Korean eating. Lots of little plates of pickled things, and more.

Dinner with fellow travelers. So many little plates. (Banchan) Three of us chose octopus, and one had beef.

We are not foodies. We don’t seek out the ‘of the moment’ restaurants or cooking trends. But we do love to eat, and to find small mom and pop places to spend our money. When we’re in travel mode, or bicycle touring, we eat out just about every night. And afternoon. Mornings too, if the hotel doesn’t have breakfast available. So that’s a lot of searching for and sitting down to meals.

Our very first lunch in Korea. A dumpling place in the Insadong neighborhood of Seoul. Rich had eaten here on a business trip layover exactly ten years before.
Cheryl very happy to be enjoying her first glass of white wine in the Ikseon-dong neighborhood of Seoul.
Rich enjoying a craft beer and a skillet of Oven Cheese Tteokbokki (오븐치즈떡볶이).

Tteokbokki is chewy rice cakes cooked in a red, spicy broth. This version at a place called Hang Out in the charming Ikeseon-dong area, a maze of little streets with so many different shops and restaurants, was more of a beer snack meal than the smaller street vendor versions we saw later on. This version had Sundae sausage and cheese as well as the rice cakes.

A stroll through the Gwangjang market to try Mung Bean Bindaetteok (녹두빈대떡).
This snack turned out to be a big serving. The small dish is pickled celery, we think. And kimchi came out after Rich, a kimchi fan, asked for it.

After a visit to Dongdaemun Design Plaza, the amazing museum complex designed by architect Zaha Hadid, which is well worth a visit, we went over to the Gwangjang Market to walk around and ogle the food on offer.

Had we not been full of mung bean pancakes I would have loved to try this pumpkin soup.
We quickly got a bit overwhelmed in the market.
Fish cakes, Korean glass noodles – Japchae is the dish of stir fried noodles – Tteokbokki, the spicy rice cakes, and the long sausages are Sundae: made with pork intestines stuffed with glass noodles, coagulated pig blood and vegetables, all steamed together.

You know how people like to talk about getting out of your comfort zone? Food is a fast and easy way to do that. I don’t consider myself an adventurous eater, Rich is willing to try anything but I’m a lot more picky, or cautious. And, I don’t like seafood all that much. I’ll happily have sushi or sashimi, but most cooked seafood gets a pass when I’m choosing my meal. However, once we got bicycling on our trip from Seoul to Busan, I really did have to eat what we could get. Whether it be from the ubiquitous convenience stores, or at a restaurant.

Bibimbap, or mixed rice dish. Sometimes in a hot stone bowl (dolsot), or mine in a tin bowl, vegetables and an egg. We quickly learned that not everyone finishes the little dishes of pickled vegetables and fish.
This little street is known as a Pocha, short for Pojang-macha, a restaurant or street that serves Korean comfort food. It’s where we had the bibimbap in the previous photo.
Our first night on our bike tour we had sushi and noodles. And yes, that stain on my placemat is the splash from when I dropped a piece of sushi in the soy sauce.
Chocolate milk. A great energy drink while cycling.
My favorite bike touring lunch, a picnic. This was taken right before we realized we were sharing our bench with spiders.
This is not a typical dinner scene on our bike ride, Rich got the beef bulgogi set meal, I got pasta carbonara. Our hotel offered Korean and Western food. Usually it’s all Korean food.

Bike touring lets us see a country in detail, and forces us to figure out how to feed ourselves. Korean convenience stores are easy to find, and although I prefer Japanese convenience stores, we did well finding things that appealed to us.

A well placed picnic gazebo for elevenses. Packaged pastries and drinks from a convenience store.
Caffeine choices.
Dumpling lunch. A happy stop. Kimchi, spicy bbq, and meat dumplings. For the record the spicy bbq and kimchi were great, meat ones were a bit boring and bland.

So, how about when the food finding is not so easy. Or not so successful? Or you get to town kind of late and not much is open? Then it’s chicken and beer places. We had to resort to chicken and beer places twice, on long days. They are known as Chimaek. From chikin ‘fried chicken’, and maekju ‘beer’.

