Elwood 5566

Monday Market – Groundnuts (땅콩)

Posted in Diary notes, fruit, seasons, vegetables by 노강호 on October 4, 2010

Groundnuts

The ‘fruits’ which epitomize autumn are peanuts, pumpkins, persimmon, apples and the Chinese or Napa cabbage of which there is currently a shortage. In the last week peanuts have become very prolific in street markets. They are somewhat unlike the monkeynuts (ground nuts) you buy in the UK in that they are still moist and have an earthy taste to them. Koreans often boil them for a few minutes, un-shelled, after which they taste much nicer. In this state they can be frozen. I still have a few in my freezer from last year though I do not know how long they safely keep.

Groundnuts at 4000 Won a boxful (sterling - 2 pounds)

Peanuts and pumpkins

Warayong Mountain, Song-So, Daegu

Posted in Comparative, Daegu, Diary notes by 노강호 on September 18, 2010

I decided to go for a  little mountain walk this morning as I’ve got an eye infection and can’t use a bathhouse, so the gym was out of the question.

Warayong Mountain from Song-So Rose Park

It was going to be touch and go whether I actually left my one-room and decided that if I took a bottle of dong-dong-ju (동동주), which is unrefined rice wine, to drink at the summit, my departure might be guaranteed. However, once in my local GS25 store, I decided not to bother with the alcohol and told myself, if I really wanted some I could probably find a few old guys on the mountain top who’d give me a glass.

A 'watering-hole' on the way up Warayong Mountain

Mountainside graves

Mountainside graves

Up Warayong San, (Wikipedia start of trail) in Song-So, even at 8 in the morning, there is an army of pensioners trundling up the mountain. I was expecting the climb to be easy. I’ve been working out at Migwang on a treadmill, 3-4 times a week and walk at a brisk pace for 30-50 minutes. I never run, when you’re fat and over fifty running is totally undignified and besides, I’d probably break the walking machine. Before I’d even reached the mountain, I was sweating and once I’d climbed the first 60 steps on the mountain itself,  I was ready for a coronary.

The climb to the peak closest to E-Mart, Song-So, is a baby of a mountain and much smaller than Ap-san and Pal-gong-San but the walk involves several steep climbs by steps. At the top, I was exhausted and my legs had turned to jelly.

The communal mirror at the Warayong Peak where you can fix your make-up before the decent.

A clock has been located here for over ten years. The men in the background were my source of rice wine.

I’ve written Warayong peak before, (Safe and Sound), and was pleased the clock is still on a tree where the exercise facilities are plus a mirror, which some one had affixed to a tree. Korean kids are kept too busy to turn their interests to vandalising and wrecking the efforts of others, that they so often do in Scumland UK. Sat on benches were three men who offered me rice wine. It was chilled and the drink filled with shards of ice. Then I moved down a side path to where I knew there was another exercise area, seating and usually a small refreshment area. Here I was offered red wine. The refreshment stall is a simple, large umbrella under which coffee and soft drinks  are sold. When not in use the items are stored under tarpaulin. Often there are vendors selling socks, mountain wear, or baseball caps at this location and dotted around the edge of exercise areas were their tarpaulin stores.

A mountain side refreshment vendor

Mountain vendors' storage facilities

Descending

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Grapes – 포도. Monday Market

Posted in Food and Drink, fruit, seasons by 노강호 on September 1, 2010

Grapes – Autumn is approaching!

With the scent of black grapes drifting on the air, you know that autumn is not to far off. Korean grapes are quite different from varieties available in Europe; the skins are much thicker and slightly chewy and often removed. The flesh is juicy and sweet and the seeds, big, crunchy and bitter. As a fruit, I certainly prefer the seedless variety but the juice of Korean grape, usually the Kyoho grape,  is ‘thicker’ and carries both the scent and taste of the grape British children will be familiar with. Personally, the smell and taste of Korean black grapes always reminds me of Pez candy, which was popular when I was a child. Korean grape  juice is  very popular as is Welch’s Grape Juice. Welch’s is an American company which  uses a variety of grape, Concord, which is similar to the Kyoho grape.

Korean black grape juice

Grapes, fat and juicy

Grapes in the shade

Remember Pez?

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Peaches – Monday market

Posted in Food and Drink, fruit, Monday Market (Theme), seasons by 노강호 on August 6, 2010

Looking at the Peaches

Koreans have this habit of eating fruit that I wouldn’t classify as ripe. Of course, it’s cultural but when I bought a ‘box’ of delicious looking peaches I discovered they were like cricket balls – hard! They do the same with persimmon. Yea, I should have poked them before purchase but didn’t. I like peaches soft and juicy. Currently, they’re sitting in my fridge in the hope they might ripen. Putting them on the window ledge is out of the question as it will attracts those annoying little ‘day flies’ which prevent you leaving any fruit or vegetable peelings in the bin for more than a couple of hours. White peaches are really delicious but I haven’t seen any this year and they are always more expensive.

