I admit. Food was not a priority during that one week adventure at South Korea. I’d say, anyway I get to eat three times a day plus two during snacks in the Philippines. I’d also say, it’s rare that I’d get to visit this place so its just normal to forego a few meals.
Yes, food was not on top of the list. But if I could fool my mind to doing that, my stomach would always remember. As a result, I did have a couple of decent meals on a proper table, a few on passenger seat, one or two in the market, in the convenience store, and in the subway.
Author’s note: Original article is lovingly long. As a result, this narrative is divided into two parts.
The first night at Seoul, me and my friend came across a typical middle class version of the ‘carinderia’. It looked as if it was run by the owner who was the cashier, too. We ordered and found ourselves in our first kimchi-cutting experience.
Though still too early, I’m inclined to conclude that scissors is a staple utensil in this country. Back home, the closest distance a scissor might get from food is when cutting the seasoning packets of instant noodles. But here, we don’t need instant food to have to utilize the scissors. We later learned that in grilling, the scissors is also a necessary tool in the cooking exercise.
Along the streets, we found the tent where employees use to melt their problems away. It was a good place for soju. But it was improper for us girls traveling in a country, even as safe as South Korea, to go home drunk. Though, I did buy a bottle for my baggage on my way back to the Philippines. Then I realized, they are also sold in Manila.
Beforehand while preparing for the trip, I encountered a blog exaggerating the goodness of banana flavored milk. The writer was so elated that he hoarded bottles upon bottles of banana flavored milk to his hotel fridge.
So the first time I entered a convenience store at Seoul, I knew what to look for. Aside from a transparent umbrella (because it was raining), I just had to purchase four bottles of banana flavored milk. The label do not boast anything about live good bacteria in Shirota strain, but the bottle shape could easily confuse with our version of ‘Yakult’.
THE RIGHT TYPE OF NOODLES
While night strolling at downtown Seoul, I couldn’t forget the dilemma we had while trying to figure out what to order. I have already decided to order noodles, but the variety of bowls that came with it was puzzling. Was it the ceramic type or the metal type that comes with the hot noodles. Since koreans are not the explaining type, my friend and I had to self-analyze.
Ceramic bowls must be meant for hot noodles, because it is not a heat conductor. While metal bowls must be for cold noodles. Since it was cold outside, hot noodles was the better choice. I really thought we had the analysis part right. That was how we chose from the menu.
The only flaw in the decision-making process was the fact that it was only based from the menu full of pictures. In the end, I was served with cold noodles. I just had to finish up so we could leave.
Food in Nami Island was interestingly expensive. Along with the food, economics would dictate that you’d automatically have to pay for the cost of transporting that food from the main island. As a result, I had to be practical. It was a good thing I had (oily) stir-fried food in the main island earlier.
What caught my attention wa the long queu for the steaming red bean bun for 1000 korean won apiece. A long queu is a sign for good stuff. As I wait, the short-haired lady stacked the breads inside two jars arranged in a traditional-looking furnace setup. Even as the lady wagged her hair over the open-lidded jars, I looked forward to the warm buns to counter the cool Nami island breeze.
I had my first real jjamppong noodles at the airport. Funny that this spicy seafood noodle had to be spelled with double “J” and double “P”, because it wouldn’t be as authentic if spelled otherwise.
Back to my story, it came with two side dishes: kimchi and yellow pickled radish (which by the way, I learned years later). It didn’t take long to get use to the taste of the side dishes.
We made our own simple breakfast at the Yellow Guest House at Jeju Island. Particularly, this guesthouse is an inspiration. Apart from the excellent service, eggs, jam, bread, catsup and cooking oil were all available in the pantry. The sweetest thing is that they were all for free. And since this is the mandarin orange capital of South Korea, the juice is an orange juice.
I appreciated this version of their hospitality. I was touched, because we were just about to climb Mt. Halla on midday. It felt like someone made sure we were taken care of.
End of Part 1 of 2