Breakfast in Istanbul, 2002

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Fall 2002, My sister and I went traveling in Turkey, not quite having anything planned out.  Only thing we reserved other than a plane ticket was the guest house which seemed to be the only guest house run by a Korean owner. There were many guest houses run by Koreans all over Europe, but at that time, Turkey wasn’t yet a popular destination for traveling for Koreans. We naively expected to get all the information needed to travel in Turkey in that guest house, which turned out to be just a plain house, that must have lived in, not really a lodging facility. It was a house with a room and a bathroom, in a total residential area, and the owner dropped us off there with a key and left. Though not dirty, we could tell the bedding hadn’t been changed or the room was cleaned since the last guests left (we knew this because the last guests hadn’t yet left).

After spending a nervous night in the so-called guest house, not having anyone around to ask about anything, we came out for breakfast in the morning. The house was located far from the downtown, but there was quite a busy street with stores. My sister and I walked into this small store that seemed to be a bakery. The store was very crowded and we figured the food there must have been good. But because it wasn’t located in the touristic area, the waiter spoke no English (needless to say we spoke no Turkish) and the menu was in Turkish without any pictures! So we just pointed any two dishes, not having a slightest clue of what they were.

When the food came out – it was DIVINE. So delicious. I wonder if the waiter had kindly brought out popular dishes, instead of what we actually ordered, since it was so obvious we had no idea what we were ordering. I believe what we ate at that time was peynirli börek (pastry consisting of several thin layers of dough with cheese filling) and kıymalı börek (same with minced meat filling). I only remembered the food itself, not the name (not that I actually knew the name), but based upon the Internet search from five minutes ago, these seem to be correct. Actually at that time, we were sad  we wouldn’t be able to order this delicious food again since we didn’t even know the name of the food.

Anyway, this delicious mouthwatering breakfast certainly brightened our mood and cheered us up completely. It gave us a nice anticipation that wherever we would go, no matter how many obstacles we might face, there would be at least delicious food. And it was true.

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Breakfast with Daddy 1997-1999

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There are things you don’t truly appreciate until much later. Unconditional love and support you get from your parents is one of them because it feels so natural when you are receiving them. I often thought of my parents’ support on whatever I chose to do, but it wasn’t until quite recent that I thought of the physical effort they must have gone through while I was in high school.
High schools in S.Korea are straightforward intense. I was supposed to get to school by 7:30 in the morning, school was over by 5 in the afternoon, but after one hour of dinner break, students were to gather again for a self study session until 10 at night. One goal for everyone was acing the national college entrance exam in November and enter a prestigious college. While I was going through this crazy routine for three years, my mom and dad went through the same crazy routine.
The school I attended was far away from home, by choice, about two hours away by subway/bus. So dad drove me, everyday, to, and from school. By driving, and especially because it was so early in the morning with no traffic, it took less than an hour to get to school. Mom packed my lunch everyday, waking up much earlier than rest of the family, and also packed dad’s and my breakfast before we left around 6:30 am. When we arrived in front of school, Dad and I would sit in the car quietly and eat the breakfast Mom packed for us. Most of the time it was ham, cheese, egg sandwich with lettuce, and milk. The sandwich was cut in four pieces, each piece wrapped carefully, and put together in a clean bag. After eating, I went to school, dad went to work. Then by the time I finished, dad would come from work (long after his work hour was over) and drove me home. We actually had a good time, though both were tired, spending so much time together in a car, everyday.
Among countless things my parents did for me, somehow this routine they had for three years especially strikes me as something noble and painful (though they would deny it was neither). But in the mean time, I’m sure what I know is just a tip of  iceberg of what they have done for their children.

Chicken Porridge

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As the name of this blog suggests, I usually draw based on my memories. I want to say I’m not that nostalgic, but rather very future-oriented, or at least present-oriented. But in truth, I can’t deny I actually am very nostalgic. Hence, I draw food related to my favorite memories, re-living the moment.
But this time, what I draw, Chicken Soup – or Chicken Porridge, in Korean name, is what I was very longing for less than a week ago, and still kind of. Out of the blue, I came down with this horrific flu last weekend and suffered for almost an entire week quite intensely. For first couple days, I couldn’t really eat and had a zero appetite, but I knew I had to put something in my stomach in order to have some medicine at least. I longed for something soft, warm, and nutritious that will go easy with my flipped stomach. It wasn’t until later that I remembered this chicken porridge my mom used to make.
You use a whole chicken for a pot of chicken porridge. After boiling it for a very long time, with rice and some cloves of garlic, you cool the chicken down and tear it into smaller pieces. By the time the porridge is done, chicken is so soft, it melts in your mouth. You can go as fancy as you want, adding all sorts of ingredients to the porridge, but my mom’s chicken porridge was simple, basic, and so delicious. Just a simple bowl of white porridge, with almost no seasoning. We would have a small bowl of salt and pepper mixed, on the table, so that we can season our porridge to our own taste. Kimchi is always a nice addition to the porridge.
I’m 100% well now, but this time, I decided to draw this delicious simple meal that I wanted to have! Since I’m not big on cooking, drawing out something I want to have does give me a satisfaction of actually eating it – in a way. 🙂

Hot Dog Love

I love hot dogs. I always have. The very first snacking I remember I did on my own was buying a hot dog when I was a first grader. When I say a hot dog here, it’s a corn dog in US. I don’t know how that happened, but that’s how the name transferred to a far away continent. What do we call American hot dogs in Korea? We call it hot dog, too. No biggie.

