So now it’s been two years since I started the food section of the (heh) ZenKimchi Empire, and it has grown to be, by far, the most popular part. This past year alone has seen a lot of publicity and an astounding rise in daily hits.
Let’s recap some highlights of the past year, shall we?
- The Great Food Blog Summit. October 2006 was significant in that it was the first meeting of English language Korean food bloggers EVER for a big Chuseok dinner party! Representing were The Daily Kimchi, maryeats, and Seoul Life. Everyone except Seoul Life has since left Korea, as has My Korean Kitchen, who started blogging soon after the summit. I’m sad about that, and I didn’t do one during this Chuseok because, well, Seoul Life is busy with a beautiful baby, and I haven’t seen many more English language food bloggers here lately. Nonetheless, I have been playing with the idea of a decadent Christmas party this year–with foie gras.
- Making Kimchi. This was the first year I made kimchi. Soon after visiting the Kimchi Museum, I first made it at the Kimchi Festival in Seoul, where there were TV cameras wanting me to pose so much that all the ingredients were gone when I finally got around to finish making mine. I did a bit about it in the comic strip style of The Amateur Gourmet and got featured on his site. I later experimented at home and made a damn fine kimchi using the flavors I liked the most (Korean pears, fresh oysters, lots of brined shrimp). Maryeats also made her own.
- The Monkfish. I found some cool looking miniature monkfish at the open air market. I knew that they were a valuable item in New York and wanted to figure out how to cook them myself. I came up with three great dishes: Monkfish Liver Sashimi, Monkfish Roe Soup, and Korean-style Smothered Monkfish.
- Maori Hangi Barbecue Thanksgiving Feast. This was a great cross-cultural experience during an English teaching conference. Turkeys, pork and other goodies were barbecued underground by a Maori dude into a feast to make lifelong memories. This one got featured in Morsels and Musings’ Festive Food Fair.
- Interesting Ice Creams. My local supermarket had a 50% off sale on ice cream starting in December. I used it as an opportunity to try some of the less conventional flavors, such as sweet potato and corn.
- The First Hooters in Korea. Doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it was to those of us wanting a taste from home. I honestly went there for the food, which thankfully wasn’t Koreanized much (no sweet pickles). The novelty has since worn off a bit. New locations are opening or have opened. It’s starting to become associated with rowdy G.I.s and English teachers. I also annoyed a reader for sounding creepy when she didn’t get the tongue-in-cheek humor and took me literally. Oh well. Didn’t stop us creepy folks (including a glowingly pregnant Seoul Life) from joining me on my birthday there.
- The New York Times. In February, I was contacted by a food writer at The New York Times for an article on Korean fried chicken. I also made a blog post to help supplement the article. Needless to say that the article really helped the hit count.
- 15 Strangest Foods. Another popular blog post in February was my listing of the 15 strangest foods I had eaten in Korea thus far. Some were intrigued. Some were grossed out. Some actually said that it was too tame.
- Food Pr0n. My co-workers still rag me when I use the term “food porn.” They just don’t get it, and I don’t expect them to. Yet the food porn posts on the site are usually the most popular ones. They’re basically an excuse for me to post when I have good pics and very little to say about them. It all started with Eun Jeong’s Kimbap and went on to Stir-fried Octopus, summer Patbingsu, late summer drying of the peppers, and the autumn Chuseok feast this year.
- Yogurt Wars. A little blurb I wrote of Internet indications of a little war between Korean-style yogurt shops brewing in Los Angeles still gets comments and led to a larger piece in SEOUL Magazine, which I still write for.
- Screwed by Google AdSense. Even though my little case against the School-Which-Must-Not-Be-Named made the papers and caused me to be investigated by the police for libel got the big share of attention, a small battle I had with Google also got a little wordspace from bloggers (hence the Yahoo! Ads).
- Haggis Shepherd’s Pie and Serious Eats. This little creation I threw together really was just a logical application of haggis in my mind. Throw the “neeps and tatties” on top of the haggis and bake it. Yet it got some attention on Serious Eats. They also liked my post on Bibimbap.
- Slashfood Props. Another big food site, Slashfood, featured a few of my posts as well, specifically the one revisiting Gobchang Gui and Lotteria’s Frico Burger (to celebrate National Burger Month).
- Chef Ben McPherson. My brother Ben, a very talented chef, posted what I hope is the first of many recipes and menus here. This past year, he has also gotten his first executive chef job at the trendy Eclipse di Luna in Atlanta.
- The Book. I’ve written for a few magazines, but this year was also the first time I got my work published in a book, Korea Up Close.
- Great Recipes. Eun Jeong’s Spicy Cucumber Salad has gotten raves on Group Recipes, and Chris Wright’s Southern Style Kimchi BokkeumBap has already gotten some comments. This next year I promise to have more Korean recipes out there. In the meantime, I played around with a lot of fusion ideas such as Korean-style Baba Ganoush, Korean Sloppy Joes, Kimchi Quesadillas and the ultimate fusion Cheese Ravioli in Soju Sauce. I also worked on making old dishes I missed from home like Cheese Blintzes with Homemade Mock Ricotta Cheese and Macerated Strawberries, my Christmas French Onion Soup, my Chili that breaks all the purists’ rules, classic German Bier und Wurst, stovetop Popcorn, Fried Chicken Salad, and the ultra posh French Laundry-style Pigs’ Trotters.
- Great Restaurants. I got a little worried because restaurants I liked tended to close down. Yet I featured some old favorites and new finds such as Nashville, the Brazilian Churrasco, the pan-Asian Tikiti, China Factory, the new Austrian deli from Chef Meili and Smoked Turkey at Korea Barbecue. I already have a few restaurants in the cue to write up when I get the time, including my favorite country Korean restaurant, San Ma-eul Boribap.
- Crazy Stuff. The 15 Strangest Foods were just a taste of what I find every day that makes living in Korea never dull. Lotteria did well with the Frico Burger, but the Veggie-Rice Burger was a perfect example of Korean fast food that was like a five-year-old in the kitchen. There was also the “Beer That Makes You Poo,” Nasty Chicken Tortillas, Tuna Burritos, Strawberry Squid, Tomato Popsicles, Rice-infused Yogurt, the exploding Disposable Grill, and the Worst Flavor Combination EVER.
- Drinks. I also explored a little more with soju by trying the real Andong stuff (really good) and getting a horrid hangover learning Korean soju drinking games. And let’s not forget the Cass Red (some would rather forget it, though).
- More Korean Food. And finally I did more of what this site was intended to do: explore Korean food. The Hui and the live Octopus got the most controversy. I had some great grilled Pork with Skin, lots of raw marinated Crab (even for lunch), and a satisfying tin pot of Ramyeon Noodles.
This is hardly all of it. Just look in the archives. Life in Korea is amazing–it still is. I am not the expert on Korean food. I’m just an explorer. There is still so much to explore.
The good. The bad. And the f’ugly.