Cinnamon Roll Pancakes

Recipe Girl’s Cinnamon Roll Pancakes

One morning I decided these cinnamon roll pancakes from Recipe Girl would be a sumptiously sweet start to the day.

Look at that photo! How could I not want that? So I rolled out of bed excited to try out something new. Archer and I did our walk, and I got to work on this sweet treat while he rolled around on the floor with his breakfast.

The cinnamon swirl part was easy: butter, cinnamon, brown sugar. It smelled lovely and was clearly going to set up these pancakes nicely for a cinnamon roll flavor. Then I moved to the cream cheese glaze. The glaze was a mix of butter, cream cheese and powdered sugar. It came out okay. Although I didn’t quite have enough patience to work out all the lumps of cream cheese.

Then it was pancake time. The batter seemed simple enough, but once I mixed all the dry and wet ingredients, it didn’t seem right. So I added some water thinking the cream I used in lieu of milk had thickened the batter. This seemed to work.

However when it got down to the cooking, I am far from a pancake master. The first pancake was a burnt on the outside, raw on the inside mess. The next few pancakes weren’t much better. I messed with the heat, I practiced patience as much as possible. Really, really patient.

Finally after about 30 minutes for three pancakes, I had a somewhat acceptable breakfast. The cinnamon swirl was nice and crisp, the glaze sweet and the pancake filling. The pancakes were not as deliciously awesome as I had pictured, edible, yes, amazing, no. But I’m willing to chalk that up to my inability to cook a pancake. I really haven’t made pancakes very much, and this recipe is probably better for comfortable pancake makers to try.

Truthfully for the amount of time it took, I probably will put this recipe on the weekend brunch list. It’s way too much work for a weekday morning. And next time I think I’ll just go for a boring ol’ maple syrup pancake.

P.S. I finally made use of a coffee grinder that’s been gathering dust for the past six months. Oh my amazing! I can’t believe the difference in freshness from the ground coffee at the store. So much better! I’m a coffee grinding believer for sure.

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Cookies in Korea

And the wonder of imported goods costing so much less when they come from Europe. Now I have a new taste for crappy cookies from Italy.

I’m sure these cookies I love to munch on between classes are giving me cavities and thick thighs, but I don’t care. They are light and flaky. Plus some of them have a delicious cream filling–vanilla, lemon and chocolate. Oh, how I love their dessert-y goodness.

As for their Korean counterparts, I just can’t quite figure out them out. They’re sweet and crispy, but missing something…I think it’s the butter. The richness of the cookies is low. And the chocolate, oh the chocolate, it’s always chalky and low quality on the sweet treats. I can’t wait for the day Korea has a food revolution and someone starts making high-quality chocolate.

Until then, it’s me and my Vicenzi.

A Sunday kind of morning

The lovely weekend was a rush around Seoul for most of Saturday night complete with kebabs, Long Islands and salsa.

I met Jennifer and her crew in Itaewon for a lovely sushi dinner at Rollin’ Japanese. We had a lovely time talkin’ shop and discussing all the changes hagwons are constantly experiencing. I ordered a rainbow roll and California roll, more excited about seeing my two favorites on the sushi menu then really focusing on whether or not they were the kind of rolls I wanted.

In that wonderful way of being in Korea, the sushi rolls came out completely different than I expected both were stuffed with crab meat, carrots and cucumbers then topped with the ingredients that determined the rolls name. Each roll was delicious though I think they would benefit from less crab meat and mayonnaise in the future. The entire experience has me wondering what sushi is like in Japan.

After dinner we checked out Baskin Robbins for some ice cream. I ordered the caramel cheesecake on a regular cone. For my inaugural Basin Robbins visit, it was a poor choice. The caramel was much too sweet and overpowered the cheesecake ice cream. The whole thing left me wishing for real cheesecake more than appeasing my appetite for ice cream.

Next we settled on Caliente. As far as I know, the only salsa club in all of South Korea. We hung out for a round of drinks. I ordered a Long Island that came out far too strong and far too watery. It was shocking to see Korean men and women out on the dance floor showing off their best Latin-inspired moves. I was sufficiently intimidated after the first song and remained firmly in my seat until moving on to Hongdae where I met up with the Chungju EPIK gang.

I first met up with John, Hannah, Sarah and Ken in BEF–Best Friend. The bar is trendy, cool and modern. Yet another Hongdae haunt going for the industrial warehouse re-imagined vibe. The bar was nice and quiet, a great place for a second dinner of chicken and coleslaw. We played a couple of drinking games as I introduced Hannah to cojingmek which is apparently called cosomek as well.

