Sunday, May 01, 2016

cabbage salad

Not a slaw, exactly, but a close cousin.

Red cabbage, apple-cider vinegar, xylose sugar (for those of us trying to behave ourselves), and crushed-chili flakes.


what is "street steak"?

I answered this question—"What is 'street steak?'"—over at one of ZenKimchi's Instagram posts. Scroll down to the "Nuclear Steak" photo.

"Street steak" is steak that knows what's what. Street steak never loses its head when all around it are losing theirs. Street steak carries a concealed .45 but doesn't need it because it learned how to fight from Jason Statham. Street steak always wins. Street steak never compromises. Yeah. STREET steak, muthafucka.


Saturday, April 30, 2016

don't trust websites: they lie

Per a comment by perennial contrarian/one-upsman John from Daejeon, I tried to hit Haddon Supermarket last night in my quest for foreign food. In one of his comments, John had linked to two Haddon-related websites, here and here. Both sites provided similar descriptions of the market, as well as contact information. The TexaSeoul blog (second link) had specific directions and listed the business hours as 8:30AM to 9PM.

On Tuesday the 26th, while I was at work, I had tried calling Haddon once to confirm their hours of operation, but there'd been no answer, which I thought didn't bode well. On the day I'd called, I had thought about just trundling out there; the lack of an answer to my call made me decide to table the trip until later, as the market was likely closed. Yesterday, though, I said "Fuck it" and elected to make the trip out to Haddon anyway. At the very least, I could reconnoiter the route. So I left the office around 7:30PM and headed north to Oksu-dong, the district where Haddon is located.

The directions on the TexaSeoul blog say this:

Itaewon Station. Line 6. Exit 4. Walk straight to the first bus stop. Take bus 110B for 8 stops to Okjeong Middle School. Turn right when you exit bus and walk ~30 seconds. The building is on the left. You will see a sign for Haddon House – that is the back entrance. Walk around the right of the building to the main entrance. The store is downstairs.

The subway-and-bus part of the directions were fine; no problem. The "walk 30 seconds" part was bullshit, as it's closer to a minute, but I'll forgive the writer's lack of a sense of time: Koreans themselves are often optimistic when they tell you how long it takes to walk somewhere; a 25-minute walk will often be described as taking "maybe ten minutes." I also didn't see any big sign for Haddon; I had to look inside one of the building's several entrances, and I saw a sign for Haddon set way back from the front door, hanging over a downward-leading staircase to the B1-level market.

In looking at the route via Google Maps on my cell phone, I saw that Haddon actually sat very close to Oksu Station (it's in Oksu-dong, after all), which made me wonder why the writer of the directions would want to make everyone take such a roundabout way to the store. John from Daejeon's comment noted that the walk from Oksu Station would involve some "fortitude," as he put it, and I soon found out why: after I'd found Haddon and begun to walk toward Oksu Station, I quickly discovered that the Oksu Station-Haddon Supermarket walking route goes up (or down, depending on your direction of travel) a steep hill that would be like a miniature Namsan hike for me, in my current shape. I realized the blog writer had been trying to save us all some pain and agony, as it's all uphill from Oksu Station.

The store, when I got there, was closed tighter than a virgin's thighs. An old man sitting in a concierge-like space close to the descending staircase seemed like a Person Who Knew Things, so I lumbered up to him, interrupting his TV-watching, and asked him what time Haddon normally closed. "Seven," he replied. "What about on weekends?" I asked. "Seven," he said again, with a smile. I thanked the old man, bowed, and left.

So now I know. I know that Haddon sits on a steep hill if you approach it from Oksu Station, and I know that its hours of operation go until 7PM every day. This may explain why no one had answered my phone call before: I had tried to call around 6:45PM this past Tuesday; the staff would have been prepping the store for closure at that hour.

While the trip to Haddon felt as though I'd wasted my time, I now had some information that I hadn't had before. It could be that the "9PM" listed on the TexaSeoul blog had been correct at one point, and that Haddon had reduced its hours because of a lack of business. Whatever the case, it's almost never a good idea to trust what's written online: verify for yourself. I knew that particular life-hack already, of course: it's why I'd tried to call the store in the first place.

Armed with my hard-won knowledge, I'll be attempting Haddon again this weekend. In Korea, where nothing proceeds in a linear way, it often takes two tries to get things right.


Friday, April 29, 2016

separated at birth?

Jeff Bezos, head honcho at, and Darren Cross (Corey Stoll), main villain in "Ant Man." It's not just that they're bald, powerful white dudes: they really do look like brothers.


