Thursday, October 30, 2008

just another day at the office

once a week i travel to gumi to teach samsung employees who are completing degrees through YU. i teach an early morning class and then have 7 hours free until i teach a final class at 6pm. last wednesday two of my professor friends took me out for a fantastic lunch of samgyetang (soup consisting of a mild broth with an entire chicken stuffed with ginseng, garlic, a piece of deer antler, rice, and a myriad of herbs and spices). after some lively conversation while dining, we headed up geumo mountain via cable car. they wanted me to see doseon cave and the big waterfall, which happened to not have any water falling at this time of year! it was still a site for sore, neon-light blasted eyes.

no going back now!

passers by
a temple in the distance

buddha shrine in the cave
candles lit in the crevices of the cave walls
two of the coolest guys on the planet
life is good.
sometimes there is a water fall here!

disembarking! dr. chae is out of his mind if he thinks he will make it out of the cable car before the agimas (older women). no way no how! these women are tough and strong and will shove and push with the best of 'em! if you want to emerge without bruises, steer clear.

Monday, October 27, 2008

soup season has officially arrived...

and luckily, i am now more domestic than ever before. coming back to korea for this second year has forced me to take this cooking thing seriously. last year was embarrassingly horrendous in the culinary department. don't get me wrong, i had a few shining moments, but overall my relationship with food was like a very bad dream. i consumed exactly 16 boxes of annie's macaroni and cheese, about one hundred bowls of the same kind of vegetable soup, and one too many grilled cheese sandwiches to ever show my face in public again. i dined out at restaurants frequently, where there was no way of knowing the quality of ingredients used.

this summer i went through the "greens" cookbook and printed off recipes before i left california. i figured the time had come to REALLY learn how to cook for myself. it felt like a matter of sanity, as well as survival. in my giant suitcase full of food from berkeley, i included some garam masala and a bag of organic green split peas with a kick ass dal recipe on the back of the package. i must share it with you as it is ridiculously simple and SO delicious! i didn't have any naan to complement the soup, but i happened to have some organic flaxseed tortillas (thank you, jen! i owe you my life!). the combo was utterly divine.

on a chilly autumn day, the spiced aromas of this dal simmering on your stovetop will fill you with the warming glow of contentment. guaranteed.

green dal (serves 4-6 people)

1 cup organic green split peas (dry)
3 cups water
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tbsp. oil
2 cups chopped yellow onion
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2-3 tsp. garam masala
salt and pepper to taste

rinse and sort peas, drain and place in a medium sauce pan with 3 c. water, 1 tsp. salt and 1/2 c. chopped onion.
bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer until the peas are tender (about 1 hour).
while the peas are cooking, heat the oil in a skillet and saute the remaining onion with garlic and garam masala over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until they are golden, soft and just beginning to brown, about 10-15 minutes.
add the onion mixture to the cooked peas, stirring to combine. simmer 10-15 minutes to blend flavors. season with salt and pepper.

-recipe found on the back of the "whole foods 365 organic" brand green split peas package

Sunday, October 26, 2008

seorak mountain...happy mountain

christina and i left daegu for the northeastern most corner of south korea (sokcho) at 10am on thursday morning. what was supposed to be a 5.5 hour bus ride turned out to be an 8 hour ride. don't ask me how these things happen. all i can say is "it is korea. you never know what's happening until it's happening. and then when it's vastly different than what you expected, you either fly into a frenzied fit of rage or you roll with it." so, we rolled into sokcho around 6pm. we found a stellar castle of a hotel and then walked straight to the beach, both euphoric to be breathing in the fresh, northern coastal air. we were just going to walk for awhile along the shoreline, but decided to play tag with the waves. the waves caught us and we ended up soaked to the bone!

soft, misty sokcho seashore at night

christina anticipating her gourmet dinner at EMART-UH
our russian castle hotel! the moment we got off the bus in sokcho i saw it across the street and said, "hey, let's stay THERE!!" the price was right and the room had plenty of floor space for yoga, so it became our home away from home for a bit.
we took a 30 minute bus ride from our castle in sokcho to seorak mountain early friday morning. it was CHILLY! we bundled up but still being cold bought some white gloves with little plastic gripper things on the palm sides for 1,000 won ($1) from a woman on the sidewalk. little did we know how important those gloves would be on our climb. i honestly don't know if i could have survived without them!!

early morning light
big buddha
lil' buddha
happy buddha

autumn leaves...
on our way up the mountain, we walked through sinheung temple.
had to pass the scary guys to get inside. christina drank some holy water...i watched.temple wall painting...kuan yin, perhaps?

ulsanbawi rock

is this for real?

yeah, you betcha, that's where we're headed!
fellow thinks he had one too many shots of soju on his way up the mountain!
can i stay here forever?
heading higher! it felt like a sudden luxury to have stairs and railings, but after just 5 minutes of slowly scaling the steep staircase and holding on for dear life due to the strongest, whipping wind we'd ever felt, what was once luxury began to feel treacherous and slightly insane!

mountain goat monkey!
the wind kept gusting out of nowhere, from any direction at any time, threatening to blow us off the mountain like a couple of tumbleweeds! many a time we hit the ground, belly down, to keep from being whisked away.

on top of the world...again!

sweeping view of the east sea
heading back down

after our extraordinary hike we rode the bus back to sokcho and with our legs feeling a bit like jello, we went to the movies to relax! we saw "eagle eye," the only english film besides "mamma mia," which we had both seen already. never in a million years would either of us have paid money to see a movie like that back home, but in korea it is not uncommon to find oneself doing odd things! i had to close my eyes during the plethora of car crashes and way too many gunshots, but overall the plot did hold our attention. after the film we walked across the street and rode a glass elevator to the top of sokcho tower. we saw a whole lot of pretty lights dancing on the water and through the telescope some sassy ballroom dancing lessons taking place. the best part was the conversation we got into with one of the women who worked there. she was eager to speak english and we had questions. being that sokcho is right near the border of north korea, a large community of north korean refugees exists there.
- thanks a million to christina for many of these photos!