When you first arrive in Korea, it can be difficult to know what to eat. You return to your collegiate behaviors and eat ramen and fried eggs for every meal. It's just so tempting because it's so hard to find familiar foods at your local stores. For example, my coworker, the Loud American, eats at least one instant ramen a day (he swears by the sesame one), and has gotten increasingly fancier with it since his arrival in MARCH, adding egg, cheese, and other chopped veggies.
But considering that instant ramen is filled with few nutritional elements and the saner amongst us will tire of freeze-dried noodles eventually, I want to help provide some insight on cooking at home with readily available ingredients. There's another wonderful and hilarious blog that provides some recipes for those of us in Korea(afatgirlsfoodguide.com), but require some online ordering from places like iherb.com or trips to out-of-the-way places like the foreign food market in Itaewon or the Costco near Seoul. Don't get me wrong, iherb is an EXCELLENT resource for those of us cooking at home in Korea and I highly suggest it. But sometimes you just want to cook something delicious as soon as you get off from work. So there.
If you, like me, frame your entire life through the lens of the food you eat, then I highly suggest preparing yourself before you come here. For example, I will be leaving Korea in November and returning in February. You can bet your butt that I'll be packing my suitcase with some key things to help make my second year of eating in Korea better than the first.
For example--instant ranch packets. I'm partial to the Hidden Valley ones, but I'm sure any will do. My mom sent a few of these in a care package and now I'm sold. Make with buttermilk instead of regular milk/cream and you've got yourself one delicious batch of buttermilk ranch. Oh? But Korea doesn't sell buttermilk? BAM! Make it yourself. One cup milk (or cream for thicker dressing) and a squirt of vinegar, a five minute wait and a stir and voila! Buttermilk. I'll save the rant of the awesomeness of vinegar for another post.
So you better believe I'll be bringing about a million ranch packets and eating half myself and blackmailing coworkers and friends with the other half.
Another thing--instant salsa. My mom sent a packet and it took me forever to use it because it didn't really look all that delicious. And then I made it and about ten minutes later it was all gone.
Canned green chiles. I made green chile pork awhile back because when my mom and brother visited, they brought a pallet of green chiles. These things add the right kind of spice to chili and pretty much anything else and are impossible to find here.
Also--spices. Every blog ever says that, but most weren't specific. For next time, I'll definitely be bringing dried herbs like oregano/Italian seasoning, cilantro (impossible to get here outside of iherb.com), thyme and rosemary. You can find bay leaves here in bulk. I'll also be bringing garlic/onion salt and powders, aromat, boullion cubes (possible to find but difficult), cumin and chili powder.
Finally, I suggest gathering up all your favorite recipes before you leave. Then, become a master at substitution. Most stores won't have what you're used to. No celery/familiar-looking spinach/? No problem.