Long time, no see

22 Mar

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I’ve been back in the United States for about five months now, and I get this question on what seems like a weekly basis: Do you miss Korea?

Well, duh. I lived there for three and a half years. Of course I miss it! I miss the food, I miss the random little adventures, I miss my students and most of all, I miss my friends in Korea!

That’s why I’m very excited to be heading to NYC this weekend to meet up with my pal Huiyeong! (I haven’t planned a thing, so if you have suggestions for things to do, please comment below!)

So what have we been up to? While I miss my life in Korea, it’s really, really good to be home.

Chris and I moved into my dad’s house in Fort Wayne, Ind. It’s a big, old house near downtown, and I love it. My grandparents raised my dad here, and I grew up here too. I’m not sure how long we’ll stay, but for now it feels like home.

Chris plans to graduate this summer with a degree in criminal justice, and I’m working as a reporter for a weekly newspaper.

It’s good to be back in the newsroom. I was actually really worried about finding a journalism job because of the “travel gap” in my resume, but the stars aligned, and I landed an interview just three days after I returned!

That being said, going from getting in front of a class every day to interviewing strangers and making myself sit down and write three or four stories each week has taken my brain some time to adjust.

I feel like I’m ready to start blogging again. While TNF will live on — I will likely continue to post on here as I organize three and a half years of photography from my time abroad — I’m thinking about starting a new blog to document this next chapter in our lives.

We want to share all the fun things there are to do — and eat — around here. Adventures are still to be had, so please stay tuned.

 

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Daegu Street Food: Bulgogi Tents

3 Oct

Foreign bloggers have long described Bukseongro bulgogi tents as “Daegu’s best-kept secret,” “a must-see spot” and “the best bulgogi” they’ve ever had – and for good reason; these tents live up to the hype. Featured several times on Korean television, this spot may not be a secret, but it truly is a gem – a diamond in the rough to be precise.

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Mounds of delicious, charbroiled meat

By day, Bukseongro is home to industrial tool shops, but after dark, a nocturnal world springs from the neighborhood’s vacant lots.  Bukseongro is a golmok, a street that offers several restaurants and vendors specializing in the same food. Daegu is home to many of these specialized alleys including chicken gizzard alley, jjimgalbi alley, seafood at Chilseong Market, karguksu at Seomun Market, etc.

The bulgogi tents are spread out over a couple blocks. However, the liveliest area is a row of about five restaurants under a single canopy. From the Bukseongro branch of Daegu Bank, walk one block north and take the first left – or just follow your nose! Upon turning the corner, you will be greeted by a chorus of apron-clad women steering people toward their restaurants, shouting out their menu and prices.

This reception was quite unlike anything I’d ever seen in Daegu, so we asked one of the “bulgogi ladies” about this. We’re all friends here, she said. It’s not a serious competition; it’s fun. It makes people feel welcome. They get customers from all over Korea as well as foreign visitors. We watched as she worked her magic, making conversation with regulars and sometimes physically pulling people into her section! It doesn’t matter that it’s quite crowded already.

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One of the “bulgogi ladies” ushers customers into her restaurant

“Ah, jaemee eetda,” she said with a smile, her eyes shining in the light of the tents and the glow of the charcoal stoves. “Ah, it’s fun.”

People come here to let loose, she said. The party lasts from 5 p.m. to 5 a.m.

“Here they can talk loudly, laugh loudly, sing loudly, argue loudly,” she said.

The tents are an intersection of nightlife and street food. Patrons sit on plastic stools around plastic tables in what is essentially a parking lot. The tents are lit by bare bulbs, and, in lieu of napkin dispensers, rolls of toilet paper are hung from the ceiling.

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Note the rolls of toilet paper hanging from the ceiling 🙂

I’ve been to the tents on a Tuesday night and a Saturday night, and the vibe was the same: lively, crowded and, yes, loud! Walking into the tent, the air is thick with the smell of cooking meat, smoke, the clinking of soju shot glasses and steam rising from bowls of noodles.

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A young, mostly-local crowd flocks here to consume copious amounts of meat, noodles and alcohol. The regulars we talked to said it’s the cheap price that keeps them coming back. One group of university students said they come there twice a week. When I asked what their favorite menu item was, without hesitation, they gestured to a green, glass bottle of soju on the table before breaking into laughter.

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A group of university students having a night out

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Soju for days

There’s no mistaking that people come here to drink. It’s a great place for a cheap night out. However, the cheap and delicious food makes the trip more than worth it. All the restaurants serve more or less the same food, so don’t get too stressed about making a decision. The menu is simple: bulgogi and udon noodles. Some restaurants offer spicy gochujang bulgogi and chicken feet too.

Marinated pork is charbroiled over a charcoal stove. The meat is tender and slightly chewy with crispy edges and a sweet, smoky flavor. The bulgogi is piled high and served family style. The greasy goodness pairs well with sides of pickled radish, kimchi radish and onions in soy sauce. A bowl of udon noodles rounds out the meal. Each steaming bowl is filled with thick noodles in a flavorful broth with fish cake, green onions, seaweed paper and chili flakes.

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Udon noodle soup

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Menu

Even if you don’t speak Korean, the menu is simple enough to easily decipher. The left side of the menu has the bulgogi serving sizes. 특대 teuk-dae is extra large, 대 dae is large, 중 joong is medium and 소so is small. Under that is 우동 udon soup. The right side of the menu has the alcohol selection. The smallest portion of bulgogi (5,000 won) is a generous amount for one person or enough to share between two people if you order soup too. The largest (20,000 won) is enough to feed four or five people.

How to get there

Bukseongro bulgogi tents are a 20-min walk or a short taxi ride from Jungangro subway station. Ask the taxi driver to take you to 북성로 돼지불고기골목 Bukseongro Dwaeji Bulgogi Golmok. The taxi driver will let you out in front of the Bukseongro branch of Daegu Bank (대구광역시 중구 서성로 81 Daegu, Jung-gu, Seoseongro 81).

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It was so good, we had to get some to take home!

Korea’s past and present mingle at Mu-A

20 Sep

Jong-ro, the neighborhood located northwest of Banwoldang Subway Station in downtown Daegu, is an interesting intersection of old and new. The buildings are older and the streets are quieter, removed from the blaring music, cell phone shops and cosmetic stores of Dongseong-ro. The area is home to an Oriental medicine market dating back to the Joseon dynasty and shops selling traditional Korean rice cakes as well as ultramodern department stores, cafes and Japanese restaurants frequented by young patrons.

A few blocks north of Donga Department Store is Mu-A, a hansik restaurant and dessert café that reflects Jong-ro’s unique feel. Mu-A’s design is undeniably modern, but its source of influence is unmistakably rooted in tradition. Continue reading

A week’s worth of lunches: Delivery food in South Korea

9 Aug

Hey guys! How’s your week going? I’m excited to be wrapping up summer classes this week. I’m so ready to be done teaching six days a week, and my students and I are looking forward to a little break!

The best thing about working longer hours is the food! Lunch is provided during camp, so my boss orders something different every day for delivery and the teachers eat together between our morning and afternoon classes. Here’s what a week’s worth of lunches looks like. Continue reading

Our happy, dog hair-covered life: What it’s like to have a “big” dog in South Korea

31 Jul

A lot of our friends and family members have asked us how our dog, Clark, has liked living in South Korea, so I thought I’d write a post about what it’s like to live abroad with our pet. Continue reading