Monday, February 23, 2009

Crab cake experiment

Ok, so I finally experimented with crab cakes. I'd been thinking about crab cakes for a while. And it's not like I can just come home from work and say, "Hey, how about going to Sliders for dinner tonight?" anymore. So I had to come up with my own. Or find a restaurant that served them.

I used a combination of recipes from Mark Bittman in the New York Times, one from Simply Recipes, and the one on the box of Old Bay seasoning. I liked the thought of using all crab with little to no filler that was in the Mark Bittman recipe, but I wanted a bit more crunch and bite. Unfortunately, I wasn't really up to the challenge of going to the fish market and buying a whole crab, then wrestling it into a pot and cooking it, so I resorted to the canned and packaged Chicken of the Sea crab. Next time I will probably try to find a restaurant where I can get crab, and preferably just the edible parts of the crab. I'd like the fresh crab but I really don't think I'm up to wrestling with a whole, live crab, then cleaning it.

In addition to the crab cakes, I made some salmon for those that are allergic to shellfish. I just baked some salmon fillets with soy sauce and some sliced onion. My apologies for the pictures, I forgot to take the photos until we'd scarfed down most of the food.

These are the crabcakes. Basic recipe is a pound of crab meat, a tablespoon or so of dijon mustard, some fresh ground pepper, and an egg. I tossed in some very finely diced celery and onion, a couple of tablespoons of Japanese breadcrumbs, and a few dashes of Old Bay seasoning. After mixing it all together, I froze it for about 15 minutes according to the Bittman recipe. Then made the patties and refrigerated those. The recipe said to refrigerate for 30 minutes minimum, up to a day maximum. Everything was still very liquid when I molded the patties, so I was very surprised that for the most part these maintained their shape when I fried them.

The next time, I'll probably add more seasoning and more vegetable to give it more spice and crunch. Otherwise, these were tasty. And quite excellent served over salad for lunch today.

And this was dessert. A lovely apple crumble with pistachios and other nuts. Yummy. Note, I managed to take a photo before we dug in.
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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Seoul stuff

We headed out for lunch today. This is pretty impressive for us, going out two days in a row. Of course, the days are getting relatively warmer and the sun isn't setting as early. I even looked at my watch the other evening while waiting for the bus because it seemed suspiciously light outside. I'm feeling like I'm coming out of hibernation.

This is the 7-11 across the street from our apartment. Yep, looks just like one in the U.S. Except there's no Slurpee machine and there's only enough room for about 2 people to be inside at one time. Note that the door opens right onto the street, which means you have to be careful as you exit. The green buses don't slow down for anything.

Had lunch at the dumpling restaurant again today. These were the side dishes, clockwise from upper left corner: kimchi, japchae, greens, green onions in a sweet red pepper sauce, and onions in a soy sauce.

Instead of mandutguk, we ordered bibimbap this time. Bibimbap is a rice dish that comes with toppings neatly arrayed on top and a raw egg put in the middle on top just before being served. Then you mix it all up and put in some red sauce.

This is the site of one of the street restaurants that will pop up later in the day. The plastic jugs of oil demarcate the edges of the restaurant tent.
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Another evening on the town...

Well, we managed to get our act together again and head out to Itaewon for some dinner. This time, we headed to Chakraa's for Indian food. We'd had Chakraa's food before at a dinner party and it was good, so we thought we would try the restaurant ourselves. On Friday and Saturday nights they have a curry buffet, for 15,000 KRW each (well under $15 each based on current exchange rates). There was a fair amount of selection and the spice level was just right for even a wimp like me. My favorite was the beef korma, but the butter chicken and the lamb vindaloo were also good. The potatoes and peas (aloo something) were too spicy for me. They tasted really good, but there was a significant stealth blast of heat that appeared after swallowing. The lamb samosas were really good. With all of this came plain naan and dessert. There were also salads and other dishes, but I didn't try those. I filled up on naan dipped into the various gravies.

Eating Indian food always reminds me of a friend's description of one of her first experiences with Indian food. She liked it, but described it as eating orange goo, and green goo, and red goo.

