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Peking Duck is hands down the best thing I ate in Beijing. It’s heavily disputed which restaurant serves the best, but we decided to go to Da Dong Roast Duck 北京大董烤鸭店. They have three restaurants in Beijing to choose from.
Someone from the restaurant sliced the duck at our table. We ate the meat with scallion, cucumber and sweet bean sauce in pancakes rolled around the fillings. Seriously the best thing I ate the whole trip.
Last Saturday a shit tonne of people descended on London for the People’s Assembly‘s March for Health, Homes, Jobs and Education to vent their many frustrations at the Tory government’s handling of pretty much everything.
Despite 150,000 people from all over the UK calling on David Cameron to resign (baring in mind the Panama Papers recently shed light on a £30,000 payment he received from his dad’s morally ambiguous tax avoidance schemes; that his party is in disarray over the EU referendum, and the entire country was appalled by his government’s efforts to give yet more tax breaks to the richest at the expense of disabled people… oh, and he allegedly face-fucked a dead pig) most of the Sunday papers couldn’t be arsed to report on it.
Well, if you’ve ever read Media Lens, you’d expect nothing less.
Anyways, if you don’t happen to be a UK leftie, then you might be asking yourselves, “Who, slash, what the fuck is the People’s Assembly?”.
Well, the People’s Assembly is a broad section of politically independent campaigners united against austerity and the cuts to public services, the selling off of public assets to private hands, the carving up of the NHS, the shredding of Human Rights Act, the attack on trade unions, the misrepresentation and scapegoating of minorities, migrants and refugees, the academisation of all state schools, and so much more.
For me, the protest took on an air of an enormous festival for every shade of indignado. From all manner of leftie weirdos – socialists, communists and anarchists – trade unionists, human rights activists, and environmentalists to teachers, primary / secondary / college / uni students, doctors, nurses, firemen, social workers, mums and dads, disabled people, migrants, journalists, blokes in kilts and even goths. Just about everyone has a bone to pick with this government.
Personally, the protest gave me hope that I am not at all alone in my discontent with neoliberal ideology.
Well they tell me I’m just pissed off…But I’d rather be pissed off, than be pissed on
As well as bellowing my favourite four-letter profanities David Cameron’s way, I was also down there to cover the protest for WellRedFilms, a new media collective of radical videographers and activists shaking up the neoliberal system with their anti-capitalist, anti-racist, pro-environmentalist videos.
I also took a shite load of photos:
While the main protest stayed up in Trafalgar Square, a few of the hardcore decided to bring the protests to the establishment’s doorstep and occupy the main road outside of Downing Street with their boom boxes blasting out electro reggae, cans of beers, dope roll-ups, and dreadlocks, which brought the attention of the boys and girls in blue.
Most of the protesters sat on the floor and quietly discussed politics, smoked their weed and drank a few beers. Others danced to their awesome tunes, while a few engaged in debates about capitalism with a couple police officers. All this was a nice gesture, but I wondered what, if anything was the point in this mini occupation.
Sure, sitting in front of Downing Street and blocking the traffic, while a nice rebellious gesture, is not going to bring down the government, neoliberal capitalism, the monarchy, TTIP, or corporate greed.
Saying that however, the lad in the baseball cap at 3:45 in the video makes a good point when he told us,
We’ve got to at least voice our opinions and say enough is enough. And maybe the more of us that come down to these events and the more of us that come together, we’ll then reach out to the people in the middle who go to work, who have a job, who don’t know what to do, who pay their taxes, but they know the system’s wrong and they want some sort of a change. So things like this are good. They’re showing unity, they’re showing compassion and understanding.
“You don’t always do something to win, for reward or for status, or to make someone like you. You do something because it’s right, you do something because it matters. That’s the only way we’re going to change the politics of things.
There are some food discoveries that feel like breaking into the vault, and there are others that feel like finding cash on the ground. Those in the latter category are so straightforward, so obvious, so unfair even, that you're left only to wonder why the rest of us aren't doing this—or rather, eating like this—all the time.
Chimaek is one such discovery.
