Capturing Your Essence: Dubu Kimchee

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The past few weeks I’ve been seriously missing Asia. The landscape, the people, the inability to understand the conversations going on around me, the 24-hour markets, the endless hours wandering the streets exploring, the freedom

Recalling how healthy and energetic I felt, actually preferring Asian food at times (oh, and getting sick of it plenty, too…kimchi and I had a love/hate relationship), I looked up the nearest Asian market in Oxnard and proceeded to stock up.

A wise friend and Naturopath commented that subconsciously, I’m beginning to channel the essence of myself that I happened to find in Asia. The free spirited me.

A cartful of tofu (Korea calls it ‘dubu’), kimchi, gochujang (Korean Chili Paste), and ‘gim’ (seasoned seaweed), I came home and made a Dubu Kimchi meal on the stove.  How? Sautee kimchee and tofu, add some sesame oil, soy sauce, and sesame seeds, add in some gim, and you have yourself a healthy meal of fermented vegetables and quality vegetarian protein.  Yum!

Also in the cart from East Asia? Dried Black Fungi (aka Anti-Cancer MEDICINE in Chinese Medical Wisdom) and dried wakame (a type of seaweed, good for the female system) to add to soups, and an enormous tub of Miso. I didn’t stop at Korean goodies, either. Capturing my essence, of course, I foraged flavors of Thailand and India (a land I’ve yet to explore, but have a feeling I will find some of my future ‘essence’), as well. Panang Curry Paste, Coconut Milk, Curry Powder, Tumeric…warming spices that  which Mother Ayurveda would highly approve. Next blog!

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The 6 Month Itch: Gratitude and What’s Cool about Korea

I’m bored.

 Again.

 Itchin’ for a change.

This seems to be my pattern. Move somewhere, get a cool job, meet some amazing people, get into a routine.
Then something happens around 6 months and I want a change.

First, Santa Monica right after college. Modeling, acting, hosting by day, hauling myself around LaLa land to auditions all day, (and actually making a decent buck, enough to get by anyways), and working at the Huntley Hotel at night. It was a grind for sure but enjoyable looking back. Had a great apartment between Montana Ave and 3rd Street, had time to go to Bryan Kest’s Power Yoga nearly every day AND sometimes take a long walk or jog.

Then it was Ventura and my awesome holistic rehab job. But that proved to be a lil much for me at that time and I wanted to travel. Sooooo…
Now I’m across the globe, working an international gig in South Korea….
The first 2 places would have probably been fine to stay, make some roots, but something else was calling my name.

So I went with it.

Now, starting to see a pattern, I’m making a change (from wanting a change, ha!) from here on out.

From now on, I’m going to focus on what is good NOW.

So, here is what is cool about my life here in Korea:

I’m GRATEFUL for the following:

 People. 

A fab community of artists, musicians, creative, yogis, and like-minded foreigners that I’ve met throughout Korea and also right here in my neighborhood of Haebangcheon and Itaewon. It took a while to find them, but they’re here!

And the friendliness of most folks brings a smile to my face 🙂

– My apartment is a yoga studio.

And is quiet (although there are no windows :(…and is all my own. And did I mention that it’s FREE?

– Healthy food everywhere.
produce stand just across the street for cheap veggies and nigari/seawater dubu (tofu).
kimchi varieties at a “well-being festival”
“well-being” drinks,  supplements, etc
just a typical 7,000 won ($6.50 about) meal full of raw and semi-cooked veggies, fermented bean stews,  dotorimuk, and dubu.

My cute 3 and 4 year olds who adore me, say “I love you, Elisa teacher”, and give me hugs and kisses and play with my hair during playtime.  

And my amazing co-teacher, Luna, who has really taught me to teach little ones. She also works her magic with the kids when my patience wears thin!

K kids are really cute.

A secure job, with a certain end date, in which I get to move around all day long, run after little ones, dance and sing with them. Fun, pretty physical,  keeps me in pretty good shape, I think. No secretary spread gonna happen this year!

National Health Insurance.  That covers acupuncture.
– The 4 Seasons have grown on me. Maybe I’m just saying that because it’s hot now and I’m loving it.  I’ve also gleened lots of winter stuff from amigas who’ve left South Korea for their next chapter (thanks Erika and Aimee), so I’m actually excited to get dressed this winter.

Korean flowers are pretty.

I think these look like dragonflies.

– The ability to buy a new outfit for $10 on a street corner (this is good and bad…a half-Jewish, bargain freak like me has to practice self-control).

