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Dog Day Afternoon

On Saturday Sarah and I took advantage of a spectacular clear and crisp (and cold) afternoon to go explore a side of Korea we’d heard much about but had yet to see for ourselves. The practice of eating dog meat is one which has earned Korea a considerable amount of infamy in the West and with Busan’s largest dog market only four stops from our apartment, it was something we couldn’t resist seeing for ourselves.

Gupo market lies a short walk from Deokcheon subway station, the other side of the hill from our neighbourhood in an area we’ve up until recently left largely unexplored. This side of the mountain things seem to get a little less polished than the downtown and beachside areas, with the city gradually giving way to rice paddies and other agricultural land the further north you go. The market itself is a sprawling maze of alleyways and backstreets where everything from live frogs to house slippers fill the buckets, tanks and tables of the work-beaten market ajummas.

While our original plan had been to find something to eat before hitting the dog market, after only a few minutes walking the cawing of chickens heralded the onset of the livestock section and with it a heavy dose of culture shock. Rabbits, chickens, ducks, geese and black goats were all on offer but while the array of live animals was astounding, as we’d expected it was the dogs themselves that proved the most striking.

They were large, reasonably young looking animals, confined seven or eight to a cage and resembling a cross between a wolf and a labrador. They looked surprisingly domestic, and for the entire time we were there remained eerily silent. Behind the cages, dog carcasses lay either splayed and ready to be butchered or (more unrecognisably) hanging from hooks and laid out on meat counters.

Sarah and I were unsure about whether we’d actually eat dog soup, but after seeing the dogs we decided to pass. I don’t have any qualms per se about the practice, providing everything is done humanely (though by the looks of it this may not be the case,) but the truth is I like them too much to eat them myself. There is something dopey, faithful and reassuring about dogs and to turn on them like that would just seem like a betrayal

Tang Su Yuk (Sweet & Sour Chicken) 탕수육

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Tang Su Yuk (Sweet & Sour Chicken) 탕수육


(For 4 people)

Fried Chicken

Chicken (boneless thigh) 1 lb or 500 g
** if you prefer chicken breast, feel free to use it.
** you can also use pork or beef if you prefer.

Eggs 6

Potato Starch 2 cups
** you can get potato starch at Korean markets

Salt & Pepper

Oil 1L to 1.5L (depending on the size of your deep fryer or pot)

Sweet & Sour Sauce

Vinegar 1 cup
Sugar 1 cup
Water 2 cups
Potato starch 1 Tablespoon (mixed with 1/4 to 1/2 cup of water)
Soy Sauce 1 Tablespoon (optional)
Salt & Pepper
Vegetable Oil 1-2 Tablespoons
Chopped Garlic 1/2 Tablespoon
Onions 1/4
Zukini 1/4
Carrots 1/4
Red Pepper 1/2
Green Pepper 1/2
Apple 1
Sesame seeds (optional)
** These vegetables can be easily substituted with others available.
** You can use other fruit such as pineapples, mangos and lemons.


1. Slice all the vegetables and fruit.
2. Cut chicken into small pieces and sprinkle salt and pepper over both sides of chicken
3. Pre-heat vegetable oil for deep frying (350 F or 180 C)

(Sauce making)

4. Add a little bit of oil in a pan (med to high heat)
5. Add chopped garlic
6. Add all vegetables and stir fry for 5 minutes
7. Add 2 cups of water, 1 cup of vinegar and i cup of sugar and mix well.
8. Bring it to boil and reduce the heat to low.
9. Add a tablespoon of soy sauce for color and season with salt (about a table spoon) and pepper.
** it should be just a bit saltier than normal food since it goes over chicken to season it. If you are not sure, add gradually.
10. MIx a tablespoon of potato starch with 1/4 of COLD water in a small bowl (add a little more water if potato starch is not completely dissolved.)
11. Add starch mix to the sauce slowly on low heat.
12. Mix well and let me simmer on lowest heat to keep it warm.


