Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Commercials That Make Me Glad I Don't Have A TV

Even though I don't have a TV, and I only ever see TV peripherally or incidentally, passing a screen in a shop, sitting under one in a restaurant, or having it on in the background at girlfriendoseyo's house, I'm still sick of these commercials.

Catchy as hell, though.

Korea has a knack for odd commercials: not as that Japanese ads are plain and dull (check out this one), but TV ads are a serious theater of the absurd out here.

One Christmas Party Pic

Correction: Two Christmas party pics.

My monthly flickr allowance just topped out, so I can't put up too many pictures, but here's one I like:


It's been a pretty good Christmas, all told: I'll describe some of it in more detail later, but for now, suffice it to say Christmas dinner rocked, and the trip to Jeollanamdo was an adventure punctuated with moments of fantasticousity in the middle of mud, and a lunch encounter with Jeollanamdo's most famous K-blogger was one of the nicest couple hours of my winter so far.

Plus, Joy got this sweet hat! And it came with a free ice cream cake!

But, uh, more later. When it's not 4AM.


Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas in Gwanghwamun/Chunggyecheon, Missing Family, and Stupid Hats

Met my friend Cecilia yesterday, and she introduced her boyfriend to me.

You may remember her from here:

Well, her boyfriend a a seriously stellar guy. I like him a lot... and I'm fussy about who dates my surrogate sisters and brothers... but he's a class act, really supportive, and really sweet. Awesome.


too cute.

Took pictures of the Gwanghwamun area, and also some video. I'd also taken a bus down to Kangnam to see what it had to offer, but Kangnam was pants compared to Jongno/Gwanghwamun/City Hall/Chunggyecheon. (Pants is UK slang for "garbage") - somebody told me Kangnam was way cooler these days that it had been the last time I went down there, so I've even refrained from slamming Kangnam at every chance I get, on the off chance it actually WAS cooler... no such luck. Still too crowded, still shiny but with no feeling, still a poor man's Shinjuku. Sorry, Kangnam. You're going to have to try harder, and I don't mean installing more LCD screens.

I gave Cecilia the camera and she got these candid shots of me.



Video Turtle Boat in front of Admiral Lee in Gwanghwamun Plaza.

Gwanghwamun Plaza




Jongno, on the other hand, was in fine form.



Every Christmas, there's a competition between the department stores to put on the nicest Christmas light display.

Lotte Department Store and Lotte Hotel were unusually weak this year... Namdaemun's Shinsegye spanked Lotte all over the place.


The CitiBank christmas tree in Chunggyecheon plaza was almost as big as the red-blue poo, and it changed color, so it's best seen on the video (see above). It was really nice, though.




Lotte Young Plaza also beat out Lotte Department Store/Lotte Hotel.


Lotte Dept store was meh.

City Hall's Christmas tree was nowhere near this nice; the rest of City Hall Plaza was mostly weak sauce, too.


Outside the Press Building between Gwanghwamun and City Hall


Also along that stretch: the Haechi made his first Christmas appearance. In Seoul, the Haechi comes at night to give good children Christmas gifts like ice cream cakes and stupid hats, and he give bad children's parents municipal tax notices, and arrests them for demonstrating in public spaces.



Chunggyecheon rocked, though.









I also went around that area with my handsome buddy Evan, two nights earlier, so these pictures are from two separate nights. He's a great guy, and he has a message for you.

I already linked Brian's post about dumb Korean Christmas music and stupid hats... the comments to that post are a veritable bloodbath that boils down to a few people saying we have to respect the ways other cultures observe holidays, and if Korea wants to create a commercial monstrosity with stupid hats, that's their prerogative, and the other side saying, "it's all well and good to be a cultural relativist, but it's still jarring and maybe sad to see Christmas observed in a way that is so distant from the warm family holiday we remember from our childhood" (or even from the Christmas we see in movies like A Christmas Story, It's A Wonderful Life, and Love Actually... which is huge in Korea, maybe partly because it reinforces that Christmas is a couple holiday to Koreans.

