Wednesday, June 29, 2011

팥 빙 수 (Pat Bing Su)

Last week, at the end of a long and busy day I was called up to a different classroom to hang out with some other teachers. Considering most teachers don't speak english, it was a very nice invitation. Each grade of teachers is part of their own group and since I teach all grades, I am randomly lumped in with the grade 2 teachers group. So Mrs.Kim, my co-teacher and I headed up.
I was pleasantly surprised to a bunch of 2nd grader desks pushed together with chairs all around to make a get together with food covering the table. So nice! There was mashed up fish on a stick,
오 댕 (odang). 떡 븎 이 (deokbokki), which is rice cakes and fish cakes mixed in a spicy red sauce. There was also deep fried whatever, a combination of shrimps and maybe some vegetables. Lastly was 순 대 (sundae). In my head the word sundae conjures up lovely sweet and chocolate-y images in my head. But in Korea, sundae is something quite different (and tastes quite the opposite as well!). Sundae (pronounced soon-day) is like a blood sausage. I had the misfortune of not knowing what it was when I first arrived in Korea, and with an audience of about 8 Korean coworkers, had to choke it down while feigning enjoyment. Not again. It is either cow or pig's intestines mixed with a bunch of other unappetizing things wrapped in a sausage, and it's black. Ugh. Served with the sundae was maybe liver or other animal inside parts that are not so yummy tasting to me.
순 대

떡 븎 이
 I sat and munched and tried to follow as much conversation as possible (my Korean comprehension is improving SO much!), when in walked another teacher in the group with 2 bowls of pat bing su. I had heard of this but never tasted it anywhere. Pat bing su is Korean summer time treat. It is basically a sweet dessert similar to a sunday (not to be confused with the blood sauage, now I am talking sunday as in ice cream scoops, syrup, and overloaded with delicious toppings). But pat bing su is a Koreanized version of this, made of crushed iced instead of ice cream. So picture a huge pile of shaved or small chunked ice and then topped with a variety of different things.  I think the most important ingredient is sweetened adzuki beans. After that, Bob's your uncle. Fruit, syrup, chocolate, milk, yoghurt, deok, the list goes on. I think on our pat bing su we had a simple combination of milk (added last), deok, and the red bean paste. Once it was set on the table, it was all mixed into one big soupy mess and everyone dove in. As in most Korean dishes, communal eating usually occurs, so off we went. On a hot day, it was such a treat. I think if I were to ever replicate, I might spice it up with a few more ingredients, but on a hot Friday afternoon, in the classroom setting, this introduction to pot bing su was just right!

팥 빙 수

Sunday, June 19, 2011

A Beautiful Weekend in Busan

Last weekend was the first summer long weekend in Korea and the only plan was to head south. I had visited Busan before but it was in the winter time and we spent most of our time there diving in an aquarium with sharks so I feel like I didn't really get to experience the city at it's finest.

On Friday evening we headed into Seoul and met up with a bus load of foreigners to start making our way down. The drive took about 5 hours and was relatively painless. A late escape on Friday evening ensured almost no long weekend traffic. We checked into our love motel (cheap, tacky and super popular motels in Korea) by 3am and were feeling surprisingly refreshed by 9am Saturday morning, and ready to start the weekend.

Because we arrived in the dark it was such an amazing surprise to wake up and be literally footsteps away from the beach. Haeundai beach is the main drag in Busan and we were warned that half of Korea heads there for the long weekend. We were actually situated on Gwangali Beach, right next door and it was a little slice of heaven. Garry and I grabbed some coffee and breakfast and ate on the beach in total bliss. A quick stroll turned into a 2 hour mosey and our first morning in Busan was off to a perfect start.

A friend from Osan moved down to Busan so the plan for the day was to meet up with her and head to the famous Jagalchi Fish Market. I had been to Jagalichi before, but I don't think this place will ever lose it's allure or charm. It consists of a hodge podge of market stalls both indoors and out selling mostly fresh seafood but also squeezing in socks, belts and other random odds and ends. The selection of seafood here is unparalleled. I have been scuba diving for over 15 years and in all my diving experience I don't think I have seen the selection and variety that Jagalchi offers.  It is an amazing place.  And when you get hungry, you just stop at a stall, point at what you want and in no time it is caught, scaled, skinned, shelled and cooked (or served raw) and on your plate. We chose a place with a set menu and a grill out front showing off delicious looking fish. Our set included the typical selection of Korean side dishes, a fish soup, and then a huge platter with all different sized and shaped fish fresh off the grill. Mouth watering.

After lunch we did a bit more strolling and eventually made it to Busan's shopping district. We killed a few more hours before heading back to Gwangali to recharge. For dinner we found an optimal patio spot right on the beach strip and just watched the evening pass by. Wine is a really difficult thing to come by in restaurants here, especially white wine (I'm referring to good wine, not the Korean stuff), so after a botched order I finally got a decent bottle of white and Garry had cold Guiness on tap so things were going well. Jessica met up with us again for a late dinner and after a stroll on the beach we called it a night.


Sunday morning was much of the same as Saturday. Breakfast and coffee on the beach and then a nice long stroll to soak up the salty air and the sand in between our toes.  By early afternoon we ventured over to Haeundai and it was mayhem. I was so happy to be staying in Gwangali, the beach was chock-a-block and there were crowds everywhere. We hightailed it to the beach to see the Sand Festival and all the impressive sand castles and then we were pretty much done with it. At one end of the beach is a small harbour and I was set on getting some sort of boat trip in during the weekend so we headed towards the marina. Lunch was a nightmare because there were so many people and wait times were impossible to get a decent seat somewhere. We eventually settled for a convenience store lunch of boiled eggs, chips, instant noodles, beer and popsicles. Lunch of champions.

The ferry ride was perfect. Koreans are afraid of the sun so most of them stayed in the covered seated area and we hung out in the back upper deck. It was so refreshing to be out on the water. The sky was blue and there was a beautiful breeze and the scenery was captivating. We got a great tour of the seafront and had a really nice break from all the people on shore.

All weekend we hummed and hawed over splurging on a king crab dinner. We knew it'd be a little pricey but after walking past the aquariums loaded with crabs all weekend the allure was too great to pass up. We caved and headed out on Sunday evening to an incredible seafood delight. We started out with all the Korean banchal (side dishes) and then had 2 gigantic crabs to wrestle with. It was so tasty. As the only foreigners in there, all the Koreans had their eyes on us to see if we knew what to do when the crabs arrived in all their glory. But Garry and I dug in with no hesitation, what a treat! It was a really memorable meal, and I am so glad we decided to take the plunge and do it.

With bellies full of soju and crab we walked the beach and eventually joined in all the late night Koreans hanging out on the beach like it was 12 in the afternoon, not midnight. There were fireworks, instruments, couples, kids and families, overall a great mixture of things going in. And everyone had a set up. Koreans really do it right. Everyone had mats to sit on, drinks, snacks, meals, candles..... you name it. It was such a beautiful way to spend our last night in Busan.

Sunday was an early rise for our last breakfast on the beach. We tried sun tanning and just chilling in one spot but Garry had ants in his pants and it was already really hot so we opted for one last long walk. We soaked up as much sun, sand and fresh air and then made our way back to pack it up and get ready to head back up north to Osan.

The trip back was an expected nightmare. The traffic was heavy and we were stuck on a bus while the sun was shining. But in hindsight it was worth every bit of it! We had a superb weekend and are counting down the days till we can back to Busan. I love Korea!

Here is a quick link to a facebook photo album with a few more pictures: