Exhibit 1: Then (2006)

Exhibit 1: Then (2006)

2006: Year of graduation, uncertainty, and death. Exactly three months after my grandfather had passed away in Korea, it was time to fly to Vienna for Dad’s business trip. I had longer hair, chubby face, and a still healthy/unhealthy obsession with the color green. Those are the obvious differences.

Walking around Vienna in the relative safety of my parents, I looked down on the sights that I saw. I say relative safety because my parents entrusted me with the map and I had no idea where we were going. I could judge the rest of the world in my naivety, in the certainty that I knew what was right and exactly what was wrong. I was right and you were wrong.

Things became even clearer atop the Gloriette hill at the Schonnbrunn Palace. The uphill climb was difficult, the big stones of white gravel rolled nervously under my feet, the calves in my legs strained to gain an easy balance. We went slowly, Mom the slowest one, and Dad, as usual, up ahead with his hands locked behind his back.

By the time we got up the hill, my legs wanted to totter out beneath me, which is why I am leaning so heavily on the ledge of the pavilion. My tummy pressed flat out against the cool concrete. I looked down at the world I was visiting, the glory of Europe providing a sparkle in the sun.

Everything was worthy of a photograph, there was no discrimination in subject, as we Koreans drew up our peace signs and pretense of luxury. A pretense of happiness. I admire my naivety and the pompousness in this picture. A graduate, without a care in the world.

Exhibit 2: Now (2009)

Exhibit 2: Now (2009)

2009: An escape from reality. I have come back from trips to Italy, Japan, Slovakia. The world does not seem so easy anymore, but my smiles come easier than they used to. And so do my tears. The passing of my maternal grandfather in 2006 was a preceding of my paternal grandfather’s death, my adopted grandfather’s death, my adopted grandmother’s death, an aunt, and a cousin-in-law. A teacher. A friend.

It is clearer, what I want to do in this world, what I want from this world, what needs to be done… but what is less clear is how I will go about doing them. I will attend another graduation next year, but will I look out with the same, shining, hopeful eyes as I did then? Certainly, one member of my family will be missing this time around. There will be no father taking pictures of every moment, starting from when I sit down amongst the other graduates to when I exit the stage, diploma in hand.

And yes, he is still very much a part of the rest of the world. Just not a part of mine anymore. The bankruptcy weighs down heavily in my mind at times, but I’m glad the worry does not show in this picture. The budgeting that I do means that I eat lavishly on some days and survive on cereal another.

The climb up. The same white gravel, rising dust, unbalanced feeling. At the top of the hill, I barely notice any muscle strain, due to my frenzied half-marathon training last year. Why was it so difficult, the last time around? There was no need to lean on the concrete, my white loafers were enough of a foundation on the steps.

It was time to take pictures. This time around, I would carefully piece together the parts of the city that I had grown to love in the last three months. I will be sad to leave. But this time around, I think I know what lessons to take and what mistakes to leave behind.

Exhibit 3: Panorama view from Gloriette Pavilion

Exhibit 3: Panoramic view from Gloriette Pavilion

Yupgi Girl.

I confess, I’m a foodie but I’m also a relatively new foodie, in terms of international cuisine.

I’m pretty well-versed in Thai, real Chinese, Haitian/Caribbean, and other such foods but when it comes to Middle Eastern food, I’m at a complete loss. I don’t even know the time of day there! Well, time to change all that while I’m in Vienna. Vienna has a high Turkish population from what it seems like; there are a lot of street stands that sell kebabs and durums and even a predominantly Turkish market, called the Brunnen Markt. The only Middle Eastern I’d had before this trip was kebab so the first week I was here, I tried a durum from a street stand.

. . .

Exhibit 1: Durum

Exhibit 1: Durum

. . .

It’s kebab meat (something that one of my friends here is very suspicious of, “who knows HOW long that kebab meat has been there!” but I seem to have an iron stomach *knock on wood* so I don’t quite care) inside of a wrap, with fresh lettuce and a white sauce that seems suspiciously yogurt-based. But what do I know about it? Sadly, durum then became limited to drunk night binges when it was the only thing available on the streets. I figured, it was time to hit up authenticity.

