Last week, China and Vietnam celebrated a huge holiday: the Mid-Autumn Festival. One of the important foods for the holiday are mooncakes, pastries with a dense and sweet filling.…
Today (August 15) is Gwangbokjeol—Korea’s independence day. I figured it’d be a perfect opportunity to share the beauty of Hangul, the Korean alphabet, by highlighting Maryland-based calligrapher Myoung-won Kwon. This incredible artist‘s work has been displayed at the Library of Congress and Smithsonian Museum, but amazingly, he has accomplished all of that while still owning and operating a deli near Washington DC!
I just went through and edited some video clips I had from my trip last year to Japan. I lost a bunch of files when my hard drive failed and I thought I lost these videos but fortunately, I found another backup somewhere (unfortunately, most of my Korea videos are gone though).
Anyways, making this video made me want to go back to Japan. It’s a special country, one that leaves an indelible impression on you. I’d love to go back when I can.
There were quite a few restaurants I included in the video. A few of them, I made quick blog posts about while I was in my hotel and dealing with jetlag. I should go back and update them in more detail but for the time being, check these out:
Korean food has a reputation for being red and spicy, but did you know that the red pepper is actually not native to Korea? It was introduced through trade in the 1600s… since then, Koreans definitely turned it into something uniquely their own. One such ingredient, gochugaru, is a powder made from dried chili peppers and is an essential Korean kitchen ingredient.
Food memories are a strong and beautiful thing. A small bite or a fleeting scent is enough to transport someone to an earlier time. It’s true for everybody, but perhaps as diners, we overlook its importance in chefs and cooks as well. That’s why the Hubei Tasting Dinner at Q by Peter Chang was special.
I was here. I slept through most of the flight from San Fransisco to Incheon, South Korea, then groggily made my way to the shuttle bus taking me to Seoul, and finally met Jonas, the person I had communicated with the past few months and the person who was going to be my supervisor at the hagwon I was going to teach at.
It’s weird having such visceral emotions for someone I’ve never met. I’ve never been the one to be so affected by celebrities and their news. But this one… this one hurts. And, judging from all the posts and tributes I saw yesterday, it’s clear many people were equally as impacted by Anthony Bourdain as I was.
For me, the biggest thing I learned from him was to find humanity in food. Bourdain loved food, yes, but he didn’t stop there. He realized that with every dish, there are stories and cultures entwined with it. And so he travelled beyond the touristy areas and hung out with locals to try and discover the soul and heartbeat of a people or region. People were the story; the food was just a vehicle for him to get there.
He had a way of listening and finding common ground with others, and sharing it with the world at large. But he did so with respect and admiration, never acting like he “discovered” a culture’s food or “understood” everything about it. He’d eat pretty much anything, not to stress the “exoticness” but as a sign of respect to the people there. He was always, always humanizing the people, be it in Laos or the heart of Trump country.
And in doing so, he transformed food media but also gave voices to entire peoples and cultures. He reminded us that we are more than just tacos or kimchi or pho or lechon–we are parents, husbands/wives, children. He encouraged us to be proud of our heritage and foods. And he showed that we are all one humanity. If we all spent just a fraction of the time he did trying to understand those different from us, the world would be a vastly better place.
Thank you Chef for all you’ve done. For the culinary world, for people of color, for immigrants, for the #metoo movement, for so many other groups I don’t have the space to write about. I hope that you are finally at peace now.
“When cooks are proud, when food speaks for a region, for a culture… it’s always good.” – Bourdain in the No Reservations Korea Episode
Gwangjang Market is one of the oldest markets in Seoul. It’s a cramped and bustling market with more than 5000 shops selling a variety of things from fabrics, hanbok (Korean traditional outfit), kitchenware, and of course, food. There are a variety of foods that the market is famous for, but one of the most popular is the mini kimbap known as “mayak kimbap.”
Compared to its normal sized cousins, mayak kimbap may not look like much—just a tiny roll with some rice, carrots, spinach, and danmuji (pickled radish). But don’t let that fool you… it’s incredibly addictive! How addictive? Well, the word “mayak” means “drug” or “narcotic.” 😛
So this blog has been years in the making, changing concepts many times since I first thought of starting it. And yet, it has never officially “launched.” I’m finally getting it off the ground now, just in time for my trip to Japan and Korea! I’ll be updating my instagram with posts and stories there but I’ll be posting my experiences and stories here as well! Stay tuned…