Seoul’s Gwangjang Market

by Liz on January 25, 2013

in Food,Travel

It was a chilly day when I visited Gwangjang Sijang in Seoul, but the subzero temperatures didn’t seem to bother some of Korea’s hardiest street stall entrepreneurs.

Most of them, nearly all women, were too preoccupied with pancakes on the griddle, or cauldrons filled with porridge.

Maybe it was because it was a Saturday, but the food stalls from north to south were packed! Which, to me at least, came as a surprise, because I’m quite familiar with this market.

My maternal grandmother fled North Korea in the late 1940s with two little girls (one of them, my mother). After the Korean War she began selling fabrics at one of the above-level floors of Gwangjang. She worked there, I believe, for five decades, and we would visit her. She would awake at 4AM, so this was the only way we’d actually see her during the day.

On our way home, we’d sometimes stop at one of the many stalls serving Sundae (Korean blood sausage), kimbap or tteokbokki.

But up until recently, there were never too many people at this market largely dominated by humble migrants from Hamgyeong and Pyongan provinces.

All that’s changed now, and it seems TV media, both foreign and domestic, may have had something to do with Gwangjang’s status as the new, hip place to be.

It’s interesting to note food in Korea, even the most ordinary everyday stuff, is fetishized.

Koreans used to eat to live. Nowadays, it’s safe to say, they live to eat.

The Korean market has always been a traditional feminine domain. Women seem to be doing all the money-making, and the day I went certainly proved this point.

But with a new woman president at the helm in South Korea, perhaps the political power-making will be in the hands of women as well.

So here’s to a new year, new pancakes on the griddle, and more importantly, to our appetite.

Gwangjang Market is located at 6-1 Yeji-dong, near Jongno-5(o)-ga station, Line 1, exit 8.


Chinatown’s culinary democracy

by Liz on October 11, 2011

in Food

    Fresh rambutans on Canal Street

    UPDATE: The Itinerary I mention below is now available on! Check it our here.

    Recently in New York there’s been an ongoing movement to nosh on ethnic foods, edible delights that shouldn’t just taste good but also be as authentic as possible. Almost every other week we hear of an insider’s tour of Jackson Heights, or a Flushing Food Tour that will leave all stomachs happily full and sated. The best part of eating ethnic, and particularly Chinese, is that it is very kind on the wallet, which given the economic mood of today, is probably the biggest draw of a dumpling that’s Made In Flushing or a red bean bun at a Chinatown bakery.

    Financial considerations aside, I would gladly eat at some of my favorite Chinatown restaurants any day. It’s just too good to pass up, which is why I’m also working on an itinerary that will help visitors eat like a local and really enjoy the Asian quarters of New York.

    The foods eaten in the Chinatowns here represent something of a culinary democracy. Every color, shape and size is completely represented, and no ingredient that’s natural or good is spared.

    So I’ve been pounding the pavement looking for wonderful food and gathering information. What I’ve learned along the way about Asian food, and Chinese cuisine in particular, has been a revelation. The foods eaten in the Chinatowns here represent something of a culinary democracy. Every color, shape and size is completely represented, and no ingredient that’s natural or good is spared. And while it’s something of a truism that actual, political democracy is a faraway reality in China and will remain a bone of contention, I can’t help but turn my attention to a different kind of democracy, one that’s been around in Asian culture for thousands of years, and revolves around food, life’s most important necessity. The best part of Chinese culinary democracy is not just all-out representation of textures and colors, either. It is for me, as it is for others, food that’s economically accessible to almost anyone with a dollar to spare.

    And that to me sounds like true democracy: simple, beautiful, delicious and available to all.

    Bánh cuốn at Thái Son (89 Baxter Street)

    Dumplings with chili oil at White Bear (135-02 Roosevelt Ave, Flushing)

    Fried chicken drumsticks at LIRR Food Stall, Flushing

    Almond cookie ice cream at Chinatown Ice Cream Factory (65 Bayard St)

    Ten Ren Tea (135-18 Roosevelt Ave, Flushing)


Well New York, this September marks the 10th anniversary of 9/11. A month of rememberance as we officially settle into fall, a season that’s also our fair city’s best, hurricanes, earthquakes, and financial fallouts not withstanding.

But rain or shine, there will always be things to do, foods to try, and art to remember. Always.


Thai Chili Brownie with Cardamom Milkshake

by Liz on November 17, 2010

in Food

One of the reasons I began this blog was to really get a message going, about how not only Asian influences are all around us in the arts, entertainment, food, but also how these influences are a change for good. If you’re still reading this paragraph, hopefully you’ll agree. But if you’re a tad skeptical, may I suggest you look no further than the Thai Chili Brownie and its yin-to-the-yang: an ice cold Cardamom milkshake.

I originally created this dessert duo as my entry for the Cathay Pacific Art of the Dessert contest. After looking through the numerous entries, I completely understand I have at best a slim chance of winning two business class tickets to Hong Kong, but the very thought of traveling transpacific in a flat-bed-cum-mega-entertainment-center was enough to spend most of my weekend plotting, scheming, and baking.

The result will be announced soon, but for now dear reader, I present to you a little Bangkok sizzle in your favorite comfort food. Just don’t forget to wash it down with the most fragrant milkshake around.

Thai Chili Brownie (adapted from Alice Medrich’s New Bittersweet Brownies)
Makes sixteen, 2-inch brownies

8 ounces 70% bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into several pieces
1/8 teaspoon Thai chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon powder
3 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon (1.2 ounces) all-purpose flour

1. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350˚F. Line bottom and sides of 8-inch square baking pan with foil.

2. Place chocolate, butter, Thai chili powder, and cinnamon in a heatproof bowl and set in wide skillet of almost-simmering water. Stir frequently until mixture is melted and smooth and quite warm. Remove from the pan and set aside.

3. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs, sugar, salt and vanilla with a hand-held mixer on high speed until the eggs are thick and light colored, about 2 minutes. Whisk in the warm chocolate. Fold in the flour.

4. Scrape the batter into the lined pan and spread evenly. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool in the pan on a rack.

5. Invert the brownies on rack and peel off the foil. Turn right side up on cutting board and cut into sixteen 2-inch squares.

6. If you like, grate some nutmeg over the brownies to balance the bittersweet taste of the chocolate.

Cardamom Milkshake (makes 6, 1/2 cup servings)

1 pint (2 cups) vanilla ice cream
1 cup coconut milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

1. Blend ice cream, coconut milk, vanilla and cardamom. Blend on high speed until a smooth consistency is formed.
2. Serve in half-cups, or glass shooters with the Thai chili brownie. Grate some pistachio nuts over the milk if desired.


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