Cooking Time: Ochazuke

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We’re not friends, so I should be respectful to the ochazuke.

I made ochazuke for dinner last night. I found a recipe on wikipedia while I was “researching” other things. And then this video where a dog takes you through the steps of making two kinds of ochazuke.

Ochazuke is a pretty simple dish, consisting of rice and a ‘broth’ of green tea. Toppings can really be anything you have lying around. I used smoked salmon, seaweed, and crushed sesame seeds.

My recipe is

  • 3 handfuls uncooked rice (about 150g for me)
  • 100g smoked salmon, sliced
  • 1 tbs toasted sesame, crushed
  • 1 packet dry seaweed, crumbled (found in any Korean supermarket).
  • 1 cup green tea, steep the tea for 5 minutes
  • soy sauce, to taste
  • wasabi, to taste

Cook your rice, or use one of those instant rice things. On top of the rice you put your salmon, crumbled seaweed, crushed sesame seeds, and your soy/wasabi. Pour in your cup of green tea, and give it a mix.

This is also great for a packed lunch because you can make the tea when you need to eat it. No more cold lunches for this cucumber!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
my kind of dosirak

If you use too much wasabi you’ll end up like Tuco

*******

You’ll sometimes see this dish called ‘chazuke’ as well. Japanese typically uses the prefix o- as an honorific. So if you go to Japan, shopkeepers will usually call you ‘o-kyakusama’ meaning ‘honored guest/customer’. You’ll only hear the word ‘gaijin’ (foreigner) if they want to offend you. This word uses the same Chinese characters as the Korean word ‘waegookin’.

My department has a 고객센터 (customer service centre) but my coworkers exclusively refer to our clients as ‘waegookin’.

Mountains and Apartments

I know, super original title. I could have gone with ‘mountains of apartments’, but that isn’t accurate.

*******

Flying in to Seoul there are two things that stand out for most people: the mountains (80% of the cool Korea is mountains), and the apartment buildings sandwiched between the mountains, reaching up into the sky like Lego pieces waiting for a giant foot to stomp on them and curse their existence and their maker.

I used to think industry was a blight on the urban landscape

That is, assuming the land of morning calm isn’t shrouded in its famous mists. ‘Land of the morning calm’ is a random Chinese description of Korea that really needs an update (no, “Korea + adjective” doesn’t work).

I’ve been to rural towns where there are apartment buildings right next to rice fields. While not as big as those in the pictures about, the design is almost identical. The only visible difference being the builder’s name on the building.

Why all the sameness? Well, after the Korean War the government needed to build housing for its people as quickly as possible. There was also likely one government-appointed architect that came up with the spartan design that is so familiar today. And since space is a major issue for Korean cities, successive presidents probably saw no need to worry about apartment designs when they were focusing on catching up with the rest of the world.

So why does this continue now? Korea is now an advanced economy?! Space is still an issue. And perhaps people are just used to seeing their apartments looking like that. At least where I live, most of the apartment complexes are owned by the company that most of the residents work for. Obviously the interiors are different.

But there’s hope. Here’s a pair of buildings just outside my office.

The first design reminds me of the camouflage painting naval ships used during the world wars. Of course, those ships were just painted different shades of black and white because the world was black & white back then.

More pics and info for each ship can be found on their wikipedia pages

HMS Belfast

HMAS Yarra

USS Freedom

USS West Mahomet

Cooking Time: Jambalaya

Korean rice is why this looks glossy
Korean rice is why this looks glossy

I love jambalaya. It’s basically the American version of paella, since saffron was super expensive back then (and it still is). Because my coworkers don’t know what paella is, I have to describe jambalaya in terms they understand so I usually say it’s like American bibimbap, but not drowned in Korean hot sauce.

Protip: drowning anything in Korean hot sauce makes it edible. Though all you end up tasting is the Korean hot sauce.

