Freezer Burn!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Now that "Figure Queen" Kim Yuna is all set to retire (though you can bet your imaginary gold medal that politicians will be demanding that she reemerge when the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics roll around four effing years from now), I thought I might post a retrospective of my favorite programs...

When is a Bolognese is not a Bolognese?

Thursday, December 12, 2013

In my travels on the virtual spiderweb that the denizens of the planet Earth so like to frequent, I have come across a unique creature called a Heston blumenthal (note to self: assess the possibility that the Linnean name of this species will be subject to change based on phylogenetic evidence). What is most interesting about H. blumenthal is that it is the first discovered species that subsists on entropy: that is, in order to get from point A to point B, H. blumenthal adds several steps that increases the total amount of entropy generated, and by this process seems to thrive.

Greetings from Yangyang

Thursday, August 15, 2013

There are those moments that are so perfect that the picture practically takes itself. This was one of those moments.

I think every summer, I make at least one visit to Gangwon-Do (Gangwon Province). I'm not the only one: the rugged natural beauty makes the place a popular summer holiday destination for nature-lovers: mountain ranges and cliffs overlooking a sea teeming with life, supported by freezing nutrient-rich currents that come following the coast from the north.

When I go to Gangwon-Do, it's usually to trek Seollak-San with my college's Alpine Association. This summer, my destination was a little further south, the quiet coastal village of Yangyang.

A quick note about eating out

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

I wonder if this guy is still around. He reminds me of my high school history teacher, by the way, so if you're reading this, Mr. Trupe, hi!
I live on Daehakro, which was once an artsy area of Seoul packed with indie theatres, quiet and genteel caf&eacutes and bookstores catering to the students of the many nearby colleges (yes, believe it or not, Daehakro means "College Street," and it was named that for a reason).

Good Eats

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

It's been quite a while since my last post, during which I did a rather hellish OB/GYN round and a physically exhausting but also highly entertaining GS round. And now it's finally summer holidays! So an update on what I've recently been up to, and things I would like to do during my newfound (and short-lived) freedom. Predictably, it's all about food.

In fact, it's high time I updated my bookmarks list, mainly because the traffic I contribute to certain food blogs and cooking channels on Youtube far, far outstrips the sum total of the visits I make to those websites to the right column in the past year. In addition to Smitten Kitchen, 101 Cookbooks and Simply Recipes, I've discovered Foodwishes, Cooking With Dog, ShinShine, and Eat a Duck I Must (the last title which I find really cute: a phonetic approximation of the Japanese "itadakimasu" into English). I've also found the various guides to ethnic food to be a rich repository of surprisingly excellent recipes.

So some of the things I've recently cooked:

Hot Dogs with an "Asian" Twist

Saturday, May 25, 2013

It is my philosophy that cooking should never be considered drudgery, and the difference between the work of an enthusiastic or resentful cook is most apparent with food. It's a great hobby, and as I've said before, it's a good way to relieve stress, being such an intensely sensory, hands-on experience.

But putting food on the table on a daily basis is a little different from doing it occasionally as a hobby. It's a commitment, and you have to suck it up and remind yourself not to weasel out when you feel like you can't be bothered and would rather have takeout. And I've found that in order to achieve that, you've got to pick your battles and make compromises, just like you do when working. And cooking for yourself on a regular basis is a sort of test of one's managerial and logistical skills, even more than one's cookery.

Case in point, I have a really hard time using up the ingredients I buy, mostly because I rarely cook for more than two people at a time and have to use small portions (and even then I end up with leftovers). It kind of broke my heart every time I had to throw away something that cost good money to buy, and after a recent cleaning frenzy in which I must have cleared out at least five kilos of produce from the fridge, and spent about an hour scrubbing the residue from the crisper, I resolved to limit myself strictly to cooking what's in the fridge that day.

Yesterday, browsing one of my favorite cooking blogs, I came across this recipe for a twist on the classic hot dog with an "asian" slaw and substituting ketchup for sriracha. I resolved to make it as soon as I got back to my own kitchen, not only because it looked really good, but because I saw an opportunity to deploy a lot of things I already had in the pantry: sriracha, mustard, peanut butter and toasted sesame oil, rice wine, and an andouille sausage that isn't traditionally used in hot dogs but which I thought would go fabulously with a spicy sauce.