The tomatoes are even bigger than a few weeks ago and are now bigger than the first of the green apples – perhaps it’s because of all the rain.

Massive tomatoes

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Monster Prawns – Monday Market

Posted in fish, Food and Drink, Monday Market (Theme) by 노강호 on July 20, 2010

Despite being inland, Daegu markets provide a tantalizing array of seafood. Cutlass fish is very popular (갈치) though it’s not one of my favourites as I don’t like fish that contain many small bones.

Cutlass Fish (갈지)

Prawns can be mammoth in size and these ones, not including the antennae, were about 7 inches long. The cost  was just over 4000W (£2).

Prawns on a dinner size plate and about 7 inches long. The cost for 5 was just over 4000W (£2).

A succulent snack

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Curds (묵) – Monday Market

Posted in Uncategorized by 노강호 on July 6, 2010

Stunted by the rocky soil, you will rarely see an Oak as magnificent as those found in England

A few years ago a former boss took  me to lunch at restaurant, the usual formality for talking shop and often a sign that your schedule is about to change or that you’re going to be asked to do something not in your contract. Other than it was ‘Klingon’ in style, I can’t remember what we ate. My first encounter with any form of Korean food was in 1997 when I visited several restaurants in both Hong-Kong and Manilla and I can’t remember too much about those experiences either other than there being many side dishes, one of which was some strange, but inoffensive jelly-like food served in slices.

Acorn curd - 도토리묵

Enjoying many Korean foods are dependent on an acquired ‘taste.’ Kimchi, for example, both stinks and tastes pretty gross to most people first time, but with continued exposure one begins to realise the subtle variations between different kimchis.  Eventually you begin to develop a preference for one particular form of kimchi. In one sense the multi-faceted aspects of kimchi, the combinations of heat (chilli), saltiness, sourness, tartness, sweetness, the viscosity of the sauce,  the fracturability of the cabbage, the blend and persistence of fish sauce, garlic and ginger, the aroma, and these are only some of the features, make its enjoyment every bit as sophisticated as that of wine.

Supermarket curds - more expensive and watery than the market varieties.

While kimchi has taste there are a number of Korean foods which are tasteless and which on first exposure prompt the question, ‘why?’  Most first timers to Korean cuisine, for example, will find those watery soups ornamented with a few strands of bean sprout, totally pointless until you realise the way intermittent spoonfuls cleanse the palate and transform the texture of rice in the mouth.  A few Korean foods initially have no taste at all but if persevered with, an appeal begins to develop. Other foods, such as cold noodles (냉면) require exposure to the energy draining Korean summers to initiate an appeal much in the same way Pimms No 1 does in the UK. I can no more enjoy a Pimms No 1 in winter than I can cold noodles. And then there are those seemingly pointless curds or jellies.

In the restaurant with my boss, and amidst some of the Klingon delicacies, was a plate of what looked like the jelly thing I’d last eaten in a Korean restaurant in Hong-Kong. Sliced into slippy cubes, I remembered the dexterous chopstick skills required  to pick it up; too much pressure on the cube and it is cut in two and too little and it flops onto the floor or cascades down your shirt. My boss was quite impressed, in fact he was very impressed, but not with my chopstick skills, more with the fact that I’d just eaten a slice of raw liver! That too was tasteless but there is a limit to how far I want to go initializing new appreciations and raw offal is not really one of them.

Acorn curd (도토리묵) in the market

Curds or jellies appear in various guises and while they are fairly tasteless, their appeal lies in their texture which in the context of a Korean meal with numerous side dishes, can be ‘interesting.’ The most common curd is probably acorn (도토리묵) and it is often accompanied with a tangy soy based sauce. (도토리묵 무침). Personally, I find the market produced curd both cheaper and tastier looking than the somewhat more watery-looking packeted varieties produced by supermarkets. On more than one occasion I have muddled my Korean words and asked for ‘eagle curd’  (독수리묵).

Buckwheat curd mu-ch'im (메밀묵 무침)

Other curds include:

Buckwheat (메밀묵) which is often slightly heavier in texture

Supermarket seaweed curd (미역묵)

Black rice

Mung Bean (녹두묵)

Yellow Mung Bean (노랑묵 or 황보묵) this version, coloured with gardenia, is traditionally associated with the Cheolla province.

Curds are fairly easy to make and powders can be bought in most supermarkets.