 

My recipe (for 2) is

  • 3 handfuls of uncooked rice (about 150 g)
  • 1 tbs cooking oil (grapeseed is good becaus it has a neutral flavour)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 stalks of celery, chopped (about 100 g)
  • 6 cloves garlic, sliced (I use more garlic than most people)
  • 1 capsicum, chopped (capsicum is really expensive in Korea, so I don’t usually use it)
  • 100 g andouille sausage, chopped (any kind of sausage works here, but andouille is more authentic and gives a nice smoked flavour to the rice)
  • 1 tomato, chopped (blanched if you prefer; one 400g can is fine too)
  • 250 mL chicken stock (about a cup)
  • 1 tbs tomato paste
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
  • salt/pepper to taste
  • 1 chicken breast, chopped

The first thing you do is fry your onions in the oil. Add your celery, capsicum, and garlic; I slice it directly into the pan. Cook for 3 minutes and add your sausage. Cook for a few more minutes then add your tomatoes, chicken stock, tomato paste, and spices. Cook for 10 minutes before adding the chopped chicken breast. And remember…

abs
Click for video

…otherwise your rice will stick to the bottom of the pan. What are you, a savage?

Cook until the rice absorbs the sauce (about 10 minutes). If you’re worried about the chicken not being cooked properly, you shouldn’t be. It should cook quickly because you were supposed to have chopped it into small pieces (smaller surface area means it will cook through faster).

 

The good old days

We actually had one of these Kodak carousels, though not sure if my parents still have it. We would sometimes look at the slides without the carousel though. Maybe it was broken, or we were especially stupid children, it’s hard to say.

*******

The good old days, they weren’t that good. Think about it: this is the best time period you could be living in even if you ignore the advances in everything from medicine to not throwing raw sewage out the window. When someone asks you this question you’re likely to think you’ll be some rich merchant or monarch or ‘pirate’. But are you rich and powerful now? No one says “You know, I’d really like to experience what life as a helot in Sparta was like”.

Where is your social media now?

For the record, I’d do an Ibn Battuta.

Of course, you could argue that knowing the things you do now, you could very easily be rich and powerful if you were in your chosen time, except you wouldn’t know these things. How could you? And even if you somehow could have knowledge of the future, everyone else would think you were practicing the dark arts and would promptly burn you at the stake before returning to their lives of throwing raw sewage out windows.

Ask anyone with a high school education what they would have done in the Great War. The correct answer is to go to war and stupidly charge at machine guns because the old men have told you that’s what you do to machine guns.

All this is before even thinking about the high infant mortality rate. And even if you survived childhood, you might live up to the ripe old age of 60. This is still a milestone in Korea even though these days Koreans have a life expectancy of about 80 years. Traditions take time to die off.

This brings us to how we look at the world around us. Have we become more violent? You could point to the frequent acts of violence and human rights abuses everywhere (almost a mass shooting a day in the US, Syria shenanigans, ethnic cleansing everywhere), as evidence that we have. But I’d say this isn’t the case, considering our colourful history of killing each other ever since Thak realised a club to Thok’s head meant Thak now had two wives.

Finish him!!!!!

While it’s easier to believe that video games and high temperatures cause violence (marijuana if you are in 1936 and can somehow read this; Hello! Maybe you should be taking a look at what Hitler is up to), I’m pretty sure there was a lot more violence long before either of these became issues.

What has happened is that we have become more aware of violence, especially violence in countries foreign to our own, through constant media coverage and the advent of social media (these two are in a feedback loop). It just makes better news to highlight the negative foreign stories than to focus on the negative local stories. If we focus on the negative local stories then we would be forced to remove the log from our own eye first and then try to remove the speck of dust from our friend’s. It’s much easier to just chug along thinking that while whatever atrocity is happening over there in Foreignstan is terrible, it’s a good thing that I’m a citizen of Localstan.

Breakfast of Champions

Usually scrambled eggs and spinach; awesome with a dash of balsamic vinegar; but today bacon instead since I ran out of spinach. I don’t eat fruit often, but they’ll do for the midmorning snack

Bananas are a great source of potassium
Bananas are a great source of potassium. Also, kiwis are weird

Watch the video on how to make the best scrambled eggs. He adds chives and creme fraiche near the end though this isn’t necessary. If I have it, I add sour cream.

Toothbrushing: It's a lifestyle, not a choice

Toothbrushing: we all know we should do it. I floss and mouthwash too, as my dentist who took my bracers off 10 years ago said I should. The dentist I visit in Ulsan after my annual company mandated medical said I should have my wisdom teeth taken out while she was scaling my teeth. This is called an addon-on sale, and since I used to sell this kind of service; my advice to the customer was nearly always don’t buy since a $60 toaster doesn’t need a $20 product insurance; I could see what she was doing. Besides, I’ve already had four teeth removed so crowding isn’t an issue.

