A weekend in Taipei, Taiwan

A weekend is just enough to get a taste of Taiwan and realize you want to go back again before you’ve even left.  Taipei has an excellent public transit system, free wifi and lots of cultural & crazy experiences.  Here’s a quick preview of Ronda and my trip as we met my college buddy Andrew (who flew in from Japan with a few other friends).


Night Markets

If there’s one thing that Taiwan is known for its certainly the diversity of its night markets.  We stopped by at least 3 different markets and although some were “the biggest” or “best” according to a guidebook we found them all to be wonderful.  They sported an assortment of sights and smells including the infamous “stinky tofu” and all the parts of animals that you may not have wanted to sample.  I highly recommend just about anything on a stick and if you can handle the smell, stinky tofu is a delicacy!

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Night markets are easy to find and almost every subway station has *insert Taiwanese name here* Market listed on the exit signs.  We always felt safe but I advise anyone going to a public place like these market be careful with your valuables!

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Wulai

Wulai is a mountain village boasting the largest waterfall in Taiwan, an abundance of natural hot springs and the opportunity for a jungle adventure.  Luckily its only a 45 minute bus ride from Xiandan station at the end of the Green Subway line.  You can take a taxi for about $600NTD ($20USD) or ride the bus like we did for $15 NTD ($.50 USD).  Once there I recommend taking the cable car over the river to see the waterfall.  It was stunning and I can’t wait to share more; enjoy these photos for now. Continue reading

Pyeongchang Winter Festival – Seoul Hiking Group

Last weekend Seoul Hiking Group went up to Pyeongchang Winter Festival.  In addition to the festival Pyeongchang is the 2018 Winter Olympic host at both Yongpyeong and Alpensia resorts.  We hit the slopes all day Saturday before some of us opted to spend Sunday at the winter festival instead of hiking or going back up the lifts.  I got to taste octopus, Korean mystery candy.  I even beat a Korean at curling and wandered through an ice sculpture garden with fellow hikers. Enjoy the video of this chipper celebration!

Korean Delicacies

Who doesn’t love food?  Eating is a primary reason for many people to travel and Korean cuisine happens to be incredibly diverse with hundreds of dishes to try!  The best part is that each meal comes with a handful of 반찬 banchan (sides) that accompany whatever you order so you always get to taste a few treats.  Living in South Korea for a year I’ve sampled the lot but still have tons more to try.  Have you tried any of these, which was your favorite?

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Soy Sauce Crab Stew ( 간장게) at Kwangjang Market (광장시장)

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Actually I don’t know what this is. Its an internal organ based on what the vendor was saying and my Korean coworker insists its from a fish. You can find it at Kwangjang Market (광장시장) and let me know!

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Kimchi Baby Crabs ( 김치 아기 게) at Kwangjang Market (광장시장)

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Kimchi Banchan/Sides 김치반찬 ) at Kwangjang Market (광장시장)

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Kimchi (김치) at a North Korean style Restaurant in Sokcho (속초)

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Dried Squid (Ojingo 오징어) in Sokcho (속초)

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Dried & fermented school of jogi (조기/yellow croaker) at Kwangjang Market (광장시장)

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Fresh Crab (게장) at Sokcho’s Fish Market (속초 수산 시장)

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Fresh Crab (게장) at Sokcho’s Fish Market (속초 수산 시장)

Continue reading

Beef Sushi!

Beef sushi tonight wasn’t quite like my first experience with “Korean Beef sushi“.  Susan, Brian and I stopped in what we thought would be a small mom & pop Korean restaurant in Hyewha.  Upon arrival the menu greeted with us with what appeared to be more of a Korean fusion style.  We picked an assortment that included potato croquettes, fried mandu (with a spicy salad on top) and beef sushi before ending the meal with a some kind of curry bibimbap.  It was all delicious even though the beef sushi might have been cooler to watch than it tasted.  Either for gimmicks or flavors we’ll definitely be back here and maybe I can update with the actual restaurant details.