One of my friends from school is from Turkey and he’s also on our program here. A few weeks ago, he took me to this place called Maschu Maschu for my first falafel experience.

. . .

Exhibit 2: My First Falafel (Teller)

Exhibit 2: My First Falafel (Teller)

. . .

I ordered something called a falafel teller. I still have no idea exactly what this is, but it seemed like a lot of delicious kebab meat, falafel, a tangy-vinegar red cabbage salad, yogurt-based sauce, and another type of salad. However, a quick search on Google reveals that I am completely wrong on the yogurt-based count, and it turns out that it is, in fact, a Tahini-based sauce. In Layman’s terms, Tahini is a sesame seed paste. I now am confused how this relates to hummus (which I’ve had before) but that’s a story for another day.

. . .

Exhibit 3: Falafel and Tahini Close-up

Exhibit 3: Falafel and Tahini Close-up

. . .

The prices were reasonable, although… I don’t pay as much attention to how much I actually pay for food as I should. But this meal was roughly around 7 Euros, which should be about 10 U.S. dollars, and that was including a large drink.

All in all, not bad for my first falafel experience. I can’t say how authentic it is, besides the fact that a Turkish friend took me, and he approved of it. To me, it was extremely delicious. The falafel was crispy on the outside, and the chickpeas (which is what is  inside a falafel, according to Wikipedia) were distinct enough that they weren’t just a mush. I do love red cabbage, and the vinegar that had brined it complemented its natural crunchyness and taste. It came with a flattened bread (no idea of the name or origins). I’ve also had enough kebab meat to know that if it’s done the wrong way, the ends can be dried out and the inside more like jerky than anything that resembles meat. But the kebab meat in this dish was done in a succulent way, so much so that I wanted more. And, now that I’ve written this entry, I want to go back already!

Maschu Maschulocated in the 1st district of Vienna

Address: Rabensteig 8, 1010 Wien

Open: Sunday – Wednesday, 11.30 am – Midnight;

Thursday – Saturday, 11.30 am – 4 am

Have you had Middle Eastern food (specifically, falafel) before? What has your experience been like?

Yupgi Girl.

Exhibit 1: Cubed Potatoes

Exhibit 1: Cubed Potatoes

In the beginning of my semester here in Vienna, I thought I could budget well.

After trips to Italy and Okinawa (to visit the Boyfriend) and other such exotic places, I realize that I really must stop spending on food and actually do stuff with my money. So every time I go grocery shopping, I try to make the most Euro for the buck.

Last week, as I was at my bank, er grocery, I saw a display for a bag of potatoes on sale for 2 Euros, which is the equivalent of 3 U.S. dollars. I dragged it back to my apartment, where it proudly sat, all 5 kilos in the corner. Until I realized that I had no potato peeler. And that I was too miserly to go buy a potato peeler.

So I sat there. Peeled roughly 20 – 30 the first day. The easiest thing I could do is make mashed potatoes, which I did.

Exhibit 2: Mashed Potatoes

Exhibit 2: Mashed Potatoes

Yupgi Girl’s Easy Mashed Potatoes

  • 20 – 30 small potatoes
  • 2 tbsp butter, unsalted
  • 1 tsp salt, add more for taste
  • 1/4 cup milk
  1. Wash potatoes under water, you do not need to peel them yet.* Start by boiling the potatoes in a big pot on medium-high heat. Depending on your stovetop, the water may start to visibily boil after 10 – 15 minutes. If you want your mashed potatoes fluffy, start checking your potatoes 10 minutes after the water starts to boil. Take a fork and stick it in one of the biggest potatoes in the pot, if the fork goes in smoothly but encounters resistance near the middle, then you will get fluffier mashed potatoes. If you like starchier mashed potatoes, then continue boiling until the fork goes in all the way through the potato, without any resistance.
  2. Once the potatoes are done boiling, drain water and rinse under cold water for 30 seconds. I have a pretty high tolerance to heat on my hands, so I start peeling the potatoes after this point, but if you have sensitive hands, put on rubber gloves and peel away with a knife.
  3. In a separate bowl, put in the butter at the bottom of the bowl. Load all your potatoes in and sprinkle salt evenly over the potatoes. Mash with a fork or, if you have a super KitchenAid mixer (that I am definitely jealous 0f), mash with said mixer. Once your potatoes are all mashed, or when they start looking dry, then you can add in the milk, it should make the potatoes fluffier and creamier. The end!

