July 2008

According to the calendar it is the middle of summer today, the hottest day known as joong bok/중복. The humid heat is unbearable and things don’t improve at night. Korea’s solution to hot summer nights are straw mats/돗자리. At first I wasn’t convinced that sleeping on top of a straw mat would make a difference. But after trying it out I’m sleeping more comfortably. These straw mats come in mattress sizes (twin, queen), have pretty decorations on the borders, and fold up nicely for storage.

Korea is beginning to have donations that help the needy. Now that there are people with plenty, there are those who want to clean their closets and feel better about themselves (making it okay to shop for more). Look for these green drop-off containers near apartment buildings. I’m happy to contribute shoes that give me blisters and clothes my husband should be ashamed to wear. “Beautiful Store/아름다운 가게” picks up larger items and has stores throughout the city.

Donation box requesting “soft goods.”

Last night we went to the recently opened On the Border at COEX. It’s a Brinker International chain (think Chili’s and Macaroni Grill) that’s new to Seoul. I was pleased to have endless chips and salsa and since the food is shipped from the states things taste right. A few nights ago I dreamed about eating a hard-shelled taco and low and behold, they are on the menu! Tips: enchiladas automatically come with a sour cream sauce unless you request the red sauce; if you take home leftovers they forget to pack the refried beans so specify that you want everything on your plate; ask nicely and they will also pack some chips and salsa in your doggie bag. Portions are large and prices are reasonable (a $11 meal stateside costs 14,000W in Seoul).

Samseong exit on Subway Line 2, at COEX near Hyundai Department Store. http://www.ontheborder.co.kr

Here is the gyopowife Mapo Tofu Recipe:

1 box tofu, cut into cubes

3+ cloves garlic, use garlic press

1/2 onion, cut into small squares

1/2 carrot, cut into cubes

1/2 box mushrooms, cut small

handful bell pepper, cut into small squares

handful peas

3 Tablespoon ketchup

1 Tablespoon red pepper paste (고추장)

1 Tablespoon sesame oil

1 teaspoon sugar

2+ cups water

Stir fry the garlic and onions first, then add remaining vegetables. In a small bowl combine the red pepper paste, ketchup, sugar and some water. Once the vegetables are heated up add the wet ingredients, mix well. Add tofu and additional water to cover most everything. Stir gently until the tofu is hot, liquid will reduce.

Serve with rice and enjoy!

Itaewon is where foreigners, expats and gyopos come together to eat, drink and be merry. I was very happy to find a source for corn tortillas and dried beans galore. The Foreign Food Market is found up the hill from the Itaewon Hotel and prices are fair.

Municipal trash bags don’t fit properly in my trash cans. The flaps get folded in and the trash can gets all grubby. Always looking for ways to reuse things, here’s a tip: slice up an old rubber glove and use the strips as giant rubber bands.

Saving the planet and saving myself from a messy trash can.

Today was another miserable humid summer day. I managed to drink enough cold water to venture to the local market (재래시장). My reward was discovering green gold ~ avocados! They were almost perfectly ripened and marked down from 6980W to 4000W (about 4USD per pack) since no one else was interested in buying them. Mad from the heat and delighted with the discovery, I bought 6 and promptly gorged on 2 as soon as I got home.

Chocolate and gum sold in Korea comes in pill bottles. The chocolate tastes like brown plastic. The gum is too sweet and too soft. I have yet to taste any decent Korean chocolate or minty gum. But at least I can reuse the pill bottles. They are handy for storing small things like buttons, paper clips and dried herbs.