Around 2 a.m. we made our way to a nearby club joining up with the complete EPIK posse. Even Karlie came, despite having moved to Seoul just a few days before. I helped myself to a free beer and jumped on the dance floor.

Just as I was gettin’ my groove on with Sonia I was asked, “Hangukin?” As in “Korean?” Only it wasn’t me the older Korean man was interested in. It was Sonia. I replied letting him know that we are both American, “Migukin.” He nodded, turned around and left. I had no idea it was so easy to turn men away.

Not too much later, we found ourselves catching up and winding down at another club. I have no idea what the bar was called, but it looked like the kind of place you could smoke a joint. If you could get weed in Korea.

We sat around drinking beer discussing teaching, Korea, relationships and all the usual  conversation before heading back to Chungju at 6 a.m. Just the kind of night I love that makes me never want to live in a place where bars close at 1 a.m. (Ahem. Utah!)

The super sweet bartender even let my drunk self talk to him in Korean. I’ve been needing someone to encourage my efforts at hangeukmal. He answered my questions in Korean, spoke slowly and asked me questions too. It was practically a whole conversation–short and basic, but still I’m going to hang on to that accomplishment all week.

At some point after the kebabs on the slow walk to the subway, the group shrank from everyone to just Scott and me. It was nice to reconnect with my old neighbor as we took the subway and bus home through the breaking dawn.

By the time I made it to my comfy bed at 9 a.m. I was more than happy to crash out for the next eight hours.

Just another Sunday in the ROK.

Korean food blog love

I’ve been in a Korean food funk lately.

Unless I’m eating kim bap, bibim bap, kimchi jiggae, bulgogi or galbi tang, I’m probably not eating Korean food. (There’s a lot of eggs and toast going on over here.) I miss cooking so much, I stare at these blogs and drool. I think it’s time I get inspired to get cooking or at least expand my food horizons when ordering Korean food.

Korean Food is no longer updated, but has a great archive of recipes and information on traditional Korean food. I’ve got more than one idea for future food adventures from this site.

Maangchi pretty much has me praying I end up in New York so I could take an amazing Korean cooking lesson in English. Also her measurements are in American, not metric, so I can actually visualize the recipe before I try it out.

Life in Korea has a little food section that I adore. Every recipe leaves me inspired to try it out in my own little kitchen.

Korean Food Recipe doesn’t seem to update very often, but there are a few easy to follow, easy to do recipes I would love to try. I’m especially excited about the sesame leaf kimchi. I know I’m going to love that one.

Digging through the archives of My Korean Kitchen is also promising some tasty recipes and future food experiences to come. I’m a little sad to say this blog is also now defunct. Is there some sort of three year blogging curse no one’s warned me about?

I hope you feel inspired to try out a few Korean dishes too. Good luck in your kitchen.

Everything is…dyslexic

I have dyslexia.

It’s a new thing for me this confusing letters and directions. I don’t have this problem most of the time. Just whenever I leave my house.

You see, I’m reading-challenged in hangeul. I do just fine in English–throw any text my way and I will read the shit out of it. My pronunciation may not always be perfect, but I’m perfectly sure of each letter I am looking at.

The same cannot be said for 한굴. My biggest problem letters are ㄴ,ㄱ, ㅗ, ㅜ, ㅂand ㅁ. Individually the look clear and distinct, easy to tell apart, but mix in a couple other lines and suddenly I’m not sure if I should say “n”, “g”, “u”, “o”, “b” or “m.” (I’m not even going to go into other waysㄱ and ㅂcan change their sounds.)

The painfully slow way in which I carefully work through each syllable block of hangeul stresses me out. I get especially nervous when I’m somehow reading in front of someone, even my youngest students.

It’s like a switch goes off in my head that suddenly I cannot do this. I cannot read letters that I haven’t been poring over since I was three. When I’m alone walking down the street, I make a game of reading the signs I see, much like I did when I was seven years-old. It seems to be helping slowly. The trouble is I’m now learning that much like Roman letters affect one another depending on the order they appear in a word, so can Korean letters.

For example take the word “pomegranate.” In English the word is pronounced “pom-i-gran-it” neatly ignoring that rule about how e after a consonant makes a vowel say it’s name.

The word for pomegranate in Korean is 삭류. I look at that and I want to say “sak-ru.” But I’m pretty far from being correct. The actual pronunciation is closer to “seongu.” So even though I thought I could read Korean a little bit, I’m starting to feel like I can’t at all because even when I do read the syllables I say them wrong, not recognizing how the letters affect one another. Recognizing I know a language at a less than kindergarten level only acknowledges that in Korean I am illiterate.