Thursday, April 28, 2016

22K steps

The late showing of "Captain America: Civil War" let out around 1:15AM, and I resolved to walk back to my apartment. I had somehow gotten it into my head that the walk from Jamshil to Daecheong Station would take me under an hour, i.e., that it would be less than a three-mile trek. Ha ha—wrong! The walk ended up taking me about 90 minutes, so I racked up about 9,000 steps before I finally toppled—like a gross, sweaty sequoia—into bed.

Today, I did my usual walks with my coworker, racking up another several thousand steps over the course of the work day. Then after work, I went down to the creekside trail and racked up enough steppage to put me at a grand total of 22,000 steps for the day. Almost all of this is on flat ground, so it's nothing like the workout I used to get by summiting Namsan several nights a week. I need to start walking up and down the stairs that line the path so I can work my heart and lungs.


so behind, and getting behinder

I have so many movie reviews to write that it's not even funny. Stay tuned for a double-whammy review of "Philomena" and "Spotlight," both of which focus on the naughtiness of the Catholic Church. Expect a triple-whammy review of a trio of dumbass action flicks: "The Expendables 3," "Machete," and "Machete Kills." Finally, as I just watched it in the theaters, expect a review of "Captain America: Civil War."

Much writing to do, there is.


Wednesday, April 27, 2016


This looks to be the same Vader statuette that I saw in Toys R Us last Christmas. If it is, then that little guy is running for a cool half-million won, and as tempted as I am, I haven't fallen so far into the dark side as to have lost all financial perspective. Must restrain myself for now.

Maybe one day, though, when I'm filthy rich...



My boss went looking at the same Hannam Market that I had gone to, and voilà. Canada Dry found.


lunch 2

Shabu beef with chimichurri on romaine.


lunch 1

Chicken moghalai (or mughlai) sitting on romaine lettuce.


rendezvous with Cap?

I might be going out to see a very late showing of "Captain America: Civil War," which just came out today in Korea. I have a feeling that I'm approaching my tolerance threshold for Marvel films, no matter how good they might be. "X-Men: Apocalypse" is also coming out this year; I'm dangerously close to overdosing on Marvel and suffering an emetic reaction. But that won't stop me from seeing the movie tonight.

Expect a review later.


Tuesday, April 26, 2016

today's run-on sentence

Brought to you by the blockquoting Ed Driscoll, writing at Instapundit:

But hey, if Robin Wilson wants to behave as though the only people in America who are repulsed by the idea of a career academic making a salary writing about Martha Stewart and Twilight conventions trying to bully a campus reporter due to some delusional notions of social justice ends justifying means are conservatives, who am I to get in her way?

Yikes. That needs some serious surgery. Although to be honest, if I wanted to teach students about run-ons, I'd more likely turn to the KCNA,* which loves spewing diatribes filled with hilariously hyperbolic run-ons.

*KCNA and KCNA-related sites are blocked within South Korea. I need a proxy to visit them.


Monday, April 25, 2016


I counted up the number of photos I had taken while on my 21K-step Saturday walk, and the total is close to 150. Most likely, I'll either (1) break this up into batches of roughly 50 each and post the batches over several days or (2) just choose the 20 or so best pics, as I did when I put up the photo essay of my Daemosan hike, and post the whole thing at once. I'm probably going to choose Option 2 because it's less boring than Option 1. Not everyone enjoys slogging through other people's slide shows, especially when there are 150 images to get through.


Sunday, April 24, 2016

today's linner: "Kobb" salad

Here's a pic of your standard Cobb salad. What I made for "linner" today (it was between lunch and dinner, and I don't like calling that "dunch," which sounds retarded) substituted chicken with shrimp and used a homemade dressing that was a purée of avocado, heavy cream, yogurt, salt, pepper, lemon juice, and many dollops of chimichurri. Along with the shrimp were quail eggs, bacon, avocado, red cabbage, and corn, all on a bed of baby greens. I can't rightly call this a "Cobb salad," so I hereby dub this a "Kobb salad," in the spirt of "krab" and "mouce au chocolat." Behold:


that path

Wow. I walked long and long yesterday, eventually racking up over 21,000 steps over the course of nearly four hours. I think I reached what was technically the end of the path I'd been on, but it didn't exactly feel like closure. The name of the watercourse I'd been following seemed to change from the Yangjae-cheon to the Yeoeui-cheon (여의천); it was dark by the time I reached what was likely the end of the trail: a road that cut across my path near the foot of the local mountain, Cheonggye-san.

I took a ton of pictures along the way, so I'll be slapping those up in a hypertrophic photo essay over the course of the coming week—maybe as a single blog post, maybe as a series of posts, with each post devoted to a "phase" of the walk.