This was actually quite good after a day cycling. Chicken nuggets, noodles, rice cakes, a spicy sweet sauce, and leeks on top. The dish to the right was pickled jicama, we think. Or maybe radishes.
It’s a good day when you discover that this energy bar from 7-11 is really tasty. And they had a buy 2 get 3 special. The clerks in the 7-11s were very good at making sure you didn’t miss a special offer.
At our second Chimaek restaurant, we failed to snap a picture of the Cheeto orange chicken, but this salad with ice cream on top was not as bad as you would think. Yes, that’s corn and tomatoes, iceberg lettuce and red onions. Under the ice cream.

There was an evening when we pulled into town on our bikes, in Gumi, and planned on eating at the food court of a large grocery store chain, E-Mart. Food courts in Korea are good. We were looking forward to it. We checked in to our nice hotel, unpacked, showered, and strolled over with plenty of time for dinner. It was closed. There was a mysterious local holiday that no one but the management of the E-Mart seemed to know about, or care about. So, grumbling and hangry, we headed back to our hotel, and then spotted the sports team from the hotel lobby at a small place down the block and went in.

A small restaurant run by one lady, who does one thing. We ordered the one thing for two. Out came the small dishes of pickled things. Out came a burner.
And out came the bubbling Sundae Jungol hot pot. Remember, Sundae are the sausages, the hot pot also has pork intestines and vegetables in a spicy broth. It was quite good.

Once we reached Busan and were off the bikes and in a city it was easier to search out restaurants and plan ahead. While cycle touring you are often at the mercy of how far you were able to ride, and what time you get to town, and how much energy you have to find and walk to a restaurant. But with a few days to explore you can find what you actually want. Rich was happy to find that Korea has had a renaissance of craft beer brewing in the past decade or so.

Wildcat Brewing in Busan.
Galmegi Brewing in Busan.
Amazing Brewing Company in Seoul. Don’t let the same shirt fool you into thinking this was one night, it was three different nights with a limited wardrobe.
That face says “It’s not wine”. But it was good.

Korean food is quite varied. Most people know Korean BBQ and bibimbap, but there is a lot more to discover.

A Mexican restaurant in Busan. Grilled shrimp tacos.
Not bad. A bit too sweet, but a nice diversion.
I like a lunch that comes with scissors to cut your noodles. I did this all wrong. One of the little bottles was something for declumping the glass noodles. Oh well, press on. At the Busan train station.
Seomyeon Market food street, Busan. Tempura.
And right across the street, dumplings.
Beef bulgogi dolsot bibimbap. Quick, break that egg yolk, but don’t disturb the rice while it crackles against the hot stone pot and gets crispy and brown.

We took the train from Busan to Seoul and stayed for a week in an apartment which meant we could cook our own meals. As much as we enjoy eating new foods, it gets stressful and tiring to find restaurants, translate menus, and constantly try to figure out what goes with what – does this go in here or do you dump this into there? Our first lunch in our apartment after a visit to the big E-Mart grocery store was grilled cheese sandwiches.

Last dinner in Busan. Rice and pork soup. Made in huge vats, long boiled in the little street in front of the restaurant. The little bowl of pink is tiny salted shrimp, which you add to the soup, along with garlic chives and minced sauce.

Our apartment in Seoul for our last week in Korea was out in a neighborhood. While at first glance during the walk from the Jungnang metro station it appeared to be a lot of tire shops, new apartment buildings, and little clothing stores, the small back streets proved to be full of restaurants and places to buy groceries. It was easy to wander around and pick a place a for dinner.

We translated the sign to read Ssambap, This means things, rice, meat, vegetables, and sauce wrapped in a variety of leaves.
The plate of leaves at the left include lettuce, Korean perilla leaves, squash, bok choy, Napa cabbage, and cabbage leaves. The small round black dish is a freshwater snail and soybean paste stew.
My attempt at ssambap. That’s bulgogi beef on top, from the second round black dish in the table. Nice and spicy. I think a local would have a neater and tighter wrap. Think Korean burrito.

Seoul was fantastic for hiking, as we covered in the previous post, and it was also fantastic for simply walking into a restaurant and getting a delicious meal with very low stress or awkwardness. The owners were always nice and welcoming. They would help us out when we were obviously confused about how to proceed with our meal, and payment was always easy – just get up and walk to the cash register and tap your credit card. No tipping, and taxes already included. Another nice thing about walking up to pay is that you don’t feel guilty having left some of the little plates of pickled things. Our clean your plate mentality is hard to break.

