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Tidbits of Zen

Korea’s Reaction to Kim Jong-il’s Death

Hmmm…a new era has passed and I wonder what that means.

Six years ago when I was first going to come to Korea, I was under the impression that the country was still at war. I was warned countless times that I should always carry my “American passport and get out of the country if the North Koreans came attackin.” That’s what my Tennessean father told me. Being a rebel, in the December of 2004, I seriously considered coming to Korea.

But then the tragic Daegu fires happened and countless videos of suitrd South Korean politicians fighting during the law making sessions aired in America. I put my plans to come here aside.

After a year of working to pay off a car and student loan, the itch to travel to Korea returned. This time being overworked, stressed and unhealthy was the push I needed to pack up and head to Korea.

I was a bit scared but I had gotten rid of my worldly possessions and jumped on a plane to Korea. I had little to lose. I mean I had maxed out my credit cards coming to Korea so there was little for the North Korean marauders to take.

My first year was a bit wrought with fear and frustration. It is an uphill battle for a person that looks Asian to convince Koreans he can speak English. Plus, I was worried that I might be drafted into the Korean military since I was still technically a dual citizen. After I received my F4 visa, I stopped having to worry about this.

I spent my first year in Gyeong Ju and then moved to the fast life of Seoul where I was simply too busy and having way too much fun to worry about North Korea.

Two years ago I joined O’ngo Food Communications as a marketer and this is when I became aware of the North once more. Our company has slowly gaining in popularity but every time North Korea would cause a ruckus, we would have cancellations and no shows. Last year when the mysterious torpedoes destroyed a South Korean boat, our reservations dropped to almost nil.

I am also worried what might happen now. But there seems to be no change; there is just solemn relief.

The news was on while I was taking a food tour group on a tour. We were at a octopus restaurant because my guests wanted to eat live octopus. We got there at 11:30 so the place was empty. At noon, the lunch crowd started to come in as my spirited group was chewing on tentacles and veggies on the table. The news was on but the lunch crowd simply to just sit in solemn silence making light conversations and just eating their lunch.

There were no shouts of joy, parades into the street, riots, women crying, men stoically sitting with a stagnant tear in their eye or any reaction of any kind. Flags stayed at full mast, nobody donned black armbands and the city kept moving forward. The only reaction I saw was that the KOSPI (the Korean stock market) fell more than normal and this morning there was an ambulance outside my door as the emergency personnel walked slowly up the stairs- perhaps a grandfather quietly passed away in his sleep.

Korea seems set to move into a new era with the same poise as it did yesterday: there is danger in mist but it is best to simply keep moving forward. If the nation needs to move, we will. But for now it is best to stay steady.

Come take a cooking class or take a Culinary Tour in Seoul! http://www.ongofood.com

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Tidbits of Zen

12 Days of Christmas: Day 6: Locks

On the Sixth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: 6 locks for a fence

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5 Christmas Cakes!
4 pairs of socks,
3 doggy outfits
2 Silly hats And a
Santa that bows at me.

See the other days of Christmas here:

12 Days of Christmas: Day 5: Christmas Cakes

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Food News, Tidbits of Zen

The Korean Food Truck Adventures: Chapter 3: Sanitation

The Korean Street Truck Adventures


TCS, SOP, HACCP,MSDS, FAT TOM…

If I hear another acronym this week I’m going to scream.

TCS, SOP, HACCP,MSDS, FAT TOM, and the list goes on and on. I’ve been swimming in a veritable alphabet soup this week all because of one issue that no foodservice operation can ignore.Sanitation.

Why the alphabet soup and concern with sanitation this week? ServSafe. ServSafe is a program from the National Restaurant Association that certifies a person in sanitation and safety issues and is nationally recognized. While ServSafe isn’t required for mobile operations by my local health department I decided to renew (you have to re-up every five years) my certification.

The material is pretty extensive, not just your garden variety “wash your hands and watch out for salmonella”. It has not been fun to study, for example, look up Anisakis or any other seafood toxin and you will understand why I’ve gone almost borderline vegan this week.

Ick .

