Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Finding Seoul in K-town

In October 2010, I visited South Korea for the first time. It was all because a beloved friend of mine, Tae, decided to buy a one-way ticket to Korea. Like me, he's an aspiring writer searching for his next big break. Unlike me, Tae had the balls to pick up everything (literally his life fit into two large suitcases!) and left the country.

He followed his wanderlust and left New York for distant lands bathed by the Pacific Ocean. At first, his departure left me devastated. I felt like a broken-hearted teeny bopper. After all, he was one of my first friends in New York.  We enjoyed the same East Village hotspots and frequently spent many blurry nights laughing in each other's company. Since Tae worked both at David Chang's Momofuku Ssam Bar and the underground speakeasy PDT, we always had a place to go for one more round. Life with Tae was always a party!

And, when we landed in Seoul, we celebrated two things: 1) our reunion with Tae and 2) my fiance, Daniel's 30th birthday!

Even though New York owns the reputation of the "city that never sleeps," Seoul is definitely a well-matched challenger. At, 4am the clubs and restaurants are still open. Cafes and coffee houses are packed with young, smoking Korean hipsters. And, the smells of delicious street food waft onto the streets from make-shift tents. The ajimas (older Korean women) call out to you as you pass by, peddling hot dogs on sticks, fried squid, and most importantly, beer!

The street food was so mesmerizing and delicious, that when we came back to New York, nothing would suffice. We realized that our NY standbys were actually sad substitutes for the real bounty that we tasted in Seoul. That is, until we happened upon the new Food Gallery on 32nd Street. Here the modern decor and the variety of different vendors gave us a taste of true Seoul food.  

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