Apr 102024
One thing that I have always wanted to do in Korea was a temple meal, and not even just because it’s vegan by default, but because it just seemed like a really cool way to experience traditional food. This time, we made sure to fit this in! There is a place called Sanchon Temple Cooking in Insadong, which is a great area to score some vegetarian / vegan food. In fact, that sign above Henry’s head in the below picture says Insadong tofu neighborhood!
You’ll note that Chooch is on his phone in nearly every photo and it’s because he was playing Pokemon Go because, Korea. Hilariously though, there was one time when Henry was like, “We need to find the 7 Eleven —” when we were looking for Sulbing (a popular Korean dessert place), and Chooch goes, “Hold on, I’ll find it. It’s right down there” and pointed down the street after consulting his map on Pokemon Go!
Immediately hit with this stunning scene!! All restaurants should be this green.
Dude, you get ALL OF THIS in the set meal, plus complimentary tea (I thought it was barley tea but Henry argued that it was green tea – it was not green tea). Henry also treated himself to a Cass beer and Chooch was livid because he wanted a different kind of tea but Henry was like DRINK WHAT YOU’RE GIVEN, actually, Henry just ignored him because he claims he can’t hear, how convenient that this sporadic hearing loss only seems to occur when one of us is asking for something.
There was a really cute older couple finishing up as we sat down and the man kept looking over at us and smiling so happily. I didn’t really understand why – do we look like a happy family? I mean….lol. Then as they were standing up to leave, he leaned over toward to us and said, “The food here is delicious, enjoy!” and it was such a simple interaction, but so sweet. So many people were so kind to us on this trip! Not to say that we were, I dunno, shunned the first two times, but I definitely felt more warmth overall and it was really appreciated and definitely did not go unnoticed. I love Korea so much!
OMG I’m such a loser.

I know, you’re looking at this picture like WTF kind of edible oddities am I seeing right now. The bowl to the left was some type of savory black sesame porridge – it was smooth and umami. The lotus root was marinated in some type of yuja marmalade, I don’t even know. But it was bright and crunchy, with a citrus zing. (Channeling the spirit of the food blogger buried in my basement.)

Meanwhile, the super sweet older man who seated us and was presumably either the owner or manager, never came back to explain what we were eating because shortly after seating us, a Korean couple came in and were seated behind Chooch. When the guy was pouring their tea, the POT FREAKING BROKE AND HOT TEA SPILLED ALL OVER THE SIDE OF THE WOMAN. She must have been wearing enough layers because she didn’t react as hysterically as you’d think, but instead just removed her coat and started patting herself down with a napkin. The Samchon man was beside himself, fussing over her and frantically trying to clean up the spill. It was really awkward to witness and I felt back for both parties, but that lady really handled it with grace and just quietly slipped away into the restroom. Then she came back and she and her companion went on with the meal like nothing happened, which was great for me because I was 100% spying on the man, who was seated facing me, to see if we were eating our stuff properly. For instance, Henry immediately grabbed one of those little dishes up there and started dumping food into it, but then I saw the man remove the tissue paper from the little bottle on the plate and pour some its contents into one of those dishes.

“So, is it sauce, then?” Chooch asked. But then I saw the man drink from the dish, so I mimicked him.

“Oooh, it’s like some type of sake I think!” I exclaimed, and Henry immediately knocked the food out of his dish and repeated after me.  Chooch sneered at both of us and opted out of mystery juice time. But he *did* ask for a sip of Henry’s beer, which was shocking because Chooch is straight edge without the label and even when we were on our last trip and he was of-age in some countries we traveled to, he did not partake in any adult libations.

(Side bar: I also tried some of Henry’s Cass and can confirm that it was good. I am so picky with beer, but this was really light and good, and also the first time we were in Korea, T.O.P. from BIGBANG was a Cass spokesperson so it only makes sense that I would like it. *HAIR TOSS*)

This was Chooch’s hell. Mr. Vegetarian Who Hates Vegetables said, “If I had known this is what we were doing, I would have stayed outside and explored.”