What I'll say is this: I was never a big fan of commercial Christmas anywhere (put me in the Charlie Brown camp -- ever notice how preachy "A Charlie Brown Christmas" is?), but the fact that Christmas is not only mostly divorced from the old religious roots (didn't see a single nativity scene in two nights of walking around, haven't heard more than a few sacred carols on the Christmas music playlists in Korean shops), but ALSO divorced from the Christmas we remember from back home -- as far and away the number one family holiday of the year -- is jarring, and it sharpens the twinge of homesickness, or the sting of culture shock, for most of the month of December, for many of us. I always miss my family more at Christmas, and my students and Korean friends don't get that unless I ask how they'd feel spending Chuseok away from home, where nobody knows what shikke or songpyun is. The only way I can explain the importance of Christmas to Westerners is to say "Imagine Chusok, Sollal, and Children's Day, all in one day. That's Christmas to me."

Being critical of Christmas cakes and silly hats is a legitimate response to that cognitive dissonance -- "It looks like Christmas... but it isn't Christmas like I remember/long for it..." and frankly, I sympathize. It wouldn't much surprise me if the people attacking Brian in the comments are simply exhibiting their OWN way of coping with the far-from-home culture shock, assuming they ARE far from home, by biding no negativity, or reacting to it so defensively.

And after all that preachifying, here's the best picture of the night:

Saw reflection of blue christmas lights in metal sign. favorite hidden treasure. Whoever can find where I took this, and send me a similar picture, or post it on their blog, wins a cookie.


Now I'm off: I'll be on the road a bit, so I might not post again until next week. If you really miss me, you can read me in Korean Newsweek (assuming you read Korean) or the English original (at Roboseyo), and also at Wonju Wife, talking about why I still believe in Santa Claus.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Music: The Five Artists that Need to make a Christmas Album

Tom Jones and Cerys - hilarious "Baby it's Cold Outside" - Tom Jones was born to sing the sexual aggressor in this, the greatest date-rape-themed song ever.

OK. I've ranted numerous times about Christmas Music, and you can read what I've said before here, and especially here, for the main jist. And here's a playlist of some Christmas music that actually rocks. So here's my angle this Christmas:

The five bands that would make friggin' AWESOME Christmas Albums

-I've said before that one problem with Christmas music is that the artists who SHOULD make it, usually don't, and the artists who SHOULDN'T, usually do. I'm talking to you, Hanson.-

Of course, if an artist actually HAS made a Christmas album, he/she/they are disqualified from the list, so here's a moment to recognize that sometimes, the artists who should make Christmas music actually do: Emmylou Harris, thank you. Sufjan Stevens: THANK YOU. Diana Krall: Thank you. Frank Sinatra/Rat Pack: Thank you. Whitney Houston: Thanks.

So here are the top five artists I'd love to hear make a Christmas album, and a track of theirs that makes me think they'd make a good one...

but first, to have some fun, and take some cheap shots, the three groups that would make the world's three worst Christmas Albums. Each name includes a link to a song that makes my case:

In third place: Billy Corgan - the guy from Smashing Pumpkins. This Christmas album would make me want to kill myself. I can't imagine him writing a single song happier than something titled "It's Christmas and I'm Alone"

In second place: They do what they do, and they do it well, but Guns'n'Roses just wouldn't be able to sell me a Christmas album. The band responsible for Paradise City might make songs that help me get out of bed, might write songs that help me get in the mood to slaughter the turkey, but won't get me in the mood to drink egg nog with my family.

Before first place: imagine the acid-trip of a Christmas album Jimi Hendrix would have made. How about a Silent Night improv.

In first place: Nickelback. I don't even feel like I need to explain this. At least Guns'n'Roses was a good band in their heyday, and had enough integrity to never make a Christmas album... Nickelback might even actually try one. Imagine an album of Christmas songs that all sound the same, and all sound like this.

OK then. Yikes.

And now: the five bands that really need to make a Christmas album: last time I talked about this, Brian in JND suggested Richard Hawley. That's a good choice, but here are my top five (plus a bonus artist)

Fifth: tie between Regina Spektor and Neko Case. Regina Spektor first: I often compare Regina with Feist, and Feist would make a good Christmas album, too, one that's fun and listenable, but Regina Spektor would bring a little more sincere emotion, as well as a bit more wit and humor, and a comparable pop sensibility. She could break your heart with longing in the Advent songs... and then charm you with some original tunes that were catchy but warm.

And she'd write a few songs that were genuinely funny, not in that "Walking Round in Women's Underwear" way -- novelty Christmas songs are like The Onion: read the title or headline, and that's pretty much all the humor in the whole thing.

Also fifth: Neko Case - I want to hear her miraculous voice singing the most beautiful Christmas songs ever. She'd break your heart, twice, she'd lift you up, she'd reassure you, she'd make you feel like the only person in the world, she'd blow your Christmas wide open, however she wanted.

