Monday, January 20, 2014

Japanese Pub (Isakaya) - Darak

A friend of my wife has recently opened a Japanese pub here in Daejeon, so we went to check it out on Saturday night with some of Jihyeon's friends. I've written this up as an informal review to see if I can drum up some business for him. 

In summary it was a good evening out. The food was tasty and reasonably priced. Many of the drinks were also cheap (3000 won for a CASS tallie) and there were 3 different varieties of Sake on offer for between 19000 and 33000 won a bottle. The chef is also a good guy and can speak a little English, which makes the ordering process easier if you don't have a group of translators with you.

The name of the pub is Darak and it is located in the south western corner of Daejeon at 127-3 Doma-dong (97 Dosan-ro) <naver linky> <google maps linky>

If you have a car there is parking out the back of the building. 

The freshly renovated venue.

The chef at work. 

The menu.

I've bolded the menu items we ordered.

  • 야끼우동 : Yaki Udong (Fired Noodle) 13000 won
  • 오꼬노미 야끼 : Okonomi Yaki (Sea food pan fried cake) 13000 won
  • 골뱅이 소면 : Golbangi Somyeon (Bay top shell and cold spicy noodle with vegtables) 13000 won
  • 치킨 가라아께 : Chicken Garaake (fried chicken) 13000 won
  • 케이준 샐러드 : Cajun Salad 13000 won
  • 오징어 다리 튀김 : Ojingeo Dari twiegim (Fried squid leg) 80000 won
  • 해물 누룽지탕 : Haemul Nurungjitang (Spicy seafood stew with crust of overcooked rice) 15000 won
  • 나가사끼 짬뽕 : Nagasaki Jjambbong (Nagasaki spicy seafood noodle) 13000 won
  • 오뎅탕 : Odeangtang (Fish cake soup) 13000 won
  • 마른안주 : Marunanju (Dried squid and Nuts) 8000 won
  • 한치 : Hanchi (Grilled Dried Loligo) 8000 won
  • 반건 오징어 : Bangun Ojingeo (Grilled Half dried squid) 10000 won
  • 해산물 버터구이 : Haesanmul Buttergui (Grilled seafood with butter) 12000 won
  • 돼지고기 숙주볶음 : Fried pork and bean sprouts 13000 won
  • 해산물 숙주볶음 : Fried seafood and bean sprouts 13000 won
  • 회무침 : Spicy Seafood salad with chilly paste 13000 won
  • 키조개 구이 : Grilled pan shell 10000 won
  • 사시미 : Sashimi 15000 won
  • 쥐포 : Dried filefish fillet 8000
  • 날치알밥 : Flying fish roe with rice in a hot pot 4000 won
  • 해물라면 : Seafood rameon 3000 won
The drinks fridge packed with the standard assortment of popular beers in Korea, the ubiquitous Soju and also some Saki. 

The first menu item was Sashimi (사시미). I didn't try this because it isn't my kinda thing, but everyone else said it was fantastic. 

Next up was fried pork and bean sprouts (돼지고기 숙주볶음) which was my favourite dish for the night. Normally I'm not a huge fan of bean sprouts. Some varieties can be really chewy. Happy to report that the variety of bean sprouts used in this dish went down well. The pork was tender and just enough pepper was added to give it a bit of zing, but not enough to overpower the other flavours. 

Next up was the fried chicken (치킨 가라아께). It was cooked just right and there were no bones in it which made me happy. I hate bones :(

There was also some sweat and sour sauce and soy sauce to go with the chicken. 

This isn't one of the menu items. The chef knew I don't love fish, so he also cooked some cream spaghetti for us. Thanks~

Last up was Odeangtang (오뎅탕) aka fish cake soup.

The idea is you use the ladle to spoon the soup into the cup and then drink the soup and use your chop sticks to fish the bits of fish out of the cup. The soup didn't have an overly strong fishy taste and went down well. 

Let the good times roll....

