There are many way to tell a story.
And as such there are many ways that I can talk about my life here in an attempt to give you a glimpse into what living in Asia is actually like. But no matter how much I describe my job, my students, and the feeling I get from the very few moments where I can speak to someone in Korean, it’s still intangible to you, reader.
So I tried to think about what is the most basic, daily, relatable thing that there is. Something that everyone understands.
And I was left with one thing. Food.
So here we are. These are a collection of photos of food that I’ve eaten here, food that I usually eat, and some of my very sad attempts at cooking. Food is the thing that marks time, that gives us a chance to meet friends, and at the same time keeps us alive. There is nothing more universal than food.
So without further ado, here is my life in Asia as told through food.
Work is where I most often interact with authentic Korean culture and much of that is through what we eat, when we eat, and how we eat.
In our office this is the snack station. There are chocolates, coffee, tea, crackers, and ramen for those particularly rough days. It’s kind of a joke that you can know if someone is having a rough day by walking into the office and smelling ramen.
This is a snapchat I took the other day. I looked over and saw one of my co-teachers eating a plain potato. I asked her about it and then she gave me some to try. I thought it was kind of funny at first, but I stand corrected. It was delicious.
This is a very bad picture of one of our school lunches. I really love them, but this day for some reason I didn’t take the other side dish. Probably because it was too spicy. But this is a pretty typical lunch for us. Rice, a soup, some kind of meat, and various kimchi’s or side dishes.
Anyone who works at a Korean public school is probably familiar with this. Rice cakes. We get a lot of rice cakes at work. Anytime someone gets married, or their baby has a 1st birthday, or something important like that they bring in rice cakes.
One day, after lunch, some girls came up to my desk to tell me that they were making ddeokbokki in the science room and they wanted me to come try it.
I eat out a lot more than I’d like to. But when I have such delicious options right at my fingertips it’s so tempting!
This is a ddeokbokki place where you can choose from a kind of buffet to put whatever you want in it. I’m still pretty early in my journey to be able to eat spicy food. But it’s coming along. I’m getting better slowly.
This is curry that we had in Japan. And holy cow. It was amazing.
This is arguably our favorite spot in Daejeon. They have lots of imported beers and pizza. And it’s located kind of in the middle of where all of us live, so we end up here pretty much whenever we want something else and casual.
This is “food court” food. In the fancy department store closest to my house there is an entire level with different food court style food. And sometimes we go just for the large variety of options. It’s always delicious.
This is actually the first meal I ever ate out in Daejeon. It was dirt cheap curry and I remember being so happy that I could actually talk to the guy working a bit in Korean.
This is Ddeok-Manduguk – or like rice cake dumpling soup. With a side of more dumplings. I love this stuff.
More dumpling soup with a side of noodles that you cook in the broth after you finish eating the dumplings. You add the meat into the boiling broth and cook it like that.
Pizza in Itaewon
This is one of our favorite brunch places. Sometimes my soul just needs eggs Benedict and a smoothie.
Korea is famous for food, but street food might be one of the biggest parts of it. The foods available from little street vendors change with the season so there’s always something new to try that fits perfectly with however the weather is at the time.
This beautiful flower ice-cream in Myeongdong tasted as good as it looked.
To be honest I don’t even remember what this was. But I do remember that eating it under a gazebo at an arts festival with a good friend was one of my better moments here.
Please forgive the stickers. This was a snapchat I took during the winter when the little stall by my house was selling Bungeo-ppang. It’s a little fried pastry fish with red bean inside.
Street meat in Eunhaengdong!
These little guys are popular winter street foods. They’re little bread type balls filled with bean paste or peanuts. And they’re amazing.
This my a little to happy to be holding my favorite winter street food snack. This Hoetteok. It’s a friend pancake type thing filled with melted honey, butter, and cinnamon.
Korea puts every other country in the world to shame when it comes to beautiful cafe’s.
This is Patbingsu – Red bean shaved ice. It’s also one of my favorite things in the world.
This lovely cafe serves your coffee along side dried flowers. The aesthetic is unreal.
This place is a recent discovery of mine in old downtown. But that chocolate/cherry cake was heavenly. And the latte was one of the few really quality coffee’s I’ve found in Daejeon.
This is another example of a place with its own very particular aesthetic. This cafe has kind of a surfer/Hawaii concept.
This is a favorite place of mine in Daejeon. It’s up really high at the top of a building in a popular area. They have drinks, deserts, and Star Wars toys all over the place. So basically everything I could ask for from a cafe.
And this is an example of a cafe with a killer aesthetic but that coffee honestly tasted like dirt. Be wary of that here. Occasionally it will seem like a place is much more concerned with how their cafe looks, than how the coffee tastes.
This is a very very serious part of almost very foreigners experience with Korean food. The fact that you can get just about anything delivered to your home at any given moment during the day or night is simply glorious. In the beginning, before I really got my life together and started cooking for myself and finding restaurants I was comfortable going to alone, I ordered delivery a LOT.
And who can blame me really? It’s cheap, there no delivery fee, and it’s delicious. Here are some of the more popular delivery foods.
Jjajangmyeon/Jjajangbap and Tangsuyuk AKA Korean Chinese Food. It’s amazing.
Seolleongtang and Mandu – Pork Soup and Dumplings
Korean Fried Chicken
In the beginning my attempts at cooking were almost exclusively heating up frozen dumplings and rice.
But thankfully these days I’ve gotten slightly more creative and try to work with what I can find at my local market. Which is basically a lot of red/yellow peppers and pork. Turns out there’s a lot you can do with just those things.
And when it comes to my own “cooking” it’s worth mentioning my toaster oven. Aka my pride and joy. I eat toast with nutella or peanut butter for breakfast almost every morning. I’m not proud of it. But I still love it.
Okay, yes. To be fair this isn’t my cooking. But it is at my house. Grabbing snacks and drinks from the convenience store by my house and hanging out on the roof is one of my favorite things.
Of course one of the greatest parts about living in Korea is having access to Korean BBQ all the time. Korean BBQ makes me never want to leave Korea.
This is a place in Hongdae in Seoul that my friend introduced me to which I’ve been to several times now and it is INCREDIBLE. Definitely the best Korean BBQ I’ve had in all of my time here.
This is something else that was new to me when I came here. Putting egg around the edge of the grill. It cooks up slowly and nicely as you eat the meat and it is SO fluffy and delicious.
This is a place in Daejeon that I recently discovered. They bring the mean out to you already cooked in cast iron skillets and it is super delicious.
To be fair this is American style BBQ but I ate it in Korea so in someway that makes it Korean BBQ. I was super impressed by this place in Garosugil.
And that concludes our tour of Korean food! I hope that was interesting for some of you and if you ever find yourself in Korea I hope you get to try all of it!
Thanks for reading!