That guitar

We passed by the music school where my kids used to go for guitar classes. I remember the teacher recommending the guitar we should buy. Those were crazy days of endless bus runs. To save myself the time and trouble of shopping around, I ended up buying a guitar from their in-house store which, as I found out later, was priced higher than at other stores. Back then, if I’d known, I’d have taken advantage of the stupid deal of the day at musiciansfriend.com.

Of staring, fast food and not so cold noodles

Of staring, fast food and not so cold noodles

Happiness is finding a new place to add to the Pearl (Picky Eaters’ Approved Restaurant List). We stumbled on this great little Korean fast food place that passed our taste test with flying colors. Well, stumbled isn’t exactly the word. We’ve walked past it a million times and even scoffed at the menu a few times (that was before the Great K Revolution, of course).

The million dollar question is this: How could we have walked past so often and never thought to stop? Well, we couldn’t tell from the pictures on the menu if the food would be good. Thing is we’re not in the habit of staring openly at people’s food as we walk past their tables. It’s rude to stare especially when people are eating. My children were trained never to do that and if they did, they’d no doubt have heard from me!

I’m not sure what made us step in. As with all new places that we’re trying out, we didn’t order much. The Chicken BBQ came with rice in a K bowl (no less), seaweed soup and 3 side dishes  I wish it came with a Korean name as well, like maybe 치킨 바비쿄. But even without that, the grilled chicken is flavorful, mildly sweet and not too salty.

Of staring, fast food and not so cold noodles

The 닭 볶음 (dak bokeum), or stir-fried chicken in chilly sauce had a good mix of veggies in it. It’s reminiscent of 김치 찌개 (kimchi jjigae, or kimchi stew). The tangy, spicy sauce was lip-smackin’ good till the last drop. Even the Colonel would agree heh!

Of staring, fast food and not so cold noodles

As for the 3 반찬 (banchan, or side dishes), there’s 김치 (kimchi), 밀치금 (anchovies) and a random third dish. The kimchi isn’t as crunchy as I’d like it to be but I love the anchovies.

The 파전 (pajeon, or Korean pancake) may look unassuming but don’t be fooled, there’s hidden squid in the batter, and veggies you can actually see. Most restaurants would just serve this ‘blank’, and charge more for the loaded version. I like the light crunch in this pancake. The sauce is okay, a bit too salty so we dip it in the dak bokeum sauce.

Of staring, fast food and not so cold noodles

On another occasion, I surprised myself by ordering their 비빔 국수 (bibim guksu). Remember I swore off cold noodles the first time I ate them because to me, there’s only one way to eat noodles – piping hot.

Then one fine day, I found a stash of buckwheat noodles in my kitchen (I didn’t buy ’em), concocted a meal with them and fell in love, either with the noodles or my own cooking, I don’t know which 😝. Yeah, that was random even for me. But I ended up loving every mouthful of those buckwheat noodles eaten warm, of course, not cold.

Fast forward to when I saw bibim guksu on the menu and jumped at it without even thinking. Thankfully they weren’t served cold but were room temp instead. Awesome, I wouldn’t have had them any other way. Yums.

Of staring, fast food and not so cold noodles

So it’s happy days. We’ve been back many times, and now even the restaurant staff know our faces and orders and give us a special discount. Yes, they have a customer-friendly team unlike the usual ones with fake amnesia. “Why you not early today?” the cute waiter asked when we strolled in on a weekend lunch hour and couldn’t find a table. He found us one pretty quick. Now that’s service for ya!

All hail, the mighty kale!

All hail, the mighty kale!

And so here’s my kale story. There was too much talk about kale to ignore. Heard all about it being top spot on the super food pedestal. That was long ago. Kale, avocado, and coconut have since made way for kefir, soylent, and burrito, I hear, hohoho.

Whatever it is, not being one to jump blindly onto any old bandwagon that passes by, I was unperturbed. That’s my general reaction to the iPad, organic food, big breakfasts, any kind of trend fad that has people climbing their fork tines and leaping off their bowls. Let the world go crazy. Leave me alone. I’m staying put.

Stay put, I did, for the longest time. My eyes would pan over everything else in the produce section seeking out my usual veggie choices but skipping over the kale altogether. I tend to get comfortable with the regular veggies that I know and love, and kinda like to stick with those.

