Carlos Eats Korea: Selected for the 1st Korean Food Tour for Foreign Foodies

When I was researching about South Korea before I traveled to study abroad I came across an interesting event: the 1st Korean Food Tour for Foreign Foodies, sponsored by The Ministry for food, Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries and the Korean Food Foundation. Applications for participants were being accepted and I was lucky enough to be chosen as a finalist to join a team of college students to be featured on this food tour.

During the first orientation I learned that I will also be on television, KBS2 (Korean Broadcasting System 2) and cameras will follow us on every step of our way through the Jeollanam-do province of South Korea. We also found out we have to plan our own trip through our province step-by-step and explain why and how we decided to pick each restaurant or location we will visit and that in the end there will be a roadmap created for future foreign visitors to South Korea looking for the best foodie destinations (I get to make a difference!). Lucky for me my South Korea travel book states “ask anyone any they’ll say the best food in South Korea can be found here [Jeolla]”.

Jeolla-do is the ancestral home of the Yi family of the Joseon family (one of the longest cultural development periods in South Korean history including the invention of the writing system called Hangul by King Se-jong) with cooking techniques handed down for centuries. Jeolla is one of the least developed areas of South Korea, which makes it a perfect place for sightseeing. Warm weather allows for large agricultural  production in the region. There is certainly much to be seen in Jeollanam-do and much to be written. Stay tuned for updates on my journey to the southwestern province of South Korea. 🙂

 

Photo credit:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/briandeutsch/2270777402/

http://briandeutsch.blogspot.com/2010/10/viewing-fall-foliage-in-and-around.html
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Carlos Eats Seoul: Gaya-Gaya 가야가야 (がや-がや) ramen shop in Edae (이대)

During my second week in Seoul a friend who I met in Florida took me to a small ramen shop in an alleyway by Ewha University in Edae (이대). This shop makes Japanese style ramen for under 10,000 won. The shop is quaint and has lots of wood inside…its atmosphere felt very Japanese to me. The ramen we had on my first try was their simple 7,000 won ramen. I was surprised at the fresh taste of both the noodles and the liquid broth. I ended up eating every last drop of it. The tastes  of Japanese cuisine are so different from Korean cuisine…it is refreshing to taste something different.

This past weekend I brought some Canadian friends from Vancouver to the restaurant for some ramen at Gaya-Gaya. This time I decided to try the miso ramen for 7,500 won. Miso ramen was created in Hokkaido, Japan and became popular in the 1960s. The broth normally consists of miso blended with either chicken or fish broth and strays from traditional soy ramen.

These two sides are given with the ramen. I have only nibbled on some, but the taste wasn’t powerful.

One thing many people do not know is that Japanese ramen served in a restaurant is completely different from the instant noodles you have at home. Japanese ramen takes hours to make (sometimes over 24 hours) and is a delicate process that requires much attention to details (an art the Japanese love). The miso broth was more powerful than the soup I had during my previous visit, but quite enjoyable. The ingredients on top were all fresh and gave the noodle soup an invigorating taste. The pork was integrated well into the soup.

The arrangement of the ingredients on the bowl was also made perfectly.

My Canandian friend was sick and felt the soup soothing his throat. Both friends frequently eat ramen in Vancouver and although the taste was different from how they have it at home, they both enjoyed their noodle soups and finished it all as picturesd. We were happy customers. I hope to visit other ramen shops in Seoul and see how they match up against Gaya-Gaya, though the convenience of being right next to Yonsei University is a nice plus.

Restaurant Name: Gaya-Gaya 가야가야 (がや-がや)

Cuisine: Japanese

Neighborhood: Edae

Address: 서울시 서대문구 대현동 56-21 1층

Phone Number: 02-363-7877

Map: http://map.naver.com/?mid=bl01608268

Carlos Eats Seoul: Taco Bell (타코벨) Grand Opening in Sinchon 09/16/11

Many food bloggers in South Korea report an increasing interest in Mexican food throughout the nation as many local chains begin to pop up around Seoul. It certainly makes sense for a popular franchise, such as Taco Bell, to expand into the country. However, Taco Bell previously failed to expand into South Korea with 2 locations in the 90s and closed down in China back in 2008. The change in interest in foreign foods and increase in foreigners visiting South Korea may also play a factor, in addition to the powerful marketing today with the use of the internet and blogs to make food trends.

Taco Bell suffered serious losses in the United States after it was falsely sued in January for only having 35% meat (the lawsuit was later dropped) though international locations did better financially. The move to Seoul is a big step with only 250 locations out of the United States as of September 2010. The price of Mexican food can be pricey in South Korea and a cheap resource like Taco Bell is certainly welcome by me. Also: Taco Bell is perhaps the only fast food chain in Korea that offers free refills on soft drinks. There are only 3 Taco Bell locations currently open in Itaewon (이태원), Hongdae (홍대), and Sindorim (신도림). The next location will have its grand opening this Friday, September 16th, in Sinchon (신촌동) by UPLEX  just a short distance from Yonsei University and Ewha University.

Website: http://www.tacobellkorea.com/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Taco-Bell-Korea/194679020581660

Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/theboldchoice

Carlos Eats Seoul: Tacos Chidos (타코스치도스) Fresh Mexican Grill in Hongdae (홍대)

Money has been pretty tight in Seoul as I wait for my financial aid to arrive from my home university. I have had to make it by on things, such as tuna kimbap, ramyun, pizza, and various other cheap things you can find in convenience stores (the college student lifestyle indeed). My awesome parents back home in Tampa dropped me some cash the other day and I decided I should probably have one good meal to keep myself a little happy until my scholarships and aid come.

