Eastern Interpretations

Monday, July 17th, 2006

I’m down to one Korean meal a day. I’m really sick of eating kimchi, which the Koreans seem to eat three times a day without fail. When eating ‘ethnic’ food they must have an ‘ethnic’ substitution such as a bowl of sliced pickles with a pizza or a small seaweed salad with sushi.

When I want burgers, I want Lotteria. Most of the burgers have a Korean twist, but they’ve also out-done the West with some of our own ingredients, such as with my favorite, the European Frico Cheese Burger.


Take a slice of good cheese, bread it, fry it and insert it as an extra patty = absolutely brilliant. How could North America have overlooked this? Also included is a slice of yellow pepper and black olives. I’m not a fan of olives, even on pizza, but it’s great on this burger. A few other noteworthy Lotteria burgers:

  • Kimchi Burger: Janet likes this one, a breaded patty of spicy cabbage.
  • Bulgogi Burger: A giant patty of famous Korean BBQ.
  • BBQ Paprika Burger: The sauce is quite good on this double patty burger.
  • Chuncheon Dakgalbi Burger: More of a typical chicken burger than the spectacle of dakgalbi.

Of course, the local interpretations can be less pleasing. Potatoes on pizza are popular. The last pizza we had included a ribbon of rubbery cheese with mashed sweet potato piped on top. At least the traditional ingredients in the middle were good.

Caffeinated Gems

Sunday, July 16th, 2006

Janet had nearly convinced me to give up on coffee until we returned to Seoul. The five dollar cappucinos made from water and powder were less than satisfying and a waste of our funds. The Lonely Planet Guide, usually refered to as “The Book”, recommended a coffee shop in Gyeongju called Clara & Schumann. Although it stated the place was for coffee lovers, we weren’t even sure it served espresso.

We arrived sweaty after a long walk in the heat. My macchiato was on par with the Blue Bottle Company in San Francisco, the best I’d ever had. However, the whole experience was outstanding. The owners seemed to know more about coffee than anyone I’ve ever met. They didn’t speak much English, but they went to extremes to ensure we they had the best coffee and everything complimented the coffee. It didn’t hurt that they gave us a lot of free stuff to enhance our experience.

IMG_3851.JPGOn the first day we polished our first cups off too quickly, so we were brought cups of a mild coffee almost like tea. It was thin and weaker than I’m used to, which I would normally accocciate with bad coffee, but these people are very deliberate. Besides the usual cappuccinos and lattes, one can select from dozens of beans which are ground specifically for the order. However, prices are different depending on the coffee and how strong you want it. Rather than using a machine, water is poured by hand over the grounds and the water tempurature is closely monitored. The Wedgwood cups were nice too. I’m glad I didn’t break one.

IMG_3907.JPGOn the second day, my macchiatto was not the best compliment for the cheesecake we ordered so I was brought an espresso. Later, we were given Double Toast, two inch thick toast with butter and jam. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed butter. On the third day we were brought complimentary cappuccinos for no particular reason.



Tuesday, July 4th, 2006

I’m not entirely sure why we stopped in Chuncheon. The guide book author made a passing remark about eating there and it was on the way to our next destination. We found a nice motel room with a balcony, run by a friendly young couple. Note: a motel does not mean a room with an exterior entrance, as it often does in North America. Motel is an inexpensive hotel catering to young couples, and married men with their mistresses. They are generally not sketchy, but don’t ask for a twin.

One of the ‘must do’ activities in Chuncheon is to eat dakgalbi, spicy chicken. An entire street is devoted to dakgalbi restaurants. As soon as we stepped onto the street, a woman came and pulled at Janet’s arm and started talking quickly in Korean to lead us to her restaurant, thus thwarting my plan to look around before selecting a restaurant. We followed her in and our usual menu challenges were absent as the woman simple asked, “Two?” When eating on this street you are eating dakgalbi.

The stove was lit below our enormous personal cast iron skillet and hurriedly filled with a mountain of half-frozen chicken, gnocchi-like pasta, spicy sauce, cabbage and a few other vegetables. It all cooked down to a small mound, but we were still unable to finish it or the compulsory set of kim chi that accompanies every meal. We were also provided with aprons to keep our clothes clean. My apron was spotless, my shirt was not. Somehow, four spots of hot sauce avoided the plaid barrier to hit their target, my white shirt. The meal was tasty and filling, especially with a bottle of soju to wash it down with.


Fueled with dakgalbi from the previous night, we rented bicycles to casually bike around the lake. Not content with the scenery near the city, we headed south toward the countryside. Two wrong turns, a poor map and some not-so-helpful directions lead us up a series of hills. At one point we cycled over a hill to a dead end in a rice paddy. We never made it to our rural destination, but we did manage to find a pleasant and flat path on our return.