She's already made one Christmas song: see later in the post for her cover of Tom Waits' "Christmas Card from A Hooker in Minneapolis"

Fourth: Jack White should produce a Christmas album. What the hell? Jack White, from The White Stripes? Yeah. The White Stripes shouldn't make a Christmas album, but Jack White should. Outside the noisy, jubilant stuff from The White Stripes, Jack White's actually done some interesting stuff rooted in folk and rootsy blues in his solo career, including interesting productions of some traditional tunes. But I want Jack White to make a Christmas album as a producer/collaborator, not as the sole voice of the project. He's a really good collaborator, so he'd call in some cool musicians, get right down to the roots of some classic Christmas songs, dig up some obscure old ones, and write some tunes that fit in, tone-wise, with the traditional ones. Then he'd find just the right vocalist or musician to bring the song over the top, with a production that was fresh and vital - full of life - and never ever ever cheesy.

There'd be a few funny moments, and no cringe-inducing sanctimonious ones. As a producer, he knows when to thunder, and when to grumble, and when to mourn, and he never overdoes things , which is the bane of most Christmas albums (get your hands on Van Lear Rose, like, now, if you don't believe in Jack White's chops as a producer). That's why he'd produce an amazing Christmas album, probably for charity, with some of his musician friends. Somebody please suggest this to him. (He's already done one Christmas song)

Portland Oregon - Loretta Lynn, produced by Jack White

Third: Alicia Keys. She could bring it slow for O Come Emmanuel, and then she could bring it high and give us all chills for Joy to the World. She'd hit a Christmas album out of the park. She also rates as, other than Nickelback, the artist mentioned in this post most likely to actually make a Christmas album.

Second Place: The Flaming Lips. An odd seeming choice at first, but here's the thing about The Flaming Lips: they are odd and interesting, and they'd make a Christmas album that sounds like nothing you've ever heard. The sweet parts would be an entire wall of sweet... yet somehow they pull that off... the fun parts would be giddy and goofy and noisy as a drunken Christmas Party... the serene moments would be otherworldly - they have a full, complex sound that creates a whole landscape, and for a holiday as loaded and cluttered with traditions, foods, symbols, clothes, slogans, ads, and frantic people, The Flaming Lips "Christmas On Another Planet" would be the perfect balm. Their latest album demonstrates a sound that is fully realized -- they're creating soundspaces more complete than ever, and balancing spare with complex beautifully - and isn't that exactly what Christmas does? Even more than that: they're fun! Flaming lips are always so loaded with good energy, you KNOW they'd make an awesome Christmas album.

They already made one Christmas song: come on. You want to hear more, don't you?

Finally, the number one artist who would make an awesome Christmas Album is Tom Waits. In my opinion, Tom is the best songwriter working today, and the strength of his songwriting comes from the way he can tell a story (the singer in this link's not Tom, but the song is), and make a character breathe. His Christmas album would be sad, yeah, but it would stay in your head, and it would make you want to phone your mother. It'd make you want to volunteer at the soup kitchen, and hug your kid. There's be funny moments, tender ones, ones that see Christmas perfectly through a kid's eyes, weird ones, stories and songs and some ballad that would turn into a modern classic, and one really, really great spoken-word track.

Even better, one of the great things about Tom Waits' songwriting: his songs lend themselves really well to being covered by other artists, which means that if Tom Waits made a Christmas album, we'd get a dozen or so awesome new Christmas songs for artists to cover, instead of having to sit through quite so many crap songs every December.

Tom Waits already wrote "Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis" (nope, his Christmas album wouldn't quite be for kids)... and Neko Case made it into one of the loveliest covers I've ever heard. Wouldn't you love there to be ten more Christmas songs this good?

Listen to Martha: doesn't this already sound like a Christmas song? Sure it does.

Monday, December 21, 2009

IT'S CHRISTMAS! Brilliant video: Handel's Hallelujah Chorus, and Fay McKay's 12 Days of Christmas

Christmas music... I ranted about it last year, so I don't have much more to add this year, but it's not Christmas to me until I've heard Handel's Messiah. The above is just a brilliant revisioning of the chorus.