Hiked off a mountain and into a tofu restaurant. The table of gentlemen behind Rich were having fun and that enticed us in.
Who’s excited by her tofu bibimbap with an egg on top?
The meal sets are another fun easy way to order. I got beef bulgogi (again), and Rich had ginger chicken soup.
The soup arrived bubbling away in its dolsot.

Korea is famous for its barbecue. That’s the one thing most travelers might know about Korean food – barbecue. And the many barbecue restaurants are super popular with locals. It’s a fun thing to do with a group of family or friends. The ubiquitous restaurants are easy to spot with the ventilation hoods over the table grill. We decided on our last night eating out in Seoul to finally try a barbecue place. We’re not really big meat eaters, but thankfully as with any meal in Korea there’s no worry about getting plenty of veggies.

Was it the cute pig on the sign that drew us in?
It was the perfect mix of some tables full, but not too crowded. That way we can watch how other diners proceed but not feel too overwhelmed. That’s a little dish of garlic in oil on our charcoal grill.
I was doing my best to be grill master of the meat we got. (We’re still not sure what it was, our translation app was a bit vague on this one.) The other dishes contain an egg soufflé/omelet, pickled daikon, Kimchi, leaves to wrap your bbq in, and loads of other veggies and seaweed.
The friendly waitress came over to give me a hand. I was being too careful, she dove in and tossed that meat around!
Belly full, happy to have a 15 minute walk to the subway station through little back streets.
We did willfully break some food norms. Koreans don’t walk and eat like we Americans do. Everyone else who got ice cream sat at the shop and ate it. We strolled.
One final river path walk in the morning before heading by train to the airport.

We had a great time in Korea. The people, the food, the biking, all of it exceeded our expectations. We are in San Francisco now, after a lovely family visit in Colorado, and we head back to France soon to pick up new touring bikes in Germany and then out for cycle touring!

The happy but jet lagged travelers in Colorado.

We came, we saw, we ate.

We weren’t expecting Turkish food to be so varied, and so good. Neither of us have much experience with Turkish food, it’s not something we have a lot of in San Francisco- or at least not that we know of or frequent. We knew it would be good, healthy, and fresh – or so we’d heard, but our expectations were absolutely exceeded. Some of you will love this post loaded with photos of food. Others may roll your eyes and imagine us doing the thing where no one can touch the food until someone properly snaps a cell phone photo. Yes. We did that. A lot.

Our first mezze plate in Istanbul. And our first meal of three at this restaurant, The New Hatay, where we also made new friends- hi Sue and Peter!
Our first documented restaurant cat. It started to feel as if you were never further than 2 meters from a cat in Istanbul, which I was fine with. Feeding the cats with tidbits from your meal was quite usual.

We don’t have photos of every meal, or every restaurant cat (or dog). And I can’t tell you what each dish was, but overall the food was fantastic. Were there awkward moments when we stumbled through a menu with no English translation with the help of Google translate – yes, many! Did we have waiters bring us English language menus that seemed to have no relation to the Turkish menu? Yes. There was some pointing at other table’s food. We muddled through and enjoyed a lot of good meals.

That chef’s special salad in front of me at the Daphne restaurant in Istanbul was a non translated item on the menu. Always a fun choice! It was perfect.

Most of the restaurant dining we did was outside, or by large open windows, but always, always, in the shade. It wasn’t too hot anywhere yet, but I am notoriously sun adverse.

No, that carton of popcorn was not our dinner, the glass of wine and giant beer were followed by hamburgers which I failed to document. This was in the Beşiktaş neighborhood of Istanbul which was noisy and crowded and so much fun.
Oh look! Here we are back at the New Hatay Restaurant for lunch. Why so many visits? It was on a lovely quiet side street, the staff were so friendly and helpful, and the food was good. Pide, which is described as Turkish pizza.

