Best Street Food in South Korea! Yachae Hotteok (야채호떡)

1024182022~2 (2)The golden rule of street food for foreign visitors to any country is simply “Follow The Crowd.” If locals are lining up, you can be confident that you’ve stumbled upon something delicious. Walking the outer perimeter of Namdaemun Market, we knew we were in for a treat when we happened upon this line:

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Standing at the back of the line, our context clues were rather limited. A large red sign clearly advertised a price of 1000 Won, the USD equivalent of 88 cents. Savory, fried aromas wafted toward us as folks walked by happily holding folded golden brown circles of what looked like… fried dough?

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The circles looked like large fritters, or perhaps large servings of Native American fry bread. After being carefully lifted from sizzling oil, they were brushed with what appeared to be a sweet soy glaze flavored with apples, lemons, dates, and onion. Watching people enjoy their snacks, it became apparent that the fried treats were stuffed with some sort of filling. I saw vegetables and… were those noodles?

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Why yes! But… bread stuffed with noodles? It didn’t sound all that wonderful to my American palate. Wow, was I happy to be wrong, wrong, wrong. This treat, which I later learned is called “Yachae Hotteok” (and translates approximately as “vegetable pancake”) is – hands down – the best food I sampled in Seoul, South Korea.

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Clear, chewy, flavorful noodles were tucked inside the warm shell along with thin strips of carrot, green onion, and other fresh vegetables. No wonder the locals were smiling. These treats were fantastic!

If you’d like to try your hand at preparing Yachae Hotteok at home, I’ve found a few great links for you. Maangchi, a famous Korean cook, has a recipe that looks very approachable. The Smart Local offers another variety which looks fun.

The world is small – have big fun!

 

 

Namdaemun Market

1024181930~2 (2)A short walk from Seoul Station lies Namdaemun, the Great South Gate of Seoul, South Korea. Originally constructed in 1398, Namdaemun was one of eight majestic gates in the Fortress Wall of Seoul which surrounded the city during the Joseon Dynasty. Namdaemun was reconstructed in 1447, and significantly refurbished in 2008 after a devastating fire.

The Great South Gate is interesting. For this food traveler, however, the real intrigue lies just beyond the gate. Walk just a bit further, and you’ll arrive at the marvel that is Namdaemun Market. This center of sensory overload has been Continue reading

Hello, South Korea!

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Beautiful Incheon Airport

I’ll be candid with you, Crowded Earth Kitchen friends – I’m simply giddy about exploring Seoul, South Korea. Approximately ten million people call Seoul home, putting the bustling metropolis of Seoul on par with giants such as New York City. Who knew?

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Chivalry is alive and well on Seoul trains, which can get quite crowded!

It takes 14 hours to fly from Chicago to Seoul, which makes a person pretty darn happy to have their feet back on solid ground!

 While train station snacks may lack for nutrition, they’re interesting and very low cost!

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While Seoul is peaceful now, there are plenty of reminders of the region’s complicated past. The fairly new statue above, situated just outside of Seoul Station, is in the likeness of anti-colonial activist Kang Woo-Kyu. In 1919, when Korea was under Japanese colonial rule, Kang Woo-Kyu threw a grenade from this very spot in an attempt to assassinate the Japanese Governor-General Makoto Saito. This act of defiance is celebrated annually with the laying of wreaths, and serves as a reminder of the fragility of peace.

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As an American abroad, I certainly never expect to encounter English signage. I did, however, find this sign a bit funny. Notice how “Information” is written in English, yet the actual information is not.  🙂

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The ginko trees in Seoul are spectacular. These trees are so much larger than ginkos I’ve seen in the US, and their color is so beautiful.

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Plastic food displays are popular in Seoul as they are in Tokyo. I’m eager to sample the cuisine! Next time on Crowded Earth Kitchen, we’ll begin exploring Seoul’s amazing outdoor markets and food stalls.

The world is small. Have big fun!

Baked Trout, Tom Sawyer Style!

fish1The munchkins here at Crowded Earth Kitchen recently finished reading The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Whenever they reach the end of a classic bedtime story such as this, we try to do something fun in keeping with the theme Continue reading

Best Lobster Roll in Salem!

dotty-ray-s-lunchFirst things first. A few hours after arriving in Salem, we ventured into a cute little restaurant right off of the touristy Essex Street pedestrian mall. We were able to escape the bright sun while still enjoying the open air, grabbed a quick bite to eat (grilled cheese with fries) and listened to some really excellent live music.