Turn back the clock 5 years ago and ask someone what they think of eating food from a truck and usually the response was “a roach coach? No way! They don’t regulate those things like restaurants so you get sick if you eat the food.” The perception of food trucks has changed over the last 5 years, thankfully, and the laws are quickly catching up. Granted, there are some limitations since you can’t put an entire kitchen on wheels but that doesn’t mean today’s crop of food truck operators can’t serve food at almost the exact same standards that your local restaurant does.

So the last week has been filled with reading and re-reading about bacteria, cleaning, and proper temperatures for everything under the sun. As a mobile operator I’m faced with the challenge of how to manage all these things in a very non-conventional setting. For instance, unless you have someplace you can hook up a hose to, most trucks have to have a certain amount of storage for water for cooking and cleaning. This is in addition to the water heater required since your hand and dish washing water must clear 100F.

Then there is the little issue of the differences when it comes to how we handle food in the U.S. and how it gets handled in Korea. Things like kimbap and tteok, you would normally never put in the fridge or keep piping hot but according to my local food code I can’t just let it be at room temp. Now I need to figure out how I’m going to still be in compliance with the code AND maintain the integrity of certain dishes.

The good news is the class is done so I’m going to relax until then and make some hotteok this weekend.Bad news is all look like a walk in the park compared to my appointment next week with my lawyer to discuss legal issues.

The Korean Street Truck Adventures are the real adventures of a female chef that is starting her own Korean street truck business in middle-America. This is her true story. Names and locations have been omitted. You can leave Ms. L a message in the comment section of this post. 


Here are the other chapters in this series:

The Korean Street Truck Adventures: Chapter 2: Sexism in the Kitchen


Come take a cooking class or take a Culinary Tour in Seoul! http://www.ongofood.com

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Food News, Tidbits of Zen

Fresh Perspective: Christmas as seen by a Newbie

This guest post was written and photographed by Paula Lee, who is new to Korea and is currently studying Korean and exploring the landscape. You can follow her adventures at : http://paulainseoul.tumblr.com. If you would like to contribute to Seouleats shoot me an email at seouleats at gmail dot com.


It has only been a few weeks since I moved to Korea from the States and it just so happens that I arrived right smack in the middle of the holiday season. This is my very first Christmas here in South Korea and so far I have found Korean Christmas to be quite festive and mouth watering.

Its impossible to avoid Christmas back in the States. Drive by a residential street and you are bound to spot a few Christmas trees through living room windows or hear Mariah Carey is singing about how she wants you for Christmas on the radio. Every mall has a miniature North Pole where kids can share their wish list with Santa. So when I arrived to Seoul my initial thoughts were that Christmas is definitely not a big deal in Asia. I should have expected this as most Western holidays in Asia get put in the back seat. There’s no rush to buy Christmas gifts or to go home and decorate the window. Most commercial establishments, however, have started to embrace Christmas. When I walked through the streets of Seoul and store windows lined with tinsel and street poles decorated, I definitely felt like Christmas was near.

 Christmas decorations around Seoul.
Apart from the lights and decorated windows, my favorite Christmas trend in Korea though has to be the holiday food. It seems as though Koreans have embraced Christmas as a time for eating and I am incredibly excited about this. While I have noticed fancy restaurants offering Christmas dinners, I feel as though this trend is mostly limited to desserts. It is almost impossible to walk into a cafe or bakery and not see any food specially made for the holidays. Cafes have holiday themed drinks and I thoroughly enjoyed going to my local Dunkin Donuts and seeing Christmas donut cakes. Whenever I see these delectable desserts I can’t help but purchase one.

Didn’t you know? Donuts are totally Christmas food.
In my opinion, food is the great equalizer and I believe that’s why Koreans have turned to food to spread Christmas cheer. There is definitely no better way to bring people together or get people into a festive mood than through food. As you are being tempted by all the delicious holiday foods remember to be safe and warm. Merry Christmas to all…and to all a good night!



Come take a cooking class or take a Culinary Tour in Seoul! http://www.ongofood.com

Join the Seoul Eats Facebook Group Page to keep to date with the latest events.
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