The word is a mash-up of fried chicken (chi) and beer (maekju), a combination that's been a staple of Korean dining for years. Now, this might not seem on par with the invention of kimchi, or say, the light bulb. It's not even an invention, really. "I've had fried chicken and beer before," you're saying. "What so special here?" But Koreans, in a true collective stroke of genius, built an entire business model around this pairing. They made it one thing.
Chimaek started in the 1970s, and fried chicken has remained the anjoo of choice ever since. ("Anjoo" refers to any food that pairs well with an alcoholic beverage.) "Peak Chimaek" hit during the 2002 Korea-Japan World Cup, when it seemed as though the entire nation packed into bars to watch TV and eat fried chicken. Is there any better way to enhance the visceral connection to a sporting event than by eating with your hands and sipping on a beer?
Currently, there are more than 36,000 fried chicken places in South Korea. It's common to use the whole bird for frying, as opposed to picking and choosing the number of wings, thighs, etc. The chicken is typically double fried and covered in a thick, tangy sauce. As far as the beer goes, the theme is light and watery, as Korea hasn't had much of a beer culture until very recently. But the beer isn't meant to be a flavor vehicle anyway. It's a cold, carbonated rush to complement the spicy, salty, oily chicken. Water isn't tough enough. A strong IPA or Porter would ruin the palate. Light, watery beer is the way.
You can dine-in for chimaek (moving from place to place with a group of friends is common), but it's also a major part of Korea's notoriously tenacious delivery system. You can get chimaek delivered to your apartment, or you can get it delivered to a mountain for a picnic. The normal delivery obstacles in an American city (a fifth floor walk-up! a missing doorbell!) don't really exist. The fried chicken and beer will get there, somehow. This system adds another layer of "flavor" to chimaek: The people want fried chicken and beer, and they want it now, please.
Though you might not need help imagining why someone might want this, we are passionate about providing context. Some reasons for ordering chimaek in Korea include:
1. A late night snack craving.
2. A sporting event.
3. A party.
4. A Korean drama marathon.
5. A bad day (This one is a guess, but an educated one.)
The reason we had chimaek at our office this week:
We ordered from two different places—Pelicana Chicken and Bon Chon—in four different styles. From Pelicana, we got the regular (which has the default tangy, thick sauce), and the sauceless (though a wave of disappointment flooded the office as they forgot the scallions on top). From Bon Chon, we went with soy garlic and hot and spicy. Feelings were mixed among our small but selective group of eaters. One felt the sauce on the Pelicana regular was not nearly thick and spicy enough, while another felt that the Bon Chon had an unexpected lightness. The most noticeable things for me were the lack of grease and impressive crispiness even after a car ride and a series of Instagram photos, the two most common causes of death in fried chicken. I also really enjoyed that Pelicana makes use of the whole chicken. One can't live on wings alone.
While we were eating, I was thinking of all the artisanal trends that could disrupt this perfect waltz of a dish. It's too easy to dream up a local hand-crafted beer (it's in the batter, too, of course!) next to chicken that's been fried in sunflower oil and topped with a doughnut—all served in a pastel-colored mason jar. Tune it all out. Light, watery beer and spicy, fried chicken. Don't fight it.
One last thing: There must always be a side of pickled radish. In Korea, the meal is considered incomplete without it. That's another thing to love about chimaek—it is a refined indulgence.
April 16th, 2016 marks the two anniversary of South Korea’s worst maritime disaster when the Sewol Ferry sank on a routine trip from Incheon to Jeju Island while transporting hundreds of high school students on a field trip. KoreaFM.net asked people on the streets of Seoul about the anniversary, how South Korea has changed since the sinking, & if the real truth of what happened will ever be known.
Interview answers, both in written & audio form, have been edited for length & clarity.
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Softly lapping waves
Cherry blossoms fall slowly
On Nami Island
We went to the Peking opera (or Beijing opera) at the Liyuan Theatre 梨园剧场 to see a form of traditional Chinese theatre that combines music, vocal performance, mime, dance, and acrobatics. They had extremely elaborate and colorful (and seemingly heavy) costumes. It was quite a show.