I was craving Mexican. Tacos & Rice was the first thing to come to mind, but I was thinking more of a sit-down environment and found Tacos Chidos (타코스치도스on my food blog friend Seoul Food’s blog. Some Korean food blogs with amazing food pictures I found on Korean search engines Naver and Daum led me out the door and on my way to Hongdae on a food adventure.

I ended up lost looking for the restaurant for about an hour, but used the mental map in my head and some friendly locals to find the nightclub Harlem in Hongdae. Once you are at the club you walk down the street and make a left into an alleyway and you can find Tacos Chidos near the back of Kraze Burger. This area is surrounded with students and is right next to Hongik University so if you don’t see any students you know you are probably going the wrong way.

When you enter you will see about five or six tables and a bar. I decided to sit at a table. A waiter was quick to bring me a menu and bring me some complimentary chips and salsa. One of the first things I noticed was the free Wi-Fi and a waitress was nice enough to set me up on my iPod Touch with the password. Another cool thing inside the restaurant was Spanish-style wall paintings and Spanish music playing inside the restaurant which created a nice atmosphere, especially to a Hispanic diner.

I decided to order the ground beef burrito for 10,900 won. The cheapest burrito is the bean burrito for 8,900 won, but I like some meat in my burritos. Tacos range from 6,000-8,500 won and for that price I think it is probably a better deal to get a burrito. The enchiladas also caught my eye with chicken for 10,900 won and beef for 12,900 won. I also ordered a Coca-Cola for 2,500 won and a side of guacamole for 1,000 won.

In Tampa there are few places where you can get a small sample of guacamole and if you do find it then the guacamole is some ridiculous price like $3 or $5 so I was happy to try the guacamole at Tacos Chidos. I was quick to finish the chips and salsa and when I finished the waiter came and refilled it for me. At first I was confused and thought maybe I was being charged for this and when I noticed that this was just the waiter servicing me well, then I really wanted to tip the waiter (unfortunately in South Korea tipping is considered rude). The tortilla chips tasted fresh and the salsa was a little spicy with a nice aftertaste to the chips.

The burrito came out quickly. I read the cuisine was Tex-Mex and normally I am not a fan of this type of Mexican cuisine, but I was surprised when I discovered the savory taste of the meat and ingredients inside the burrito. The rice and beans were both satisfactory, certainly not authentic Mexican cuisine but still enjoyable. The side of guacamole tasted fresh and was a nice addition to the rice, beans, and burrito. The sauce on the burrito was slightly spicy, but added a nice flavoring. The tortilla used for the burrito kept in tact and didn’t fall apart when I started to dig in. Many of the flavors here reminded me of Miguel’s Mexican Restaurant in Tampa. Different than California-style Mexican food and places like The Taco Bus.

One of the waitresses was watching me eat and brought me a complimentary side item of jalapeños. Although I don’t eat spicy food I couldn’t help but be astounded by the great service at Tacos Chidos. When I finished my meal the waitress came by and offered to refill my chips again for me despite my empty plate. The waiter refilled my drink every time he saw it low and never proceeded to try to rush me out of the restaurant with my check. The great service and enjoyable Mexican food really made my time at Tacos Chidos memorable and I suggest you check it out if you have a chance.

Restaurant Name: Tacos Chidos (타코스치도스)

Cuisine: Mexican

Neighborhood: Hongdae

Address: 마포구 서교동 361-8 경서빌딩 1F Seoul, South Korea

Phone Number: 02-3143-3618

Other blogs about Tacos Chidos:

http://www.cyworld.com/sosweet22/7224339

http://deltion.blog.me/40124231603

http://blog.naver.com/osunsimi/129309600

Carlos Eats Seoul: Caffe Bene (카페베네) in Sinchon (신촌)

During my first weekend in Seoul I was really hungry and wandering around looking for something good to eat in Sinchon. My rusty hangul was preventing me from reading many of the signs around me and I somehow ended up wandering into Caffe Bene or 카페베네 (It wasn’t hard for this to happen as Caffe Bene is seen almost as frequently as Paris Baguette). You’ll find cafes practically everywhere around South Korea. Coffee is actually really expensive in South Korea, it can cost more than 7,000 won for a drink…and I thought Starbucks in America was expensive. I normally pay around $3/$4 (~4,000 won) maximum for a coffee. Coffee is so easy to make at home it really should not be an expensive luxury item unless the taste is phenomenal.

I did see something that looked very appetizing on the menu: Caramel Cinnamon Bread. This large piece of bread was a sweet and satisfying (though certainly an extremely indulgent and unhealthy) choice and it has to be one of the best desserts I have had before. You’ll find many dessert shops throughout Seoul and you have to really wonder how Koreans manage to stay so skinny with waffles and ice cream literally everywhere.

There was a bit of language barrier problem here when, despite me pointing and saying the name of the item, the cashier had no clue what I was trying to say. Luckily, she grabbed someone who spoke some English and helped me out some. She got me my honey bread item, but gave me the wrong beverage: a sparkling organic blood orange drink, which actually ended up tasting quite good but probably cost me more than I really wanted to spend.

Cafes are also a nice place to lounge and usually have Wi-Fi. It sure isn’t no Cafe Kili, but I’ll take the desserts here anyday.

Restaurant Name: Caffe Bene (카페베네)

Cuisine: Cafe, Desserts

Neighborhood: Sinchon

Website: http://www.caffebene.co.kr/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/caffebene

Twitter: http://twitter.com/caffebenehq