Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Lately the news has painted South Korea to be a place of imminent danger, and while I was home in the States, it was easy to become concerned, too. Reeled in by the collective paranoia that the media inspires, it takes a great deal of care to strike a balance between staying informed, or at least feeling informed, and reacting rationally. It’s difficult to address the situation without knowing more than what the news says and how it seems here, but if you’re wondering what current life is like in Seoul through the eyes of an ordinary ex-pat, one thing appears to be true: it is as it was. Seoul feels safer than many other parts of the world, though everybody has a different threshold.

I moved recently from the basement bedroom in the home of one of my surrogate mothers to the top floor of a brick building owned by a grandmother/grandfather duo. Mimsie and I looked at seventeen apartments around Seoul in one day. We fell for the charm, the space, and the owners, and two days later we moved in. Our new neighborhood is eclectic and alive, with quite possibly the most independent burger joints on one block of any other neighborhood in the city. The jewel of the apartment is in the kitchen, smack dab in the center beneath a window looking over a courtyard. It’s an oven, and from what we can tell, it works. If I don’t seem as excited as I ought to be, it’s because there’s a gentleman roasting coffee straight ahead, and the ensuing fumes have rendered me high. Not that I’m complaining.

We’ve scrubbed our fridge free of little black hairs, cleared the corners of cobwebs, buffed the biff and aired out our bedrooms, and the place is beginning to feel like home. Last night we cracked open a bottle of Rioja and sopped up heaps of Shakshuka with hunks of baguette. Shakshuka is a frittata that’s been widely adapted but is originally found in traditional Sephardic Jewish cooking. The version here is common in Israel, made with tomatoes, peppers and onions, loads of cumin, and eggs poached over the top. I got the recipe from my ever-amazing friend Jen, who got it from her friend Shahar, and though I can’t confirm it turned out how it was supposed to, I can confirm it was delicious, and absurdly so. This is a one-pot meal, warming and delightful, and you’ll probably want to make it two days in a row. You could even eat it cold, which might be especially good during the coming months.

Shakshuka adapted from Adventurous Appetite

4 tomatoes

1 onion

1 red pepper

2 tablespoons tomato paste

4 eggs (Shahar and Jen’s recipe calls for 5-6 eggs, but I used a narrow, deep pan and only had room for 4)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 heaping tablespoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon sugar (if your tomatoes are sweet, use less sugar or none at all)

salt and pepper to taste

Chop onion into cubes, set aside. Chop pepper and tomatoes into cubes. Heat a wide pot on medium-high and add the olive oil. Add onion and caramelize, stirring frequently. Add salt. Add red pepper and tomatoes, and cook until softened. Stir in tomato paste, cumin, sugar, and more salt and pepper. Taste, and if you’re satisfied, break the eggs over top, taking care to keep the yolks intact. Go for an even layer of eggs over the whole. Put a lid on it. When the egg yolks are barely set, it’s ready. Serve warm (or cold) with bread.

  • soymeg

    I loved what you said about peoples´ threshold regarding danger. The US media primarily makes everywhere in the world seem so dangerous, where many people I know outside of the US are afraid of it!

    • Jacqui

      I know! It’s true. In South Korea, children think the U.S. is a pretty dangerous place, and that has to do with the guns. “Danger” is really a matter of perspective – there are definitely different kinds of danger wherever you look, just maybe not in the traditional sense of the word.