 

Muii-do and Deok Jeok-Do 

Islands an hour subway and ferry rideaway.  not bad.

– Insadong and the general Downtown area. I love it there for the art galleries, the Temples. The people watching.

oh, just visiting a historic temple that’s 10 mins from the apartment.  gotta love that.

Rooftops!

Hiking!

hiking is fun and free.

Tour groups.

– No car payment, no paying for gas, oil changes, and hauling my car into the repair shop when there’s a prob. A break from driving, which for me was gettin worse daily…I had 3 points on my license just for running into stationary crap! For now, worry-free transportation for the most part!

the long gone volvo s40.  we had a good 50k miles together, but i don’t miss your “check engine” light that came on every 1,000 miles and your service center that happened to be an hour’s drive away.
 The cool respites from city living like the Cheongycheon Stream, Yangjae Stream, Seoul Forest, etc.
Subway sardine can in the AM…
…is tolerable due to a walk along Yangjae stream afterwards!

– Makgeolli and Dongdongju!

Who needs California wine when you’ve got Makgeolli tasting for $1.75 down the street?!

– Being able to live on a budget of $100 (or less sometimes) a week. Sweet.

Cicadas chirping during the Summer!

Let’s not forget that the beaches of Thailand are a relatively short and cheap flight away…

 – there’s more that i’ll add to this list later.

-but most of all, just feeling quite healthy

Although the air may be sub-par here, I get a sinus infection every so often, and just the 24/7, unrelaxed energy of this city drives me mad sometimes, my bod feels really healthy and I have lots of energy to do the stuff I wanna do!

Good stuff.

The 6 Month Itch/Gratefulness and What’s Cool about Korea

I’m bored. 
 Again. 
 Itchin’ for a change.
This seems to be my pattern. Move somewhere, get a cool job, meet some amazing people, get into a routine.
Then something happens around 6 months and I want a change.
First, Santa Monica right after college. Modeling, acting, hosting by day, hauling myself around LaLa land to auditions all day, (and actually making a decent buck, enough to get by anyways), and working at the Huntley Hotel at night. It was a grind for sure but enjoyable looking back. Had a great apartment between Montana Ave and 3rd Street, had time to go to Bryan Kest’s Power Yoga nearly every day AND sometimes take a long walk or jog.
Then it was Ventura and my awesome holistic rehab job. But that proved to be a lil much for me at that time and I wanted to travel. Sooooo…
Now I’m across the globe, working an international gig in South Korea, and BORED! WTF.
The first 2 places would have probably been fine to stay, make some roots, but something else was calling my name.
So I went with it.
Now, starting to see a pattern, I’m making a change (from wanting a change, ha!) from here on out.
From now on, I’m going to focus on what is good NOW.

So, here is what is cool about my life here in Korea:

I’m GRATEFUL for the following:
People. 
A fab community of artists, musicians, creative, yogis, and like-minded foreigners that I’ve met throughout Korea and also right here in my neighborhood of Haebangcheon and Itaewon. It took a while to find them, but they’re here! 
And the friendliness of most folks brings a smile to my face 🙂

My apartment is a yoga studio.
And is quiet (although there are no windows :(…and is all my own. And did I mention that it’s FREE?

Healthy food everywhere.
produce stand just across the street for cheap veggies and nigari/seawater dubu (tofu).

kimchi varieties at a “well-being festival”

“well-being” drinks,  supplements, etc

just a typical 7,000 won ($6.50 about) meal full of raw and semi-cooked veggies, fermented bean stews,  dotorimuk, and dubu.

My cute 3 and 4 year olds who adore me, say “I love you, Elisa teacher”, and give me hugs and kisses and play with my hair during playtime.  

And my amazing co-teacher, Luna, who has really taught me to teach little ones. She also works her magic with the kids when my patience wears thin!

K kids are really cute.

A secure job, with a certain end date, in which I get to move around all day long, run after little ones, dance and sing with them. Fun, pretty physical,  keeps me in pretty good shape, I think. No secretary spread gonna happen this year!
National Health Insurance.  That covers acupuncture.
The 4 Seasons have grown on me. Maybe I’m just saying that because it’s hot now and I’m loving it. I’ve also gleened lots of winter stuff from amigas who’ve left South Korea for their next chapter (thanks Erika and Aimee), so I’m actually excited to get dressed this winter~

Korean flowers are pretty.

Korean flowers are pretty.

I think these look like dragonflies.

The ability to buy a new outfit for $10 on a street corner (this is good and bad…a half-Jewish, bargain freak like me has to practice self-control).