One thing my hike brought home to me was the humbling fact of just how built-up Seoul is: construction was everywhere along the route I'd taken; evidence of herculean human effort abounded. There was some beauty; there was some ugliness; you'll see a good bit of both when you see the pics I took.

Most humorous fact about last night: I've now discovered the walking route to the closest Costco—the one that I normally take a cab to. My brother suggested that I take a backpack with me if I want to shop there from now on. That's actually not a bad idea, although (1) it means that going Costco will henceforth be An Event as opposed to just an errand, and (2) because it'll be An Event, I basically have to devote my day to it. Of course, the walk would only be to Costco: with perishables in my backpack, sitting flush against my warm back, there's no way I'd risk spoiling seafood by returning to my place on foot.

Pictures and narrative soon. Stay tuned.


McPherson's BBQ Pub... no more?

My buddy Tom sent me a DM (direct message) via Twitter: "Did Joe McPherson get screwed out of his business?" This turned out to be an astute question, as I sent Joe a Kakao message to inquire further and discovered that, yes, that is essentially what happened. "It's been all over Facebook this week," Joe wrote me. I'm not on Facebook, so I missed this entire tempest, and since I don't know the extent to which Joe has explained the situation on Facebook, I don't know how much I'm permitted to say here. Suffice it to say that Joe and his Korean partner had a fundamental disagreement that led to Joe's departure.

Happily, Joe says he's had partnership offers from more prominent (and more trustworthy) people, so he expects to begin again, probably at a different location. In the meantime, this is extremely sad news for those of us who have been to Joe's place (I've already been there twice). As I texted to Joe, I'm not particularly interested in going back if Joe himself isn't going to be there. I also hypothesized that the resto wouldn't survive long without him, and Joe grimly agreed. Those of us who are loyal to Joe and his brand of 'Bama-style low-and-slow barbecue will just have to sit tight for now and wait for Joe's resurrection, which I hope will happen well before the end of this calendar year. Fingers crossed.


Saturday, April 23, 2016


It's late in the day, but I'll be walking as far along the Yangjae-cheon walking/biking path as I can to see how far the damn trail goes. I've already looked at a map, and I have a sinking feeling, based on what I saw, that the trail ends far short of the mountains I see in the distance whenever I head east. (Going west eventually leads to the Han River... I'll be exploring that part of the trail soon, too, and maybe walking a stretch along the Han.)

Tomorrow's mission: shopping! I need to buy halloumi so I can cook up some Indian chicken with curds; I also need to re-stock my beef supplies, grab some more fresh parsley, basil, cilantro, and olive oil to keep making that positively addictive chimichurri, and if I have time, I also need to find a decent shoe store where I can buy a new pair of walking shoes. My current pair, which has been with me since before my 600-mile trek in 2008, is about ready to give up the ghost after having accompanied me for thousands of miles. I hate to see them go, but I fear the time has come to put them out to pasture.

If I have any time after that, I need to think about buying some DVDs and Blu-rays so I can finish setting up my TV and watching some damn movies. My brother is suggesting that I forgo the DVDs and Blu-rays—which he contends are dead media—in favor of getting a Roku or a Chromecast device, which would allow me to stream movies from my laptop to my TV. I'm leaning more toward a Roku myself, but we'll see. It'd be nice to re-watch "Game of Thrones" on a big screen instead of on my dinky (but well-meaning) laptop.

More news later. I'll be walking until way after dark, so my step count for today ought to be... interesting, to say the least.


Friday, April 22, 2016

"Your English sucks," says Hackers Talk

This very morning, I saw the following Hackers Talk ad in the subway:

The tone is typically Korean: it busts your balls, but does so with a smile. Very roughly, the large text in blue font says: "If you've learned English for ten years but can't even speak [it] for ten seconds, you're an absolute beginner."* This sort of tone is consistent with the tone of a lot of Korean ads that evoke shame or guilt about one's own looks, abilities, circumstances, or accomplishments in life. I understand that Korean ball-busting is supposedly rooted in a subtext of compassion, but (1) I think that notion is baloney, as well as an excuse for people to act like jerks who simply say whatever they happen to be thinking at that moment; and (2) well... look at the smug, smiling asshole on that ad. He doesn't look compassionate: he looks like Nelson going "Ha ha!"

That said, as a former English teacher and current textbook-designing grammar-Nazi-in-residence, I kind of agree with the sentiment, and at a guess, I'm not alone among expats. The ad isn't simply shaming potential customers into finding a better way to master English: it's also critiquing 99% of the English-teaching methods out there by implying they're all a waste of time—a ten-year-long waste for many learners.

