Korea 2012 – A nice snack

I’m what people like to call “an adventurous eater”. Their isn’t much I shy away from, so when the chance to try a local delicacy came up, stewed silk worm, I grabbed the bug by the belly and wondered just how good it would be!

Now this wasn’t my first time eating bugs; I’ve had deep fried crickets in Thailand, wasp larvae in China, a grilled grub that eats hearts of palm in Peru, and some ants here and there but mostly by accident…

Yet their was something poignant about chewing my way through their squishy bodies as Professor Park told me about his childhood having them for lunch, and Brother Anthony told me about how it was the only source of protein in many villages and towns in the aftermath of the Korean War. I doubt many of the American GI’s tried this distinctly Korean dish during their time here.

Sometimes history and culture slip past you and effect you in the strangest ways…

As for the taste? Nutty, sweet, and a little astringent for the finish.

I’d take grub over it any day.

– Jason



Korea 2012 Guest Post – Gaby Parker

Annyeonghaseyo! Hi, I’m Gaby Parker, the Director of Marketing for The Tea Institute at Penn State, writing to you from the Tea Guesthouse in Seoul, South Korea! So far, we have been here for four days and it has been a completely amazing time! This is my first time in South Korea and I hope it’s not my last, I love it here!

What I find so interesting about Seoul is the mix of old and new throughout the city! You can literally turn a corner in the middle of the business side of the city and find a traditional palace, a great view of mountains, or a stream to dangle your feet in when you need a break from the heat. You usually don’t find that in rural Pennsylvania! And then there is Korean food…from night stalls, fresh markets, cafes, hofs, barbecue and traditional Korean meal restaurants, it doesn’t get much better. Seoul seems like a such active and lively city, day and night no less. It’s cool to see the different crowds of people moving along the streets throughout the day.

In the morning, you have the children, office workers going to their respective locations, school and work, where they will be spending the day.  For us, wake up call for breakfast was at 815….we always knew it was time to leave the room when we would hear the laughter of children, a meowing cat, or the mechanical tune a truck selling fruit would play as it drove down the street!

Then, during the afternoon there would be a mad rush of people, usually always in a group of two or more, taking a lunch break at a restaurant or cafe nearby. A couple hours later, that same rush would be leaving work and making the trip by foot, train, subway, or bus to home or dinner.

In one of my favorite parts if Seoul, Hongdae, a social hub for young adults, people would race through the streets with their friends going out to eat, to drink, and shop!

That’s just some things I’ve noticed during my time here in Seoul and I cannot wait to see more!  Till next time!

Korea 2012 Guest Post – Jullie Miller

Annyeonghaseyo! (안녕하세요) And the Korea adventure has begun! The Tea Institute at Penn State landed in Korea just a few short days ago and we have already done, seen, and accomplished so much. One set of sights that has really caught my interest was the imperial palaces in the middle of Seoul. So far we have toured both the main palace and the secondary palace. At the secondary palace we were able to see the entire palace and take a tour of the secret garden. This garden was used only for the private use of the royal family. All around us, the beautiful landscape made it hard to remember that we were still in the middle of a thriving metropolis. Today we toured the main palace. The splendor and extravagance of the royal palace was stunning. Beautiful painting and statues of phoenixes, dragons and other creatures decorated every room. There were even large ponds with beautiful pagodas set out in the middle. Also, providing a wonderful backdrop for most of our pictures, mountains rise up out of the city and can be seen over the palace walls. Oh, what life must have been like when one lived in such grand palace. It is hard to imagine that these buildings were in use only one hundred years ago. Despite being wired to electrical lighting and other commodities, they still retain such an old world elegance that can not be replicated in modern times. Touring these historical sights was an amazing experience and I am so happy to be sharing this adventure with my friends. Gamsahamnida! Annyeonghigaeseyo! (감사합니다, 안녕히개세요)

Korea 2012 Guest Post – Pat Penny

Contemplation in my mind

[Editors note: do to the nature of this post, no photos will be included]