Muii-do and Deok Jeok-Do 
Islands an hour subway and ferry rideaway.  not bad.

Insadong and the general Downtown area. I love it there for the art galleries, the Temples. The
people watching.

oh, just visiting a historic temple that’s 10 mins from the apartment.  gotta love that.

Rooftops!

Hiking!

hiking is fun and free.

Tour groups.

gotta love tour groups! ~river rafting

jeollanam-do tour group

No car payment, no paying for gas, oil changes, and hauling my car into the repair shop when there’s a prob. A break from driving, which for me was gettin worse daily…I had 3 points on my license just for running into stationary crap! For now, worry-free transportation for the most part!

the long gone volvo s40.  we had a good 50k miles together, but i don’t miss your “check engine” light that came on every 1,000 miles and your service center that happened to be an hour’s drive away.

The cool respites from city living like the Cheongycheon Stream, Yangjae Stream, Seoul Forest, etc.

Subway sardine can in the AM…

…is tolerable due to a walk along Yangjae stream afterwards!

Makgeolli and Dongdongju!

Who needs California wine when you’ve got Makgeolli tasting for $1.75 down the street?!

Being able to live on a budget of $100 (or less sometimes) a week. Sweet.

Cicadas chirping during the Summer!

Let’s not forget that the beaches of Thailand are a relatively short and cheap flight away…


– there’s more that i’ll add to this list later.

-but most of all, just feeling quite healthy

Although the air may be sub-par here, I get a sinus infection every so often, and just the 24/7, unrelaxed energy of this city drives me mad sometimes, my bod feels really healthy and I have lots of energy to do the stuff I wanna do!

Good stuff.

Samcheong-Dong

Samcheong-Dong
After the Reiki group last Sunday I was quite emotional…a lot of deep feelings bubbled up. I needed to be by myself…reflect…maybe wander around and explore to get outside of my head.
Consulted my little “Korea Sparkling” guide (freebie from the tourist office)…and I found that Samcheong-dong was right at the bottom of the park.
“a picture taker’s paradise, but even if you don’t enjoy the taking of pictures, a stroll around Samcheong will do the trick” (oh I love translation…). So, I took a walk through Samcheong Park onto Samcheong-Dong.

this photo could have been taken on Main St. in SaMo 🙂
Samcheong-dong is my new favorite place in Seoul! My mood instantly lifted the second I saw the European-esque part of Seoul~no buildings above 3 or four stories!! Cafes, boutiques, tree-lined streets. I felt like i was back in Santa Monica (and oh how i miss Santa Monica! I loved living there…for the community, the yoga (bryan kest power yoga!), cafes…) . Anyways!!!

Took myself out to eat at Onmaeul, a “dubu (tofu) house”. Of course having dinner by yourself in Korea is not the norm, so I got barraged with questions from the well-meaning, but overly curious owner, “How old are you?”, “Are you married?”, “Korean boyfriend?”. Haha. The dinner was pretty tasty and only 6,000 won ($6). Plus I was a gonner for the restaurant when I saw their menu was on a wooden spoon.
Love it.

Home Cookin’, Korean-Style

Let me just start by saying I adore Asian food. The parents took me to the sushi bar at the ripe ole’ age of six, and Western food just never tasted good again. Give me Japanese, Korean, or Thai any day over pizza, burgers, spagetti, and tacos. 

 During college, I used to drive a half hour to the Asian market just to get some of these ingredients to eat at home. Now they are available in alleyways all over Korea for radically insanely cheap prices.

Even though eating out in Korea is extremely cheap, it’s even cheaper to eat at home if you get the right ingredients. Plus, in Korea, eating usually is a social thing, and if you are in a meditative mood, well, sometimes home cooking is good for the “Seoul”.

The Kitchen…

yes, this explains why most of the food is raw and uncooked in the following pictures. I avoid turning on this hotplate…

The creations…

 Dotorimuk + Nigari Dubu (tofu) + sesame oil + soybean paste + green onions

Dotorimuk is a jelly made from acorn starch. It’s low in calories, high in protein and several vitamins and minerals. 

Mung Bean Jelly…same idea as Dotorimuk, but made from mungbeans…


Homemade yogurt by Elisa! 

After being on antibiotics for two weeks, it was important to get the good bacteria going again my system.  Korean yogurt tends to be loaded with tons of sugar, so I made my own lower-sugar option by adding store-bought yogurt (for it’s cultures) to milk. 