Has anyone seen this trend with other foods or other countries?

Korean Fusion on a boat

Saturday afternoon I had the pleasure of attending K-Cook Delight’s 1st ever Day-Restaurant and International Social Gathering.  The Day-Restaurant was a one day cook off with 20 chefs.  They spent the last month learning how to cook Jungae, Pajeon and Bimbimbap and then fuzed it with their native culture.  I found out about this Korean Food Foundation and inspiredsteps.org event online and thought it would be a fun way to try some new food.  When I saw it was free to foreigners I signed up right away!

Shortly after arrival we were gathered around my new best friend, Chris.  He was the man in charge, the man in the suit and the MC of the afternoon’s events. He informed everyone we could begin to “eat, meet, and be merry” soon but the food would be a few moments so we should skip the first step and just start the meeting part.

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He told us after we tasted the dishes we would all use our “stickers” to vote for the best dish.  Oh wait, nobody got stickers?  Chris polled the audience and confirmed that he was the only one who thought there were stickers.  He stood there and played it cool; giving the crowd a thumbs up and laughing as he ushered us onto the next topic.  Awards and a raffle!  At the end of the day the 3 best chefs would get a prize as well as 10 lucky raffle winners. With that he told us to go meet, and meet, and meet before we could eat.

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I strolled the deck and found a view of the nearby bridge.  Too bad it was such a cloudy day; I hoped the rain would hold off as I started meeting expats from all over the world.  I met plenty of Americans and Canadians, a South African whose wife was one of the chefs, some Europeans and East Asians from outside of Korea.  It was a lot of fun but got a wee bit crazy when the food came out.  We attacked the pajeon like vultures before Chris came back out to let us know we should be more civil.  I guess the hour and a half of hungrily mingling really worked up everyone’s appetite.  We weren’t that vicious but the 3 plates that came out did disappear within seconds.  Luckily I got to taste two of them and they were a great start but just made me crave more.

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Pajeon is like a pancake.  Traditionally it has eggs, seafood (squid, oysters or mussels) and some onions although these fusion creations included bacon, southwestern sauces, an assortment of western vegetables and more.

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While waiting I around I happened upon a group of lovely ladies.  They were all teachers and spoke English; most of them from America with a few native Koreans and other foreigners.  Together we developed a strategy to try as many dishes as possible.  Really it was just to send out a few of us in different directions and share the pickings.

After a few more dishes came out their friend Ryan, one of the chefs, brought out his Texas meets Brazil fused with Korea dish.  It was spectacular; a pajeon crepe stuffed with pork belly, spices and a savory sauce.  He easily won my vote for best dish of the day!

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Next I tried a few courses of Bimbimbap; essentially a bowl of rice topped with beef and vegetables (usually sprouts, eggplant, mushrooms, squash and radish).  Mix it all together with a chili paste and you’ve got a traditionan Korean Bimbimbap.  The eccentric entrees brought out on this occasion included one with an Indian twist and another with a middle eastern array of spices,  raisins, cashews and minced meats.  There was a delicious vegetarian bimbimbap with a French accent and  some of the best peppers I’ve had since I’ve been here too.  It was all delightfully full of flavor and had me excited for what was next to come!

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The afternoon continued with dish after dish being brought out.  I didn’t get a chance to try the shrimp spring rolls with a Thailandish twist although I was able to check out a few types of Japchae.  This glass noodle is traditionally cooked and stir fried with beef and veggies like carrots or spinach in a soy sauce base.  Today I got to broaden my horizons with Japchae fused with flavors from Singapore, Japan and a few Western countries.

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My favorites for the afternoon had to be the pork belly crepes, the first pajeon which had a Southwest American sauce topped with bacon and the Iraq meets Britain and Korea Bibimbap topped with cashews and raisins.  K-cook Delight was a great way to make some new friends and try traditional Korean dishes with a twist.  The fact that it was free means I highly recommend it to all foreigners who happen to be visiting when the Day-Restaurant is taking place.

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