I love dakgalbi. My first proper meal in Korea was dakgalbi; it is my ultimate comfort food and something I never get tired of. So, naturally, when I came across a place offering dakgalbi with cheese, I was almost ecstatic. I miss cheese, people. I am well aware that Korea is no Europe, and real cheese in Korea is almost as expensive as gold. Desperate time calls for desperate measures, meaning that when I am in dire need of cheese, that white, synthetic, plastic-kind-of-but-not-too-gross cheese is not too bad. Mind you, I say NO NEIN NEE 아니 to that yellow cheese pathetically sitting on top of those semi-hamburgers and sandwiches. The white cheese, however, I can deal with on a not so regular basis.
Strangely enough, cheese dakgalbi proved to be more than satisfying a feast. And I don’t think it was just because I was desperate.
I have been in a state of perpetual hunger & poverty lately. I kid you not, what I have been eating as of recently mainly consist of tofu soup & more tofu soup. Although tofu is rich in protein, I still find my diet seriously in need of more of those organic compounds in their purer, better form (read: meat). So what do you do when you want meat but you have liquidity problem? Stick with (generous) friends, of course. I consider myself a lone wolf, but when my appetite calls, I suddenly become the richest man in the world surrounded by altruistic, big-hearted, noble and charitable souls.
Okay, long story short: I just had a terrific Korean BBQ meal for free. Guys, if you are reading this post: I am very grateful. My gratitude, though, does not necessarily compel me to treat you folks better.
Now let’s move on to the review.
It’s already mid-September, and writing about the ubiquitous ultimate Korean coping method against the perennial summer heat, i.e. patbingsu aka shaved ice with stuffs on top (which I had written a lot about) seems like a proper act of trolling. Well, I’m all for trolling, so here we go again.
Let’s chat for a bit. If you are a moderately long time resident in this fine city, you would notice that sometimes a food/drink chain would pop outta nowhere. All of a sudden, all over the city, you see that same chain store. Summer is the particular season for that kind of culinary outbreak. I could name a few names here, but let’s just stick to patbingsu. Last year we had 옥루몽–that traditional-looking chain resto with wooden decor serving traditional-styled patbingsu with humble red beans and tteok. 옥루몽 was seriously everywhere last summer. Everyone seemed to eat at 옥루몽. I mean, a touch of tradition amid all those fancy twisted patbingsu with strawberries and tiramisu seemed like a recipe for success at the time. Too bad, this summer, 옥루몽 is so last year (and it actually is). The new buzz of da city is the bigger, sleeker 설빙 (sulbing) http://sulbing.com
Hi, okay, I am back, I guess. Where have I been? Tanzania & Kenya, then back to Korea after a 30-hour flight (layover time included) amid the Ebola outbreak -.- Good thing is that I have now settled in at Yonsei dorm, bad thing is that I am just back from a 5 day trip to Cebu where, conveniently enough, a tropical storm hit the country and my plan to see things was wrecked. I love my life. The cherry on top is that my plane touched down in Korealand at 1am and I am now waiting for the first limousine bus back to my dorm which will depart at 5:30am. No I am not complaining I am just ranting.
Sarcasm aside, I am back, guys. I am in a shitty mood (those who follow my facebook will understand why), but I am also professional. I simply cannot let my mood defeat my purpose in life, i.e. eating good food & blogging about it.
That said, what is better to mark my comeback with a review of Korean BBQ?
As school is just around the corner all streets around university areas are burst with students and coffee shops, once empty during vacation, are filled with streams of people ordering drinks and looking for vacant seats. It also means autumn is coming. The humidity is a lot less horrendous and the heat is a little more merciful. The change in the weather though has succeeded in wrecking me and making me stay in bed during the entire weekend with bitter taste buds, relatively high-grade fever and absolute desolation.
Ok enough with ranting, let me get back to why I’m writing this post. With school and friends and the ridiculous amount of papers one needs to work on, a place to hang out/study during lunch time or between lectures is much needed. Among a number of coffee shops in Anam (Korea University campus) and Sinchon (Yonsei University campus), Pika and 여우사이 (yeo-oo-sa-ee) so far have been my most favorite ones.
I want to write an all-compliments review on Sinchon’s 24 hour open 맛있는 순두부&김치찜 (Masitneun Sundubu & Kimchijjim), because their reasonably priced, unlimited-refill-of-eggs sundubu jjigae (tofu soup) was among the best I had ever tasted. However, just as I was preparing to fall in love with the place once again by ordering their Tonggalbi Jjim (steamed kimchi and pork ribs), it turned out to be a huge disappointment.
Okay it’s not that drastic; actually recently I have been to 산적 in Anam quite frequently for my BBQ fix. In fact, I have decided that I will
never not go to BBQ buffet anymore for a while, because I am sick and tired of its monotone selection of meat.
Yesterday, however, in the honor of being a winner in a school contest, and, obviously, at the expense of the school’s money, I had the chance of a lifetime to try some expensive beef at 형제갈비 (Hyungje Galbi) in Sinchon. I was, of course, ecstatic. For a third-world country girl who parasitizes on the parents’ & the bf’s compassion-based scholarships, spending 28000 KRW for 280gr of beef is beyond her wildest dream.
Let’s get it straight, I am a chicken addict. Last month I ate chicken so many times that I decided to postpone writing about every single occasion, and instead only wrote about the two times at the flippin’ good 오늘통닭 & the flipfloppin’ awesome 자연담은 치킨&호프. As for other occasions, those which gave me less of that starstruck, wide-eyed, fascination, are what I will compile in this post today.
I am not a food purist, I am all for hybrid food, as long as it is delicious. After all, I had no reservation ordering a bulgogi sandwich–a hybrid of Korean and Western delicacy. However, I am severely opposed to bad food at an exorbitant price, and nowhere is this calamity demonstrated more glaringly than in the numerous Vietnamese restaurants in Seoul. I just cannot understand why a bowl of Pho, whose broth is chemically sweet and deficient of its traditional aroma, can cost up 10000 KRW a bowl. Though I am aware that limes are a rarity in Korea and they have to substitute them with lemons, I still don’t get the idea of putting a pile of sliced onions on top of Pho here–it resembles nothing from Vietnam, and doesn’t enhance the taste at all.
My point is, sometimes it is impossible to replicate the original foreign food, but at least try to make them taste good. However, at many a Vietnamese restaurant in Seoul, their fare lack both authenticity and taste. I have been to Good Morning Hanoi http://www.goodmorninghanoi.com and Cowkee http://cowkee.tistory.com recently. While the first generated within me a deep resentment, the latter, however, offered a much less grim experience.
When one mentions comfort food, I immediately think of burgers. There is something so right about the combination of soft buns, fresh lettuce, cheese, and a juicy beef patty. There is no shortage of good burger joints in Seoul, but it is painful to think about the lack of decent burgers in Sinchon–where I live. That’s why, when a classmate mentioned a place called Little Cuba (리틀쿠바) right here in Sinchon, where she said she had one of her best burgers ever–I immediately put it at the top of my to-try restaurant list.