Trouble is, I had no cabbage, nor Napa cabbage. Resisting the impulse to buy more (also, the hot humid weather and the long walk to the grocery store was a good deterrent), I remembered that a carrot I already had in the fridge could be a good substitute. Then I was at a loss to find a way to shred said carrot without a mandoline. Luckily, H.'s suggestion of using a potato peeler to strip long ribbons from the carrot worked like a charm. I also julienned an Asian pear, because I remembered that the Korean version of steak tartare is garnished with pear and sesame oil, which go together much better than you'd think.

The sauce was really fun to make, and to make a couple of improvisations to. I omitted the canola oil, substituted the vinegar for a mixture of mirin, soy sauce (the Chinese/Korean kind), and a dash of anchovy sauce. I tossed it all with the carrot and pear, and assembled it at the end: toasted bread spread with Korean mustard, the Andouille sausage, the carrot-pear slaw, some picked onions I had on hand, and a dash of sriracha.

It was messy to eat (like hot dogs always are when they have all the fixings), but it was pretty damn good... in fact, I think this was better because cabbage would have been too thick, too stiff, and blandly watery, diluting all the intense flavor of the other ingredients. H. gave it a 9.6 out of 10 (though he rarely grades my cooking below a 9, so I suspect he's biased).

So there remains dinner to cook today. I'm reminded of the three heads of cauliflower in the fridge. Maybe I'll combine them with eggs to make a cauliflower Spanish omelette. The possibilities are intriguing.

If only...

Sunday, April 21, 2013

...that bastard with a bleached coxcomb hadn't looked me head to toe and sneered as we lined up in the field.

ㅅㅂ 새끼, 나도 나오기 귀찮았다고. 전혀 열심히 할 생각으로 나온건 아니었어, 근데...

I hadn't played soccer since the 6th grade, but damned if I was going to let a wet-behind-the-ears, musclebound shit look down on me just because I was the only double-X on the field.

네 이놈 오늘 나한테 제데로 걸렸다. 내가 여자가 얼마나 무서울 수 있는지 보여주마.

I wished I could have seen the look on his face an hour later, as I snatched the ball from under his nose and shot it straight into the goal.

In Which I Discover a Great Time-Saver

Friday, April 19, 2013

My two favorite soups: bacon-lentil soup and Dakgyejang, Korean spicy chicken soup. I also love the mirepoix-based chicken soup a friend gave me the recipe to, but that usually disappears before I get an opportunity to photograph it.

I like to cook, almost more than I love to eat. I like the soothing and monotonous labor of chopping vegetables. I like the smells and the sizzle of the frying pan, watching pale dough rise and turn golden brown in the oven. I like the feeling of turning raw ingredients into something far greater than the sum of the parts. When I'm feeling blue, cooking almost always gets me in a better mood.

The trouble with cooking is that the sky is the limit.

The "Han" Question

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Excellent article by Gord Sellar about the supposed uniqueness of 정 in Korean culture, with a few mentions of 한 and 화병.

But as much as I liked the article, I found myself shaking my head its description of 한 (han), because to me "victimhood" was never not what 한 was, or at least, not the best way of summing up 한.

As I understand it, 한 is loss and sorrow, made all the more tragic because it is a sorrow so profound and so deeply existential that it can never be truly pacified. It is linked to the Animist tradition of seeing humans as mere vehicles for primal forces of longing and hate that transcend death, living on in nature, passed down through generations. It is also influenced by the Buddhist concepts of karma and the idea that peace can never be had until one fully renounces the world.

While this particular way of framing 한 may be culture-specific, stories of ghosts&#8212souls stuck in a limbo between life and death because of unfinished business, regrets, or vengeance&#8212are universal. And the canon of Western literature is positively lousy with stories of lasting grudges and sorrows tainting entire dynasties: Wuthering Heights, for one, and possibly the entire body of Faulkner's work.

So I have long been puzzled when Koreans assert that 한 is not just a word that stands for a culture-specific way of communicating an emotion that all cultures have an experience of, but a characteristic, even a defining one, of some collective Korean psyche.

A Deceit of Lapwings

All happy people are more or less dissimilar; all unhappy people are more or less alike.