Imagine a megaspa complete with multiple types of hot tubs, messages, and saunas, now throw an arcade in there with some minigolf, a PC bang, a couple of restaurants, sleeping rooms, and some stores. You have now basically imagined a Jimjilbang. Jimjilbang is more than a spa though, Jimjilbang is a way of life, a way to relax and to bring yourself into the present moment. A Jimjilbang is really the height of Korean leisure culture. My first experience in a Jimjilbang was at Dragonhill Spa. Dragonhill is one of the nicer Jimjilbangs in Seoul and is decked out with all the top amenities. After entering through a dimly lit bamboo path I came to the front desk where for 10,000 won (a bit less than 10 USD) I was given 12 hour access to the Jimjilbang, a locker key, and a uniform/towel. After stripping down in the locker room I first headed to a showering area where I and other patrons scrubbed down with scratch pads and soap. Its important to be really clean before entering all the hot tubs. From there I dipped into the first bath of a 4 bath cycle. The first was a sulfur bath at about 41C, the water was a greenish tinge and I immediately felt all the strain from the past couple days of travel fade away. The next bath in the cycle was a bit tougher though, its an ice bath. If you think an ice bath doesn’t sound enjoyable your right, it isn’t. However this 17C bath is necessary to complete the cycle. The entire cycling principle is based on yin and yang and so both hot and cold are necessary. From there I moved into the 43C hot bath. Jumping into the hot bath right after the cold bath sends your body into a tingling euphoria, but i could only handle the heat for so long and after a couple of minutes I jumped into the event bath. The event bath is about 40C and is infused with minerals and bath soaps. This is the bath that you really relax and hang out in. After finishing the four bath cycle I hit up the cedar wet sauna. This sauna was a blazing 54C, upon entering your nose is assaulted with the smell of cedar and its so hot and moist its actually hard to breathe. Since Dragonhill is pretty high end there is a cold foot dip next to the bench to keep you from melting. After exiting the sauna you take a really quick dip under a huge blast of icy water to get the sweat off and then comes the best part. Jade pillow infrared beds. These things were amazing, after going through the whole cycle you just get to lay down on jade pillows and really feel the cycles effect on your body.I don’t think I have ever been so relaxed in my entire life.  The entire process takes about 30 minutes or so if you’re really taking your time and you can repeat it as many times as you want, I did it about twice and then proceeded to the co-ed area. After throwing on the uniform I walked downstairs to the main hall which has an arcade and some restaurants and proceeded to the co-ed sauna hall. The saunas in the main hall include: a traditional pine wood sauna, a charcoal kiln sauna, a rock salt sauna, an ice sauna (pretty much a giant freezer), and two sleeping saunas one of which had sound waves flowing through the entire room and was in the shape of an Egyptian pyramid. I think my favorite was the pine sauna, it smelled great and I don’t think I’ve ever sweat more before in my life. I also fell asleep in the pyramid room! quite a relaxing day indeed.

After leaving the Jimjilbang my body was filled with euphoria. Jimjilbangs are a part of Korean culture that I think needs to be integrated into America. A Jimjilbang  transcends the plane of a normal bath house. Its truly an experience, one that needs to be felt to understand why its so wonderful and special. I look forward to hitting up more Jimjilbangs during the rest of my stay in Korea!

Korea 2012 Guest Post – Elizabeth White


Bagel, salad, wrap. Hello!

My name is Elizabeth White and those three foods were what my diet has consisted of from last year, until now. This trip is my first time ever out of the country, and the food here is wildly different from what I am used to.

Whether it be kim chi or bibimbop, I was definitley not prepared for the complete change in diet. But this change in diet was totally worth it. Our trip started off with a traditional Korean meal consisting of a variety of diffent dishes, and of course, a lot of kim chi with our good friends Brother Anthony and Professor Park. Although I was not expecting a dish of anchovies and raw oysters, I have to admit that was one of the most delicious meals I have had here. Growing up in a suburban area of Pennsylvania, I have never really eaten anything off the beaten track, so i have to admit, I was a bit shocked when these dishes were placed in front of me. Luckily I was able to suck it up and take that first bite and from then on, there was no turning back.

Another delicious meal we ate was Korean barbecue. We literally got to cook the meat or clams and muscles ourselves on a stove placed in the center of the table. It was superb.

We were provided with many different side dishes such as sesame leaves and seasonings, and got to customize our meal. Delicious doesn’t begin to describe it.

Unfortunately I spent most of the night after this meal vomiting, but I think that the fact that I was so sick and can still sing the praises of this meal is a testament of it’s amazingness in itself. Although as I write this my stomach is churning and threatening to release it’s contents, I still smile in pure bliss when I reminisce on the delicious food we have eaten on this trip. Hopefully my stomach toughens up on this trip because when we return to Seoul, this restaurant is definitely one that I hope to revisit. Signing off with a tumultuous yet overjoyed tummy,

Elizabeth White