Our one complaint about Turkish dining is the cigarette smokers. Before we pick a table we carefully judge the prevailing wind direction and eyeball the other diners – who’s got cigarette packs on the table, who’s almost done eating and therefore likely to light up? We come from San Francisco which has some of the strictest rules in the world – no smoking at outside tables, no smoking near doors or windows – and it’s lovely to be able to live your life rarely inhaling secondhand smoke. In Turkey you are closer to a smoker than a cat at all times and you will usually be inhaling someone’s smoke. If no one is smoking near you right now, just wait a few minutes. Someone will light up.

Snack break in Izmir on our walk to the shopping mall. Fuse Ice Tea and pastries. In the shade.
Lunch at the mall! That’s Iskender Kebap, döner and tomato sauce on a bed of bread or potatoes. After it comes to your table a lady comes by with a huge pot of clarified butter and pours it on until you say stop.
Kebap in Selçuk.
Cat coveting kebap in Selçuk.
Two fantastic salads, lentil soup, yogurt with dill, cucumber, and garlic oil. Selçuk.
Still in Selçuk, chicken shish kebab for me, I think Rich had beef and mushrooms. The wait was long (we were warned) but the food was delicious.

We rented an apartment in Bodrum and cooked for ourselves for five nights, so no food photos from that town. We also had an apartment in Datça, with minimal cooking facilities though, so we had breakfast and lunch in, and dinner out.

Datça cafeteria style lunch on our first day there. It can be a bit intimidating when you have very little idea of what anything is, but one of the young servers walked us through the line of food. Zucchini fritters and Aubergine casserole, lentil soup, yogurt with dill and garlic oil, rice pilaf and something else yummy. More Fuse Ice Tea.
A small restaurant in Datça that serves only one thing, meatballs, or köfte. Easy ordering, they have one type each day. Two please.
Please please please, says the dog who woke up just as we were served.
One of the most delicious mezze courses. From the right, yogurt with spicy oil, celery heart with strawberries and I think pomegranate syrup, beets with mint and mulberries, red peppers in oil and other delicious things, and I cannot remember what the last dish was. The restaurant made five different mezze each day and you got what they had. All fantastic.
Rich stunned by size of the fresh hot lavash in Fethyie.
Restaurant cat stunned that I shared almost half of one chicken shish with them. Friends for life.
Simit elevenses in Fethiye mid bike ride. A simit is the circular bread which you could be forgiven for thinking is a bagel. Similar, and chewy delicious.

One thing we fantasized about during the long months of stay at home pandemic were hotel breakfasts. Remember that one, we’d say, in Kuala Lumpur? Or that one in Sweden with the fish? We like our breakfasts. A hotel breakfast buffet done well is a travel memory created.

This hotel in Antalya created breakfast memories, for sure.
The second morning we knew to go for a walk first and arrive very hungry.

Turkish breakfasts are huge. Loads of greens and veggies and olives, breads and cheeses, fruit, eggs in spicy tomato sauce. Dried fruit, nuts, yogurt, and as many cups of çay (black tea) as you can handle. And coffee of course, Turkish coffee.

Dinner at the pension at Lake Eğirdir. They would have three options on offer, all cooked fresh on site. With a fantastic view over the lake. Kofte for me and chicken for Rich. And again fantastic mezze. I am on the hunt for a cookbook of Turkish mezze written in English.
Hey, how about a dish that was developed to use up dry stale bread and leftovers bits of butchered animals? Another restaurant that does one thing only. Two please.
Tirit, broken open to reveal the yogurt and bread under the meat. Delicious. This was in Konya, a more traditional city. Oh, that little dish of peppers? Spicy. Very spicy.
Into every trip some comfort food must come. Pancakes in Izmir at a woman owned cafe whose owner also walked me over to her hairdresser for a haircut.

I hope this trip down food memory lane was as fun for you to browse as it was for us to eat. Any restaurant choosing squabbles we may have had are forgotten. Any long treks up and down streets considering and rejecting places to eat only helped sharpen our appetites. To all the restaurant cats I didn’t manage to share meals with, I’m sorry. I did my best.

Me? I got very few tidbits.
The happy well fed travelers on our last full day in Turkey. Overlooking the harbor of Izmir and thinking about lunch.

Seville

Of course I start with an orange tree.