And below: the great Christmas song I discovered this year. The Twelve Daze of Christmas, by Fay McKay: in my search for more Christmas music, this is seriously the only "novelty Christmas song" I liked. Sorry, Bob Rivers, but reading the tracklist of your songs pretty much lays out every joke you made on the album. (This is also the problem with The Onion: the articles are just excuses for their admittedly brilliant headlines)

Hypocrisy, Auschwitz and North Korea: Wake Up, World

At ROK Drop's weekly linklets, GI Korea makes a really salient point about the missing sign at the gate to Auschwitz: dear readers, it is a travesty, it is a crime against humanity in itself, that a stolen sign from a concentration camp that operated over sixty years ago, got world headlines when its sign was stolen, but it's pretty much only a few bloggers that seem to care that THERE ARE CONCENTRATION CAMPS OPERATING TODAY in North Korea.

Holy shit! Let's get upset about this!

I remember once, a Korean friend of mine told me that Koreans have "han" because Koreans "suffered more than the Jews" through history, what with Korea being invaded, and the miseries of the last century, and all that business. Now, for one thing, yeah, Korea WAS a colony of Japan, and that sucked, and Japan tried to squeeze the Korean language out of existence, by conducting all official affairs, including public education, in Japanese, and that sucked, too. So did the whole comfort women sex-slavery thing. That really, really, really sucked. But two more things about that.

1. Korea had its own land during its entire history. They never spent 2000 years as diaspora. Jews 1, Korea 0.

2.because people commented on this part of the paragraph, I won't take it out; however, I wrote it too quickly, and it's distracting people from the point of this post. Kindly ignore it. Further discussion of this paragraph in the comments will be considered beside the point that North Korea is still running concentration camps and ignored.
Every culture, or groups in every culture, suffered. Whether at the hands of another country, or at the hands of richer, more powerful men and women from their own country, for the poor in most places of the world, in most times of history, it didn't matter much whether it was a rich Chinese, Korean, Japanese, British, Danish, or Austrian taking your calf: your calf was still gone, and winter was coming. And everybody, everywhere, suffered from disease, drought, and the occasional bad luck.
Lots of other groups have been enslaved, marginalized, massacred, disenfranchised, deprived, and scapegoated, too. Every time you swing a cat you'll hit someone with a sob story somewhere in their background. Some have suffered more than others, but that doesn't mean we're allowed to ignore the suffering of others, happening right now, just because sometime in the past, we suffered, too.
But it's not a race to be the country/group that suffered the most, and wearing one's suffering as a badge of honor that way, is trite and kind of asinine (maybe it's easy for me, male WASP, the oppressor himself, to say that... but still, when has a victim complex, and its attendant feelings of helplessness, helped anyone take control of their own situation? Groups/people take control of their destiny DESPITE their victim complex, not because of it.) [edit: add] and claiming that "our suffering is worse that this other group's suffering" is petty, ugly, and treats disrespectfully the suffering of both groups. Is self-pity the best you can do with surveying your country's history? Is it really so important to keep score, that we'll dismiss somebody else's misery, to make us feel better about our own? Isn't there more to be learned from suffering than victim's pride?

But while those elements of my friend's comment don't sit well with me, here's the real kicker, and this didn't occur to me until just recently: how much MORE trite, asinine, and even insulting, is it, for a SOUTH Korean to say that Koreans have suffered more than the Jews, or, to add a layer of irony, to send that to their friend by text message, when the latest generation of North Koreans is one of the few groups I'd honestly hear out, if they decided to claim that Camp 22 is worse than Auschwitz, and that this most recent generation of North Koreans actually HAVE suffered more than the Holocaust generation did. It's even more outrageous that Camp 22 exists today, when we were supposed to have learned these lessons from the holocaust. Those who gloss over North Korea's atrocities are worse than Holocaust deniers, because we can still DO something about this holocaust... but nobody is.

And still, the Auschwitz sign makes world headlines, when there should be protests every weekend, in every public space, in every South Korean city, and Korean diaspora in the rest of the world's major cities should be doing the same in public spaces abroad, demanding that world governments, and especially the South be more active and aggressive in trying to get food to their North Korean so-called bretheren.

Sorry, South Korea. Brothers don't let brothers starve to death, don't let brothers languish in concentration camps. Don't waffle and deflect about the topic of reunification, because it would be expensive for the south, while their brothers are dying. I wrote earlier that the South's ambivalence toward the North was the best sign I can think of that Koreans are aren't the specialists in "jung" people they claim to be (in a post subtitled, "The Desperation of the North, the Hypocrisy of the South), and now I'll hold up North Korea to repudiate South Korean Han, too.