(See also: Played Pokemon Go.)

This plate of savory pancakes (not quite jeon – what are these called??) was a big highlight for me. Even Chooch was like, “This is fine, I’ll eat it.” It was basically cabbage leaves folded and fried in some type of light batter. It was so good, I wish we could have requested more!

He would not go near the mushrooms on the stakes though. This fun guy hates fungi.

Holy shit, vegetable heaven. I LOVED this set meal so much!
We also got soup and a dolsot bowl of rice. I watched my secret mentor from the table behind Chooch pour some tea from the tea pot into his bowl of rice after he had spooned a bunch out and it lit the lightbulb above my dumb head because I know that in a lot of Korean restaurants, the server will come over and pour hot water into the dolsot bowls so that it will loosen the now-crispy layer at the bottom in order for you to eat it but I wasn’t sure if that was going to happen here. No, because apparantly that’s what the tea was for!

“What if he knows you’ve been spying on him and now he’s just making shit up to see if you’ll do it,” Chooch mumbled and I refused to believe this, although he and I did make very awkward eye contact several times and I do think he eventually became aware of the fact that I was using him for table guidance without his consent.

Henry was in his own food world during this and had no idea that I even had a mentor.
OMG I loved this little collection of food I prepared for myself. I wish I could eat like this every day. Also, lotus root is one of my favorite things. Every once in a while, Henry will make it and I am the only one in the house who eats it and that is fine by me, motherfuckers.
Definitely having words here.

Meanwhile, I watched as  my mentor determined that his tea-rice had been soaking long enough, and he dove in with a spoon. “OK, I’m going in now too,” I said, as Chooch sighed and poured tea into his bowl of rice too.

The final round! Very delicate Korean tea snacks.

Then the owner/manager guy finally came over to check on us. To Henry, he said, “Usually, we will pour the tea into the bottom of the bowl to loosen the rice, and then we will eat it like soup. It is….Korean style.” Then he looked over at my bowl and Chooch’s and exclaimed, “Oh! Like them! They did it!” AND WE WERE SO FUCKING SMUG, YOU GUYS. Like star students. Henry looked like a big American doof, lol.

“I didn’t hear you guys talking about it!” he scoffed after the owner/manager guy walked away. Mmm.

Sanchon bathroom!

Sanchon! I miss you so much already.

Walking back through the alleys into the main street of Insadong, we ran into an old white couple who asked us if there was any food to be had back there.

“Yes, we just had a really great meal!” I cried. But, knowing not everyone would agree, I added a disclaimer of, “But it was vegetarian.”

They both grimaced and the guy said, “I just want a beer,” and Henry assured them  that there were many restaurants back there that also served beer. As we continued walking, Chooch said, “See? Even they were like ew no thanks.” He’s such a hater.

Then it was time for shopping! This cutie outdoor mall area was still pretty much the same from what I remembered. Mm, maybe a bit more crowded.

The poop bread stand is no longer at the bottom, but has been moved all the way to top outside of the Poop Cafe, which makes more sense, honestly.

Now there’s an entire new-to-us section of stores too – maybe it was there before but I definitely didn’t notice it. This was around the time I was starting to fall into a food coma and was losing steam. I really wanted to sit down with some coffee but also THERE WAS SO MUCH TO DO.

We made Chooch get his traditional Korea caricature much to his chagrin. I will say though, for someone who allegedly hates doing this, he never puts up a fight. I mean, he rolls his eyes and says he hates me, but he always goes along with it. He’s either broken or he secretly loves it.

All of a sudden, a surge of people converged on the shop while Chooch was sitting for his portrait and he was truly pissed about that I think.

After this, we made our way out of Insadong and stopped by Jongyesa Temple. Per Wiki:

this is the chief temple of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism. The building dates back to the late 14th century and became the order’s chief temple in 1936. It thus plays a leading role in the current state of Seon Buddhism in South Korea.

We saw this on our first trip too but it’s so vibrant and cheerful with the colorful lanterns, who wouldn’t want to stop by again?!

I do art.