However…

If we weren’t jet lagged, we might have realized before we asked for a table that restaurants in touristy areas also have touristy prices! We passed on the $25 lobster roll. Seriously – who charges $25 for a lobster roll when you can practically see the ocean from the restaurant kitchen? I digress.

Time to contact my good friends GOOGLE and UBER!

A quick web search for the best local lobster roll and where do Salem locals eat pointed us squarely in one direction – Dotty and Ray’s Restaurant. Located about a mile from The Hawthorne Hotel, Dotty and Ray’s is across the river from the touristy town center in residential Salem, where locals live and eat. Google says it’s a 16 minute walk. Uber says it’s a $4 ride. Take your pick, but GO!

For $12.95 you’ll get a lobster roll that’s so generously portioned and delicious, I dare you not to go back the very next day for more (we did!). Look! Look and imagine how delicious this is!
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Casual, delicious, regional home cooking with great service and very reasonable prices -what more does a hungry tourist need? It was fun to watch the staff visiting with other diners in a familiar way; Dotty and Ray’s is clearly the place to catch up on local news over lunch. Even as outsiders, we were welcomed and enjoyed a bit of conversation with our server. It felt a bit clandestine to be the only tourists in a beloved local establishment, as if we’d discovered something too magical to share.

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Scallop Roll

(Magical… Salem… see what I did there?)

Their scallop roll was amazingly sweet and also generously portioned. We substituted the fries for mashed potatoes, which were buttery and wonderful. If you’re in the Salem area, don’t miss out on lunch at the tucked away gem that is Dotty and Rays.

Stay Tuned for Salem!

Here at Crowded Earth Kitchen, we’re busy unpacking after a festive trip to Salem, Massachusetts. Everyone knows that Salem was the infamous site of the 1692 Witch Trials (those witch hunting Puritans were a kooky bunch!). Fast forward 325 years, and modern Salem offers visitors myriad ways to learn a bit of New England history, breathe in a bit of salty sea air, and be happily well fed.

Very happily well fed!

Over the next few days, Crowded Earth Kitchen will feature a few culinary gems from the Northeast. Stay tuned!

Happy traveling, and happy eating! Blessed be!

Signature Recipe: Japanese Shoyu Ramen

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The results of Crowded Earth Kitchen’s ramen poll are in! Today we’re making Crowded Earth Kitchen’s version of Shoyu Ramen, the most popular type of ramen which is flavored with soy sauce. The recipe below is pretty simple to make, and offers great flavor without a long list of hard-to-find ingredients. We’re also using pork tenderloin instead of pork belly, because pork tenderloin is more affordable and more readily available in much of the US. If you’ve enjoyed ramen with pork belly, I think you’ll find the taste of this recipe very comparable.

Two tips: First, don’t skimp on the pork stock or the chicken stock. If you have time to make your own, that’s what I recommend. If not, look for good quality stock from a butcher or specialty grocery store. Ramen “is” the broth… if the broth is just OK, your finished product will be just OK. If your broth is delicious, your ramen bowls will be delicious! Second, if you have time, it’s worth preparing your pork tenderloin the day before you enjoy your ramen bowls.

Let’s get started!

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Dried shiitakes, ginger, onion, and garlic

Ingredients (Serves 6)

16 ounces dried wheat flour ramen noodles

1 cup thinly sliced greens (I used baby bok choy)

1 cup sliced bamboo shoots

3 hard boiled eggs, peeled and halved

(Optional) 1 sheet nori (seaweed), cut into six pieces

For the meat:

1 pound pork tenderloin

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon white wine (I used Umeshu)

For the broth:

3 quarts pork stock

1 quart chicken stock

1/4 cup soy sauce

2 tablespoons fish sauce, optional

1/4 cup dried shiitake mushrooms

1/4 cup onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 inch piece of ginger, sliced thin

Directions

WIN_20160701_164234Step 1) Prepare your pork tenderloin. In a small bowl, combine salt, sugar, and white wine to make a paste. Rub this paste all over your pork tenderloin. Let your pork tenderloin rest in a baking pan, covered, in the refrigerator for at least one hour or overnight (overnight is best). Then, roast your pork tenderloin, uncovered, in a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes. Check your pork tenderloin with a meat thermometer – the internal temperature should be 145 degrees. Allow your pork tenderloin to rest for 10 minutes. Slice thin and refrigerate.