It’s generally not a good sign when your dentist is grinning and rubbing their hands together as you walk in to their office.

Anyway, Korean schoolkids do this a lot. It was one of my first ‘culture shock’ when I was a teacher; Antipodeans usually brush their teeth twice a day, morning and night. Here’s a video about it (you may want to mute the sound though)

In the world I operate in, it’s not all rainbows and unicorns. The office workers on my floor all swarm into the bathroom every morning for their ritual. It wasn’t always like this though. We’ve recently had an IT team and a  taskforce team (my company loves TFTs) take residence on our floor so there is a mad rush for the prime toothbrushing positions in front of the mirror. The IT team’s name in Korean and English seems to have been created to intentionally obscure their function. Since its only a small office with three men on the cusp of retirement as its only inmates, it’s likely this is where they are parked before being promoted and then retiring, or as punishment.

192229.strip

The punishment scenario is unlikely because if they were to be be punished, the powers-that-be would make sure someone of a higher rank would ride them all day. I’ve heard stories of a department head (부서장) being punished with a transfer to a department full of men of the same rank, and thus going from a god among mortals to the guy that does the photocopying.

If you miss the prime toothbrushing positions, the options are to stand behind the alpha toothbrushers and hope that they finish before you (not always the case so you have to contort yourself around someone else at the basin to spit) or to stand near the urinals and get the job done there. Some masters of multitasking can actually use the urinal and brush their teeth at the same time. This is not something I can do (ladies…). It’s also pretty awkward when from the corner of my eye them multitasking looks like something you’d more associate with a truckstop somewhere.

Americans have banjos, Australians have this.
If you hear either, just run.

Some of my coworkers take oral hygiene to extremes. Two coworkers brush their teeth at least five times a day, shortly after their cigarette break. I guess they don’t want others in the office to know they had a smoke (their absence is noticed, though since they are both at 부장 “general manager” rank, no one will mention it to them). I used to see them smoke on the landing but these days it has been annexed by the TFT men.

Pavlovas are for Birthdays

It was my birthday yesterday. While its the cool thing to say ‘It’s just another day. I’m still the same person’, you are failing at life if you are the same as you were yesterday.

Usually at home we’d have a barbecue with chicken wings, souvlaki, and about 15 different salads. Dessert would usually be some lamb. But, since I’m in Korea it’s kinda hard to do a Greek-style barbecue (even the Greek-style yogurt is an abomination here), so I cook other things.

Breakfast was a Walter White special

bb 33

Skipped lunch since I wasn’t hungry. Dinner was herb rubbed chicken with garden salad. The two sauces are tzatziki and aioli (I love garlic). The herb rub was a mix of cayenne pepper and mint.

Herb Chicken with Garden Salad
Herb Chicken with Garden Salad

Dessert was a pavlova. Pavlova is super simple, even though you’ll find recipes with up to 15 ingredients.

photo (3)
Not my best pavlova photo

 

My recipe is

  • 6 egg white (keep the yolks for mayonnaise)
  • 1 and 1/3 cup sugar (standard 250 mL cup)
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar (WTF is this? Just use the same amount of either white vinegar or lemon juice)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 125 mL cream for topping (more is OK too)
  • Kiwi and other fruit for topping

Beat the egg whites until they are foamy. Then you add the sugar 1/3 cup at a time while beating until you get peaks. Peaks are when you remove your beater from the bowl and a little peak is left from where the beater was. Then you add the vanilla essence and vinegar. The beating should take about 10 minutes because you want all the sugar to dissolve otherwise you’ll end up with syrup forming on your meringue.

Now that you’re done beating, shape the meringue on baking paper on a baking tray. Nothing fancy here, just go with a round shape. Bake for 55 minutes at 120°C (you preheated your oven, right?) and let it cool completely before covering it with the cream you whipped and the fruit.

The meringue should have formed a crispy crust on the outside while remaining marshmallowy on the inside. If the top and sides are cracked (likely your meringue will sink as it cools) you can just cover them with cream. It’ll be our secret.