1_PrePackagedFrozenHotDog_AramKimBoth my parents were working, so I went to the elementary school close to my grandma’s. I would come back from school, get a coin from my grandma, and cheerfully skipped down to the nearby bakery in the neighborhood. They sold pre-packaged hot dogs. Thinking back, it must have been a frozen hot dog, but it didn’t matter then, and it wouldn’t now. The lady at the counter warmed it up in a microwave and handed it to me. Mmmm…delicious! Hot dog was definitely my favorite snack as a kid.
3_SugarHotDog_AramKimThen there was this “sugar coated” hot dog sold at the snack house near my high school, which was a big hit among students. It’s a regular hot dog with deep fried dough, but if you request, the vendor would deep the hot dog into the bucket of white sugar, pulling it out completely covered with a thin coat of white sugar. Even back then, I didn’t try it. It seemed ridiculous to eat a sweet hot dog – yet, it was quite popular. Some students claimed it was a southern style, which we never figured out if that was true. In any case, I loved their hot dogs, without the sugar coat. It was such a wonderful snack for always hungry teenagers.
5_MonsterHotDog_AramKimAnd there is this crazy creative kind of hot dog that seems to baffle many foreign visitors. These are sold from street vendors in Korea, called by weird name “man-du-ki.” It’s a hot dog with chunks of fries added to the dough before it goes into deep fry oil. It looks absolutely mouthwatering (or horrifying, depending on your taste), but to be honest, it’s not as delicious as it looks. Yet, the visual is quite striking, so it’s hard to pass it by when you see one. These are more commonly sold around touristic places, and especially if you are on a vacation at the beach, you would definitely want to get one. A few years ago, I went to a beach in Korea with three of my friends who went to school in NY together, saw several carts selling this. We all got one. Even the vegetarian friend got one. She ate the dough and fries, but left out sausage.
AramKim_HogDogBunsLastly, there are various kinds of hot dog oriented pastries, like sausage buns, that are sold in the bakery. When I was little, there was only one kind, old fashioned sausage bun with fried dough -greasy, but delicious. The parchment paper on which these buns were displayed  was always soaked in oil. Later, many kinds of fancier looking sausage buns came out, making the choice ever harder. Mostly they had added cheese, corns, parsley, etc., giving it sort of a pizza flavor. I love them all.
I can keep talking about hot dogs that I had in Korea, but America is the country of hot dogs, so I cannot not mention at least one kind. The best hot dog I had in US would be Nathan’s Famous hot dog at Coney Island.
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I’m sure the environment (in this case, the beach, ocean, ocean breeze, view of Luna Park, etc.) must have added something magical to the food, but still, their hot dogs were delicious! Casing was delightfully chewy, sausage was very flavorful and juicy. And how about its perfect combination with chili cheese fries!! But somehow other branches of Nathan’s don’t have the same perfectness, or maybe I feel that way. Almost two hour subway ride from Queens to the end of Brooklyn definitely makes my butt hurt, but I never not go to Coney Island when there is a willing companion. Sadly, that doesn’t happen quite often enough, but that rarity also adds up to the pleasant experience of eating hot dog at Coney Island.
 P.S. While I was writing this, I remembered having seen an article on the origin of hot dog vendors of NYC in New York Times a few years ago, and tried to find that article. The article had nice black and white photograph of the hot dog vendors from the past. I searched NYT, and a little too many articles came up solely on the subject of hot dogs. I didn’t find the article I was looking for, but I found a lot of other interesting articles on hot dogs! I’m not enjoying or eating hot dogs as much as I used to, but still, I can confidently say I LOVE hot dogs. My favorite snack and comfort food. Mmmm..

Everything in One Packet

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If you are a Korean, or have spent some time in Korea, you know what this is: it’s called “Coffee Mix.” Basically it’s a portable instant coffee packet containing a perfect(?) combination of instant coffee, prima, and white sugar, for one cup of coffee. But a notion of “one cup” is largely different from what you would think of one cup in U.S. You will have to use hot water equivalent amount of, maybe four sips – more than that would turn that delicious combination of three elements into a brown color yucky water tasting nothing.
Supposedly not good for you, containing all that prima and white sugar, it’s also very addictive. I pretend I enjoy black coffee, made with fancy French press using coffee I just ground, but deep in my heart, I’m in love with this Coffee Mix. It’s my not so secretive guilty pleasure.

Breakfast with Mama, 2016

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Things didn’t go quite as I had planned, but I stuck to my original schedule and went to Korea. I arrived on Monday evening, and three weeks later, I left on Sunday morning. It was the most relaxing and happy time I had in a very long time. Partly because I was under a lot of stress, it really comforted me to be with my family who loved me unconditionally and it cheered me greatly to reunite with friends who were always there for me. It was the priceless trip during which I rested thoroughly and this would support me throughout my life as some of the previous trips had.

Most of all, having breakfast each morning with my mom sitting at the kitchen table was my favorite time. Most of days, our breakfast was consisted with a homemade toast (mighty bread machine), a perfectly boiled egg (mom had her system), butter and homemade fig jam, couple of fresh strawberries, and a cup of instant coffee. The simplest, the heartiest, the most delicious. Having this delicious breakfast with mom while the sunshine sipped through the window was the food for my body and soul that I would never forget.