Entries from June 29th, 2013

End of the Line: Incheon

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Two weeks ago, my friend Jun and I rode the dark blue metro line from central Seoul all the way to Incheon at the northwest coast of South Korea. Jun is a street photographer, and we met at a workshop that Seoulist hosted earlier this year. I told him about a new project I wanted to start where I’d select one of the city’s seventeen metro lines and travel to the last stop, get off, eat, explore, and take photos. I’ve admired his work since we met, and when he agreed to join, I was thrilled. In fact, it was his idea to visit Incheon.

The third biggest city in South Korea after Seoul and Busan, Incheon is known for its Chinatown, international airport, and port. Jun had visited before, and I hadn’t. He knew exactly where to go for lunch. For the first time, I understood why so many go wild for jajangmyeon, a Korean adaptation of Chinese food with noodles, potatoes, and carrots in a sweet, dark, thick sauce. The sun was merciless, and after an hour of wandering we found a shaded spot to rest and share a big bottle of Tsing Tao. We ambled down sleepy streets lined with used book stores and found a small art gallery on the second floor of a nondescript building. The woman working inside was well-dressed and a little lonely, maybe. She gave us cold barley tea and told us about the visiting artist, whose photographers were all inspired by one of Haruki Murakami’s novels. We found a traditional market with hanbok shops that was deserted but for us, a few other rogue tourists, and the shop workers and owners. Thanks, Jun, for joining, for navigating and for sharing your shots! It was fun.

Photos above, copyright 2013 Jun Michael Park.

Photos below, copyright 2013 Something for Sunday.

The panna cotta that wasn’t

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Today I planned to tell you about a panna cotta recipe with burnt caramel and candied chili pepper. It was going to be beautiful, super photogenic, a little retro, and waaay out of my comfort zone. I wanted a delicate panna cotta with a big wobble, but even after eight hours in the fridge it collapsed to a shapeless puddle. I tried for a glossy, dark and bitter caramel, but I cooked it too long and it hardened almost immediately. The candied chili pepper looked less like the sculptural tangle of red ribbons I’d anticipated and more like a tangle of red seaweed. In short, I bit off more than I could chew. And I burned my hands. Both of them.

Oh well. You win some.

The culprit (besides me) was not the stove, a hot pan, or the oven. It was a red Thai chili pepper, also known as The Devil.

I know better. I’ve ruined contact lenses by touching my eyes after slicing hot peppers. I’ve always had sensitive skin, and my raw palms scream bloody murder upon contact with acidic or spicy foods. I don’t have detectable fingerprints, just permanently pruney fingertips. Theoretically, I could rob a bank without getting caught, except that I would get caught because I’d probably forget to wear a ski mask.

I was midway through de-seeding The Devil this week when the burn spread across my palms like wildfire. I stopped and dug out a pair of plastic gloves from under the sink, gloves I’d bought specifically to protect my hands. But by then the damage was done. I finished with the peppers and put them in a pot of water and sugar, lit a flame underneath, and swore. My roommate was home, and for the second time this week I was eternally grateful not only not to be living alone, but to be living with her.

While Mimsie googled remedies, I reached for a quick fix.

“Is this a suggested remedy, per chance?” I stood in the doorway of our living room, a cold unopened bottle of soju in one hand, a cold glass of beer filled to the brim in the other.

“I don’t see that here, no. But try milk. And yogurt.”

I shrugged, took a long swig of beer, and filled a cup with milk. I plunged both hands into it, sloshing milk over the sides and onto my lap. The burn went away in an instant, but after a minute it returned, this time fiercer than before.

“Try scrubbing your hands with salt. You’ve got to get the capsaicin off your skin.” Mimie went to nursing school, and she’s got this no-nonsense way of taking care in situations that require exactly that.

I poured salt into my hands, scrubbed, then coated them with olive oil, all to no avail. The pain was still there, worse even. In an effort to reach for perspective, I thought of childbirth, because however much pain I was in, it was certainly nothing compared to that. To the men out there, I wonder – what do you imagine to try to soothe a physically painful situation? A swift kick in the balls? The difference is that not every woman knows the pain of childbirth; we can only imagine it. But most men know the sensation of being kicked in the balls, and few would likely prefer to re-visit the experience. Maybe this is not a fair analogy.

“Toothpaste! It’s a Thai remedy,” Mimsie informed. It had to work. If Thais had a remedy for Thai pepper burns, maybe this wasn’t such a heedless mistake after all.