How to make homemade yogurt:

1.Dump 1 cup of yogurt and 1 carton of milk into tupperware.

2. Fill sink up with hot water. Cover tupperware and allow to sit overnight.

3. Voila, fresh plain yogurt in the morning. Refrigerate and enjoy!

Afterschool snacks! Dried squid and xylitol sweetened gum.



Month 2

 

Entrance to Seoul Zoo and (the ski lift we rode when we left) on the first sunnnnny day I’ve seen in Seoul…
To be honest, this first month was NOT easy. But these pictures are some of the highlights~going to the Seoul Zoo (where we got to pet kangaroos!) and making hats with my kids. Kids and animals=Happy. I’ve really bonded with my kids. I got very very sick a couple weeks ago and missed 2 days of work…I was so sick, the sickest I’ve probably ever been besides having mono when I was 13, and I just felt like giving up and going home. I was thisclose to booking a flight. But the thought of leaving the kids really got to me! And the job is great, the days just fly by. The kids have come such a long way in just a month…already learning the ABC’s through letter “F”, belting out the ABC’s, and asking for simple things like “help me please”, “Bathroom, please?”. They are also just the littlest bundles of love, I seriously haven’t felt so much love in forever.

My 4 year olds and I, showing off the hats we made.
Petting (kissing) kangaroos at the Seoul Zoo
Anyways, I’m very impressed with Korean Health care. I went to the Korean doctor at the International Clinic and she made that “tskkkk” sounds through her teeth when she was checking me out–not good. She said to always wear scarves and hydrate with “warm fluid only, no cold juice or water”, which I found interesting. So, after nearly 2 weeks of antibiotics, scarf wearing, and warm/room temp h20, tea, and soup, I think we nipped it. *****Bonus: my skin cleared up from the antibiotics! Woohoo!
Reasons I’m very impressed by Korean Healthcare (or at least my doctor)…
-She took the time to actually look at me, give me lifestyle advice, and she seemed genuinely concerned, unlike so many American doctors
-Prescriptions are individually tailored to you. You get little baggies for each dose full of half of some pill, a quarter of another one, a full dose of this or that. It’s pretty cool.
-Affordable. Even without insurance…$12….with insurance $3. Amazing.

Korean prescription baggies, each one is one dose
The weather is warming up…meaning a high of about 50-60…which is cold back home. It’s a huge adjustment and I just can’t wait for summer to come! I am basically living in my down coat until it reaches at least 60 degrees a day.
Now, so far I’m not in love with Korea but we all know I’m sort of a foodie, especially with Asian foods (I would drive to the Asian market during college for goodies!). Going out to eat has been so much fun here. Korean BBQ, Galbi or Samgipsal, Shabu shabu, Korean vegan buffets (even though I’m soooo not Vegan), Indian food, and there is much more to try.
There are a few snacky food items that I’ve fallen in love with here that are worth mentioning…
Korean Popcorn–the only readily available whole grain around! and it is EVERYWHERE. Freshly popped, 1,000 won or $1 per enormous bag, and nothing added to it. Amazing. BUT, all popcorn is potentially high glycemic, so must eat some fat or protein with it to counter the effects! I’ve been adding a little ghee (clarified butter from India, found at the Itaewon foreign food market) on the side
Seasoned LaverDried seaweed, roasted with oil and salt. Great salty snack that’s not high in cals. High in lots and lots of nutrients.
Korean gum sweetened with Xylitol– In the U.S., Xylitol sweeteners are only really seen in natural and alternative markets. At the Natural Foods Expo where I worked for the past 2 years one weekend per year, Xylitol was all the rage! Here, Xylitol sweetens the average gum sold for 500 won, or 50 cents, at every little market. And there are a million great flavors. And sooo good for your teeth.
Asian Pears– Full of fiber and vitamin C. Very hydrating. Sold everywhere!
Also, I love that there is a fruit and veggie stand right across the street from my apartment. So, it’s pretty easy to go across the way and grab a bundle of baby bok choy (3-4 for 1,000 won or $1) and mushrooms (less than a $1) to stir fry, a giant asian pear ($1.50), and a slab of fresh fresh tofu. Actually, there seem to be fruit and veggie stands everywhere you go. It’s too easy to eat healthy here…but like anything in life, it is a choice. There is also amazingly unhealthy but gotta-try-it-at-least-once street food here…like fried chips on a stick, fried hot dog, fried egg, tempura-ed everything, waffles, ice cream, pancakes with sugary paste inside.
Well…till next time…