Thumbs up.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Getting Engaged and Married in Korea

I met Jihyeon in 2011 at a Taekwondo tournament in Muju, Korea. She was volunteering as a translator for a different team, but we met by chance and got along well. I thought the last 2 and a half years were an adventure, but it looks like the real adventure is about to begin. 

Before I go any further, I would like to clarify something. As I understand it, you don't get engaged in Korea. Since our relationship is a blend of Korean and western culture I have used the term "engaged" to mark the point in time when I gave her a ring. 

Couple Rings

In Korea when to people are in a relationship they will often do things like wear matching shirts, wear matching wrist bands, buy matching phone cases, set matching ringtones, wear matching shoes. My understanding of this custom is that it is all about boasting to the world "we are together" and ,I am guessing, was probably started because it is frowned upon to show too much affection in public. <read more>

Getting Parents Permission
I had already met Jihyeon's parents on a few occasions, but since we have decided to get married it was time for an "official" meeting. <read more>

Wedding Venue
After meeting with Jihyeon's parents to get their permission the wedding planning ball started rolling pretty much immediately  Her parents did the leg work for us and checked out a bunch of wedding venue's in Iksan and recommended one for us to go and look at. The building is almost new and just a short walk from their apartment which makes it super convenient. <read more>

Proposing - Namsan Mountain
It took weeks of nagging jihyeon, but we finally made it to Namsan Mountain where I had a double surprise in store for her. <read more>

Our parents meet
The day had finally arrived. My parents were to meet her parents and... well... I don't think anyone knew what to really expect, but happily the shit didn't hit the fan. I think the cultural differences and language barrier actually helped the situation, though it probably did make people feel more awkward than they otherwise would have felt.  <read more>

Hanbok and Suit Shopping
Now that our parents had met, it was time to go suit and Hanbok shopping. Jihyeon's parents had spent some time investigating good Hanbok and suit tailors in Iksan so we jumped on the KTX to meet up with them. <read more>

Wedding Ring Shopping
A couple of weeks ago Jihyeon and I traveled to Seoul to go wedding ring shopping. Shopping for jewelry can be intimidating and stressful for a man when he can speak the language, let alone in a different country dealing with potentially shady sales people that for all I know could pack up shop a week from now and be gone (with my money). <read more>

Professional Photo Shoot
In Korea it is normal for couples to go to a photography studio to get a bunch of professional photos taken a couple of months before actually getting married. These photos are then used to send out e-invitations to friends and family (in addition to physical wedding invitation cards). <read more>

Breaking The Basket Ceremony (함받기)
Traditionally, before the wedding, the groom's family would send presents to the bride and her family in a box called a Ham. Additionally, the Hamjinabi (person who delivered the Ham) and a small group of close friends of the groom would also deliver a pot of Bongch'i Deok (red bean rice cake) from the groom's family. The brides family would have a small party for the group, offering them food and drink for their efforts. The ceremony of delivering the Ham has evolved into a major event for friends of the groom, with the bearers "selling" the contents of the Ham to the bride's parents. In recent years the groups have become very boisterous and demanded large sums of money... which is then promptly spent on alcohol. <read more>

Wedding Gifts In Korea 
In Korea there is  vicious cycle in place that throws everything out of whack and was a source of culture shock for me. Part of the gift money will go to the parents so they can recoup all of the gift money they have been forced to shell out over years of attending other peoples weddings. <read more>

Night Before The Wedding
The night before the wedding I traveled to Iksan to meet up with the visitors that had traveled all the way from Australia and have dinner with them at Jihyeon's parents home. My afternoon classes had been cancelled so the school let me leave early to give me time to relax and prepare for the wedding. <read more>

Wedding Day 
So the big day finally arrived. If you had of told me 28 months ago that I'd be getting married in Korea, I would have laughed and advised you to seek professional help. <read more>

Thank You For Coming
In Australia (and I am guessing other western countries) there is a tradition to give people a small gift called a "favor" when they attend your wedding. These are normally given out at the reception after the wedding. As it turns out, in Korea they have a similar custom. Yesterday.... <read more>

