Unlike many FAQs on other web sites, I’ve actually been asked most (but not all) of these questions.
I’d always been a free speech absolutist–until I ran a blog. Please leave comments on the blog. We want to have a great conversation. This site is treated like a dinner party. Guests are welcome to chat up and have a good time. But if anyone is bringing the mood down for the party, I have no problem with showing that person the door.
Site banishment occurs if you do any of these three times:
- Post comments that are unproductively negative, taunting to any writers or commenters or just degrade the atmosphere–according to our discretion
- Post anonymously
Site banishment occurs if you do any of these once:
- Post comments that include overt racism or pornography
- Post threats
- Post a comment attacking a person or her family personally (I’ve had one person insult my unborn baby–fine human being there)
I’m not trying to make the site all flowers and lollipops, but I also have an aversion to assholes. The general guideline is to post comments as if you were talking to these people in person. Ask yourself if you said that comment to someone in a casual situation, would you be considered part of the conversation or a social retard?
What’s with the name ZenKimchi?
There’s no deep meaning to it–just sentimental nonsense. My internet ID from the early 1990s was Zenpickle, and it made sense to change “pickle” to “kimchi” when I moved to Korea.
How old is this site?
The original site was started in early 2004 as emails to my family on the plane to Korea for the first time. It grew into a full-time food blog in 2005. Back then there were no active Korean food blogs in English. The concept of a blog itself was novel. Up until late 2005, I was programming the blog myself without anything like Blogger or WordPress. It is currently run on WordPress. Over the years it was split up into multiple websites. In early 2014, a major overhaul was done, combining all the websites into one.
Are you a Korean food expert?
Hardly. I’ve always been an explorer. In fact, I only had Korean food twice before coming here, and both times were not pleasant. The more I find out the more I realize how little I know. That’s one reason I’ve made this a team blog. We can cover more territory, and the site won’t be limited to my limited knowledge.
Why did you come to Korea?
I fell into Korean history late in college and loved it. So I had a bit of an interest in Korea. When it became more and more difficult to get work in the IT industry during the first dot-com bust of the early 2000s, I decided to join my friend in Korea to teach English for a year. When that year was over, I realized I wanted to stay. I really like it here. Mostly.
What’s your culinary background?
Nothing serious. A good hodgepodge. My dad ran a Popeye’s Fried Chicken franchise when we were kids, and my first job at 12 years old was wearing the Popeye costume and waving at cars. When we first got a VCR, the only two videos we had were Popeye cartoons and the Popeye’s training video. We loved that. I got into cooking, especially wok stuff and anything to do with garlic or baking. My dad and I would work together to try out trying recipes in Bon Appetit and the Great Chefs cookbook.
In college I got a bartending certification and worked as a short order cook, a Tex-Mex cook, a bad waiter, a pizza driver, a diner manager, a sandwich artist, an oyster shucker, a dive bar cook, a better waiter, a bar back and a bartender and took some courses in hotel and restaurant management. But I never went to cooking school. I still want to. My brother, though, he went to cooking school and is a pretty darn good chef.
What does ZenKimchi do?
Well, we’ve actually become a registered Korean business. Besides the blog, many of us write for other publications. We also act as fixers, consultants and talent for TV shows and other media. We’ve put together quite the team of folks from different backgrounds and locations. We have some more projects in the works.
Do you know any good restaurants?
Oh, you want me to tell you. To answer this question more efficiently, our restaurant section has anything that we’d recommend anyway. It categorizes restaurants by cuisine, location and price, along with maps and contact info. It’s also smartphone compatible. Check out the Food Map.
Do you have a recipe for…?
And here are some that some people seriously have asked…
Do you give good reviews in exchange for free meals?
From the beginning, it has always been a policy of ZenKimchi that none of its writers and editors will write good reviews in exchange for free meals. That’s a disgusting practice. We’re registered with Blog with Integrity (see the footer of this page). What’s sad is that we’re one of the few food blogs in Korea that don’t do that. We, in fact, have missed out on many freebies because we refuse to play that game. Our integrity is worth more to us than a free meal. Geez! We’re not desperate.
There are times when we do receive comped meals, and we disclose that in our posts. We also make sure the restaurants know that we have editorial independence in our reviews.
Are you a government stooge?
This is one conspiracy floating around Dave’s Negative Circle Jerk. They obviously haven’t any of my rants about how the government has screwed up Korean food promotion. Also, in my experience with government contacts, it’s hardly some monolith that demands little food bloggers to pay respects. Usually, when I’m contacted by someone working in the government, they don’t know who we are. So what I say on this blog hardly matters. The government doesn’t read it. The government doesn’t pay me. I’ve participated in things with agencies in the past, but that doesn’t buy me off. If you worked for Domino’s Pizza for a while in college, are you obligated to always say nice things about Domino’s?
Why do you hate Korea so much?