Acorn powder

Acorn curd in particular is seen as a very healthy food and is believed to be beneficial in weight loss. Not a great surprise really as I doubt anyone would want to eat it alone and it’s hardly a food to pig out on! It probably has the same diet potential  and calorific content as water! The Korean company Skinfood market an acorn face pack. If you are keen to start investigating the secret power of acorn, here is a jumping off point….

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Garlic (마늘)

Posted in herbs and 'woods', seasons, vegetables by 노강호 on June 26, 2010

You can smell the garlic wafting on the air before you see it.

Sunday afternoon street vendors

Sunday afternoon

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Monster Tomatoes – Monday Market

Posted in fruit, seasons, vegetables by 노강호 on June 22, 2010

Tomatoes

For almost a month now, beefsteak tomatoes, the largest tomato of the family,  have been in abundance  in the street markets. They are truly enormous though they lack the sweetness of smaller varieties. Compared to Britain, the hotter weather,  intense June-July rain fall and a long sunny day, are all factors which greatly increase the speed at which plants in Korea grow.

A box costs between 5000-8000 Won (£2-50-£4)

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Oriental/Japanese Apricot (매실. 梅實) Prunus Mume, and some uses

Posted in fruit, seasons by 노강호 on June 13, 2010
Oriental Apricot/plum (매실)

June, and Japanese Apricot is available in the street markets and in supermarkets. A very large bagful costs about 20.000 Won (£10) and in E-Marte 1-5 kg costs 7.500 Won. The apricot (매실) appears across Asia and is used as a delicious sweet drink, flavours various alcoholic drinks most notably plum wine,  it can be pickled or salted,in China it is used in the making of plum sauce and it is also made into a tea. It has plummy-almondy taste. The juice is also common as a household remedy for an upset stomach.

Around 20000 Won a bag
Non alcoholic but delicious

Making either Japanese Apricot juice or alcohol is straight forward. For juice, simply put the fruit into a container with the equivalent weight of sugar. Do exactly the same for the alcoholic version except cover it with soju. The sealed container should then be stored for 3 months.

Pretty boring in this condition
Homemade alcohol and juice
Refreshing

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Death and Diet by Watermelon

Posted in Comparative, fruit, seasons by 노강호 on June 11, 2010

Watermelon (수박)

Years ago, I watched a documentary about the problems of policing in that scummy slip of coastline on the southern Spanish coast, infamous as the holiday destination of 4.5 million Brits holiday makers and 350.000 homeowners, the Costa del Sol; aka The Costa del Crime due to the disproportionate number of British criminals in residence to evade to British law. The Costa del Sol is one sprawling Conga of destinations well-known to most British people even when they have never set foot on Spanish soil and know little about local life: Marbella, Fuengirola, Alicante, Torremolinos, and Benidorm. Formerly all isolated beautiful fishing villages, they now form one vomit ridden strip stretching from Malaga down to Los Alzacares and providing all the comforts of British culture, the bars, fish and chips, sandwiches, Sunday roasts and enough English-speaking people to attract that particular brand of clientele whose idea of a holiday is sitting on a packed beach in an environment as English as Clacton but with guaranteed sun and cheap booze.

In all fairness, the coast provides a haven to other European plebs and criminals and within the context of policing,  this was the subject of the documentary. On the particular evening the cameras were rolling, and following the difficulties faced by local police, a group of Danish lads were arrested for swimming naked in their hotel pool, some Brits lads were menacing locals with knives and some drunken Scandinavians were throwing water melons off the top of their hotel onto the street below.All were young men and all were drunk!

British criminals on permanent vacation on the Costa del Sol

‘Brits with knives’ seemed typically nasty while the nude swimming and water melon bombing were amusing – until I started carrying water melons back to my Korean apartment. I’ve never bought a water melon in the UK and though you can buy them, usually in Mediterranean type delis, I don’t think they are as popular as other types of melon, the smaller varieties such as honeydew and cantaloupe. Having to lug watermelons home on a weekly basis, naturally, it dawns on me not only how heavy they are, but how catastrophic the effect of one landing on your head from 1o floors above. Suddenly, wielding a knife doesn’t seem quite so bad as  bombing pedestrians with a weighty watermelon, an act I had formerly dismissed as amusing and harmless.

Water melons are one of the most common fruits in Korea over the summer and are currently my favourite especially when cold and crispy. They are supposedly highly beneficial as an antioxidant and have numerous other acclaimed benefits. With approximately 21 calories per 100g they are a healthy snack though I suspect I probably eat around half a kilo before I go to bed. (link for information on Korean watermelon).

Summer fruits

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