I, too, think that most Koreans "learn" English in a time-wasting, inefficient manner. The Korean style of language learning varies little from the Korean way of accomplishing anything in life: find the most difficult (random, unfocused, time-wasting, desperately last-minute) way possible to accomplish something, then keep working in that vein until you feel the requisite amount of sadness, frustration, and anger—at which point you can nobly characterize your meltdown state as han, i.e., a species of passionate existential bitterness. When Koreans do corner-cutting rush jobs that end up falling apart because of poor quality (Seongsu Bridge, 1994, comes to mind, along with the 1995 Sampoong Department Store collapse, the 1995 Daegu gas explosions, and the 2014 Sewol ferry disaster**), they have to go back and do it again, beating their chests in self-pity as they go, but never really learning any fundamental lessons. Do-overs are a colossal waste of time, effort, and money. In Korea, the culture is such that it's often more important to look busy than actually to be busy, and it's more important to work hard than to work efficiently. This isn't to detract from Korea's many impressive accomplishments both at home and abroad (e.g., the monumental Burj Khalifa, mostly constructed by Samsung and absolutely a thing of beauty that I hope one day to visit), but the Korean track record of inefficiency and unwisdom is clear.

Back to English learning. When Koreans study, their approach is often little more than the brute force of memorize, memorize, memorize. Memorization isn't really learning, except to the extent that it involves correctly parroting information for a test. The Korean approach to English has long been rooted in a parody of 1960s-era audiolingualism/structuralism: there's an immense focus on grammar (I'm not against focusing on grammar, to be sure, but I'm against an insane focus on it to the exclusion of real, dynamic context and actual, natural usage) and a mechanistic, robotic understanding of how conversation works: for Koreans, English conversation is the exchange of memorized phrases. Language pedagogy in Korea has its head thoroughly up its ass, and millions of students have gone through this assembly line, coming out with their brains twisted and their time wasted. It's a huge garbage pile, and it's a miracle that any students at all can speak or write passably in English. I'd contend that such students are accomplished in spite of the system, not thanks to it.

So the ball-busting Hackers ad may be on to something. But the real question, which the ad fails to answer, is: does the Hackers approach work any better? I'm pretty sure I know the answer, as I've discussed charlatanry before.

*The orange-ish text, right after the blue text, says "Escape from absolute-beginner English," and the final line in huge yellow font simply says the program's name: Hackers Talk, followed by a standard Korean-style "exit" icon, implying escape from the hell of linguistic newbiedom.

**Seongsu Bridge and Daegu are clear examples of corner-cutting rush jobs thanks to sloppiness during construction that led to disaster. The Sewol ferry isn't as obvious a case of a "rush job," but I contend that it is one all the same: the ship was overloaded with cargo in an attempt to send out as much material as possible in as short a period as possible. The Korean "hurry-hurry" mentality was definitely at work. Safety standards were deliberately overlooked, and this includes the refurbishing of the ship itself: the ferry, originally Japanese, had been illegally expanded to allow for greater lading capacity.


ululate 4U!

Prince—the Artist—has died. At five feet, two inches, Prince was shorter than my mom, but he wasn't shy about being a randy little bastard. Essentially an id with legs, Prince debuted with his innovative, funky style in the 1970s and dominated the 80s before going even weirder in the 90s, changing his name to [symbol].

I was never a huge fan of Prince's music, but I happily acknowledge that he was a transgressive innovator who pushed the boundaries of mainstream songwriting and musical composition. I recall perking up when I learned that Prince's music would feature in 1989's "Batman," starring Michael Keaton. I bought the double album for that movie—one tape (yes, these were the days of cassettes) with Danny Elfman's orchestral score, another with Prince's songs. I specifically recall a funny line from "Vicki Waiting":

I told the joke about the woman
Who asked her lover, "Why is your organ so small?"
He replied, "I didn't know I was playin' in a cathedral."
Vicki didn't laugh at all.

One regret I have is that I've never seen Prince's movie "Purple Rain" all the way through. I've seen only bits and pieces of it. Prince starred in that film with smoking-hot Apollonia Kotero, who's now in her fifties. Prince was also associated with the singer Vanity, who also died this year (just this past February, in fact) at age 57, the same age at which Prince died. A multitalented lyricist, Prince famously wrote the words and composed the music for Sinéad O'Connor's wonderful "Nothing Compares 2U." Prince had crafted the song and set it aside; O'Connor got famous doing her own arrangement of it.