I had heard that the street trees in Seville are orange trees, Seville orange trees, the bitter oranges used to make marmalade, but I hadn’t expected quite so many orange trees.

Oranges and moorish architecture.

How many oranges trees? Reports vary, 14,000? 25,000? They do well in the climate and provide shade year round. Important in the hot summer months.

Orange trees surround a peaceful plaza.

The city employs people to gather the dropped oranges, and recently has started using the fruit to create electricity through fermentation. Most Seville oranges grown in the region are exported to Britain to make marmalade. But there are plenty on the streets here for youngsters to use as impromptu footballs. The scent of blossoms must be lovely in the spring.

I did my best to help out, having marmalade with breakfast and buying chocolate covered orange peels.

We also did our best on the tapas front. Vegetarians look away. Wandering the narrow streets we looked for small places where we could sit outside or in a window and watch the street life. One spot took us 3 evenings to get into, it was very small. The first evening we went at 8pm – ha! Good luck. The second evening we tried at 6:30, nope – already full. Finally we got there at 5:50 and scored a table in a window.

Note the jamón legs hanging above the bar.
Jamón ibérico. Now hanging out on our table.
We did it, got into the tiny bar.

Mission accomplished and appetites calmed we headed out to a flamenco performance on International Flamenco Day. It was just an hour long and stunning.

They wisely forbade photos until the very end when they said photograph away. I imagine it would be super distracting to look out at the audience and see phones held aloft.

We walked. And walked. And walked the narrow streets. Some so small I could touch both walls, some wider with cars just squeezing through, tires squealing as they slowly hit the curbs.

No cars here.
Rich added for scale. The narrow street leading to our hotel.
I need to start asking for a different pose.
Ah, there we go. Jumping for joy in a car free street.
Lunch outside in the Triana district.
Happy travelers. Off to Morocco next.

What to eat along the way.

Week four of nearly daily cycling means quite a bit of eating and being sure we have plenty of water during the day. Breakfasts are mostly included at the hotels we stay at, so that’s one meal sorted each day.

A typical picnic lunch, but with an actual picnic table. Quite the timely find. Our hedgehog patterned tea towel/tablecloth/napkin, and the striped bag which has bamboo cutlery, a sharp knife, and a corkscrew are picnic necessities.

Our lunches are usually picnic style, with sandwiches purchased at a bakery in the morning. We feel qualified to critic sandwiches by county so far: Switzerland – too much mayo or salad cream or sauce! We resorted to scraping and squeezing excess goop off the sandwiches which were mostly purchased at supermarkets.

Sandwiches on board, ready for de-mayonnaising.

Switzerland doesn’t seem to have the quantity of bakeries we are enjoying in Germany. And, German ready made sandwiches are mostly mayo free. Butter on the bread holds up much better, and cucumber, lettuce, tomato and even a slice of hard boiled egg makes for a very nice lunch. Oh yes, and lovely seeded rolls! German sandwiches get the nod so far.

Apples have been a constant presence in my front bag.
We pick them here.
We pick them there.
The tall guy can pick them anywhere!
These little red ones with very white flesh are my favorite. The green ones with a touch of red are so tart!

Why so many apple trees along the roads? I’m not certain. We only pick from those that are obviously not part of an orchard which is someones living, and I’ve read a few different reasons for why so many apple trees dotting the landscape. Perhaps from 17th century laws requiring grooms to plant oak and apple trees before marrying, maybe the more common sense and practical notion that tree lined roads are lovely and apple trees do well. We also had a week of plums gleaned from trees in villages which were so overloaded they were dropping on the street.

Finding benches in the shade is a never ending quest. Should have removed my wet laundry from the back of my bike before taking this photo.

We have also learned the difficult and squabbling way that we have enough energy after a long day cycling to check in to a hotel, unpack (ie dump panniers upside on the floor), shower, and get drinks and dinner at ONE place. Not drinks at one place and move on to dinner at another – that doesn’t end well for hangry cyclists. Pick a place that meets both needs. Thankfully, Biergartens abound!

This pumpkin soup at a Biergarten in Beilngreis was fantastic.
Why yes, I am about to demolish this huge plate of food.

Stay well fed and carry plenty of water, refill water when the opportunity presents itself, and happy pedaling!