I rushed to the bathroom and fumbled around while my toothbrush took a swan dive from the top shelf to the open toilet bowl. I fished it out and didn’t tell Mimsie about it. Instead, I squeezed out a glob of toothpaste and yelled at Thailand, the whole country.

“Ohhh GODDD! What are they THINKING!” My resentment of the nation, their agronomy, and their hokey remedies had reached the apex, naturally, because who else could I blame for my negligence?

I could feel a heartbeat in the tips of my fingers, which by then looked like red licorice nibs. But sweet mercy, I was starting to feel a buzz.

All cures exhausted, there was one thing left to do. Wait. I would sit in the dark in my room with my palms turned upward and be one with the pain while I waited for the beer to take full effect. I unrolled my yoga mat, turned out the light, and popped in my headphones. I slept with oil-filled plastic gloves on my hands that night. In the morning there was an oil stain next to my pillow. For breakfast, I ate the panna cotta, and my hands were as smooth as the rump of a newborn baby.

This week, it’s back to the panna cotta. Slower this time, and with nary a hot pepper in sight.

Cold-brewed Coffee

Sunday, June 16, 2013

I’ve been drinking cold-brewed iced coffee all week. I made the first batch last Sunday and a second batch late Friday night. Holy! New. World. Cold-brewed coffee is seductively dark and smells like chocolate. Sometimes I add a splash of milk and some cocoa powder. But it’s perfect black. Fresh, medium coarse grounds work best, but you can use any grounds you like. I got mine from a cafe down the block where the owner roasts his own beans, keeps a card catalog of repeat customers, and hangs local art on the wall. He also rides a mountain bike to work. I also have a crush on him, which could be part of the reason I’m going through so much coffee.

This recipe makes a strong concentrate and is meant to be diluted. I’ve been drinking it straight until this morning when I read the directions completely. I triple the measurements and keep the strained coffee in a jar in the fridge. It’ll last several days.

And! Save your used coffee grounds. They may be a bit of a pain in the ass, but they’re also super useful. Use them as a rub for meat, a skin exfoliant, a fertilizer. Some people say coffee grounds can even combat cellulite.

Cold-brewed Iced Coffee adapted from The New York Times

1 cup fresh coffee grounds

4 1/2 cups room temperature water

Stir together coffee and water in a jar. Cover and let sit overnight or for twelve hours. Strain with a very fine mesh sieve or cheesecloth. Store in the fridge for a week. To drink, mix with equal parts water over ice, or find a proportion that works best for you.

A Pop-up Dinner in Suwon

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Thirty kilometers south of Seoul, next to a rice paddy or two, on the roof, under a starless black sky. Bullfrogs and acoustic guitar. Infused liquors. Two chefs. Eight high school culinary students. Twenty-nine lucky diners. It was too dark to get a decent shot of the grilled stuffed flounder or grilled lamb chops, though I’m not sure I would have had the willpower to wait. Thanks Ryan, Zayd, Farah, and everyone else involved for such a memorable occasion.

Good Things

Sunday, June 9, 2013

I have a new dream to one day own a garden. It could be small, it could be in the middle of the city on a roof, but ideally it will be part of a yard with grass soft enough for barefeet. Since moving to our new apartment, we’ve acquired rosemary, lemongrass, basil, and mint. Our cherry tomato plant died a quick death, but the rest are thriving. Why is this exciting, you ask? Because for the first time, I’ve kept a plant alive for more than a couple of weeks (includes cacti). !! I feel like a proud parent.

Let’s move to Seoul and summer and a few exciting things happening in and out of the city. Here’s a very short list of local favorites, some from friends and some from strangers, all good. We’re lucky to live here. If you don’t, you should visit. I know a place you could stay.

500 Bingsu, or the dessert of summer in Korea.

Good beer hunting.

Seoul through the eyes of Jun.

In praise of gochujang, Korea’s most beloved condiment.

Stock up on cherry tomatoes while they’re in season and make some semi-dried.

Beat the heat.

Fresh, homemade Mediterranean foods, same day shipping to Seoul and Suwon, overnight shipping to the rest of Korea.

Egg salad sandwiches for picnics, y’all! Kimchi frittata for brunch!

Itching to get out of Seoul for a day? Buamdong looks like the perfect day trip destination.

A summer musical not to be missed at Haechi Hall in Myeongdong. Go here for ticket info.

Fell + Cole has a fresh store in Hongdae!

Mipa and Yona are opening a baking studio!

Never stop playing. Never stop creating.