July 30, 2014

Bubba Gump Chicken

Over the past couple months I’ve been working hard with a personal trainer to build more lean muscle.  She’s also my unofficial nutritionist and has me on a high-protein diet.  Among her favorite proteins are almonds, tofu, eggs, and milk, but her most adored food by far is skinless, boneless chicken breast.  She asks me every day if it’s “on my menu” and is adamant I have chicken for dinner as much as possible.  Chicken isn’t the most common meat found in Korean recipes.  Pork and beef are much more popular, but unfortunately not as healthy as lean chicken, at least in regards to my current goals.  So I’ve had to get creative with what’s available to me locally that I can afford.  (Groceries in Seoul are among the most expensive I’ve ever seen, including when I lived in New York City.) 

I have become the “Bubba” of chicken.  You remember the lovable character of Bubba from the classic movie Forrest Gump, and his iconic shrimp scene, right?  “Shrimp is the fruit of the sea.”  As a reminder, or in case you’ve been living under a rock since 1994, here is the famous clip. 

“Anyway, like I was saying…”  Chicken is to me what shrimp was to Bubba.  I can boil it, sauté it, fry it, marinate it, BBQ it…

Here are some of my favorite chicken dinners. 

"Korean" Chicken

My trainer's personal recipe combines equal parts ketchup and oyster sauce for this simple and saucy dish.  

Chicken Stir Fry

A touch of sesame oil and soy sauce on top of brown rice.  


Chicken Tenders

Just pan-fried chicken strips with homemade BBQ sauce (ketchup and oyster sauce).


Chicken Curry

A little olive oil and curry powder go a long way.


Chicken Sandwich

Some homemade hummus, fresh tomatoes and cucumbers, and lettuce replacing one slice of bread makes the best summer sandwich.


Chicken Wraps

Black beans add extra protein and with brown rice as the carb, skip the tortilla and opt for lettuce (also makes it gluten-free!).

Chicken Pizza

A chicken twist on the classic Hawaiian pizza.  My homemade BBQ sauce combined with pineapple makes this a sweet and savory meal.    


Chicken Tacos

These tacos are so simple: what you see is what you get.  A deliciously spicy salsa is what drove these home.


"Rainbow" Chicken

The red cabbage is what makes this colorful dish pop.  I added some Korean red pepper paste (similar to Sriracha) to give it some zest. 


Thai Chicken

This Thai peanut sauce recipe is so easy (shout out to Kelly): creamy peanut butter, Hoisin sauce, and Sriracha (ratios in descending order respectively, play with the measurements, add water for a smooth consistency).

July 10, 2014

The Tourism Paparazzi

The tourism industry in Korea is on point.  With hundreds of festivals, social media groups, and weekly events and programs, it's so easy to find things to do in the city of Seoul and other areas of the country.  A lot of trips and programs are specifically geared towards foreigners, and this last weekend was no exception. 

I signed up for a trip that promised a visit to a newly renovated mine cave that they had hopes of attracting
Our free money for the day.
more foreign visitors to.  They would provide a free 45-minute private bus ride from Seoul as well as 15,000 won (about $15) to use at the town's local market.  Essentially, they were paying us to travel to the neighboring town of Gwangmyeong for the day.  Sounded like a win-win situation to me!

Upon arriving at the cave, we were greeted by smiling Koreans, many asking each of us where we're from, and then snapping a posed picture.  After being in Korea for almost a year, this wasn't particularly unusual.  Most Koreans, especially at a touristy spot, are incredibly welcoming and curious of your presence, the brave English-speaking ones approaching for more information.  I was a little caught off guard by the sheer number of Korean "reporters", but continued following the trail toward the cave.  
One of many posed pictures.

When we reached the mouth of the cave, there were even more cameras.  They distributed helmets, grouped us up, and took photos for about five minutes, yelling instructions for poses or funny things to say.  I also noticed that anyone who was Korean, or even of Asian descent, was politely asked to step out of the frame.  They only wanted the foreigners displayed.  This was about the time I was starting to wonder what exactly I'd unknowingly signed myself up for.  

"Hiding" behind the rice.
When we started our cave tour and I realized the man with the spotlight on his camera would be following our every move in the otherwise dark cave, I fished around for answers from my accompanying group members.  With a little help from our guide, we came to the conclusion that we were the models for their new promotional materials to attract more foreigners to the cave.  In case the same idea crossed your mind as did mine: no, we were never asked permission or to sign a release form.  Only in Korea.

"Hiding" behind the fruit.
When we moved from the cave to the local market, our cameramen followed.  We were filmed and photographed throughout the narrow aisles and they even squeezed inside the tiny restaurant to record us
eating lunch.  Between every bite or drink, they asked us to smile, give a toast, clink our glasses, pat our bellies and express how delicious everything tasted.  I've never been camera shy, but this was just bizarre.  Part of me reveled in their undivided attention, while the other part was simply annoyed.  Is this how a celebrity feels amid paparazzi?  

It became a sort of game with me and my fellow tourists as we toured the market.  Who can attract the most camera clicks?  The strategy was simple.  Simply look at the oranges: "click."  Pick up an orange: "click, click, click."  Buy an orange: "CLICK, CLICK, CLICK, (take a bite) CLICK, CLICK, CLICK!!!"  

When we made our way back to Seoul and no one wanted to take my picture anymore, it was bittersweet.  I'd gotten my 15 seconds of fame; it was fun, but I'm more than happy my life is not always in the spotlight.