Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Eat 'em all, let God sort them out

It is without doubt the most trite of subjects concerning Korea but the eating of dogs refuses to go away. It will forever be associated with Korea and most of the time in a negative light. I have tried it several times, it isn't bad. Tastes like inferior quality lamb to me. It is a little on the expensive side too but it does make me very good at taekwondo, or so my teacher says.

I think there are 3 kinds of attitudes to dog that I have experienced. The outright rage and disgust of eating a sentient, friendly, loyal and beautiful animal, most of these people are eating some kind of meat product that was slaughtered in the most disgusting of conditions when they say this mind you, spitting tiny fragments of battery farmed chicken over me, while simultaneously swearing on the Bible that Koreans eat dog 3 times a day without fail, that every restaurant in the country sells dog meat and that you can in fact go into any pet shop and buy a dog to take home, in a doggy bag perhaps.

The next kind are the newcomers to Korea, usually open and wise enough not believe these silly rumours. They see no dogs for sale in their local home plus and no pictures of dogs wrapped in kim in their local kimbap place. They do see those shitty little 'tea cup' dogs in a lot of handbags though and so they report home that, contrary to stereotypes in their home country, Koreans in fact don't eat dog at all!

Then there are the rest, the people who can at least read Korean, never mind speak enough of the language to notice that while restaurants selling dog meat don't litter the streets, they are far from hidden. A little bit of time invested in learning to read Korean pays off in many ways, one of which is being able to read that dog meat restaurants are somewhere between everywhere and nowhere.

Maybe we should all go out and eat a dog anyway because then we can drive our gas guzzling SUVs around guilt free, as this link proves!

If only this guy had known. Imagine the defence solicitor putting that to the jury.

Click here for more info about where else they eat dog meat. You didn't think it was just Korea did you?

This video shows that dog meat has been eaten in the UK very recently too.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Stealing from Jacko

I received this very interesting email recently and I am considering taking the guy up on his offer, after all there seems to be no risk to me whatsoever.

"Michael Jackson, born in 1958 and died on 25 June 2009, American singer, dancer, and songwriter. Jackson is one of the bestselling popular music artists in history that worth over $11 Billions before he died. Michael got some of his best advice from me JOHN G. BRANCA his entertainment lawyer.

This is not a scam and no joke, while in United Kingdom before Michael? death; he deposited an ELECTRONIC CARD which contains all his secret financial record with Parcel Force Courier Company in United Kingdom, during the (O2 Arena Show) in London.

My aim of contacting you is to present you to Parcel Force Courier Company to Retrieve the ELECTRONIC CARD, because your last name match with the Courier Company details as the beneficiary according to Michael last will.

Michael has a secret Online Bank account in Africa that value the sum of $83,800,000. These funds can be transfer online to any bank account, if and only if we have the login information, account number etc. This require info are inside the ELECTRONIC CARD I ask you retrieve from Parcel Force Courier Company, I am the only person that knows about this.

Regarding the money $83,800,000, the deal is 60% for me and 40% for you, best and final office. This is a limited one time only offer that you can? afford to pass up. Get back to me with the below information.

Best Regards
John G. Branca
Late Michael Jackson entertainment lawyer"

A pissed off and back from the dead Jacko

Thursday, 8 October 2009

October - The Eighth Month

Alexander Pope, in a letter to John Gay, dated October 6th, 1727 said "Blessed is the man who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed." On that note I ask that you take Pope's advice and expect nothing at all from this article lest you run the risk of being bitterly disappointed at the end, after all it is really just a drawn out list.

From today, if you are indeed reading this on the first day of October, you will have 91 days remaining of 2009 to fulfill all those promises you made to yourself last New Year's Eve. 91 days to clear the decks of old promises before 2010 descends and compels you to make even more promises, one of which will surely be to fulfil your New Year's resolutions.

The eighth month in the old Roman calendar, hence 'octo', October has a very interesting history, a few interesting things happened and a few more interesting things will happen. People died and people were born, things were bombed and estranged citizens were reunited.

Below is just the tiniest glimpse of what went on during this month throughout history and a little taste of what might be going on this very month somewhere in the world.

The first thing that comes to a lot of people's minds, in the West at least, during October is Halloween. Samhain, the Gaelic festival that appears to have influenced the secular customs now connected with Halloween, is a festival held at the end of the harvest season in Gaelic and Brythonic cultures. The Welsh equivalent of this holiday is called Nos Calan Gaeaf and marks the beginning of the dark half of the year and it officially begins at sunset on the 31st.

Just as spooky and probably more creepy is the anniversary of the opening of Walt Disney World near Orlando on the 1st of October, 1971. Whilst on the subject of creepy it is worth mentioning that it was on the same day in 1957 that the phrase "In God We Trust" first appeared on paper currency in the U.S.A.