If I bought kale, I wouldn’t know what to do with it. Where life is kinda laid back without any of that city madness, I feel like there’s no need to put my brain into high gear. So I thought, nyet, I won’t bother figuring out something new. Let me plog along with my spinach, broccoli and asparagus, thanks.

Until one fine day, I noticed kale going for only 99 cents a bundle. I had no idea super food was so inexpensive. Now that’s not bad at all. Even if I mess it up and it turns out funky, it wouldn’t be such a waste. So I started peeking left and right trying to spot the biggest bundle. Guess I lucked out. Look, a whole tree!

All hail, the mighty kale!

They’re usually tied together neatly in a bundle with no protruding stems but this one was different. Even the cashier laughed and went, “What’s this?” as she puzzled over the 2 plastic bags I used to tame this tree. (By the way, this picture was taken over the open door of Mrs Dolores, our beloved dish washer who fights crime grime with a rattle and a slosh!)

Okay, so now what do I do with my kale? I tried to imagine it juiced but my brain didn’t like how it tasted. So I figured I’d just, what, stir-fry it with, what else, garlic!?? I don’t know, I’ve never fried a tree before, have you?

All hail, the mighty kale!

Well, the tree was huge and filled a big bowl so we ate half and saved the rest. And the taste? Well, if our tongues could taste colors, kale would be dark green and bitter but a bitterness with depth, quite different from the shallow bitterness of bitter gourd. It’s not hard to swallow. We like it. Even my used-to-say-no-to-veggie kids.

Paired with this shrimp and tomato dish, it’s even better. The tangy brightness of the tomatoes takes the edge off the kale’s deep bitterness and they balance each other out perfectly. 먹을 만에요. It’s actually not bad.

So yeah, we worship kale now quite religiously. It’s a regular in our grocery cart. Not because it is or was a trend but because we really like it. You knew that 😉!

Lines and people who annoy me

Lines and people who annoy me

바빴어요! (Been busy). So many errands, so little time. Granted I do procrastinate for as long as I can because well, who likes errands? I don’t. That’s why I want to get through them quickly so they won’t be hanging over my head like bananas in a fruit shop. The errands themselves 몬제 아니야 (aren’t the problem). It’s those darned lines and the characters I meet.

(1) The Pretenders

Over the weekend, a couple tried to edge themselves into our line while pretending to be so deep in conversation they didn’t notice there was a line? Nice try but “please get back in line”, we told them and they slunked quietly away.

In another daring episode, a woman pretending like she was all engrossed in talking on her cellphone planted herself in front of us. We were busy sorting through our shopping basket so I was like, okay, never mind.

But when time came for this woman to pay, she took her own sweet time digging out coin after coin to which Hip2bDaughter turned around and said to us, loudly enough to be heard, “Some people cut in line and don’t even have their change ready”.

And you know what. As the cashier was bagging her stuff, she turned around and started to chime into our conversation with her unsolicited advice as if she were our old friend. Seriously! The cheek of some people! As if chatting us up would somehow redeem her from her rudeness. Nope, not working!

(2) The Make-No-Boners

In another the grocery line episode, a woman cradling a few items casually walked up and stood in front of me. I eyed her for a while thinking, okay, maybe she’s with the group in front of me. It soon became clear she wasn’t. I gave her a minute and I couldn’t hold my tongue any longer. “The line is back there. Please get in line!” I wasn’t being nasty, just matter of fact.

Reluctantly she scooped up her items and wandered away… and even as I watched, she cut straight into someone else in the next line. She’s a diehard, that one lol! People like her don’t need an excuse. They just assume it’s their inalienable right. The best part is the person she cut off didn’t object and let her through. Great way to embolden chronic line cutters like her!

Now here’s the joke. The man at the top of my checkout line heard me and shook his head casting me a look of disapproval. I notice many people don’t honk when someone cuts them off in traffic and the next thing, I see them doing it themselves. I can only conclude that this guy’s probably a line cutter himself since he sympathized with her (even when it was none of his business).

