Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Korean Folk Village... I didn't hate it this time.

If you recall my last Korean Folk Village experience, you will remember that I wasn't too fond of it. It just didn't seem authentic enough. It was Chusok; people were everywhere. Cows were being tortured. I cried when I saw the dogs in the cages. Yadda, yadda, yadda.

Patrick has been in Korea for almost a year now, and he had been planning on visiting the Folk Village (or "Fork" Village if you read the Konglish signs) for quite some time. We decided that we would go a few weekends ago since we didn't really have anything else planned and it was a beautiful October Saturday.

This time around, the Village was completely different. It wasn't crowded with Koreans; there were no sad looking animals tied up or in cages, and we were able to walk around in relative peace and quiet. It was beautiful and it made me wish Koreans didn't live in high rises these days. Here are just a few of the many pictures we took that day:

Same as last year, these dancers put on a good performance. I still marvel at their twirling abilities.

This guy has a pretty sweet job. He doesn't have to talk to you if he doesn't want to. He just takes his sweet time weaving baskets. I wish I could weave baskets all day long. That wouldn't get boring at all.

The houses were really cool. I really wish I lived in one. It sounds cheesy, but the whole time I was thinking about how different my experience in Korea would have been if I had come 50 years ago.

This woman was using a Korean style spinning wheel. It took me a minute to figure out what she was doing- it looks nothing like the spinning wheels used in the west!

Of course, I had to show of my mad swinging skills. Just look at me go. Pat wasn't as successful.

There were veggies out drying in the sun all over the place. They weren't all your typical drying veggies, either, they were like... pumpkins and stuff. Yeah.

Koreans used these totem-esque poles to drive away evil spirits from their villages.

And here I am, totally in my element. I want to make kimchi and dry chilies. Why must I teach?

Oh... hello, kitteh. How did you get in here? You have to admit, Ha Jin is pretty photogenic.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

International Canadian Thanksgiving

It was my friend Ciara's last weekend and it also just happened to be Canadian Thanksgiving a few weeks ago. We would have celebrated Thanksgiving anyway, and it was an entire weekend devoted to goodbye parties for Ciara, so we combined the two and had a Thanksleaving party. It was pretty awesome.

No turkey, but I managed to roast two chickens, bake some biscuits and make some gravy. Molly made mashed potatoes, Ciara made tuna pasta salad, Rachael made vegetarian shepard's pie. There was wine, fruit, bread and cheese, and to top it all off Grace managed two pumpkin pies for dessert- don't ask me how! Meanwhile, the guys tossed the rugby ball around. Typical Thanksleaving behaviour.

The food was delicious and the company was, as usual, great. We're a solid group of friends when it comes down to it and we managed to capture the true Thanksgiving spirit, even though 70% of our friends are from Ireland, South Africa and the UK and have never experienced the holiday.

The Thanksleaving spread.

Our crowd... with a few faces missing (those who have gone home already).

It didn't take much encouraging to dig right in.

Grace's amazing pies. She couldn't find pumpkin so she used squash. They tasted exactly the same!

A beautiful day, a great dinner... but holy frig, Korea is cold these nights. Happy Belated Thanksgiving! We miss you, Ciara.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Progress Reports... I hate them.

Back next week when I have normal typing time. All part and parcel of being a teacher, I suppose.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Pa Jeon, or Green Onion Pancake

Also known in Korea as "Rainy Day Pancake", Pa Jeon is definitely one of my most favourite Korean comfort foods. Freshly made and hot out of the frying pan, this savoury pancake is crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside and extremely satisfying when dipped in a mixture of soy sauce and plain white vinegar. When eaten cold as leftovers, you don't need to dip it in anything since the onion and red pepper flavours have had a chance to strengthen overnight in the fridge (the same goes for mandhu! I love mandhu when it's cold!).
Often, Pa Jeon is served as a side dish, or banchan. We all know how much Koreans love side dishes. If you teach (or have taught) in Korea you may recognize this pancake as one of the sides you have for lunch occasionally at school. They're yummy, but definitely not as yummy as the Pa Jeon you'll find at a street vendor or as a side at a Korean restaurant and most certainly not as yummy as the Pa Jeon you can make yourself at home.
The best thing about making this dish is that the ingredients are universal and you'll be able to make it from anywhere in the world. All you need are some onions, eggs, flour, and water. Seriously. So enough of my banter; let's get cooking:
Janine's Pa Jeon
You will need:
- 2 cups of all purpose flour
- 2 eggs
- 2 cups of water
- one bunch of green onion, chopped in one inch pieces
- one regular onion, coarsely chopped
- two red chili peppers, sliced (seeds in or out; your choice)
- lots and lots of salt and pepper
- one squid, cleaned and chopped into bite size pieces (optional, of course. Squid isn't for everyone.)
Mix the water, flour and eggs until the batter resembles that of a crepe batter. Season the batter very liberally with salt and pepper because there is a real possibility of your pa jeon being way too bland. There, I said it. So don't be afraid of the salt. Add about half of the pa, or green onion and all of the regular onion. At this point, if you are using squid, you can also add the squid.
Heat a pan over medium heat and add about 1 Tbsp. of canola oil. Spread evenly around the pan, and then add enough batter to cover the entire bottom of the pan. Let cook on this side for about 5 to 7 minutes. In the meantime, sprinkle some of the chili pepper and some more green onion on the top of the pancake. Check the bottom to make sure it's adequately brown, and then flip using a spatula (this is a very simple process- the batter crisps almost immediately and the whole thing is very together, if you know what I mean). Cook the other side for about 5-7 minutes and slide onto a plate. You're done! Time to make a few more!
This recipe should yield about three large pa jeon. To make the dipping sauce, simply add about 1 Tbsp. of vinegar to about 1/4 of a cup of Soy Sauce. Sprinkle some cayenne on top if you're feeling a bit wild.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Maple Bear Sports Day

