Halloween Cookies, Lamb Skewers, and Hiking Mt. Dobong (도봉산)
Last Friday, Maricruz and I decided to bake Halloween-themed sugar cookies from scratch, and also decorate them (huge regret on the decorating!). All in all, it took us six and a half hours (including chilling the dough for an hour), of which, three hours were spent on decorating. We couldn’t get the right consistency for the frosting (how hard could it be… it was just sugar and milk) and the frosting on the first few cookies turned out pretty ugly. Oh, and did I mention that we had to use her oven, which, like mine, is tiny and also convection? Anyway, because we ran out of decorating ideas (or maybe because we wanted to show off our hangul), we ended up decorating a few with Korean words. Huge nerds, I know!
By the time we finished decorating the cookies and sort of cleaning up, it was already 9:30! Luckily, we have patient husbands, who waited for us to have dinner. By then, most of the restaurants downstairs were either closed or stopped seating. We settled for the one place that would take us- a “throw everything in a boiling pot” place. We literally had a pot that was filled with instant ramen, some beans, sliced up hotdog, cabbage, and Korean dumplings (mandu). The idea wasn’t very appealing, but it actually tasted pretty good.
On Saturday, Alex and I went on a “date night” to the Konkuk University area. It’s just three subway stops away and has a ton of Chinese restaurants. We picked a lamb skewer restaurant, and as soon as I sat down, I knew I was in Chinese food heaven… The lamb skewers were cooked in front of us, and the spices were completely authentic. We also had a side of REAL dumplings (I asked the waiter in Chinese if these were Chinese dumplings or the Korean imitations that are filled with vermicelli noodles). And the banchan (반찬) side dishes were also Chinese: salted and pickled radish, spicy turnip, and tofu skin. I’m so glad that we have a mini Chinatown so close to our apartment! Whenever I have cravings, I’m just a ten minute ride away!
Alex and I woke up early on Sunday to get ready for our hike on Dobongsan (도봉산). Dobongsan is a mountain within the Bukhansan National Park. We left our apartment building with a GSG’er, Elvira. At the base of the mountain, we met two of Elvira’s friends, and stocked up on water and rolls of kimbap (rolls of seaweed stuffed with rice, turnip, spam, egg). As we walked through stalls selling all sorts of hiking gear, Alex and I decided to each purchase a pair of hiking gloves (in case we need to use rope, and hey, they were 5,000 won each). Coupled with my new hiking boots that I purchased the night before, as well as my new dry fit shirt, the gloves added a really nice touch to my hiking ensemble. Now I looked like a real Korean hiker!
It was still fairly cool when we started our climb, but the sun started to come out when we were thirty minutes into our hike. Alex and Elvira’s friend Damon were both wearing shants, and they quickly zipped off the bottoms to make their pants into shorts (thanks Marcia!). Despite running a mile and a half around a nearby lake every other day, and having hiked three other mountains, Dobongsan was extremely tough! It was nonstop climbing until we reached a fork in the road. There was a sign showing a red path with a picture of a bear falling off a cliff, and a green path. Elvira and her two friends were adventurous and went up the red path (which didn’t even look like a path), while Alex and I took the green. Well, I’m glad we bought the gloves because we had to use a rope to climb up an almost-sheer cliff (it wasn’t that high but it was scary!). We quickly met up with others (red trail was scary but manageable) and climbed up to Uiam Peak together. The views were amazing! Since we were a little further from downtown Seoul, we had views of other mountains. Some of the leaves were beginning to turn color, so the mountains were dotted with orange and red.
The five of us sat down to have our kimbap and water while enjoying the amazing view. We saw a few groups of people drinking soju (a popular Korean hard liquor) and makgeolli (sweet rice wine), but we didn’t think it was a good idea since we needed all of our concentration to hike down! The first obstacle was going down the almost-sheer cliff. On the descending side, there was a lose rope that you were supposed to use to repel/lower yourself down the cliff. Somehow, even I managed to get down! We then took a different route down the mountain, passing by streams and people sitting leisurely with their feet in the water. It felt like a long time, but we finally reached the base of the mountain, three hours after starting our hike. We sat down at one of the numerous food stalls along the street, and shared a seafood pancake and beer. The pancake was filled with squid and scallions and fried in a batter. It was so filling that we all wanted to take a nap! On the walk to the subway station, I couldn’t resist the smell, and bought a few red bean treats (a “pie” filled with red bean paste, in the shape of a fish). The guy making the treats was essentially using a fish-shaped waffle maker. He’d fill each pocket with batter, red bean paste, and then cover with more batter. Then he’d close the lid, wait a few minutes, and out came the treats. They were piping hot and DELICIOUS!
The Dobongsan hike has been my favorite so far, because the weather was perfect, the leaves were changing color, and the views were amazing! Who knows, maybe Korea will turn Alex and me into hikers! I’m already halfway there with the boots and the gloves. Perhaps the next addition will be hiking sticks? 🙂