(3) That-Cashier’s-My-Friend-ers

One day, I was standing in the bank with my number slip in hand. There were several people ahead of me. Only two counters were open, my car was double-parked outside, and the wait was longer than I cared for. Guess what?

A couple walked in and went straight up to one of the counters right after the last person left and before the next number came up. Instantly there was a friendly exchange and the cashier went ahead with their transaction. I guess if your friend works there, that makes it okay to act like you own the place and ignore everyone else.

Lines and people who annoy me

Image credit

Seriously, line cutters are such a pain. Everyone’s busy. Everyone’s in a hurry. You’re not the only one. I want to get my stuff done fast so I can get the heck home, out of the traffic, out of the sun. Just as you do, So yeah! Have some respect for other people’s time, and get the heck in line.

I’m a reasonable person. If you come up to me with a good reason why you should be ahead of me when clearly I got there first, I’m all ears. If you have a genuine emergency or truly deserve it, I’d be more than happy to give you my spot. Otherwise please stop wasting my time AND the time of everyone else behind me who’ve been waiting endlessly. They too are busy. They too are in a hurry. Tsk!

Peace out!

Dear gourd, I’m not bitter at you any more

Dear gourd, I'm not bitter at you any more

Bitter gourd is something of a stranger to me. Sure I know, it’s a squash-like vegetable shaped like an eggplant but is green with a warty outside. Its flesh is really bitter and I’ve never liked it. As a child, I balked at it. As an adult, I wouldn’t go near it.

Dear gourd, I'm not bitter at you any moreImage credit

One day, Hip2bDad came home at lunch time with a packet of noodles for me. Surprise! Here’s your Bitter Gourd Noodle Soup, enjoy! I winced at those words. But I gotta say this, any time I don’t have to venture into a coffee shop myself, it’s a bonus. I’m not gonna complain.

I sat down to my bowl of Bitter Gourd Noodle Soup, eye-ing it suspiciously, certain that I would hate every bitter mouthful. But look at the abundance of good stuff swimming in it and hidden underneath –  tomatoes, fish cake slices, homemade fish balls, seaweed, goji berries underneath.

Dear gourd, I'm not bitter at you any more

Oh man! Wow!

With each spoonful of noodle, soup and my mamdatory fiery bird’s eye chilli, I was like “hey, this isn’t so bad”. The bitterness is there but it’s not overpowering. It’s a strange but flavorful combination just like dipping french fries into ice cream. When I got to the bottom of the bowl, I was wishing there was more. Seriously, that was the most delicious noodle soup ever – oink oink!

It seems bitter gourd is one of those super foods that can magically prevent or fix a host of health issues too. I think the general Asian belief is that if something’s bitter, it must be good for you 😓.

I’m not sure if bitter gourd is sold at grocery stores in the States but if it isn’t, I’m sure it’ll find its way there soon enough. Meantime, it might be worthwhile giving your tastebuds some practice with kale 😉 (that story coming up soon).

Profound wisdom of a 10-year-old

Profound wisdom of a 10-year-old

A small news headline in The Korea Times caught my eye recently. “Boy, 10, offers lesson in life”, it said. A third grade boy in South Korea had been given a homework handout showing a malnourished boy dressed in tattered clothing eating breadcrumbs off the floor.

His assignment was to “Think about how happy you are while observing this photograph (of the poor boy) for five minutes”.

Profound wisdom of a 10-year-old
Image credit: The Korea Times

Tears pierced my eyes when I read the boy’s answer. And this is the verbatim quote: “I think it’s not right to feel happy comparing myself to others’ pains. We need to solve their pains together, so that we all can live happily.”

How profound!

All it takes is this simple insight from a mere 10-year-old to put everyone in their place. Indeed what message are we sending our children by suggesting that we rejoice in the misery of others, when we should be instilling empathy, kindness and compassion in them.

Maybe it’s time to start thinking about what values we’re teaching our kids.

Slowly but surely

There’s a mall which features live music to draw the weekend crowds. Years ago, when this concept first started, the band playing their korg nanokontrol barely had an audience. Lately, I’ve noticed the mall even provides benches around the makeshift platform for the benefit of the retired folks who come in flocks to listen. It’s not the kind of music everyone appreciates so I always quicken my step and go about my errands. Peace out!

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