Seoul Snippets

Let's talk about some of the weird things I've taken pictures of to send to my husband lately to give you a glimpse into my everyday living in Korea.

YEAH BOYYYY, those are public trash cans! While I am CONSTANTLY extolling the virtues of Seoul having clean public restrooms in almost every subway station, all over parks and just on the street in many neighborhoods, I rarely mention that the trade off seems to be filthy streets and no public trash cans. This is both frustrating to me as somebody who likes to drink bubble tea on the go and has a Californian's deeply ingrained aversion to littering so ends up carrying a cup of melting ice for miles and as a dog owner who just wants to be able to throw bags of poop away as soon as possible. Thankfully, there are (some) trash cans in the park but there aren't any for the majority of the walk between our house to the vet or between our house and the dog cafe. So more public trash cans is basically the most exciting thing to happen in the last month.

It's almost Chuseok (Korea's harvest festival/Thanksgiving) which means on my last trip to Costco the SPAM (and knock off SPAM) gift sets were out in FULL FORCE. Because of food shortages after the Korean War, products like SPAM and other canned foods brought over by the American Military were highly prized. Korea is still the second largest consumer of SPAM in the entire world and these gift sets tend to show up around major holidays. As an American, I can't think of anything less luxurious than SPAM but in Korea, it's a big deal.

What even is the Sea of Japan? It's always the East Sea, and don't you forget it!

As far as I can tell Tasty Road is travel/food show hosted by one former and one current K-Pop singer who make questionable culinary endorsements. One of these signs outside an establishment basically guarantees droves of Koreans showing up, standing in line and making heavy use of the selfie stick to make sure they get themselves and the name of the establishment in the picture and thus, another fast cycling food trend is born. I have mixed feelings about them endorsing the Hot Dog on a Stick that opened a few months ago because I don't want it to go out of business because corn dogs are delicious and it's open at 2 am making it the perfect place to stop for second dinner on our way home from a night out in Itaewon BUT I don't want to ever have to stand in line for more then ten minutes to get mall food court food. Also, the same day I saw this sign outside, I noticed that Street Churros now has a Street Hotdog. Yes, that is a hotdog served on a churro, combining the food trends of yesterday and today! Coincidence? I think not.

I meeeaaannnn.... What? (and yes, it also says "Calorie Light Cooking Towel" in hangul so I really don't know what's going on here)

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In the Spring, a hastily, poorly constructed deck suddenly appeared in front of a business which always had its gate down. A few days later, the gate was up when I walked by and I noticed taco related words on the wall in passing. A few days after that I saw what appeared to be a counter with a steam table behind it and some tall tables set up. "Yes!" I thought, "it probably won't be very good tacos but it will be near me!". Except... fast forward to two weeks ago and it still hadn't opened and suddenly the hastily constructed deck and ENTIRE front of the building were removed. Now there's a tarp covering it. The good news is, I realized how inappropriate the taco related words were when I saw them this time and managed to snap a picture. RIP obscene taco place, I'd pour out a bottle of Tapatio for you but that stuff is more precious than gold here.

So You Want to Adopt a Dog in Korea

Friends, family, strangers in the park... pretty much everyone asks me questions about the logistics of adopting and owning a dog (especially a large dog) in Korea. Pet ownership is still a pretty new thing in Korean culture so finding resources and information can be pretty tricky and finding ways to help your pet live its best life while remaining culturally sensitive can sometimes be pretty frustrating. So let's tackle some of the most commonly asked questions.

1. Aren't people afraid of your dogs?

This is by far my mostly commonly asked question, by Koreans and expats alike. The answer is: yes and no.

We get a lot of "handsome" and "pretty" as we walk by, or sometimes just "ohhh, husky". If I take the dogs up to Seoul Tower they get droves of people petting them and taking selfies. People are especially enamored of Ada's heterochromia ("odd eye, odd eye"). My favorite comments are from the ajushis that give me thumbs up and say things like "Dog #1!" or "strong dog, strong dog, Russia" (nope, didn't make that up). On the flip side, I have had people literally scream and run away from me when my dogs weren't even looking at them and there are days where it feels like every single person in the park is giving me stink eye while my dogs walk calmly by them. My biggest frustration is that there are many small dog owners who let their completely untrained, unsocialized dogs wander off leash in the park and then completely freak out when they see my dogs and start yelling and running to collect them, freaking out both their dogs and mine.