Go ahead and say North and South Korea aren't the same country anymore, aren't the same culture anymore; heck, I agree. I think South Korea should change its name to... something else... to acknowledge the fact North and South Korea aren't one country anymore. But don't give me one-blood Minjok brotherhood, jung and han out of one side of the mouth, and disown the North, refusing to take responsibility for Camp 22, out of the other, that's all. I'm not saying all Koreans do that, certainly not, but the ones that do are hypocrites of the highest order, and I won't abide that kind of doublethink.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Thus Endeth An Era

First Tiger Woods, now this: my whole world is shaken.

The Marmot's Hole has closed its comment forums.
(interestingly, the URL is "on full moderation" though the title says "closed" -- looks like he just decided to stop dealing with it.

I knew it was coming when Dongchim once called Marmot's Hole "Dave's for Ajosshis" and I know that I, for one, first alerted Kblogland of my presence via comments at the marmot's hole, back in early 2008; I owe The Marmot's comment boards that, to be sure. I had a feeling this might happen way back in spring '08, when King Baeksu stopped commenting there because he got tired of comment wars with the same old people, baiting him the same old ways. Hell, I even got into it myself once or twice with the legendary Pawikirogi. His/Her retirement was the next sign, in my mind, that Marmot's comments were headed for a place from which it might not come back.

It'll be interesting to see what happens next: frankly, whether the commenters end up reconvening elsewhere... maybe at Brian's, or at Dave's, or elsewhere. My site ain't newsworthy enough to attract them... unless it turns out a handful of them are serious banana recipe/zombie movie fanatics...

anyway, it'll be interesting to see what happens next, and where the discourse begins to take place, if anywhere. Though I didn't comment there very often anymore, I guess I'll miss it... but then again, if I'm missing it the way a dude misses living in the apartment near an intersection, for the sake of seeing car wrecks out the window, what does that say about me?

Anyway, i couldn't let it pass without comment. (haw haw)

Keep on plugging, Robert K. As a namesake, I wish you all the best, and I hope your blog remains as successful as ever... though it might take a hit in traffic, now that all those folks aren't hitting "refresh...refresh...refresh" to see if anyone's responded to his/her (usually his) comment, the way I used to do.

In Korean Newsweek: Don't Lose the Spirit Of Adventure

I'm in Korean Newsweek. Here's the link to the Korean article.

Here's the English article I sent in, which they translated.

Don’t Lose the Spirit of Adventure
by Robert Ouwehand

Every semester, I meet a new set of adult students, and during the first class, I answer some questions about myself, so my students know me better. Somebody almost always asks, “How long have you been in Korea?” When I answer, something mystifying sometimes happens: for example, this semester, a pretty young female student seemed surprised I’ve been here for six years, and asked, “Really?” with an incredulous voice.

When I explain that I really love living here, some students seem surprised, and their attitude: “What’s there to love about Korea?” dismays me. When I spend time around expats living in Korea, the conversation is sometimes similar: “Six years? How’d you last so long? It’s my second year, and I’m already cynical!” This echoes Koreans I have spoken with, who dream of moving to another country: “You want to stay in Korea? I can’t wait to leave!” they say. Of course, Korea is not the only country with dissatisfied people, but it is still a little sad to have this conversation too often.

This conversation reminds me of another conversation I often have with friends and students: on Mondays, a common small talk topic is “What did you do this weekend?” Some people almost always tell the same story: “I stayed home and watched TV, and on Saturday night I met a friend and we drank together (at the same bar as always).” Other times, this conversation leads to stories and sometimes even to suggestions of areas to visit, sites to tour, restaurants to find, and foods to sample. When I share my weekend experiences, ever since my second year living in Seoul, I have regularly had Korean friends -- even friends who lived their whole lives in Seoul -- exclaim, “You probably know more about Seoul than I do!”

I suspect there is a connection between these conversations. I suspect that the people who don’t enjoy living in Seoul, who can’t imagine why I enjoy it, are the same ones who say they stayed home on the weekend. I suspect that they are also the same ones who seem amazed at the variety of fun places and activities I enjoy in and around Seoul. Sure, it might just be lip service when my friends tell me I know more about Seoul after six years, than they learned in their whole lives. However, it might be something else.

When I was fourteen, my family moved from central Canada to Western Canada: a completely new, totally unfamiliar region. During our first two years there, especially, my father made a point of regularly taking short trips to explore the province. In those days, my father would report visiting a place, and some locals would also exclaim, “I’ve never been there,” or maybe, “I think I went there when I was seven.”

