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Thursday, November 26, 2015

TGBKA: THE FOOD!

When we were flying from the States to Korea, the girls and I decided that we were going to get started on trying Korean food right then and there. In hindsight, that could have been a miserable decision should our systems decide to reject the food; glad we have tummies of steel! When we landed, I mentioned to Sweet Baboo that we basically feasted during our flight. He responded by saying, "So you're not hungry?" The second I said, "Nope. I think we're all pretty full!" I regretted it. I was instantly hungry. But I do not like putting people out, and I felt like my famous 15 checked bags and 5 carry on bags were putting people out enough. So I remained silent about my hunger.

As a great family friend of ours drove the girls and me to our apartment, the hunger and exhaustion started to kick my butt. I tried my best to stay awake, but hunger submitted and exhaustion overtook me. I can only hope my snoring didn't make Family Friend snicker too much as she escorted us to our new home.

When we got to the apartment we unloaded all bags on the curb and hugged Family Friend with as much genuine thanksgiving that my exhausted and confused body could bestow at the time. I remember little about that night, but the girls have filled in a few blanks for me. I do remember being very concerned about leaving some of our boxes and bags on the curb as we went up to the apartment with the first load. Sweet Baboo and his Handy Helper assured me that our stuff was perfectly safe. In fact Handy Helper said, "You could leave it there for a week and it wouldn't budge!" That was seriously reassuring.

After getting the first load upstairs, my body quit. All functional movement and communication simply gave out. I found the Army-issued couch, told the kids to not leave the apartment (while Sweet Baboo and Handy Helper were on their way down to finish grabbing the rest of our load) and collapsed in a horizontal position for the first time in over 20 hours. It. Was. Glorious.

I remember hearing Sweet Baboo reenter the apartment and ask the girls if they were hungry. I vaguely remember hearing Sweet Baboo whisper in my ear that he was taking the girls downstairs so they could pick up something to eat. And I remember smelling fried chicken some time after that... though I don't know how long it took. I remember thinking, "Oh great. The very last thing I need right now is greasy fried chicken on my tummy..." but then tasting the chicken and subsequently thinking, "Holy crap! How in the world did they get it this crispy and juicy without being greasy?!" Seriously... the American South could really take some pointers from South Korea for fried chicken magic.

I could only muster enough energy to eat one small thigh before I decided that horizontal was the position for me. I don't remember getting up from the table, but I do remember hugging the wall (directly behind the table... seriously, it's a step and a half away) when Sweet Baboo was trying his best to wake me long enough to make my way to bed. All I could think of was "This is the most comfortable wall I've hugged in quite some time. I could probably sleep a couple hours with this wall. Just leave me alone." He didn't leave me alone. And I was (eventually) glad he didn't. Because you can't hug a wall in the horizontal position, and getting horizontal was my ultimate goal.

The next morning, for the first time in years, all I wanted was a good cup of coffee. My body was rested, stretched, and ready to take on the transition to Korea... my mind, however, was rising up a militia to overthrow my body unless certain demands were met. And the first demand was copious amounts of caffeine. Sweet Baboo has been living the Geo-Bachelor lifestyle (more on that later) for months, so he didn't have any coffee in the apartment. I asked to head out in search of a coffee shop. He tried to explain to me that my mission was futile for at least another five more hours, but I insisted. This is what I found:
This coffee shop is 25 steps outside our apartment complex. Exciting, right? WRONG! Check out their hours (next photo).

THEY DO NOT OPEN UNTIL 11:30AM! 
I am not really the type of person who can't function without their coffee... in fact, I usually take until 2pm to finish my first cup of the day! That's usually because I set the cup down as I'm doing my morning awesomeness and forget where I set it. But on my first morning in Korea, I was ready to go nuclear if I didn't get coffee right away.

So we went to the store that we now refer to as the Gas and Sip. I'm not sure why we call it the Gas and Sip; you can't buy gas from there (as far as I can see). And the name of the store is written in English as GS 25... but Sweet Baboo calls it the Gas and Sip, Handy Helper calls it the Gas and Sip, and we now call it the Gas and Sip. They had this little gem on their shelves, and I was happy for the moment:

Using my powers of deduction, I assumed this to be a caramel latte. I was correct, and it was delicious!
We also stopped by a lovely little bakery that is just down the street from our complex, and had some rather delicious doughnuts. I was starting to worry that everything tasted so yummy because I was jetlagged and ready to eat anything at that point. We have since gone by the same bakery for other goods and they were even more delicious than I remembered from that first morning!