After dinner, we strolled down Itaewon towards Hangangjin station, towards Kabinett. We stopped for a few minutes in Helios before the cover charge kicked in because we could hear some reggae from the street and wanted to see if it was a one time only thing or if they were actually playing reggae. Turns out it was a one time only thing, so we headed on down the street towards Kabinett.

This month Kabinett is featuring South African wines. I had a glass of the pinotage, he had a glass of cabernet sauvignon. Wine by the glass prices here can vary, and the selection pretty much depends upon what they can get in through customs. But we've enjoyed stopping by every now and again just to see what they have and to try something new. Alcoholic beverages in Korea tend to run towards the soju and beer end of the spectrum. And although wine is usually available in many restaurants, the selection can be limited. French restaurants sell French wine. Italian restaurants sell Italian wine. So it's nice to find a place where we can find other wines to try.

After our glass of wine, we headed home via Hangangjin station. We're lazy. After walking down the hill from Itaewon, the last thing we want to do is climb it again, so we just keep going down hill.

Sign of a building along Itaewon:

Itaewon boulevard, looking up towards Itaewon station from Hangangjin station direction. This is where we watched a very drunk girl in very tall heels stumble out of a restaurant, squeal, "A taxi," then get confused when the taxi drove off.

Gas station in Itaewon. Notice, the pumps dangle from the ceiling.

This is in Nagwon, near our apartment. The orange tents with the lights inside them are street vendors/restaurants. They start setting up in the afternoon/early evening, then feed the people as they leave work. I've seen large ones that hold 20-30 people and small ones with a single table for 2 people. In summer, the tent walls will be rolled up. In the mornings on my way to work, I can see where they set up, there's usually a stash of large plastic jugs filled with what appears to be cooking oil sitting together under a tree nearby and there's a ring of grease stains on the street around the edges of where the tent fall.

This is the view from the subway station we get off at towards our place. We go under the arcade to our backdoor. This is where things got interesting last night. After I snapped these photos, a woman crawled out of a taxi and over the grates onto the sidewalk. These are about a foot and a half high compared to the sidewalk. After the woman comes a man. We move out of the way around a corner. As he confronts her, we move quickly towards home. As we're moving, I smell what seems to be gunpowder or fireworks. We didn't bother looking back, other than noticing that other people were moving out of the way, too.
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Saturday, February 14, 2009

teacher compensation

Yesterday being the day before Valentine's Day, there was a party at school. This is the teacher's haul. Well, actually, it's my haul because he doesn't really want any of it. But that's ok. There are Godiva truffles, Ghirardelli squares (including the dark chocolate with mint!!!), a Dove milk chocolate rose and Dove milk chocolate with caramel, Butterfingers and Baby Ruths, and a giant Hershey's kiss. It's almost as good as Halloween. Not to mention the Valentine's Day camouflage heart shaped box just for men.

While I do appreciate the gift of chocolate, especially good chocolate, I do find the whole Valentine's thing to be a bit contrived. I recall being in elementary school and all we did was exchange the little paper valentine's cards from the box, where you had to make sure you had enough cards for everyone in the class, including the teacher, which meant that you always had to buy 2 boxes because you needed just that one extra card. And those little sugar hearts with the "be mine" written on them that came in small bags. Godiva chocolate truffles???? Boy, times have changed.
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It must have been Vietnamese food day...

It was raining quite heavily yesterday (Friday the 13th) at lunch time, so instead of making the trek up the hill to Itaewon, we dashed across the street to the Vietnamese pho shop for spring rolls and noodles. This is a decent, reasonably priced, and nearby lunch place, which happens to be my default if it's raining and I didn't bring my lunch.

Here are the spring rolls:

The beef pho. You'll have to excuse the steam. It was raining quite heavily and the windows of the restaurant were fogged up, as were my glasses when we first entered. This is the first time in a long time that I haven't had to use the humidifier at home at night.