Staying with creepy for just a while longer we find that on the 3rd of this spooky month in 1990, East and West Germany formally reunited, thanks, mainly to one man, The Hoff. At a concert the previous New Year's Eve, to celebrate his part in bringing the Berlin Wall down, Hoff was "Looking for Freedom" when someone threw a bottle at him, narrowly missing his tightly permed head, check it out on YouTube.

The PRC was founded on the 1st of October and every year they celebrate National Day with fireworks and all kinds of fun and state organised festivities. The day after this is International Day of Non-Violence, which is sort of funny, in a sad way. It's also Gandhi's birthday.

Japanese Shinkansen trains made their technological entrance during October, there was a thriller in Manila and an 84 year old baseball record was broken by Ichiro Suzuki. The world's first postcards were sent, Rock Hudson died and John Lennon was born.

The most famous birth for Koreans is of course that of their nation. October 3rd is foundation day, the day when a bear turned into a woman, made love to a God and had a baby that decided to make this glorious country we (readers and writers of Groove) call home, or something like that. Other Korean births include Kim Ki-young, born on the 1st in Seoul during the Japanese occupation but raised in Pyongyang, Kim spent time in Japan where he became interested in theater and cinema. He made propaganda films for the United States Information Service during the Korean War and in 1955 he used discarded American equipment to produce his first two films. A year before his death in a house fire in 1998 the Pusan International Film Festival screened a retrospective of his work.

This is also Armed Forces Day in Korea and is celebrated on the day that South-Korean forces broke through the 38th parallel in 1950 during the Korean War. It is not a national holiday or public day off (unfortunately), but you will probably see a few national flags about.

Speaking of those up North, October 2nd 2007 was the day when President Roh Moo-hyun walked across the Military Demarcation Line into North Korea on his way to the second Inter-Korean Summit, an act that seems unlikely to be repeated. And exactly one year later in 2008, actress Choi Jin-sil was found dead, apparently because of negative comments by Korean netizens and rumours regarding her lending money to Ahn Jae-hwan.

Bored yet? No. Then I'll carry on.

Hangeul day, on the 9th of October, coincides with the 3rd anniversary of the North announcing that they had successfully conducted their first nuclear weapons test. The following day there will be fireworks in the ROC (Republic of China), commonly referred to as Taiwan, to celebrate Double Ten day, which celebrates the start of the Wuchang Uprising of October 10, 1911, which in turn led to the collapse of the Qing Dynasty in China and establishment of the Republic of China.

Seeing as there are quite a few Americans in Korea, here are a few dates for them (or you, if you're American). Columbus Day, which is celebrated by most, but not all apparently, of the United States is the second Monday of October. A lot of hyphenated Americans have October as their month of national awareness, whatever that means, including Polish-Americans, Italian-Americans, the Hispanics and the German-Americans.

Finally a quick round-up of a few other important or interesting events during the month. The UN was born after Japan surrendered, Dwight Eisenhower pledges to end the Korean war as part of his campaign to become president and both Rosa Parks and Gene Roddenberry died.

But don't despair, not everyone died. Welsh poet Dylan Thomas was born in Swansea in 1914 and you can do your part to keep the doctor away by eating an apple on the 21st as it is Apple Day! On the second Monday of the month it is both Health and Sports Day in Japan and Thanksgiving in Canada, World Food Day is on the 16th and the entire month is given over to World Blindness Day.

There are a few festivals in Korea during October but given the over reaction already experienced with regard to swine flu there is little point in mentioning them as they will all probably have been cancelled by the time you read this but here they are anyway.

  • The 14th Pusan International Film Festival

  • Jinju Namgang Yudeung (Lantern) Festival

  • Jeonju International Mime Festival

  • Namdo Food Festival

  • Jarasum International Jazz Festival

  • Seoul Yangnyeongsi Herb Medicine Culture Festival

Monday, 5 October 2009

Fish 'n' Chips - Korean Style

Recently I cooked fish and chips for just over 100 kids. We, the 3 British native teachers at my school, were granted the extraordinary opportunity of organising an event day, which translates as a day off teaching formal classes. My fellow Brits and I decided that it would be silly to pass up an opportunity to dispel a few commonly held misconceptions about Britain, like we are American. After mere minutes of thinking the idea came to us. Fish 'n' Chips. What could be more British? Well lots of things actually but we are going for the easily digested stereotypes and not the realities of what being British actually means, for the stereotypes are still closer to the realities than the perceived stereotypes.