12. Spread potato starch on a plate and drench chicken pieces lightly.
13. Beat 6 eggs and season with salt and pepper. (1 teaspoon each)
14. Dip drenched chicken pieces in the egg.
15. Deep fry the chicken about 10 minutes
** try a small piece. If it floats on the surface, it means the temperature is hot enough.
16. For chicken (and pork), make sure it's cooked all the way. No pinkness! It can make you sick.
17. Take the pieces out of the oil when they are golden brown and drain all fat.
18. Serve on a plate and pour the sauce on top.
19. You can sprinkle sesame seeds on top for accents.


No, Your Accent is Broken.

Taxi, cab, or taxicab? If you chose the third option, you're not wrong, but I don't like it. The other two I use interchangeably. Apparently I'm broken for doing so.Last Tuesday around 4am, the following conversation probably took place :Me: *on phone* Hey, could I please get two taxis in front of the Pita Pit?Random Townie: Taxi?!Me: *waving Random Townie off; still on phone* Yes, two taxis in

A few observations...

I’ve been in the Hermit Kingdom for four months now (over 1% of my life) so I think I’m entitled to make a few spurious and unsubstantiated observations about its People and Culture.

First off, Korea is the most ethnically homogenous place I’ve ever been in my life. Apart from a handful of Indians, some Filipinos and of course the English teaching contingent, there are literally no non-Koreans here. This ethnic homogeneity (along with centuries getting bounced between China and Japan) as such has also engendered a fierce nationalism (and occasional racism) that seems to become apparent from about age seven upwards. My first experience of this was during the Summer Olympics, many of my students found it impossible that I could be supporting Ireland and Korea, preferring things to be more racially defined.

Japan is not in favour.
One sure way of pissing off a bunch of Koreans is by telling them that Dodko is Japanese. This is a small group of rocks between Korea and Japan that the Japanese recently claimed was disputed territory in one of their school text books. While the rest of the world didn’t register, almost every man, woman and child in Korea became instantly incensed. This of course goes back to Japan’s raping of the peninsula over many years but the depth of feeling is pretty scary. Teenagers who should be lurking around ally ways smoking are instead pounding the street convincing the 0.0001% of Koreans who aren’t bothered. I was assailed in Seomyeon by one such youth and it’s not an exaggeration to say she was literally foaming at the mouth!

There is virtually no crime here (unless you count corruption) and Busan in particular is incredibly safe. This is why it is not uncommon to see power tools lying outside building sites that have been closed for the night and why Sarah and I recently saw a policeman sitting in another’s lap. As such, I fear some of my kindergarteners are going to take this place apart when they come of age but by that stage I’ll be long gone (from Korea.)

Appearance trumps everything.
This is perhaps the strongest impression I have gathered in the last four months here and is the reason why the Hagwon system we are currently labouring under is so broken. Education is important, but the appearance of an education is more so. Korean kids spend the vast majority of their time in some educational establishment or other, often until late at night and during the weekend, but seem no more intelligent than the average British, Irish or North American. It is also the reason why in a few weeks time Sarah and I are set to grace the stage (again) to perform a “Christmas Dance” for the new mothers and children. This is not only demeaning, but is also apparently the benchmark by which all parents will judge our suitability to teach their little darlings. Throw in the fact that later in the year we are due to spend an entire month rehearsing a single class for the benefit of the parents and its not hard to feel like we are part of some gigantic propaganda machine. Goebbals would have been impressed.

Work is often a case of Quantity over Quality. Aside from 10 public holidays a year, the Koreans (in our school at least) can’t take any holidays. Hagwons are petrified that if they shut their doors for a full week the parents will send their kids elsewhere and for this reason school holidays are strictly restricted. Neither can they take personal holidays as no-one seems to have realised that with a little downtime productivity might just increase and even getting sick comes close to a fireable offence. Some of the Kindergarten teachers in our school stay long after we leave at 6:30, despite the fact that most of the under sevens leave at 2:30pm (what they actually do in these intervening hours is not immediately apparent.)