In my American life, I am far from illiterate. I would venture to say people may even describe me as articulate, well-read and intelligent.

In my Korean life, I am babo (바보). Often I am a fool for not knowing the most basic Korean. I want to learn Korean. However  I struggle  to increase my knowledge. I’ve hit a brick wall when it comes to learning on my own. Unfortunately there are no Korean classes offered at the universities in Chungju.

The worst moments come when I am overwhelmed by the amount of Korean  I don’t know–someone talks too fast, the sentence is too long or the conversation too detailed–my brain just stops. The panic sets in and it’s all over. I know it’s bad when I stop trying to fill in the Korean I don’t know with Spanish or Konglish.

I may only be dyslexic in one language, but is sure makes the simple things in life, like ordering lunch, more difficult.

Any suggestions for how I can “cure” my dyslexia?

1,2,3…Coke, soju, beer

Cojinganmek (구징안픽) is the cocktail of Korean goddesses.

It’s disgustingly good and far too easy to throw back too many before you realize what one shot of soju, one shot of beer and a shot of coke can do to your liver.

This lovely cocktail is just as much fun to make as it is to drink too. (Here in South Korea, I love getting to play bartender pouring a round for everyone as most drinks are served by the bottle.)

In a small beer glass, place one shot glass. Fill the shot glass about three-quarters full with Coke or Pepsi, both are commonly referred to as cola in the ROK.

Place a second shot glass in the first glass of coke. Fill it about three-quarters full with your favorite soju. Currently I have a preference for “original,” but the choice is yours. Generally the bar will be stocked with more than one kind of soju, all you have to do is ask to try out the local variations.

Finally top the glass with a shot of beer. The glass should be fairly full and layered in light brown, clear and dark brown liquids going down. It’s a surprisingly fancy lookin’ drink for less than 7,000 won a round.

Now it’s time to discover just why this drink is called cojinganmek or first bad things then good things come.

Pound that bad boy down. The first sip of beer and soju is tough to take. It’s harsh on the throat and rough going down. You will definitely feel the booze in your belly.

Then magically the cola hits. Sweet, cool and refreshing. A surprisingly perfect finish to a mekju overload.

This is without doubt my favorite and cheapest cocktail for a night out in South Korea.

Thanks, Brian and Jamie, for introducing the sweet awesomeness to me.

From sea to table

The real show of food from beginning to end is in the fish markets in South Korea.

Jagalchi Market in Busan is famous for it’s hustle and bustle. It’s near Korea’s largest fish market and is packed full of shops and restaurants specializing in sea food. You can smell the ocean and there is just a fence between you and the fishing harbor. Shops and restaurants crowd the street along the harbor, shouting for business, announcing the catch and cost of the day. Cooking food on outdoor barbecues to persuade passer-by to stop in for a delicious meal.

Like any fish market the usual fare is readily available crab, squid, octopus, clams, mussels and snapper. Of course the unusual also abounds in the sea penis, sea urchin, sea cucumbers, eels and turtle.

After soaking in the sunlight and wandering through the market for several minutes. I decided to order some lunch. I knew I wanted to try something new. I just wasn’t quite sure what. I finally settled on a friendly looking woman who was selling fried fish and eel.

I walked up to the ajumma selling fish, pointed to a fish swimming lazily in it’s tank and  said, “yogi hangae juseyo.” She checked that I wanted just one fish and that I was indeed eating along. Then she reached in, caught a fish, placed it on her cutting board and smoothly and swiftly beheaded the fish.

I stared open mouthed at her and the flopping body of the fish. She matter-of-factly finished filleting the fish. Then noticed my stares and patiently gestured at me to sit in the restaurant behind her.

The restaurant was a small rectangle of a room packed with tables on platforms so shoes could come off as everyone got comfortable. The kitchen was just a few shelves of dishes and food, a sink and a fridge. Two frazzled looking older woman rushed about trying to keep everyone happy as the small space filled with vacationers and fishermen.

Soon my battered and fried fish came to sit near me. After far too much waiting and a nice chat with a couple of foreigners who were equally impressed by the fish-ness of Jagalchi, my banchan and bap were finally placed before me.

Mastering the art of chopsticks has included several crash courses on fish eating. Those tiny bones are tough to navigate with knitting needles. However I did my best and managed to feed myself to stuffed.

The food was mediocre overall, but for an afternoon in the sunlight on a warm winter’s day and a live fish killing it felt like it was worth the 8,000 won.

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