I'd like to imagine that Prince is up in heaven—having changed into his true form, a randy satyr—and he's chasing screaming angels around and among the clouds, promising glorious buggery, even as I write this. The angels' paths, as they try to evade Prince, describe musical notes, and the notes form a tune that will get heaven partying like it's... well. You know.


the creek path in pictures

Not too many images to share tonight—just four shots that I took while walking during this evening's 15.5K-step march. I've described the creekside path before, so there's little need to elaborate. Without further ado, then, the pics:

Above is a shot that looks forward down the path I'm going to be walking. Not much to look at, I'm sure you'll agree. The path is fairly straight; there are curves, but they're so gentle as to almost not be there. Bikers are supposed to be in the right lane; pedestrians walk in the left lane, which is actually a two-way path. Painted signs on the path enjoin walkers to walk on the right side, but this is Korea, so that instruction is routinely ignored by people who prefer to almost-collide with each other.

The creek path goes under several bridges—both car bridges and foot bridges. There are also occasional stone bridges set into the creek bed: as long as the water isn't high, you can walk from one side of the creek to the other by using those stones. There are also small, arched foot bridges spanning the creek, so a walker has plenty of opportunities to cross to the other side whenever he or she desires.

The walk is also marked with painted distance markers spaced every hundred meters; where I normally hit the path, the first such marker I see says "1000 m." I now usually walk all the way down until I reach "3300 m," but on Thursday evening, I walked farther—almost to 4000. It occurs to me that, assuming the marks have been placed accurately, I can use them to really test out how trustworthy my pedometer is. So I might be doing some experiments soon.

Below: one of the sets of stairs that I'd mentioned before. The stairs (and there are many such staircases all along the path) allow you to move up from the creekside-level path to a path that's halfway up the slope, or you can climb all the way to the top, to street level, and do your walk while all aloof and above it all. A lot of Korean walkers prefer the halfway-up path because it's for walkers only: no bothersome bikes. (The bikers don't always respect their lanes; sometimes this doesn't bother me, and sometimes it's obnoxious.)

Below, this next shot shows a look backward at the path I wouldn't be taking that evening.

Finally, the last shot shows a large group of dancercising ajummas, happily moving together in loose but playful choreography as the group leader counts out the beat in English.

Click the image to enlarge the ajummas:


Thursday's lunch

I had run out of shabu beef (1.5 kilos can go fast), so Thursday's low-carb lunch was a none-too-fancy lettuce wrap with tuna, quail eggs, and Korean jalapeño pickles. You won't see it here, but I later added some chimichurri to the eggs before stacking them on the tuna. I had feared the sauce wouldn't go with the tuna, but the Gestalt was funky and delicious. Anyway, here's a pic of Thursday's lunch, for your delectation (or horror):


Thursday, April 21, 2016

a full-on Godwin-ing

Does this strike anyone else as a Hitler reference?


16.46K steps

Tonight's walk was 16,464 steps. According to my pedometer, the walk—which was actually several walks spread throughout the day—took me 168 minutes, which puts me at a step rate of 98 steps per minute. That's reassuring because this result means I'm starting to creep back up to my old rate of 101 or 102 steps per minute.

The path I'm walking goes alongside the nearby Yangjae-cheon, a wide creek that feeds into the Han River, which describes a serpentine path through the middle of Seoul, dividing the city into its famous Gangbuk (north of the river) and Gangnam (south of the river) halves. The creek itself is straight, so the walking path is correspondingly flat and straight—for miles, apparently. The creek is flanked by steep sides that have been landscaped in such a way as to have narrow paths running parallel to the creekside path. One path sits halfway up the slope; the other path is at the top of the slope, at street level (the creek is well below street level), so there are three parallel paths on both sides of the creek—six paths total.

Every couple hundred meters, there are stairs that allow a walker at creek level to walk all the way up to street level if he wants. As long as I'm walking on fairly unchallenging flat ground, those stairs are my ticket to creating a more intense workout. Maybe starting next week, I hope to force myself to walk up and down every single set of stairs I encounter. This will significantly lengthen my walk, but short of trying to climb up Daemosan again, this is my best hope for halfway decent cardio. (As you may have guessed, I gave up on the staircase in my building, mainly because it left me gasping, and at that point, I hadn't resumed walking in earnest, which means I always felt this close to a heart attack every time I dared the stairs. That said, I might try the staircase again at some point.)


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

you must now choose

Look at the following two altered images.

Now choose wisely. One is an image of bacon; the other is an image of Bernie Sanders's forehead. Which one shows Bernie?


Tuesday, April 19, 2016

weight-loss testimonial

This is from an online friend who requested that I not use his name. Agree or disagree, doubt or not, it's an interesting story about a guy who lost a hundred pounds (45.4 kg).

So: the background before I lost 100 pounds. Around age 14, I developed acne, allergies to pollen, and a strange need to sweat a lot at night. It turns out the sweating was my skin processing the gunk my kidneys weren't getting out by themselves during the day. It wasn't "a problem" by any stretch... I just smelled bad when I woke up, and after I was old enough to drink alcohol, the alcohol smell got sweated out quite obviously within the hour.