For all the reasons mentioned above, workers rights are non-existent and Confuscus has a lot to answer for. He may have scored a goal by advocating the use of chopsticks but the deference to authority here is frightening. I’m all in favour of giving up my seat to and old person on the subway but more often than not this “respect” seems to lead to downright exploitation. Old over young and rich over poor but I’m not trying to rewrite the Communist Manifesto or anything so I’ll leave it at that.

Koreans’ are by and large a warm and generous bunch. Often if standing on the bus with a few bags of shopping someone will wordlessly unburden your load, and the other day when I went to pick up my trousers from the tailors he refused payment, claiming it was only a small repair and I could pay next time. Things like this tend to brighten my day and the same behaviour in the UK would probably warrant a smack on the head.

That does it for my observations for now – I may very well return to this topic in another four months time and recant everything I’ve said but such is the nature of experience.

Passing Change.

The first time I was handed a wad of bills with my change set neatly on top of it, I ended up dropping my change all over the floor and wondering who the Hell doesn't pass the change separately. A year of practice later, and I can't figure out why nobody working a register in Ontario seems to be able to collect the change from the top of the bill pile without dropping it all over the

Canada Land: Not a Dime Store Hooker.

Canada Land is not nearly as cheap as I am.I went out on the town last night. Given that "out on the town" here means "select one of half of a dozen bars within a two block radius and hope that the total wankers went across the street instead, purchase over priced beverage, and wonder why the lights have turned on and the closing bell is ringing before you're finished your third", this experience

Spicy Tofu Stew (Soon Tofu) 순두부 찌개


Extra Soft Tofu 순두부 1 pack
Beef (for stew) 소고기 50g
Shrimp 새우 10
Clams 모시조개 10
Squid 오징어 50 g
Onion 양파 1/4
Zucchini 호박 1/4
Enochi Mushroom 팽이버섯 10g
Red Chili Pepper 빨간 고추 1/2
Green Chili Pepper 풋고추 1/2
Green Onion 파 1
Garlic (chopped) 마늘 1 tablespoon
Sesame Oil 참기름 2 tablespoons
Korean Red Chili Flakes 고추가루 2 to 3 tablespoons
(depending on how spicy you want to make it)
Salt 소금 1.5 to 2 tablespoons
Pepper 후추 1 teaspoon
Water 물 2 1/2 cups
Egg 계란 1
Stone bowl 돌솥 (optional)

* You can make it with just meat (beef or pork) alone, or with your favorite seafoods or a combinations of beef, pork and seafoods. Remember cooking is not a mechanical process. You can always improvise.

(Since a few people have asked)
I personally don't like using gochujang for this dish because it takes away from that crisp spicy taste i find. it doesn't give 시원한 맛..and make it 느끼 if you understand what i mean. But it's up to you!


1. If you have live clams, put them in salt water over night in a dark place so that they spit out sand. Then, wash before cooking. (frozen seafoods should work too)

2. Dice vegetables and cut beef into small pieces.

3. Pre-heat a pot on low heat. Add sesame oil, beef and Korean chili pepper flakes and cook for 5 minutes.

4. Add onion and zucchini and season with 1 tablespoon of salt. Cook for 5 minutes. If vegetables stick to the bottom. Add a little bit of water.

5. Add water and garlic. Bring to boil on high heat.

6. Put the stone bowl on high heat to pre-heat. (if you are using it)

7. Add shrimp and squid. Cook for 3 minutes.

8. Taste and season with salt.

9. Add clams and extra soft tofu. Cook for 3-5 minutes.

* Try not to stir too much at this point as tofu is very delicate.
* If you are using live clams, you know they are cooked when the open up.

10. Transfer gently into the stone bowl. Add pepper, Enochi mushrooms, green peppers, red and green chili peppers on top.

11. Add an egg just before eating.


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