As they say, better late than never. We finally went on our honeymoon after getting married in November 2013. Our destination? The Maldives ^^, or to be more specific the Centara Ras Fushi Resort which is a short 20 minute boat ride from the Male airport.... <read more>

Registering Your Marriage
We got married in November last year, but were a little slack in registering our marriage with the Korean government because it required me visiting the Australian Embassy in Seoul. To register a marriage between an Australian and a Korean you need a few things... <read more>

Friday, January 17, 2014

Help the Philippines, free hugs and Korean TV stars

Today Heidi, another EPIK teacher I met at orientation, organised a fund raiser to help the Philippine which, if you have been living under a rock for the last year like me, was smashed by a Typhoon late last year. Heidi rallied her English camp students and turned them into a well oiled fund raising machine. They made various chocolate snacks that they were selling for 1000 won ($1) each and had a couple of games you could take part in. Those that know me well will know that I'm a tight ass when it comes to spending money. Bravo to Heidi and her high school girls for convincing me to part with my hard earned cash. 

When we arrived Heidi was ready and waiting with a big smile and a sign saying "Free Hug". 

They were selling cookie dough truffle pops, caramel dipped pretzel rods...

Marshmallow rice krispie treats

Oreo truffles 

and more! 

After buying a few snacks, I tried my hand at the games. All those years of playing darts on my lunch break at Pakton helped, but not enough to win any prizes at the first game :( .

Next up was speed quiz. This game required two people, so lucky I brought my wife! Jihyeon was a little scared to play but I wasn't going to take no for an answer. We scored 12 points and won a couple of marsh mellows^^. 

It was then time to say goodbye and move onto the next attraction. 

Just a stones throw from where Heidi had set up her fund raiser was a Korean TV star signing autographs. It was Min Do Hee (도희), one of Jihyeon's favourite actors from the Korean TV show, reply 1994 (응답하라 1994)

As you can see there were a lot of people there taking photos and Jihyeon was having trouble seeing, so to the sound of gasps from Korean girls in the crowd I lifted her up above everyone else so she could see. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Korean Wedding Cultural Differences

Here is a summary of the main differences between getting engaged and married in Korea and Australia. Customs are changing and traditions are fading in both Korea and Australia, but I am going focus on the main stream cultural differences between the two countries. 

Will you marry me?
Before you pop this question in Korea you should have arranged an "official" meeting with her father to basically get his OK on your relationship with his daughter and give him the opportunity to ask you some big questions (you can read my blog post <here>). Traditionally in Korea the boyfriend and the girlfriend won't meet their respective parents unless things get to ultra serious (i.e. serious discussion of marriage). I upset the apple cart a little when dating my girlfriend (now wife). I met him before orgianizing an "official" meeting and committing to marrying his daughter. He never treated me badly, but he was very stanoffish and not really that friendly. All that changed after I committed to marrying his daughter. 

In Australia on the other hand things are a lot different. It is not unusual for people to meet their partners parents at the very early stages of their dating relationship and the days of having to get the fathers permission to marry his daughter are largely gone. 

The engagement ring.
Normally in Korea, there is no engagement ring. They have what is called "couple rings". I did a blog post about this a while back, which you can find <here>

Korean couple ring or Korean engagement ring

In Australia on the other hand there is an engagement ring, and the man is often under a lot of pressure (thanks to successful marketing campaigns by the diamond industry) to spend big, really big, on a diamond ring.

Engagement party
Do Koreans have engagement parties? They kind of do, but they don't. A couple might go out for dinner with their closest friends, but that's about it. 

Korean engagement party

Korean engagement party

Korean engagement party

Korean engagement party

In Australia engagement parties can be huge. Normally the people who would be invited to the wedding would be invited to the engagement party as you might expect. But people who don't make the wedding cut are also invited to engagement parties. This can make for quite a large celebration. 

