Mingyu will kick your ass if you don't read this post all the way to the bitter end!
So, I’ve been here a week, and even though I’ve cycled about 300km (a weak showing, I know, but the first 3 days were spent lying low and avoiding the bends), I’m pretty sure I’m pudgier than at any point in the past couple years. I don’t think it’s because the food is greasy, which is always what Koreans warn you about, but because 1) being social makes you eat a lot, as does cycling; 2) it’s all been delicious, and 3) Mingyu loves beer way too much for his/my own good.
What delicacies have we had, and how much have they cost us?
Make-your-own-wraps. We ordered sides of cabbage, green beans, noodles and mushrooms, and some cold cabbage/cucumber/soybean/peanut dish that was sour and pungent and fantastic. Everything was amazing. 40 yuan / $7 each.
I didn’t buy these, but anyway…
Giant donut puck filled with mashed sweet red beans and dates. Killer hot from being fried, crispy on the outside, tart and steamy inside. Good buy for Y4/75c
Shopping for burrito ingredients with our CS host, Guy. Less than $5/30Y for mushrooms, onions, spinach, lettuce, bell peppers, and tomatoes for three.
Noodles and dumpling soup for lunch. Pretty unremarkable, but cheap. Y8/$1.33
If you think ordering Chinese at home is tough…
Asparagus sautéed with garlic; bak choy with shiitakes in brown sauce; mystery vegetable flavored with Lucky Charms marshmallow magic; eggplant, potato, and bell pepper stir fry; Schezuan chicken; some sort of fried bread shreds; and pears soaked in red wine. Maxing out the credit cards at Y40/$7 total.
Meal from the market: eggplants stuff with garlic and cilantro paste; pitas; crepe; and some dumpling. Total: Y12/$2. The eggplants were incredible when used as the filling in a pita sandwich. By the third or fourth one, though, I hit my garlic limit…
Haggling over banana prices…wound up paying 4Y/75c for three. A little disappointing.
Photo menu at the dinner place.
Who know the sweet, sour, vinegary peanut dish would be a veritable mountain? Y28/$4.75 Y22/$3.75 for the snap pea/carrot/lotus root/floppy shroom stir fry. And Y1/20c per bowl of rice.
Interesting ordering method: in addition to the written and pictoral menus, at some restaurants, you just walk up to a big fridge like you’d see in the supermarket, peer through the glass, and point at a big plate of veggies. It could be just one ingredient or several; either way, you don’t know how it’ll come together. Well, maybe the natives do. So, we pointed at this plate of cucumbers, shrooms, and carrots, and somehow we got this scramble! The big heap of refried tofu (tastes way better than it sounds!) came with garlic and cilantro. Also, two beers. Total price: Y40/$6.75. For two.
Homemade oatmeal with peanuts, raisins, and cinnamon.
Stir-fried Shrimp in sweet sauce (40/6.75) and stir-fried broccoli (20/3.25) which tasted a lot like the stuff you’d get back home. Several beers at 3/.50 apiece.
Lastly, the most amazing meal so far. We checked in at a random cheapie hotel where the guy didn’t even look at our passport, so I was a little skeptical when he recommended his friend’s place next door. But, he said they had veg options, and Mingyu was whining like a little baby after our 95k day (longest yet), so we agreed. Mingyu pointed at a plate of stuff sliced so thin I couldn’t tell what it was; I pointed at something kind of leafy with a few mushrooms on top. Mine came out pretty normal, with a thickish kind of soy sauce. Mingyu’s, though, was certainly among the most incredible things I’ve ever eaten. Zucchini, carrots, mushrooms, and eggs, stir-fried but then cooled, served in a sweet vinegar sauce. Also in the mix were some sort of roasted red pepper husks – thin and flaky to add to the texture, with a deep, smoky-but-not-spicy flavor. I wasn’t sure if the peppers were edible at first, so I asked the guy “Is it possible to eat these peppers?” He misunderstood me and brought out an entire bowl of them. I ate them all. Maybe
Each plate cost Y18/$3.
So, final judgment: it’s been no problem at all here sticking to only veggies despite, again, how often Koreans told me it would be impossible. For all that I love Korea, I really don’t like the way people have only negative things to say about most of the rest of Asia. The fact that everything is stir-fried or griddle-fried hasn’t started to bother me yet, since there’s a wide variety of flavors, in particular, more nuts and more sour stuff than I expected, which is a nice change from Korean. Plus, there’s plenty of fresh fruit around – it seems that peaches, apples, cherries, grapes, and mangoes are in season up here at the moment. Not bad, not bad!
Oh, and everything is dirt cheap! Even our most luxurious meals have yet to near $10, and our cheap ones – and there have been many – come in at about $1. In fact, so far, in six days, I’ve spent less than 50 bucks on food and accommodation combined, without even watching my spending! Hooray for traveling! Save up a couple thousand bucks, quit your job, and come join me! Let’s pudgen up together.