The plan was to go back to the hotel and get coffee at that WFH place that Henry and I saw earlier but OF COURSE IT WAS CLOSED FOR SOME KIND OF CONSTRUCTION. So instead, we walked a few stores down and went to Tiamo instead. I got a sweet potato latte (love these) but ordered it in Korean because I’m the best. Henry didn’t realize that and when he tasted it, he looked visibly shocked.

“That doesn’t taste like coconut AT ALL!” he screeched, and I calmly (of fucking course) said, “That’s because it’s not. It’s sweet potato.”

And he argued, “I swear you ordered coconut.”

To which I said in a reasonable tone without any trace of denigration,” That’s because I ordered it in Korean. Goguma.”

“Even I knew that,” Chooch sneered. We legit are the best at knocking Henry down. OH NO, POOR HENRY. WAH.

There were two guys sitting across from each other at a nearby table, and they were both COMPLETELY OUT, sleeping with their heads in their arms against the table. I assumed they were together, but then watched as they each woke up separately and left separately.

I don’t know what was happening there.

So, I thought that after this, we ended the night at the DDP, which I already posted about the next day from the train to Jeonju, but NO! We apparently when to Myeongdong first and THEN went to the DDP, I am so exhausted remembering that we did so much. I do know that we went back to the room for a bit after our latte break though because we were fucking stuffed from our lunch (well, Henry and I were) and needed to just….lay for a bit.

THEN we went to Myeongdong for shopping and street food! My dinner was hotteok – the injeolmi variety!

The way I just involuntarily shivered at the memory of this delicious hunk of fried porn-food. Jesus. Henry, please open a hotteok cart on Brookline Blvd please. Never mind, people in Brookline will ruin it.

Chooch got the OG variety. Actually, I regret not eating more hotteok while we were there. I mean, I’m not mad about somehow only gaining a pound there (the 30,000 steps-a-day thing definitely helped). But….shit. I could have eaten more with no regrets I think.

Myeongdong is soooo touristy BUT it is the place to go for skin care and shopping in general. I will never skip Myeongdong and somehow the crowds don’t even bother me that much. I guess because I’m still just so stoked to be there!  You can bet that you won’t see many local Koreans there.

Seventeen instant tteokbokki!!

LOL, Henry the Stay.

Chooch got a pizza stick but it ended up having meat in it so Henry inherited it and then Chooch spent the rest of our time in Myeongdong not being able to settle on anything to eat. It was actually so annoying. Like just pick something to eat and shut up, please.

Yo, HBAF. The best almonds in the world! I can’t believe how much of a conglomerate this has become!! So, our very first trip to Korea, we learned very quickly that Koreans were obsessed with these honey butter chips, right? So we got a bag and immediately understood it. They were unique and so delicious! The second time we went, we noticed that there were more honey butter products now and also several new flavors of almonds too. And then we noticed that in Myeongdong, what appeared to be a giant HBAF flagship store was under construction. Well, it’s up and running now, along with numerous other locations, and HONEY it is the place to be. Plus? Free samples. You know we went hog wild up in this piece.

I bought my dad the biggest variety bag that that have – it’s 88 mini bags of all 22 flavors. This is the ULTIMATE Dad gift. He will freak out and I can’t wait to give it to him!

I also got my friend Margie a smaller variety pack and she messaged me today at work to say that she’s only tried two of the flavors so far (garlic bread and injeolmi) and is ready to send me back to Korea to procure a bigger stock, lol. There is a lot of hype around these but yo, it checks out. These almonds are so delicious that I actually forgot about the OG honey butter chips until I started writing this part of the post, lol.

And then from here, we started our subway journey back to the hotel but when I saw that the stop for the DDP was on our route, I suggested that we get off there because there is nothing like the DDP at night. It’s such a gorgeous piece of architecture. But, you might have already seen those pictures here! 

Well, at this rate, it’s going to take me three mths to recap this trip. But you know I’m going to enjoy every last second of revisiting these memories! AND I HOPE YOU WILL ENJOY IT TOO.

Also, here is a video from that day:

Say it don't spray it.

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