Best man and maid of honor. 
Best men and maid's of honor don't exist in Korea. Many of the jobs that these two people would do are filled by staff at the wedding hall on the big day. 

In Australia there is a best man and maid of honor (a very good friend of the groom and the bride respectively) who's job it is to do things like organize the bucks/hens night and help the couple get ready on the wedding day. 

Groomsmen and bridesmaids.
Again, these don't exist in Korea and the jobs fall to the staff at the wedding hall. 

In Australia there is normally an equal number of groomsmen and bridesmaids and they too will assist on the big day and help things to go smoothly. 

Bucks and hen night. 
This is an interesting tradition that has not been picked up by Korea. Not all bucks nights are the same, but they are often used as a (bad) excuse for guys to get drunk and do things the otherwise would not normally do. As with bucks nights, not all hen nights are the same either. Some are wild, while others focus on just having a really girly time together and doing what women love to do... talk. 
Drinking too much soju in Korea

Wedding Gifts
In Australia this is fairly straight forward. Once upon a time (back in the olden days... lol) people got married very young and moved out of home. They had nothing to furnish their house, so people would give things the couple would need for their home. These days, since people get married much later in life, they often have everything they need. Guests will commonly now give gifts of money to the newly wed couple. Typically gusts would give a gift of between $50 and $100, and family will often give more (between $200 and $300). The big cultural difference here is that in Australia the newly wed couple get ALL the gifts and money. 

In Korea there is  vicious cycle in place that throws everything out of whack and was a source of culture shock for me. Part of the gift money will go to the parents so they can recoup all of the gift money they have been forced to shell out over years of attending other peoples weddings. 

Korean wedding gift money

Typically only gift money from close friends will go to the happy couple. In Korea status is important, and one way for a person to improve their status (and show their success) is to invite lots of people to their wedding (or the wedding of their children). The guests will then invite anyone who's wedding they ever attended to their own wedding to show how successful they are, while also getting their hard earned dollars back. You can see how it became a vicious cycle. The amount of gift money is also crucially important and you can actually upset people by giving too much money! Here are some basic guidelines.
  1. The amount of money given should be a multiple of 10. Giving an odd amount is actually seen as disrespectful. 
  2. If the amount of money is less than 100,000 won (~$100), then the first number should be an odd number. i.e. $30, $50, $70. 
  3. Don't give less than 30,000 won (~$30). This is the absolute minimum.
  4. 30,000 won - This is what you should give if you don't know the couple well and have been invited out of courtesy. 
  5. 50,000 won - This is what you should give if you know them well (maybe a work colleague), but you are not super close drinking buddies.
  6. 70,000 won - If you know them well and you socalise on a regular basis, but you are not best of best friends. 
  7. 100,000 won or more - This is for long term very good friends or best friends. If you fall into this category you will know what is an appropriate amount to give.
  8. A house - If you are the parents of the groom, traditionally (and even in modern Korea) you are expected to give the couple a house/apartment. You also should buy gifts for the bride and her parents (jewelry, clothes (see pictures below), etc).
  9. Furnishings for the house. - If you are the parents of the bride, you will have to go shopping with your daughter and let her pick out all the stuff to furnish your house. You also should buy gifts for the groom and his parents (jewlery, clothes (see pictures below), etc). 
traditional Korean Hanbok shopping in Iksan city South Korea

traditional Korean Hanbok shopping in Iksan city South Korea

traditional Korean Hanbok shopping in Iksan city South Korea - selecting colours and style

traditional Korean Hanbok shopping in Iksan city South Korea - selecting colours and style

traditional Korean Hanbok shopping in Iksan city South Korea - selecting colours and style

Who pays for the wedding
In Australia this depends on the financial situation of each family, but increasingly it is common for the couple to pay for their own wedding with parents chipping in to help with the cost of the food and drinks. 

