Yesterday I woke up earlier than usual to take a morning walk up the mountain closest to my apartment. Correction. Yesterday I woke up earlier than usual to hike the hill at the base of the mountain (quite a workout on its own). There’s a tower at the top with an expansive 360 degree view of Seoul, which is really beautiful at night when the city is lit. Namsan Tower points me home if I’ve lost my bearings, something that still happens after two years, two months, two weeks and six days of living in this living breathing animal of a place, if you’re wondering. The last time I hiked Namsan, the trees were unabashedly green, and the cicadas drowned out any and all competing noise. Yesterday the wind blew through bare branches and scattered a round of bright gold leaves to join the ground already covered in pine needles. The air was brisk enough to burn the back of your throat and sting your nose, and it did. I walked back down the steep hill, past the flagship location of Gentle Lady Cupcake, and straight to one of the two neighborhood cafes open before 9 am. There are days when I don’t want to talk about leaving Seoul, although I know I will, and yesterday was one of them.
I think a lot about how to stay warm when it’s cold, and besides hot cocktails, that involves a lot of soup. What I love about soup is that you can whip together a pot of it in a hurry with whatever ingredients you have on hand or need to use up, save for a few key items. And rather than follow a recipe to the T, this is usually what I do. If you have chicken or vegetable stock, onions, and garlic around, you’ve got the base for a meal. From there, anything’s fair game. Take a big pot and throw in your wayward items, the celery leaves at the back of the crisper drawer, the forlorn potatoes, the forgotten onion, the last knob of ginger from the big bunch you didn’t think you’d need but bought anyway. They’ll all come together with soup.
White Sweet Potato Soup
In a large soup pot, saute 2 cloves of garlic and half an onion in olive oil until the onions are soft and almost translucent. Add grated ginger, as much as you want, and a big handful of chopped celery leaves, then a tablespoon or two of curry paste and mix well. Add peeled, steamed, white sweet potatoes (or goguma, in Korean) and break them up with a wooden spoon in the pan. Pour in enough chicken or vegetable stock to cover, bring to a simmer, and cover with a lid. Let cook for ten minutes. Puree in batches–this soup will have a mouthfeel of pudding if you do. Drizzle with cold yogurt and snipped green onion.