Fast forward to last year. I was a touch over 300 pounds, had gallstones, and my wife had been looking for ways to get me better. The method that finally worked was the one outlined by William Davis in Wheat Belly: no sugar, no flour.

I thought my wife's latest "fix you!" plan was going to yield yet-again tiny results, but I did it... I got to keep up drinking alcohol, and the meat, bacon, and veggie dishes I ate were pretty yummy. My sugar intake at the time was pretty small, I thought—usually a Coke, and whatever sugar I added to black coffee. But I took it to zero.

Over the next three months, I ate normally and drank coffee to get going in the morning. I took to beating the summer heat with lemon juice added to water, with some turmeric added... strangely refreshing, and I had a huge craving for the turmeric around week 3, hopefully to clean out whatever from my insides.

I was slowly losing fat from all over, not just my gut. My calves, my temples, etc., lost weight pretty evenly. After about two months, I noticed I was displacing a lot less water in the bathtub. At month 3, I finally checked, and I was down a touch over 100 pounds—and nearly all fat, as far as I could tell.

Around here, I noticed my kidneys doing their job fully. I was no longer needing to sweat badly at night to feel rested. And without my skin needing to process gunk, my acne disappeared. I also noticed that the strange "fog" on my wedding ring was gone. Since I was no longer sweating gunk, my ring was uncoated by gunk, and shiny again.

It also turned out about then that a bulge just under my now-much-flatter abs was a parasitic worm I had. A couple days of garlic tea got rid of something that, as far as I could tell, I’d had for about 20 years. With the worm gone, I noticed that I was able to more completely sleep at night, and more completely be awake during the day.

So it's about a year later, and without flour, things are going fine. I cut out milk/cheese for a while. After a binge of Costco cheddar, my wife noticed my temples getting puffy. Turns out the cheese was doing it. Hopefully my mild dairy problem is the sort of food allergy that can be overcome by three months or so of abstinence. I'm looking forward to getting back to cheese.

In terms of other food, I'm actually doing okay without the flour (pasta, bread, cake, etc.). I can now make a mean steak, and with potatoes in the mix, I'm fine in terms of being not so hungry.

If you're looking for some advice on a full-bore water fast, I can ask my wife. She's been on one for about 4 weeks. The turn-around has been huge in her case.

I hope you get better, Kevin. You're a good guy. I hate to see you not at your peak.

If you want any more info, let me know. My wife has been the one doing all of the reading and research, and she did a ton of it. She reads Japanese, English, Spanish, and Portuguese. Most of the good info she got started with some Brazilian doctors who were exploring various nutrition works from the USA. Altogether, she found a lot of interesting things.

Losing a hundred pounds in three months is incredible, although I find it counterintuitive that my friend could continue to eat potatoes, which are as starchy as wheat-based carbs. Then again, I haven't read Wheat Belly, so who knows?

In the meantime, my friend Charles sent me a link to a website called Nutrition As I Know It (NAIKI). Charles writes:

It's maintained by a Nutritional Science and Kinesiology student, and it's pretty fascinating. Of the many things on the site he has a list of trustworthy nutrition sources and untrustworthy nutrition sources (Tim Ferriss is on the latter).

Apparently, there's a lot of bullshit out there, and NAIKI's mission is to act as a sort of guide and corrective. The NAIKI "naughty" list of diet-info sources to avoid is here. Are Wheat Belly and William Davis on it...? Even if they are, I have no reason to doubt that my friend did in fact lose a hundred pounds in three months. At the very least, the diet worked for him, even if it's not guaranteed to work for other folks.



I've been doing long walks along the Yangjae-cheon. The path itself is relentlessly straight and flat, and it goes for miles, but there are interesting sights that greet the attentive walker. One such sight is an amazing tadpole pond in which thousands upon thousands of spermatozoic tadpoles swim in massive black swarms that remind me of the tentacled machines that poured into the Zion docks in "The Matrix Revolutions." Another sight is this rather eldritch-looking set of stairs—a sluice slicked over with algae:

I could stare at those steps all day long. And the algae definitely remind me of chimichurri.


low-carb lunch

Today's lunch looked like this and tasted fine, fine, fine:

If eating low-carb were like this all the time, I'd have more fun dieting.



Seen on my Twitter timeline:

Got that? If you enjoyed the beating, do please subscribe.



Tonight's low- and no-carb dinner comes courtesy of Costco, which sells 1.5-kg packages of paper-thin shabu-style beef for W30,900. The beef is so amazing that all you have to do, to prep it, is throw it on the skillet with a wee bit of oil (the oil's not actually necessary) and a dash of salt and pepper. That, all by itself, is unbelievably tasty.