After a long day at work, and a lunch of beef pho, I came home to Vietnamese pork ball soup. With mushrooms and bean sprouts. Yummy. The recipe for this came from the Essential Asian Cookbook that I've had for ages. This is one of the recipes that I'd tagged as wanting to try, and it is definitely worth making again. I'll have to go through that cookbook again and see what else I might like to try.
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Sunday, February 8, 2009

An evening on the town

Well, we finally managed to get our act together and go out on a Saturday evening. We headed on over to Itaewon, and to Le Saint-Ex for dinner. Le Saint-Ex, by the way, also has a cheese list, so for anyone wanting cheese that you can't normally find in Seoul, you can order it. The brie was looking particularly attractive. In fact, the brie with the bread would make for a lovely afternoon snack, toss in a lovely bottle of wine, and I'd be feeling pretty good. Then there was also the camembert. And the goat cheese.

Bread basket served with butter. Standard french bread. Tasty. Would go very nicely with the aforementioned brie. Especially if the brie was slightly melted. Hm, may need to order some and have a wine and cheese party.

The mixed green salad with the non-spicy salad dressing. It had some crumbled walnuts on top.

The sea bass, which was excellent. Although the portions were a bit on the small side. Then again, we only got a salad to share, no appetizers or soup. Sometimes it's a bit difficult to know in advance how large the main courses will be so we can order enough appetizer, soup or salad. Although it is extremely refreshing to be in a place where things are not always super-sized, and that you don't get mounds and mounds of food that could feed three people piled on a plate.

This is the beef with the red wine sauce. It comes with potatoes, mushrooms, and several cloves of garlic. Delicious.

This is the floating something dessert. It's a meringue on top of English cream with caramel drizzled on the top and oozing over the sides. It was apparently nice and airy and oh-so-delicious.

This is the chocolate mousse.

As you can see, it wasn't bad.

After dinner, we wandered for a bit. We saw this dog in an alley near the restaurant.

Then we headed across the street and up the road/alley near Sultan's Kebabs. These are a couple of open store fronts that sell food. They have trays of jeon (mungbean pancake) and other foods prepared. These particular places also had pig snouts right next to the plates of jeon.

A closer view of the food available.

Further up the street, we saw this little guy hanging out.
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Saturday, February 7, 2009

Protests in Seoul

Every now and again, the Korean public protests against something. Last summer it was American beef, now, it's against heavy-handed police tactics and/or relocation of people to make way for redevelopment. Back in January, there was a protest in Yongsan. The police were called to the site, and after everything calmed down, six people were dead, including one police officer. The protest was against proposed redevelopment of the area -- the city wants to move people out of the area in which they have either lived or worked for many years or even generations, to make room for new development. The city has offered people money to move into new apartments, however, I think many of these people cannot afford the costs of living in a newer, more modern apartment with the associated utilities and other costs. Also, the business owners in the area, which would be the restaurants and small shops, may be concerned that if they move to another area, they would lose their customer base. Many of these small shops cater to the people living in the immediate area. If the restaurant owner is forced to relocate, they believe that they won't have any customers in the new site, and would not be able make enough money to survive.

While the original protest against the relocation of people and businesses occurred relatively near where I work, I didn't see any of the action. But I do see some of the impacts of these protests. If there is a protest at or near the site of the original protest and fire, then the road I take to get home becomes a parking lot. Now, the protesters have moved to central Seoul, and the protest has become more of a general social event. Each evening now, on my way home from work, the bus has to make its way through a gauntlet of traffic, pedestrians, and police. The police have relocated their armored buses and lined them up nose to tail along the main street. There are lines and lines of policemen on the sidewalks along the buses, with the occasional groups of four roaming around.

In general, with the exception of the bus ride through the main intersection, I stay away from all of this action. I've been told that foreigners will be safe, that no one will bother us. But that still doesn't mean I want to test that theory. So for now, we'll be heading in other directions for our walks and avoiding the central area. But I do find it somewhat intriguing to actually have a front row seat for all this -- I can see one of the main intersections where the action is taking place from my apartment. Fortunately, we have the option of taking the subway and can go out the back door and in the opposite direction to catch line 5.