WIN_20160701_154316Step 2) Prepare your broth. In a large pot, combine pork stock, chicken stock, soy sauce, fish sauce, dried shiitake mushrooms, onion, garlic, and ginger. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer, uncovered, until volume is reduced by half. This will take approximately an hour, depending upon how gently or vigorously your pot simmers. I prefer a slow simmer. Allow broth to cool, then ladle or pour through a sieve into a second pot. This will strain out all of the flavor additives (mushrooms, onion pieces, garlic and ginger), leaving you with a clear, flavor-packed ramen broth! At this point, you can freeze your broth for future use, refrigerate your broth to use tomorrow, or return your broth to a gentle boil and proceed with Step 3!

Step 3) Prepare your noodles. Bring a pot of water to a boil, and cook your noodles according to package directions. DO NOT OVERCOOK YOUR NOODLES. When in doubt, it’s better to undercook the noodles a bit, as they will continue to cook in Step 4. Mushy noodles make terrible ramen. Seriously… don’t overcook the noodles!

Step 4) Assemble and enjoy! Here’s the fun part. First, transfer a serving of cooked noodles to a large single-serving bowl (your biggest cereal bowls will work). Second, arrange a few slices of pork tenderloin, a hard boiled egg half, a few bamboo shoots, and a few sliced greens around the edges of the bowl. Don’t mix up the toppings like you would for American-style soup… each ramen topping should occupy its own place along the edge of the bowl. Third, carefully ladle hot broth over the top of everything, to warm the ingredients. The broth should just barely cover the top the noodles… don’t drown your ramen bowl in broth. Fourth, place a small square of nori on the top of your bowl and serve immediately!

When you make this ramen, I’d love to hear from you! Please let me know if you are now as ramen obsessed as we are here at Crowded Earth Kitchen!

Tokyo Food Tour! Dumplings!

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Steamed Pork Dumplings

Nothing pairs more deliciously with a bowl of authentic ramen than a side of dumplings. While snacking our way through Tokyo, we sampled an endless variety of dumplings. Feast your eyes on the photos below, and answer our quick poll at the end! We’ll use your feedback to create an amazing dumpling recipe just for Crowded Earth Kitchen viewers.  🙂

Steamed Pork and Cabbage Dumplings with Spicy Sesame Chili Sauce

Steamed Pork and Cabbage Dumplings with Spicy Sesame Chili Sauce

Giant Pan-Fried Pork and Shrimp Gyoza

Giant Pan-Fried Pork and Shrimp Gyoza

Steamed Pork Shumai with Peas

Steamed Pork Shumai with Peas

These are just a few of the wonderful dumplings we enjoyed. Pick a favorite, and we’ll recreate them for you!

Tokyo Food Tour! Ramen!

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Shoyu Ramen with Dumplings and Rice

Ah, ramen. There are approximately 80,000 ramen restaurants in Japan. Try to wrap your head around that for a moment… that’s three times the number of McDonald’s restaurants in the entire world. Volumes of cookbooks have been written about ramen, the quintessential Japanese comfort food. Revered chefs from David Chang to Ivan Orkin have perfected their own signature bowls. You haven’t tried a bowl of real ramen yet?

Well, you simply must.

Here at Crowded Earth Kitchen, we’ll be happy to share a simple and delicious ramen recipe. We need you, our readers, to point us in the right direction! Would you prefer a ramen flavored with soy sauce (Shoyu Ramen) or a broth that’s even saltier (Shio Ramen)? Does a fermented broth (Miso Ramen) sound lovely? Or, would you prefer to go all in with a fatty but delicious pork stock (Tonkotsu Ramen)? They’re all delicious, it’s just a matter of personal taste.

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Many ramen shops have a vending machine such as the one shown here. Customers place their orders and make their payment at the machine, then give a ticket (like a receipt) to the server and wait for their food to arrive.

Vote here, and we’ll create something just for you!