But tonight, I fancied the beef up a bit by adding some freshly made Argentinian chimichurri to one batch, and by tossing a second batch of beef in a classic gravy. I took one picture of each batch, which you can see below.

With chimichurri:

If the above sauce looks a bit like algae to you... yeah, it does to me, too, and that's how it looks in real life as well. I did some research on chimichurri before coming up with my own recipe; there are three or four main herbs associated with it, and recipes vary widely in terms of which herbs get used, and in what proportions.

The main herbs are cilantro, fresh basil, fresh parsley (usually Italian parsley), and fresh oregano. Aside from that, chimichurri is a lot like pesto, but without any nuts or cheese, and with the addition of plenty of red-wine vinegar to heighten the acidity. My own sauce began with a cup of olive oil followed by two handfuls of basil and two handfuls of cilantro. I added almost a quarter-cup of red-wine vinegar, fresh-ground garlic, salt, pepper, dried parsley, dried oregano, powdered onion, and a scant half-teaspoon of my dietetic xylose sugar to blunt the vinegar's acidity a tiny bit. The result was perfect.

I admit I know absolutely nothing about Argentinian cuisine and Argentinian flavor profiles, but I've heard that Argentina is a huge, meat-revering gaucho steak culture, the way Brazil is (in fact, I suspect Argentinian steak is going to be the Next Big Thing in the States once the Brazilian rodizio wave dies down). Chimichurri contains—as chef Anne Burrell might say—all the ingredients of a marinade: an oil (olive), an acid (vinegar), and aromatics (garlic and onion). I didn't marinate anything last night, but one of these days, I going to have to do a steak à l'argentine. Now if only I could find a place to grill...

The next picture is of a more classically American approach to beef: gravy. See that sheen? I had made yuksu (meat broth) by slow-cooking some leftover scrap meat from when I'd made French dips with Ligament, plus some super-fatty cuts of beef I had just purchased for precisely this purpose. After nine or so hours of slow cooking, the aroma that filled my apartment was heavenly. I let the broth rest overnight, then reheated it and strained it the next day, taking some of the liquid and stirring in cornstarch to thicken it into a gravy. I then slopped some gravy into the skillet with the frying beef, pulled the beef out of the liquid and let it drip-dry, then took the photo you see below:

Both forms of beef would go well as the filling for sandwiches. Alas, I can't do that—eat bread, I mean—if I'm on a low/no-carb diet, but a man can dream, right? Admittedly, the cornstarch made the gravy a bit carby, but I kept the mixture thin so as to minimize the number of carbs, and as I said, I drip-dried the meat before eating it. I'm debating whether to share any of this with my boss and coworker... both the gravy and the chimichurri are pretty damn good.

I've heard that chimichurri also goes well with chicken and seafood. I've got some chicken breasts and jumbo shrimp, so who knows? I might give the sauce a whirl on some dead birds and dead sea-critters.


Monday, April 18, 2016

color me skeptical

This article by Sam Kim says Ahn Cheol-soo is in a position to become South Korea's next president after two consecutively conservative administrations. The lowdown:

Touted as a probable candidate in the 2017 presidential race, Ahn has offered few policy specifics. He has cited U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt as a role model and advocates higher welfare spending, stiffer capital gains taxes and caution on free trade agreements. He has been critical of Park’s get-tough policy on North Korea and favors expanding economic ties to entice Pyongyang to give up nuclear weapons.

He hits all the leftie check boxes, for sure: more emphasis on welfare, higher taxes, less free trade, and the cautious-yet-joyous return of the misbegotten, misguided Sunshine Policy, which will simply ensure that North Korea continues on its current intravenous drip. Sorry, but I'm a doubter. And because countries are subject to pendular mood swings, I fully expect Ahn, or some leftie numbskull like him, to be the next occupant of the Blue House.

(To be clear, this post isn't an endorsement of President Park.)

ADDENDUM: the article notes that some in Korea view Ahn as a "center-right alternative." Nothing in the above list of policy positions strikes me as center-right. Not from an American perspective, anyway; maybe Korea, as a whole, leans so far left that less left equals way right.


gotta be a good boy now

The weekend debauchery is over.

I probably gained back half the weight I'd lost, but I now have a plan of attack for future weeks and months. As the Architect said in "The Matrix Reloaded," there are levels of survival I'm prepared to accept. I now know I can tolerate a very, very low calorie input without my body going haywire, so on weekdays, it'll be a lunch-only regime for ol' Uncle Kevin. Lunch will be low-to-no-carb, and to that end, I've begun buying a supply of vegetables and proteins to get me through the week: shabu beef, tuna, quail eggs, seafood, and leafy greens. If I can find no-carb snacks like sugar-free pudding and pork rinds, I'll be set.