A few Fridays ago Maple Bear put on a "sports day" for the kids instead of taking them on our monthly field trip. It was fun. We started off with some yoga stretches, lead by yours truly of course, did some dances (the favourite being the "Kung Fu Panda" dance lead by Miss Charlene), taught the kids about being good sports and not crying if they lose, and then jumped into the fun and games!

The entire afternoon kindergarten... can you see me?!

This was our "pinata"... yeah... not really a pinata, more like two plastic bowls taped together. The kids threw bean bags at it. It didn't break. Kerri and I cut the tape holding it together. It came apart, and instead of candy coloured pieces of paper came out. Delicious!

This was a fun game. The kids had to bite the "cookie" (the Korean staff called it a cookie although they were really onion ring chips) without using their hands. They were really good at it!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


You're freaking right I love to cook! I thought I'd start sharing some great recipes I've come up with in numerous attempts to replicate delicious Korean meals I've consumed. Maangchi is great, but sometimes browsing through the local supermarket and trying some new stuff out is equally successful. Sometimes.

When we were in Jejudo, we had the most delicious soup ever. It tasted like a piece of home. The only hint that we were even eating Korean food (aside from the fact that we walked into a blatantly Korean restaurant) was the sprinkling of gim (pronounced "kim"), or dried seaweed over the top of the soup. I'm not a huge fan of gim, so I tend to leave it out of this recipe, but feel free to add as much as you like (taking into consideration how it may alter the taste).

Anyway, after eating this amazing soup I was determined to find a similar restaurant in Suwon. I couldn't (if you know one, please tell me!) but one day I was wondering what to do with some leftover chicken broth and the idea for this soup came into my head. I explained the soup to one of my Korean friends and she said the name is Kalguksu. Perfect. So here is what I found about Kalguksu on Wikipedia:

"The broth for kalguksu is usually made with dried anchovies, shellfish, and kelp. In order to obtain a rich, umami flavor, the ingredients should be simmered for many hours. Added to this broth are soft noodles and various vegetables, most often zucchini and potatoes."

Many hours? As if. My version takes about half an hour and Patrick says it tastes better than the one we had in Jeju. And I don't use anchovies or kelp in my broth. Here's the recipe!

Janine's Kalguksu

You will need:

- One whole chicken, cut into parts (you can get one already cut up at your local supermarket for, like, five bucks)

- Two Potatoes, peeled and cubed

- Half a zuchinni, sliced and halved

- One onion, roughly chopped

- Store bought hand rolled noodles (they're in the refridgerated section of your local supermarket)

- Two packages of stock seasoning (found in the salt section of your supermarket)

- Lot's and lot's of pepper

That's it! Your ready to cook! Here are the directions:

First you need to make the stock. Fill a large pot (like, as big as possible) with tap water, and don't worry because it will boil and all the bad stuff in the tap water will go away. Then, add the chicken parts, the onion and the stock seasoning (the seasoning comes in a package filled with "tubes" of seasoning. Almost like the yoghurt tubes kids like to eat, and there's a picture of a big, uncooked steak on all of the packages. You can't miss it.). You want to bring the pot to a boil, and then turn down the heat and simmer for at least 20 minutes.

When the chicken is cooked through (no more pink), take it out of the stock and pick all the meat from the bones. Keep the chicken meat in a bowl for now, and put the bones and skin back in the pot to simmer for awhile longer.

Meanwhile, chop and wash all of your vegetables. When this is done, take a strainer (collander) and put all of the broth through, catching all of the bones, skin and pieces of onion from the stock. We don't want any of that stuff in our soup!

Keep the broth down to a simmer and add your potatoes and zuchinni. Let simmer for about five to ten minutes, then add the chicken and the noodles. Simmer for an additional five minutes. Add a liberal amount of pepper. They give you pepper at kalguksu restaurants and it really adds depth to the broth. When the noodles look done, your soup is finished! At this point you can feel free to garnish with a bit of gim or green onion or both! I don't even add garnish to mine, this soup is amazing on its own.