Here are some things we do to combat fear of our dogs:

  • We essentially treat our dogs, especially Ada, as big dog goodwill ambassadors. She knows basic commands in Korean, she loves babies and at this point, she'll often sit and pose when somebody pulls out a phone or camera (and then immediately look at me for a treat). Obviously, not all dogs want to be pet by ten strangers at a time but if your dog can handle it and you walk in the same place every day, seeing many of the same faces, stopping and letting people pet your dogs is a great way to show the people that are truly afraid that the dogs are non-threatening. I can't tell you how many times I've had people watching from a distance decide to come over and cautiously give the dogs a pet or try to get them to shake when they see other people doing it.
  • Ada and Shadow are trained to sit and wait when they see other dogs. This is both for my sake because they will pull my shoulder out of its socket because they're so excited to see a potential playmate and because it shows other dog owners that even though they're big, I have them under control. It also means that the small off leash dogs come running up to them instead of Ada and Shadow jumping after the small dogs and freaking everyone out. Once people we see every day realize they actually just want to play with their small dogs, interactions are a lot less stressful for everyone. If it's not people we see every day, this gives them an opportunity to pick up or leash their dog.
  • We spend a lot of time saying "it's ok" and "they don't bite" in Korean, often it really does just take those two phrases to assuage people's fears.
  • This isn't something we do, but many people in pet groups say that people are way friendlier to their dogs (especially jindos) when they're wearing a bandanna or t-shirt.
Tips and Resources for Expat Dog Owners

2. What do you do when you go on vacation?

I think this question comes up a lot more here than it would in the US because one of the perks of living in Seoul is definitely easy travel around Asia, so a lot of expats hop on a plane every major holiday. The answer to this is the same as it would be in America, we hire a dog sitter. It's hard to find dog boarding in Seoul for larger dogs and because Ada was in a shelter here, we just feel like it's better for her to stay at our home or somebody else's. Our dogs love our current dog sitter so much that they lose their minds and all their good behavior and jump all over her when she comes over or we run into her walking other dogs in the park. You can find her on facebook on her page Sae-hee's Sanctuary. We originally found her through the Pet Sitting Network- South Korea page where you can post looking for a dog sitter, search for boarding recommendations or offer to trade other owners walking and pet sitting services. If you're planning on traveling for a major holiday, I recommend getting this figured out as far in advance as possible. Right now it seems like everybody is looking for somebody for Chuseok and I am very happy I asked Vanessa if she was available over a month ago and don't have to think about it.

3. What do you feed them? Where do you get their food?

Our dogs eat Kirkland brand Grain-Free Nature's Domain Salmon and Sweet Potato food. Yep, I buy our dog's food at Costco, in Korea. We feed our dogs grain-free food because huskies tend to be really picky eaters and often won't eat food with a lot of fillers. Also, the Nature's Domain food is affordable and has an average rating on Dog Food Adviser. It's possible to find Orijen or other high-end foods at vets and some pet stores but I've only ever seen it in small bags and if you think Orijen is expensive in America, wait until you see the price in Korea. I do sometimes buy bags of Orijen and mix it in with the Kirkland food but this is mostly a "huskies are picky eaters who get bored" thing. Some people order Taste of the Wild on Gmarket and if you have a smaller dog, you might be able to afford the bags of Natural Balance or Orijen sold in stores here. For treats, at Costco they also often have dehydrated chicken and duck breast treats that are disgustingly stinky and the dogs love, we bring back Orijen treats from the US or send visiting friends Amazon orders to bring with them and occasionally order other treats from Gmarket.

4. Is my dog allowed off leash in parks? Where can I socialize my dogs?

Ok, this one isn't a real question people have asked me but I feel like it's so so so important to socialize your dogs so I'm gonna talk about it anyways. First of all, NO, your dog is not allowed off leash and there is a potential fine for having your dog off leash. Also, there are a lot of dogs that have not been well socialized and may act aggressive towards your dog and a leash can allow you to keep your dog far away from them. Technically, your dog also should be microchipped and wearing a dog tag.

There are, however, two dog parks in Seoul. One at World Cup Stadium Park and one in Children's Grand Park. I haven't been to either because they are nowhere near us and we don't have a car. I've been told there often aren't a lot of big dogs. There are also some private dog parks on the outskirts of the city. You can search for recommendations in the Everything Paws facebook group. We live in an area with a lot of foreigners and, consequently, a lot of dogs so we see dog friends almost every day walking around Namsan Park. There's a Namsan Dog Pack group that arranges meet up in the Haebongchan/Kyungridan/Itaewon area. We're also super happy that a dog cafe has opened relatively near us so we can give the dogs off leash playtime. Dog cafes are all over Seoul and are probably your best opportunity for socializing or for putting your dog in doggy daycare.