Later, we stopped by another little mart near our complex and picked up more coffee for me, and little snacky treats for the girls. We had to get used to the stores feeling small and cramped, and very cluttered. There are so many things to see and try to figure out, and most things are not written in English at all. You learn to go off of the photos on the packages. We grabbed a bag of little oranges and more coffee for me from here:

I love seeing all of the produce on the porch of this store. It almost feels like a farmer's market!

This is the same store, but on the inside. 
That evening, Sweet Baboo wanted to treat the girls and me to a dinner at a restaurant that he and Handy Helper refer to as "Angry Face". Guess why...

I love the logo! I fear I'll never fully be able to mimic the look though.
As soon as we had ordered and they brought out the food, The Elder started to get painfully tired. We looked over and she was swallowing tears and doing her very best to hide her pain. Sweet Baboo generously offered to take her back to the apartment and let me stay with The Wee to enjoy Angry Face. But as Sweet Baboo and The Elder started putting on jackets, The Wee said that she was very tired and ready for bed. So Handy Helper and I stayed behind and enjoyed the dinner. They ordered spicy pork:

The green salad tasted like molten lava. The miso soup was on point! I didn't touch the red pepper sauce (red), but really enjoyed the salty garlic flavored yellow goop with my pork!

They bring the meat out to you raw and it gets cooked at the table.

Customers generally cook the food themselves, but on this night the restaurant sent somebody to our table to cook for us. It was quite a treat!

The garlic slices were perfect!
The spicy pork was very tasty, but when eaten with the molten lava salad my face felt like it was on fire! We packed up some food to take back to Sweet Baboo and headed back to the apartment. I was tired and headed for bed; Sweet Baboo and Handy Helper stayed up and talked for a bit.

The next day, Sweet Baboo took us to a noodle place in our apartment complex and ordered for all of us. It was during that meal that we decided to stop letting him guide our dining experiences. We shall forever refer to that particular bowl of noodles as "Surface of the Sun Noodles".
They don't look deadly, but these noodles will melt your face off!

They really tried to eat the Surface of the Sun Noodles. We found something else for them instead.
Later that day we decided to venture over to the train station to figure that out. On our way I noticed a lovely little restaurant and asked if we could pop in for a bite to eat. Sweet Baboo was intrigued and let me do the ordering. With a lot of pointing and gesturing I fumbled my way through the experience. I'm not sure I got what I intended to order, but I'm okay with that. We got a bowl of AWESOMESAUCE, and we now call the soup "SpunkySoul's Success Soup". Here is what it looks like:

When you order a bowl of soup, you get all kinds of sides as well. The soup is still cooking when it comes to the table, and it is literally boiling in the bowl. Waiting for it to cool (and the food to finish cooking) is highly recommended.
 When the soup arrived to our table, a couple of customers who had just walked in sat at the table next to us and they guided us through seasoning and eating our soup. Not one word was understood, but we enjoyed gesturing and reading the body language and facial expressions on each other to gain understanding. I think my favorite part was watching the girls get involved in the action as they tried to communicate as well. It was an amazing experience!

After the soup finishes cooking, and stops boiling, you add a couple of scoops of the seasoning that's on the table. It becomes more creamy and looks like this.

A couple of guys in Sweet Baboo's office (who are Korean) told me that this is "hangover soup". And this hunk of yummy is clear noodles with "parts of the pig" bundled inside... tied up with the pig's intestine. It's magnificent!

There are no salt and pepper shakers on the table. Rather, they have this community bowl of salted prawns for you to use to salt your soup. It adds a lot of flavor!
 We have loved SpunkySoul's Success Soup so much that we have gone back again, and the girls have requested it a third time! At 6,000 won per bowl, it's quite cheap (especially since the girls can split a bowl and be full after!).

We have had other great food experiences so far... but those will have to go in another post. We're too busy learning a little more every day, and I need to get better at posting our experiences before heading to bed. It's good to have goals...


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