We could call this newcomer’s phenomenon: when people are new to an area, many want to explore it, like my father did. This can help people feel more at home in their new place. On the other hand, people who grew up in an area often take their home for granted, so they don’t bother exploring outside their neighborhoods. During one summer job, I worked in a historical museum outside Vancouver, and met tourists from all over. One memorable visitor was a retired man who had always lived in New York City, but had never even toured the Statue of Liberty. “That’s something tourists do, not locals,” he explained. By thinking of some activities as “only for tourists,” he limited his own experience of his hometown, and probably enjoyed living in New York a lot less than he could have. When he visited Vancouver, he explored, but in his hometown, he never did.

The same thing happens here in Korea. One of the reasons a lot of foreigners in Korea become unhappy is because we stop exploring the way we did when we first came; we say “I went there in my first year” and stay home and watch TV. However Koreans are just as guilty of being unadventurous: because they take their hometown and home country for granted, they say “That’s for tourists” or “I went there when I was a kid,” and also stay home watching TV. The end result is the same: we wonder why our lives are dull. One of my most satisfying experiences is when a student or friend tells me about visiting a place, or trying a restaurant I recommended. They usually report having a great time. This reminds me that we don’t need to lose our adventurous spirit, and if we’ve stopped, it’s not hard to start exploring again. We are all capable of making our lives more enjoyable, if we just choose to try something new.

you can read more of Robert Ouwehand's writing in the Korea Herald, and at http://roboseyo.blogspot.com

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Laser Show in Chunggyecheon

before it was cold, there was a cool laser art show up and down the Chunggyecheon with different laser demonstrations at different parts of the stream, several times an hours, most evenings. I uploaded it to Youtube, but never posted it at Roboseyo. Here's some video I took.

2 Weekends ago: Food at Sandang

I get behind on all the cool stuff I do from time to time, because my life is seriously like, just so awesome.

But especially when I have pictures, or if it makes my friends jealous of my, I like to post it on my blog, to rub it in, just how awesome I am.

OK enough of that... but seriously, I've had a few really enjoyable days that I haven't written about because I was busy either working, hanging out with Girlfriendoseyo the Awesome, or doing even more awesome stuff.

So here's an update on what I've been up to.

Sandang is a restaurant I heard about from the Seoul Eats guy, Dan. He's written numerous posts about Sandang: here's one.




It's a lovely restaurant, with a happy ball outside the restaurant: it's out in Yangpyeong, where restaurants are actually on grounds, rather then just being "second and third floor, XX building" the way they are downtown.

Nice place: I want to walk around there in the spring.



Nifty furniture: after the meal, they sent you to the second floor with a pot of coffee, and the second floor had all kinds of different spots to sit, lounge, and sip tea, depending on whether you wanted to sit on tables or cushions, in soft pillows or on arty chairs.

Girlfriendoseyo liked these chairs. I did too: the rounded back meant you could play the lean-back/balance relex game, and see how far you'd lean back before your inner ear told you to flinch.

And the food, dear readers: the food!

shrimp and shredded potato

the first time I ever ate grasshopper.

The crabs were one of the most beautifully presented dishes.


A small scallopy thing.



bit of beef: every major meat group was represented, and the flavors were unique: every one of them were simply prepared, with good ingredients, but instead of lots of spicing, they were then set next to some other flavor that drew out all the nuances of the tastes through contrast.

these little savory ball-thingys were made with potato, sweet potato, and other stuff, then covered with sauces that offset their tastes perfectly. They were crisp on the outside, and soft on the inside, and they stretched my vocabulary looking for other ways to say 'good'.


By the end of meal, after the Hanjungshik came out, with every last side dish a small miracle of its own, I was stuffed silly.

Here's a video of the visual highlight: the roasted acorn [update: my bad. roasted chestnuts], which they set on fire right at the table, and also a look at the full spread of side dishes that came out, and filled us to the gills, after we'd tried all the different specialty dishes: they filled us right to the top, with amazing food top to bottom, for our money.

Sandang is in Yangpyeong, about an hour by car outside of Seoul. It's a pretty little area near a river. You can learn more about it, and see more pictures, at Seoul Eats. It's pricier than Outback Steakhouse, but dear readers, even with a 90 minute drive before and after, the place, and the setting, and the food, and the food, and the food, was so good, it was amply, unhesitatingly, indubitably worth it.

So get out there and try some.