Turkish Delight

24 Feb

Don’t let the title alarm you.  I’m still in South Korea. It’s a Sunday afternoon here and for me… it is a work day.  I am working a two month weekend shift – that is I work the weekends and have two days off during the week.  English Village is open 7 days a week and sometimes there are programs on weekends.  When there are, we need staff around to teach.  Therefore, until the end of March, that includes me.  I am not alone in my weekend working escapade… but it is a smallish group, about 6 other English teachers.  Today is a quiet day of work and not much action at the English Village.  We still have our regular winter coat of snow… the one that seems to be replaced regularly whenever the old one starts to melt.  Since I have been here, snow is no longer a surprise for me.  It is a regular occurrence… to wake up and discover… it snowed again.  I am unsure how long this will continue.  I have heard rumors that sometimes it snows in April.  I try not to think about that…

This week I have been finding my way in my new rhythm of working on weekends and having Wednesdays and Thursdays off.  This past Thursday I went to run my errands and walked to the grocery store down the street.  It was about 11am and for some reason, the store was closed.  I don’t know why.  So, I walked back and then later took a cab to a bigger grocery store further away and..it too was closed.  It seems to be some great mystery as to why these stores were closed.  It was no holiday.  The best answer I have heard so far is “sometimes stores are just closed”.  Hmmm… surely there must be a reason…  Any ideas?

This week I taught college students visiting from a university in South Korea.  I really like teaching college students.  In general they are bright, mature and ready to learn.  The students arrived on Monday and departed on Friday which is typical for many programs here.  I noticed they left with more confidence in themselves around English speakers and more confidence in their own ability to speak English.

Friday night I wandered off campus with another teacher to grab a little bite to eat.  We are in the city of Paju, but it’s really not much of a “city”.  There is mostly open land surrounding English Village and little clusters of businesses and restaurants are not too far away.  Our dining destination for the evening?  Kim’s Kabob.  Doesn’t sound very Korean, does it?  That would be because… it’s not…

I am a food lover who is super sensitive to refined sugar… and Koreans put sugar in almost everything.  Therefore  it can be challenging for me to find food I can eat in Korean restaurants.  Not long ago a fellow teacher was talking about a Turkish restaurant nearby.  Aha!  I thought… it sounded like a culinary adventure with my name on it!  And so… I found my way to Kim’s Kabob.

I heard that the owners, Korean, had lived in Turkey for 8 years.  When we arrived at the restaurant we found a simple but welcoming restaurant with friendly Korean owners.  As they did not speak English and we did not speak Korean, a lot of pointing and smiling was done.  On occasion, I sheepishly offered a grateful but humble “gamsahabnida” (korean for thank you).

It was a delight to see the menu – a visual cornucopia with a selection of fresh meats and platters inviting our appetites to take note!  We decided to order a few different things and share them – an eggplant salad as well as a beef kabob and beef and chicken platter.  My dining companion also ordered some lovely bread that looked delicate and lightly crispy on the outside and virtually “empty” on the inside, like a baloon.  The menu did not disappoint!

It was fun to eat out for a change and enjoy food that was simple and basic but delicious.  It was strange to notice that at around 7pm on a Friday evening we were the only ones in the restaurant.  I am not sure why – but it certainly had nothing to do with the quality of the food or the hospitality of the hosts…  Perhaps it’s somehow related to the grocery store being closed… part of a Korean mystery…

It was a brisk walk back but not far really.  As we got closer we saw the English Village sign lit up on the hillside in “hollywood” style, leading us home. Just a hop, skip and a jump and I was once again within the walls of the English Village campus.

And so today my Sunday continues to unfold in its easy leisurely manner.  I am enjoying a cup of tea surrounded by my fellow teachers, each equally entranced in their computers while I type away at my blog.

I am wondering, for those of you who live or have lived in Korea, what is your favorite place or places to eat in South Korea?  Do you have a secret dining destination where you love to escape?  And for those of you Stateside, or anywhere else in the world… perhaps you have a favorite recipe to share?  Something simple and Korea friendly, perhaps your favorite crock pot recipe? (With just a hotplate to cook on, the crock pot is my current appliance of choice!)  It would be fun to see!

As always, thanks for checking in!  It’s always great to hear from you!

One Response to “Turkish Delight”

  1. Elizabeth Ohmer Pellegrin 02/24/2013 at 12:10 #

    Loved your story! And I love Turkish food too!
    We had it last night! Coincidentally, I decided to tackle that “spare bedroom” where all the odds & ends land til they find a more likely spot in the house. I’m done for the evening after working on this project for about 90 min.
    I’m throwing some things away & found some things I really need to get my NADA paperwork in order. I found my battery operated fan that had been MIA! Thrilled about that! And the last thing I found before stopping for the evening is a nice big crockpot cookbook! I didn’t grow up with casseroles or a crockpot. So I never really learned to cook this way.
    I have made coq au vin – which came out great! Rosemary & garlic chicken (Mosca’s style) & believe it or not … chicken gumbo were authentically produced in the crockpot!
    Oh! And new Orleans style red beans were rich & creamy! What kind of beans are available in your area? I’m curious to know if you have a freezer. Homemade chicken soup would be great to freeze. Or even just chicken & the seasoned broth. Sometimes I take leftovers & make soup out of this & that. It’s quick & easy & is a good way to use what’s in the fridge. I love adding spinach to chicken soup at the last minute before serving. Do you eat noodles? I love French green lentils made in the crockpot. With carrots, onions, celery, garlic, & parsley … makes for a hearty dish.
    I like mine spiced up Indian style. Sometimes I will throw in some spinach at the end.
    Mid East spices are good too!

    I highly recommend that you somehow find some kim chi you can eat while you are in Korea. I love it.

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