*If you have a potato peeler, definitely peel them before you put them in, and reduce boiling time by 5 minutes.

After 3 days of consuming mashed potatoes with spaghetti, I decided it was time for something new.

Again, it would have been wonderful if I had the appropriate kitchen tools on hand, but being in Vienna, I am away from my regular kitchen (uh, like I even use it a lot when I’m home, usually Mom’s the cooker). This julienning of potatoes would have been much easier, if I had this handy dandy plastic Korean serrator thing that you use to slide the potatoes against, and you have instant, even, julienned potatoes. Alas. Yupgi Girl brushed up on her knife skills, instead.

Exhibit 3: Julienned Potatoes

Exhibit 3: Julienned Potatoes

A handy potato tip: Since potatoes easily discolor if left raw in the air for too long, for quick storage nearby, submerge in water and the potatoes will not discolor, as long as they are submerged. But be careful not to let them stay in for too long, as they will absorb more water than needed and change cooking times.

Julienning with a dull knife definitely took the wind out of cheap-potato-excitement. I decided to do a bigger cut. Thus, the cubed breakfast potatoes were born.

Exhibit 4: Breakfast Potatoes

Exhibit 4: Breakfast Potatoes

Then I looked at the bag. There was over 2/3 of it left. That calculates into roughly 40 – 50 more potatoes to peel without an actual potato peeler.

Exhibit 5: Many Peeled Potatoes

Exhibit 5: Many Peeled Potatoes

What else was there to do except Skype all the people I know (basically Mom and the Boyfriend) , all the while looking sad and miserable because I sat in front of the screen, peeling potatoes with a dull knife. I’d had enough of buttery-type recipes, so I went back to the roots and made a Korean banchan, or side dish, called Gamja Joreem (감자 조림). Gamja means potato and joreem means stewed. The recipe was adapted from Maangchi, one of my favorite internet sources for authentic Korean cooking. I left out onions, corn syrup, and garlic in mine and added 2 big tablespoons of gochujang (고추장), Korean pepper paste, to make it spicier.

Exhibit 6: Gamja Joreem (감자 조림)

Exhibit 6: Gamja Joreem (감자 조림)

I still have the second (! yes, I made a second) batch of mashed potatoes and the gamja joreem in my fridge.

Moral of the story?

Never ever buy a five kilogram bag of potatoes… unless you have a potato peeler!
Yupgi Girl.

Welcome to RiceDiaries

May 24, 2009

Hi all!

I’ve been putting the first post off because I somehow wanted to break into it with some meaningful, attention-capture-ful, enrapturing post.

Sadly, that just means this brand spanking new thang has been sitting here for a week, without a single post.

Anyhow, I know there’s an about me section but here’s a more lengthy intro.

I’m a college student, currently studying abroad in Vienna, Austria. I don’t speak much of the language, but despite that, random strangers come up to me for directions. A lot of things await me when I get back to the States, namely, the more serious things in life. My family’s going through a tough bankruptcy, so I gotta face the music when I go home. And this is partly why I’m starting up a blog on WordPress: as a way to Cheerio from the rest of life.

What’s going to be in the blog, you ask?

Well, photos, writings, musings, drama, and last, but not least, hopefully some cooking will be in here! I’m Korean but I also love all sorts of other world foods so I try to eat my way through culture.

Exhibit 1: Preview of future posts to come

Exhibit 1: 'Pasta ai frutti di mare' preview of future posts to come

Exhibit 2: Udon preview of future posts

Exhibit 2: 'Udon' preview of future posts

Keep checking back for posts, a new one will be up soon!
Yupgi Girl.