(Putting on sarcasm hat) I hate Korea so much that I’ve lived here for over nine years, married a Korean, and now have a Korean daughter. (Removing sarcasm hat) To some people, usually with some ethnocentric nationalistic mindset, I can come off as being negative about Korea at times. It’s usually because I love the country, and I know it can be better. I also want my daughter to grow up in a better Korea.
Why are you such a Korean apologist?
But the other guys accuse me of hating Korea? What are we doing wrong? Or is this proof that we’re doing something right?
Stop laughing! There is some organization going on here. Few site layouts are perfect. I’ve tried to optimize it for the most popular categories. The hard part is figuring out where some sub-categories fit. Not perfect.
- Top Posts – Classic posts that are over a year old but are still popular and useful
- Events & Holidays – At the bottom of the page we highlight upcoming events and talk about a few holidays, Korean and other
- Christmas Chronicles – Surviving and enjoying Christmas in Korea
- Festival – Whenever a food festival is in town
- March Madness/Mayhem – In March, Korean foods compete to see who will be number one–and Korean food fans decide
- Special Menus & Deals – I don’t get paid to do these unless I disclose that. I just like spreading some deals when I see them.
- Thanksgiving Chronicles – Surviving Thanksgiving in Korea
- Munchies from Ben – Ben is my chef brother, and he sometimes contributes recipes to the site
- Food for Foreigners – One of the original missions of the food blog was to post recipes and tips on how to cook foods from home with Korean ingredients and without an oven. These days it’s becoming less relevant as Korean supermarkets are becoming more diverse with ingredients.
- Fusion – Very gray area here, and I hate the connotation. But fusion is fusion.
- Korean Recipes – We try to go authentic here, but forgive us if we stray.
- Commentary – Rants. Just rants.
- Polls – After Korean Food March Madness 2010, we found how fun it was to have polls
- Korean Food Globalization – This has been a big deal in Korea, and it’s been a lot of clown shoes. We talk about the state of Korean food globalization, how we think it should be done and pointing out how badly it’s been effed up.
- Top Chef Commentary – We were following the show closely for a while, especially when some of Chef Ben’s friends were on there.
- News & Media – Lots of stuff goes in here. We regularly do posts called “Banchan” (“Small Dishes”), which are links to news, restaurants and recipes collected from different sources
- Bizarre Foods: Seoul – We were some of the fixers, story consultants (we told them which food to do) and talent for Bizarre Foods when they came to Korea. This is where you’ll find the behind-the-scenes info about the taping.
- Blog Stuff – Announcements about the ZenKimchi blog itself. Usually technical stuff.
- Entertainment – TV shows, pop music and movies related to Korean food
- Food Trend – We like to play fortune teller sometimes and spot trends
- Shameless Self Promotion – Hey did you see one of us on that show last week?
- Nothing to do with Korea – I’m not as one-dimensional as my wife says
- Globalization – There’s that word again. This is news related to Korean food globalization.
- Who’s Who – People. Interesting people.
- Books – Things you read.
- Contest – We haven’t had one of these in a while. We should do another one.
- Food Stories – Tales of Korean food
- Finds & Tips – Where to find certain items and tips on cooking Korean food or food in Korea
- Miscellaneous – It’s really got be hard to fit anywhere if it’s in this category
- Video – Original and what we find out there
- Restaurants – We cover restaurants inside and outside Korea.
- Korean Food 101 – General posts about Korean food
- At the Bakery – Korea’s bread and pastry culture is rapidly progressing. There are some great works of art in the bakeries. There are also some crimes against nature.
- History – History of kimchi and other anecdotes
- Chicken Chicken Chicken – We love our Korean fried chicken so much we made a separate category for it (more)
- Ingredients – Highlighting particular Korean ingredients
- Convenience Store Finds – You’ll never know what you’ll find in a place that’s open 25 hours a day
- Food ‘Hoods – Korean cities have entire streets devoted to specific foods
- Food Porn – These are posts that are picture heavy.
- Kimchi – How to make it, types of kimchi
- WTF – You don’t wanna know
- Junk Food & Treats – One and the same
- Street Food
- Beverages – alcoholic and non
Here is a little explanation about our chicken restaurant posts.
- Style – There are generally three main styles of fried chicken and two styles of barbecued chicken
- Hof – The original Korean style of fried chicken. This is what you’d usually find in chicken ‘n’ beer places. Twice fried chickens, usually whole or half. Paper-thin skin and breading. Slight Chinese five spice scent.
- American – Dry thick flour breading like KFC and Popeye’s. Usually only fried once.
- Batter – Dipped in a liquid batter before frying. Kyochon is the most famous example.
- Dry – Served with sauce on the side for dipping
- Wet – Served slathered in a variety of barbecue sauces
- Celebrity – Most every chicken chain has some gag man or K-pop band promoting it. The entity selected for the celebrity endorsement says a lot about a chain’s status and target market.
- Regular – How the plain fried chicken fares.
- Yangnyum – The sauce that can come slathered on the chicken or on the side.
- Goodies – Sides or extras (like a can of coke or a pair of winter gloves) that usually come with an order.
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