Give me a break.

Japan has an obsession with Kit Kats.

Weird Kit Kats.

This was first brought to my attention back in September when Mary and I visited Japan. Mary frequented a lot of convenience stores in search of Cherry Blossom flavored Kit Kats, a gift she previously received from her friend Nick. We were unsuccessful. They all sold milk chocolate and occasionally dark chocolate Kit Kats. How disappointingly normal. At the end of a week, I began to question Mary’s choice of words. Perhaps what she meant to say was that the Kit Kats had a pretty picture of a Cherry Blossom on them- you know, as a seasonal promotion to celebrate the arrival of spring. (Sorry Mary, I never meant to doubt your intelligence.)

How could I be so ignorant?

I had an extra couple of hours to kill after we went our separate ways at Narita. There’s nothing exciting about this airport. It’s small, it’s boring, and it’s eerily quiet. I stumbled upon an origami museum. I counted the number of bathrooms and water fountains. I wandered into tacky tourist shops-and then I found them. Massive boxes of them. Not just Green Tea- Cherry Blossom but Wasabi, Soy Sauce, and Sweet Potato, too. Dreams really do come true.

So now let’s fast-forward three months to December. I’m back at the same sleepy airport wasting time until I get the privilege of spending half a day on a flight to Chicago. Except now, it’s a scavenger hunt. How many strange flavors exist? And how many boxes can I buy with my leftover Yen?

The answer?

A lot.

There were a lot of flavors and I had a lot of Yen. And I will always be a sucker for Cheese flavored Kit Kats. That is, until I try them.

So without further ado, I’d like to introduce you to the starting line-up of the “not-quite-right” Kit Kats that will grace our dinner table on Christmas Day: Wasabi, Green-Tea Cherry Blossom, Cheese, Root beer, Lemonade, and one other missing an English translation. None of them look (or sound) appetizing but let’s be honest- the reactions are half the fun.

December 26, 2010. Tags: , , , , . food, japan. Leave a comment.

Fermentation

or, Ferm Wednesday for those of you who’ll get the reference.

Yesterday was day two of my metamorphosis into an (educated) alcoholic. We began the process of making makgeolli, Korean rice wine. 

First, we washed the rice and stuck it in a blender, transforming it into a fine white powder.

We calculated our ratios, measured our ingredients,

and added boiling water until it formed a paper mache- like goo.

Then we added yeast

and dumped the unappealing mess into a plastic jug. Let the fermentation process begin.

Look what I made, mom!

And walked through a monsoon to get there. If you look close enough, you can see my name written in Korean.

Makgeolli really is nothing more than rice, water, and that crumbled up wheat block I made last class (called nurook in Korean). I spent the entire class waiting for the catch– you know, the excuse as to why I’d never be able to make this at home. I haven’t found it yet, other than I’m not Korean and it’s not whiskey. In fact, it just might be a good way to utilize some of the 20 pounds of rice collecting dust in my kitchen cabinent. If only it could be made with jalopenos.

And the best part? Our makgeolli sampler was served with a side of biology lectures- anaerobic respiration, enzymes, and CO2. Music to my ears.

August 19, 2010. Tags: , , , , . food, korea, rice. 1 comment.

These are a few of my favorite things.

and yes dad, there were samples.

June 3, 2010. Tags: , , , . Uncategorized. 2 comments.

It’s lunchtime!

My original intentions were to show you a week’s worth of lunches at my elementary school but that idea was a fail. Wednesday was Children’s Day, a national holiday, which meant no school. On Friday, when the lunch was extra spectacular, my camera battery died. This post will give you an idea of the types of food we eat but I might have to recreate it at a later date when it’s a normal week. I think they were doing a little spring cleaning in the kitchen.

My descriptions of the foods below begin with rice and move clockwise around the tray, culminating with the soup. I also should add the disclaimer that I put everything on my plate for the sake of a picture. And lastly, if one of my co-workers had made up the plates, there’d be a lot more rice. It’s to the point where I’m thinking about renaming the blog “365 days of rice: My transformation into a rice grain.” I’ve already got the white part down.

Monday

This is our lunch tray. There is always rice, soup, and 3-4 smaller dishes. Don’t try to go all left brain-right brain on the lunch tray. Rice always goes on the left, soup always on the right. I think there’s an order for the side dishes (kimchi’s usually on the left) but the Koreans seem to be more flexible with my positionings. Either that or they’ve just learned to chalk it up to ignorance. Moving clockwise from the rice you’ll find kimchi, the dish that all Koreans swear by for its health benefits. It’s fermented cabbage slathered in a spicy red sauce that attempts to mask the acidity of the dish. It’s served at every meal in every restaurant here, regardless of the type of meal you’re eating (kimchi with your lasagna anyone?). Next, we’ve got a nice little Thai banana and then anchovies with slivered almonds. To your right you’ll find fried kimchi, a type of food recycling that fries up old kimchi with some beef bits, onions, and peppers. Let me tell you, it tastes a lot better than the original. Lastly, the soup of the day consists of seaweed, potatoes, and fish.

Tuesday

Rice, kimchi, the stems of some type of green with a grilled, smaller member of the shrimp family, fried chicken pieces with sweet and sour sauce, and a soup of fish, greens, bean sprouts, potatoes and probably some beef bits thrown in for good measure. They really like their beef around here, just as long as it’s not coming from the US.

Thursday

Rice, turnip kimchi (just like the cabbage kimchi except with turnip leaves), sauteed turnips slathered in garlic, pork bits and rice patty balls in a sauce, and a soup of seaweed, potato, and fish. I know, the soups all sound the same but they vary the broths so it has a different taste.

Yesterday, one of our side dishes was fish. Whole fish. Fried and boned. Fresh out of swimming in a vat of oil. Try serving that on the styrofoam plates in America.

I really enjoy eating the lunches. It’s a good opportunity to try Korean food and I’m surrounded by people that can explain what I’m eating (although sometimes it’s better not knowing– like with fish cakes. They were really tasty until I found out how they were made.) I was warned before I arrived that it was incredibly difficult to be a vegetarian in Korea from multiple parties- Korean-American friends, former tourists or foreign English teachers, blogs, and even Lonely Planet. Consequently, I started introducing a little bit of meat into my diet about two weeks before I arrived in Korea. It was probably one of the smartest decisions I’ve ever made. There is meat in everything here and although I’m learning how to minimize my meat consumption, it’s still taken me three weeks to figure out and it’s mainly in vain- all of the soup broths are either meat or fish based. Being a vegetarian would mean making my own meals everyday, which is feasible but not practical as far as my mental health is concerned. It would completely isolate me from a culture that places such an importance on communal eating. Token white girl’s about as much isolation as I can take right now.

May 8, 2010. Tags: , , , . Uncategorized. 2 comments.