5. Does your vet speak English?

Yes! Again, we live in a neighborhood with a lot of foreigners, so there are multiple vets nearby where the staff speaks English. You can search or ask in the Everything Paws group for vet recommendations in your area.

6. Where did you actually get your dogs?

So, uh, we got Ada on craigslist. True Story. Before that though she was in the Empathy for Life shelter. Empathy for Life is a no-kill shelter that often rescues dogs from the government shelters that sadly are in pretty horrible shape and are super overcrowded. They both organize fosters for dogs and have a shelter. You can check out their available dogs for adoption or learn about volunteering on their facebook page. You can find more dogs in foster care or in shelters at Rescue Korea and the Animal Rescue Network Korea facebook page. People also will occasionally post about rehoming in some of the facebook groups I've mentioned previously. We got Shadow when somebody posted about him in the South Korea Husky Club group. Yes, all the information about pets (and everything really) in Korea is found in facebook groups.

7. Can I take my dog on public transit?

Your pets are allowed on public transit in a carrier. So, my dogs have never been on public transit because one weighs 50 lbs and the other is still growing but currently is probably around 60 lbs. I've heard that some regular cab drivers will take dogs and some won't. Your best bet if you need to transport your dog is finding a friend with a car or asking for a referral for a pet taxi in one of the pet related facebook groups.

8. Are you going to take your dogs with you when you leave?

I actually can't believe how often I get asked this question. YES, of course we are. Yes, they will have to fly cargo. No, they won't have to spend anytime in quarantine in the U.S. if we have the correct paperwork. Depending on what country you're flying back to, your timeline will be different, but for the U.S. and the E.U. you'll need a titer test for rabies antibodies. For the U.S. they need to have been tested within thirty days and for the E.U. you have to wait ninety days after testing. I haven't looked up requirements for anywhere else. The Airborne Animals group is a great resource for all your pet travel questions. There are also pet relocations businesses that will help you with figuring out paperwork, timelines, booking flights and transport to the airport. Obviously we have yet to use one but the ones I've seen mentioned the most are First Class Pets and Pawsome Pet Travel.

9. I have one million more questions can I email you?

Yep. Send me a message at agidycz at gmail dot com and I'll do my best to answer any of your dogs in Seoul questions.

Getting Back in the Game

I know, I know, it's been a little quiet (ok, very quiet) around these parts these past two months. Between a dying computer, a new computer whose motherboard was DOA and had to be sent back and then back to us via a U.S. address and then getting a new dog right when I really had a working computer again, it's been more or less impossible to get something up.

I started writing a post about a year of living the expat life in Korea, but I hated it. So I scrapped it all and just posted this on Instagram instead.

I'm sure I have more to say. Friday I'll be meeting up with some other spouses to welcome and meet the new partners that have arrived with this class of my husband's program and Saturday we'll be brunching and welcoming the new people coming into the program from Stern. Just the idea of meeting people in the same shoes I was in a year ago is already making me reflect a lot more than just the date passing.

In the coming week, I'm hoping to get a recipe up for these pickled beets, this play on tiramisu I made for a friend's Tex Mex party and full reviews of Volstead and 1981. If you're not interested in recipes or Korean restaurant reviews, then stay tuned for my encounter that took place in Ukraine with my bff Salo the Vodka Pig.

In case that assortment of links didn't make it super obvious, even if I'm not writing here, I'm often writing mini reviews or posting recipe inspiration over on my instagram account where my handle is alana_margaret (and if you're not an instagram user, almost all of those things get pushed to my facebook page as well).

If you are super into dogs, or considering adopting a dog in Korea (there are so many that need a loving home) I'll also be writing about the resources and struggles I've found here and in the meantime, you can follow Ada and Shadow on insta with the handle badwolfclub (yes, that is both a reference to huskies being extremely willful dogs and Doctor Who).

Hello? Is it still #tongueouttuesday in America?!

A photo posted by Ada and Shadow (@badwolfclub) on

And on that note, I have to go take this 60 lbs puppy we've adopted on a training walk and convince Ada she'd rather stay home with a Kong full of peanut butter (probs won't take that much convincing, tbh). More soon. Pinky swearsies.

Parc

Parc Hannam-dong Seoul

Parc in Hannam-dong describes itself as "Korean Mother's Recipes and More". I tend to describe park as "modern Korean". But I think maybe the better way to describe Parc would be "Korean slow food". With it's adorably illustrated "know your namul" place mats, changing menu and focus on quality of ingredients it definitely has a Korean meets California Cuisine vibe.