Last night, I made a succulent beef gravy (thin and runny because I didn't want to add too much carby cornstarch); I also made my very first Argentinian chimichurri, which came out beautifully. It's got a rich, almost algae-like color to it, and it's sharp and tangy. I think of it as pesto without the nuts and cheese, but with a strong hit of red-wine vinegar.

I'm still feeling kind of "bleh" from the weekend, which is a sure sign that I need to behave myself, culinarily speaking. Wish me luck.


how the mighty have fallen

I took a trip out to Hannam Supermarket (also known as Hannam Market or Hannam Super) for the first time in years. I used to go there often when I lived in the Sookmyung University neighborhood; years later, I'd heard a rumor from a colleague that the market had gone under, which was disappointing news. Last year, I'd heard from someone else that that rumor was wrong, and I've been wanting to go back ever since. I tried to go there once, not long ago, but the place was closed. Tonight, I called the store first and discovered that it would be open until 8:30PM. I was looking for cilantro, among other things; from what I remembered, Hannam would be the place to find it. Overpriced, yes, but available.

The entrance to Hannam Super lies underground, so when I first stepped out of the cab, I couldn't tell whether the store was really open. I trudged down the steps and was happy to see that the place was indeed open... but the moment I stepped through the sliding doors, I saw and felt that something was very, very wrong.

It used to be that, as soon as you walked in, there was a mini-store to your left, with its own cash register: this store sold household products (detergent, etc.), bottles of Nutella and Nutella knockoffs, US and foreign cheeses in small packages, frozen rolls of Jimmy Dean sausage (and other frozen meats found in typical US groceries), some hygiene and pharmaceutical items that Westerners would normally have trouble finding in Korean stores (proper armpit deodorant, 300-count bottles of Bayer aspirin), and so on. On the right, as you walked in, there used to be a cheesemonger with an impressive (and impressively fragrant) spread of cheeses from around the world: wheels, wedges, slices, cubes, and logs of it. In front of you, there had been another shop-within-a-shop that sold larger items—things like gas ranges or large plastic boxes of flash-frozen berries. Beyond that store lay the main store, where you could find items that would be nearly impossible to find anywhere else: cilantro, different types of parsley, kirsch, Turkish delight, couscous, lamb from Australia or New Zealand, star anise, cumin, decent masala.

Almost all of that was now gone, I saw. The little store-to-the-left was still there, but it was no longer an independent store. The main store in the back was sealed off and dead; the lights were off, and stacks of boxes made the place look as if people were getting ready to strike camp. Perhaps a third of the stock from the main store had been pulled forward into the store-within-a-store, and that was now the main store. One man—the same man I remembered from 2008—sat at a makeshift cashier's counter, keeping watch over both segments of the now-reduced market. It was a sad sight.

Gone were the racks of imported vegetables; in their place was a single glass-door fridge with a sad little supply of veggies; I found some packs of wilted cilantro and tossed them into my basket. I went into the little side store to look for aspirin, Pepto Bismol, and Preparation H—all of which I remember having been there before—and found only the Pepto. Fine. I tossed that into my basket. I found couscous and red-wine vinegar; I found a few other American items that made me smile, and I tossed those things into the basket as well.

When I went to the counter to ring my purchases up, I told the man that I used to come here often, but that the last time I had been here was likely 2008. "So you remember how the store was—back there?" He jerked a thumb behind him, indicating the black space that used to be the main store, but which now held only stacks of boxes. "We'll be closing up in a few months," he went on. "Too many new stores like this one have popped up."

"Competition," I said, and he nodded and grimaced. My total came out to a whopping W95,000 (almost $90, US) for a half-full basket of items. Hannam was as overpriced as I remembered it, but for the cilantro, at least, I had little choice but to go to a place like that. (High Street Market, up the street in Itaewon, sells cilantro, but they're almost always out whenever I look for it.) "Well, it's disappointing to see this happening," I said. "I used to come here to find things that were hard to find elsewhere."

The man gave me a business card and said, "Let me know if you need me to find anything for you." I told him I would, but in all honesty, I had no idea whether I'd be back. The store was no longer what it used to be.

The cilantro was wilted, but it was potent enough to flavor up the chimichurri I made when I got back to my place—my very first chimichurri. Which was awesome, by the way. I'll be using it as part of my new low-carb regime. I bought 1.5 kg of shabu beef from Costco, plus fresh basil (half of which I used in the chimichurri) and some leafy greens, and I'll be making vegetable beef wraps starting this week. This incredible Argentinian sauce is, at least in part, courtesy of the moribund Hannam Super. I'm sad to see the store go.