I read that Korean parents see paying for their child's wedding as their final duty as a parents, but I think this custom is changing to be more in line with what it is in Australia. For my wife and I we payed for the service, photos and honeymoon while the food and drinks were paid for by my wife's parents. When we return to Australia and renew our vows, my parents will cover the cost of the food and drink there. 

Buying a wedding dress

In Australia brides will buy their wedding dress and spend thousands of dollars on it. In Korea on the other hand, the bride rents the wedding dress and will sometimes wear 3 different wedding dresses in total! Before getting married in Korea you go for pre-wedding photos in a professional photo studio. While there they will take a bunch of happy snaps while both the bride and groom change into a bunch of different outfits. 

Korean wedding dress shopping

When to put on the wedding ring
In Australia once the I do's are done, just before they kiss they will put the wedding rings on each other's fingers. In Korea (and this is something I was really surprised by) we put our wedding rings on BEFORE the ceremony even started. Weird.

Korean wedding ring - not a couple ring

EDIT: Actually. I was just told by my wife that we were meant to put the rings on during the ceremony, but there was confusion and the wedding hall and the staff were new and didn't know what we were meant to do.... WTF. 바보 (stupid). Talk about armature hour....

The kiss

After the rings are on the finger, in Australia you will seal the deal with a kiss in front of everyone. Not so in Korea. The ceremony was over and we had walked down the aisle to the back of the hall before I realised we had missed the kiss. What the hell! I stopped my wife and kissed her in front of everyone. Wooo. Go Philby! 

Korean wedding bride and groom kiss

Arriving at the wedding
In Australia the bride will arrive in a expensive luxury or history car before walking down the aisle. No time for that in Korea! The couple will arrive at the wedding hall long before the wedding is scheduled to start to get their hair done and dressed and then wait patiently for their turn while another 2 or 3 couples are married before them. Just before the wedding ceremony the happy couple are busy getting photos taken with their guests. They then stand at the end of the aisle and walk down. Mothers hand in hand first, then the groom, then the bride and her father. 
Korean wedding day

Korean wedding day

Seeing each other
There is a silly superstition in western countries that letting the groom see the bride before the wedding is bad luck. Not the case in Korea. I spent about 4 hours with Jihyeon before we got married. We arrived at the wedding hall early in the morning had our hair done, got dressed, and then took a bunch of photos together. 

Korean wedding day

Who walks down the aisle?
In Australia often the first people to walk down the aisle will be flower girls, who throw flowers for the bride (escorted by her father) to walk on as she goes down the aisle. 

In Korea first the mothers will walk down the aisle and light candles at the front, then the groom will walk down, then finally the bride will be escorted down the aisle with her father. 

Korean wedding day - walking down the aisle

Korean wedding day - walking down the aisle

Korean wedding day - walking down the aisle

Traditional ceremony
After the main event in Korea, many couples choose to have a traditional ceremony in a private room. This is typically a family only event. You can read more about the traditional ceremony <here>.

Traditional Korean wedding ceremony

Traditional Korean wedding ceremony

In Australia after the wedding ceremony, invited guests will move to a new location (sometimes up to 30 minutes drive away) to eat a formal 3 course meal and spend the evening socializing with other guests and dancing. 

In Korea on the other hand, many people will skip the wedding ceremony and go straight to eating the meal. At the wedding hall there will be a large dining hall with a large buffet of food. You load up your plate (while jostling with guests from other weddings in the same building) and then try your luck at finding an empty table to sit at. It's very bali bali (빨리 빨리), meaning quick quick. If you play your cards right, you can show your face, greet the bride and groom, pay your gift money, eat a meal and be out in under 30 minutes.

Korean wedding reception

Korean wedding reception - food

Other oddities
In Korea is is quite common for one of the couples friends to serenade them with a song in front of everyone. 

Also, it is common for the couples friends to dare them to do or say something silly in front of all the guests once the ceremony is done. For example, at my wedding they dared me to do push-ups while saying I love my wife. Don't believe me? Here is the photographic evidence.

Korean wedding strange tradition