, mostly because I have fond memories of eating it with oatmeal for breakfast at my grandmother’s house as a child. The kimchi was only so-so – it’s airplane kimchi, after all, and my point of comparison is my grandmother’s delicious homemade kimchi. The meal also included a nice side of dried fish soup.
As you can see above, it included all of the right condiments (the sesame oil and red pepper paste). They even gave us a “how to enjoy bi-bim-bab” guide!
Here’s what it looks like all mixed together. I was a little more generous with the spicy red pepper paste than usual, maybe because I’m feeling a little more Korean than usual. The flight attendants keep speaking to me in Korean, and one gave me a customs form for Korean citizens. There are so many “real Koreans” on this plane that it’s probably just easier to do that and have Korean-Americans like myself identify ourselves with a confused look or some English. Anyways, the point is that I made my bi-bim-bap a bit too spicy. There is a very fine line between just right and too spicy, so proceed with caution.
Clearly, conciseness is not my strong suit. Hopefully this was interesting for you, whoever you are. More (pictures of) authentic Korean food coming your way soon! Feel free to comment with questions, suggestions, hellos, or anything else. I’d love to know you’re reading. You can even follow my blog if your inbox is begging for more emails (see right). 안녕!