Parc has a set menu that seems to usually have one seafood and one meat option which comes with rice, banchon and the soup of the day. The current menu is often posted on their Facebook page but only sometimes in English (don't worry, there are English language menus available when you get there). You can also add on sides, but the sides are almost as big as the main dishes so I would recommend splitting one between two or more people since the set menu itself is quite filling (in the above picture we did not follow this advice and ordered one side each which was way too much food but delicious).

When I went there was an option described as "chicken braised in soy sauce" and a squid option. I went with the chicken option and added a side of japchae (glass noodles and stir fried vegetables) and Ashley got the squid and a side of the jellyfish salad. I chose black rice for my dish and was surprised when my tray came with a pat of butter which the waitress instructed me to place on my rice and let melt a bit before mixing my rice into my bowl with the chicken, sweet potato, soft egg and greens. My unconventional bibimbap was nothing like I expected my dish to be. To be honest, I was really happy because soy sauce braised chicken sounds kind of boring and one note and this dish was anything but. The chicken dish had a mildy sweet soy based sauce with a hint of cinnamon. The addition of fresh greens to the bowl kept it from feeling too wintery and we all know I'm a sucker for anything with an egg on it. Each banchon (small side dish) had a unique taste and overall I would say it was much fresher and much subtler in flavor that most of the Korean cuisine I've had (with the exception of Sanchon).

My japchae had a lot of vegetable mixed in and was delicious but I barely put a dent in it because the chicken bowl, rice and soup were already a pretty solid amount of food. However, the jellyfish salad was the true star of the sides. Cool jellyfish mixed with cucumber, red peppers and just a touch of wasabi was the Summer salad I didn't know I had been looking for.

Located next to Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art, Parc is a great choice for a lunch or dinner to add on to a modern art excursion. Or, if like me, you live a seven minute walk away, for anytime you want Korean cuisine with a twist. As well as having lunch every day, they're also one of the few places in the area that serve food until midnight on the weekends (last order 11:00pm).

Parc is located at 734-1 Hannam-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul on a side street between Itaewon-ro and Leeum Museum. Come out Hangajin Station exit 3, walk straight on Itaewon-ro and turn right at the road between the Audi showroom and Trevia restaurant. Continue up the short road and cross the street running perpendicular continuing on the road that's uphill and slightly to the right. Parc will be on your left.

Maddux Pizza

Pepperoni Slice at Maddux in Itaewon Seoul

Remember that time I wrote about the different horrifically bad nachos I've paid too much money for in Seoul? I could write a similar story about pizza. It would involve the time when Dan and I had just got here and we thought "tortilla pizza" was maybe just a weird translation for "thin crust". It's not. It's also terrible and very popular among young Koreans. The next part would be about the time we went to Monster Pizza after seeing several New York sized pies and slices that smelled divine being eaten in front of the Bottle Shop, only to discover that the pizza is cooked on a giant version of those weird conveyer belt toasters they have at delis and breakfast buffets, ensuring the crust is always extremely pale and dough-y. The former shining star in our pizza excursions was Brick Oven New York Pizzeria in Gangnam. It's a bit expensive but quite good. Also, they use deck ovens, not brick ovens, which is the right choice for New York style pizza but maybe they should reconsider their name?

Maddux Pizza opened in Itaewon in May but I didn't get around to trying it until a few weeks ago. The pizza is cooked in a proper deck oven and it's actually cooked long enough for both the crust and the pepperoni to reach ideal crispiness. Like a true slice joint they don't have a whole lot in the way of flavors which is fine with me since I usually want pepperoni or a plain slice anyways. I have branched out once to the artichoke slice which is a little too creamy and decadent for me to eat all the time. If you're interested in trying the artichoke, I definitely recommend splitting it with somebody, it's good but intense.

Probably the main difference between Maddux and your neighborhood pizza place in New York is the $4.00 price point for a plain slice and the fact that they don't deliver, but non-Korean food is always marked up here and I know getting cheese that isn't plastic-y is expensive so I don't mind the slightly higher price. As for the delivery? Fingers crossed they're on Bird Riders or Y-not soon, I'd much rather have it than the mediocre pizza we usually order when we're too lazy to cook or go out.

Maddux Pizza is located at 129-9 Itaewon-dong. From Iteawon Station exit 4, walk south on Bogwang-ro and take the first right, go down the slight hill and take the first left. Continue down this smaller street a ways and Maddux Pizza will be on your right.

Update: When I was ordering delivery tonight I noticed Maddux is now available through Bird Riders .  WOOOOOOOOOOHOOOO!