So Fish 'n' Chips it was, along with a small quiz about the constituent parts of the UK (maybe I will endeavour to explain what the difference between the UK and Great Britain is) and some flag making and waving. The main labour, a labour of love would be stretching it, was however to be the fish and chips.

A few pieces of fish, some batter and some chips (Americans read 'thick fries'),
simples. The best batters have beer in them, which is out for the kiddies, even though I have never heard of kids at home getting drunk from fish and chips, but the director would surely disapprove and she is paying so a delicious, crispy alternative would have to be found. And the 'bit of fish' has to be of a certain type, not too watery, not too expensive. It was never going to be like home but if we are to introduce fish and chips to these foreign palates (I love calling Koreans foreigners!) then it must be as good as we can make it, hence this post.

I spent some time researching what fish might be best to use and then tried to accurately translate Korean terms for these fish and decide if they are considered suitable for battering, after all I don't want the taste to be wildly off because that would defeat the point of the day and I don't want a fish that is unsuitable, lest if fall apart in the oil.

So, from here on in it might get a bit technical, a bit Latin with fish family names and the like but I think, with a bit of logical thinking and a smattering of faith, I might have found one or two fish that are as close to what might be used in a 'chippy' or 'Fish shop', or even 'Fishy' if you are Northern England, back home.

A common white fish in Korea is 명태, and can often be bought in ka-maecks to accompany beer. In its dried form it is called 황태. This is Alaska Pollock, it is a member of the Gadidae family, the same family as cod which means that it may be a suitable alternative to cod, which is out for cost reasons, especially when you are spending your director's money. Alaska Pollock is found in and around Alaska and the Bearing Sea and is sometimes called 생태, which means 'Fresh Pollock'

On a Koreabridge forum discussion, Dave, of Dave's Fish and Chips in Busan said that he uses whiting as he finds Pollock too watery. The problem is that the names 'Whiting' and 'Pollock' can both refer to more than one fish, a multitude of fish if you will. Pollock usually refers to fish of the Pollachius genus, of which Alaska Pollock is not actually a member, that is a whole other genus. Therefore I conclude, by a stretch of the imagination and that logic I mentioned earlier, that the Pollock that Dave is referring to is Alaska Pollock, as it is very common in the waters not too far from Korea and Pollock of the Pollachius genus has been used back home as a suitable alternative to cod in fish and chips, meaning that it probably isn't too watery. So now I will work on the basis that I know what Dave doesn't use and move on to what he does, or might use.

Whiting, the fish which Dave uses for his very nice fish and chips, unfortunately has the same complicated, naming system as Pollock and can also refer to more than one fish of more than one family. The fish originally known as whiting, in English that is, is in the Gadidae family, remember that? The cod family, so that's a good start. But Whiting can also refer to smelt-whitings, which are a whole other kettle Smelt-whitings usually have an adjective before 'whiting' to identify them as smelts and from the family Sillaginidae, and not the other kind, the cod like whitings from the Gadidae family. Keeping up?

Cod whitings, which is how I shall refer to the whiting from the family Gadidae, are typically found in the temperate waters of the northern hemisphere but smelt whiting inhabit a wide region covering much of the Indo-Pacific, from the west coast of Africa to Japan and south to Australia. Japanese whiting (Sillago Japonica) was first recorded in Japan in 1843 but has subsequently been found in Korea. In Korea the Japanese whiting is known is known as 청보리멸 and is found is spades around the south coast of Korea. So the 2 fish that Dave mentions, Pollock and Whiting are more than likely the Alaska Pollock and the Japanese Whiting, due to the fact that they are more common in Korea by virtue of their location and because I would imagine Dave can't really afford to buy expensive fish to batter for you and I. If I am correct in all these assumptions, which I may well not be, then Dave is recommending the Japanese Whiting over the Alaska Pollock.

And it is no surprise actually. The Japanese whiting is revered, in Tokyo particularly, as being THE fish to tempura. Known as Kisu in Japan it is regularly enjoyed in batter by many drunken Japanese businessmen.

I think this ousts the Alaska Pollock as my main contender for my very first, home made fish and chips a la Korea. Which would be great if I weren't constrained by both time and budget. My local Home Plus stocks 700 gram bags of Alaska Pollock for around 7,000 won and even though I know the other fish will be better, I went with the Pollock, Alaska Pollock that is. To the refined palates of the Brits in work the Pollock did indeed turn out to be too watery and even though the beer less batter, researched and made by my girlfriend, was quite delightful, the fish and chips were not exactly as home, a little bit pappy with no real texture inside the crispy batter. The real litmus test was the teachers and kids in school who devoured every mouthful, the teachers even rationing the fish and chips towards the end of the day so they had enough for themselves, which made me none too happy when , after seeing them stuff their faces, I saw the state of my cooker.

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