Friday, March 21, 2014

Mexican Food in Seoul, Korea

Even thou 80% of the Koreans I've met claim to "LOVE" Mexican Food, a few have actually tried the real deal, or at least, the closest thing to it that you can find in Korea. Most of the times it's not because they don't want to but because they just don't know where to find it, so they end up going to lousy "gringo" places claiming to sell "authentic" Mexican food. But please, worry no more...'cause that's what I'm here for, today, I will tell you where to get your "Mexican fix" and where NOT TO!

I'm gonna start with the DON'Ts:

Vatos Urban Tacos. This is definitely one of the most popular restaurants for Mexican food in Seoul. However, we all know "popular" doesn't always mean "good" and I'm afraid this is Vatos' case. I'd heard a lot about their Kimchi Carnitas Fries and their Tacos looked good on their website but when the time to try it all finally came, it felt -really- short. I went with friends and we ordered several things to try out different stuff. 

These are actually "tostadas", not "chips"

We started with the Kimchi Carnitas Fries and the taste of the carnitas not of the kimchi was nowhere to be found, it was just simple fries with some kind of bland meat and also a bland kimchi. You could neither feel the flavor of one or the other, which -in my opinion- kills the fusion attempt completely. We also ordered Galbi Shot Rib tacos and Classic Carne Asada tacos. The most important thing of a Taco is the Tortilla and this one was a bad one, it was like a flour tortilla (far from the tasty corn one) not even properly cooked, the tacos were cold and the filling was, again, bland. The salsas, the second most important thing in a Taco, were just bleh, not spicy AT ALL! So, they didn't help much either. We also had the "Fresh Chips and Salsa", which wasn't really chips but deep-fried tortillas, actually called Tostadas. If you're gonna have that as an entry, that's fine, but at least make the salsas tasty so the entryy is worth it. Regardless the "authenticity" of their food, I found it to be not only bad but overpriced. If I wanted to get ripped-off for bad Tacos, I'd go straight to California, thank you. Which is actually where most of the founders grew up in, and that's what THEY think makes them "close" to Mexican cuisine -if only! Drinks were good though, they had these things called Makgeolli-tas (makgeolli+margaritas) and they're the only thing I would ever go back to Vatos for.

I can see how bad is the tortilla even in the pic! Can't you?

Kimchi Fries

Taco Bell. I feel like I don't need to say much about why this is a NO-NO, but just in's all FAKE! Hard "tortilla" tacos are not real tacos, chalupas are not even remotely what they look like in this place. I've said this before but I'll say it again: there's a reason why there's no Taco Bell in Mexico. So, really, just don't.

Rule: If your Taco can stand on it's own, then it's NOT a Taco!

Tomatillo. This is actually another chain, I know the one in Itaewon only though. It's like Taco Bell's baby. All Faek-o McFake, hard "tortillas", flour tortillas...nothing I'd call real Mexican food.

Remember the Taco rule earlier?
What on earth is this gringo thing?!

 Now, the DOs

Cirilo's. This is, for sure, the most expensive Mexican restaurant I've ever been to, however, it's not all THAT bad. They have a couple of things worth trying. Like their Asada Tacos, which are grilled beef tacos; their tortilla is not flour but corn and even though it's kind of small, it's actually pretty decent. Even though they're more like a fusion dish, their Al Pastor Fries are awesome (Pastor marinated pork with dried chilies and axiote, and makes the most popular tacos in Mexico) and even their burritos (which aren't Mexican) are very decent. Their Guacamole was a bit disappointing due to the lack of taste. You'd think guacamole is the one Mexican thing anybody can make properly, right? Well, truth be's not, I mean, anyone can crash avocados with tomato and onion but only some can make the real deal; everybody always forgets about salt, lemon and chillies -THE key to a good guacamole! Anyway, one of their best things are their Churros, they serve them with a nice sort of gravy made outta chocolate and peanut -delish!


Coronarita + Al Pastor Fries

Delicious Churros

Taco Amigo. It is a small place and it's not even pretty, it has a couple of "Mexican" things decorating the walls and the tables are kinda cramped, but well, the important thing here is the food, so...let's get to that. It is actually very authentic, I would say. I had Mexican Tacos Meal (2), that is beef tacos, basically, the highlight of this dish is that it is served with rice, beans, chips and salsa so that leaves you more than satisfied; not the best tacos ever, but it does the trick well enough; the salsas helped a lot as they're really spicy and tasty (hot stuff!). I had Agua de Horchata (horchata is a drink made outta rice) with that, and it was delish. My sis had chocolate (drink) from Oaxaca, which is supposed to be the best but I tried it and it was quite average, really. My friend had some Fish Tacos Meal, which is the sea version of what I had. A weird thing is the fact that they have Chimichangas (a sort of Argentinian empanadas) and some stuff that's not Mexican at all, I don't understand why.

Sorry for the lousy quality pic, tha tacos were good though!

Don Charly. Last, but not least, the most truly authentic place I've tried in all of Seoul. CNN said "While the quest for Mexican food often stops with Korean-American takes on Mexican food, or pale interpretations of Mexican food, Don Charly is the real thing -- no frills, no kimchi.", which made me want to go see by myself how truthful they were being, turns out, completely. In Korea, Don Charly is called a Mexican Restaurant, but in Mexico is just what we would call a "Taqueria/Torteria" (a place where all they sell are Tacos and Tortas -mexican sandwiches), but it's okay coz it really does have the best Tacos in Town. The first time we has Choriqueso Tacos, according to Charly (a cool dude from Mexico City) the chorizo is homemade, it was flour tortilla but it's okay because that's the way it's supposed to be on choriquesos and he also gives you Lime (better known in Mexico as LEMON) and the salsas are on the table: green and red, the way God and Quetzalcoatl intended. The red one is the winner, but beware, it is like a real spicy Mexican sauce so if you're no up for spicy stuff, you might wanna be careful with it, and if you're Mexican: Bienvenido a casa, paisano! haha

Don Charly's Menu

We also had a "Llorona" Torta, which is fulled with an alambre (a
mixture of cheese grilled together with pre-marinated and cooked meats either in a skillet or grill top), avocado and beans...amazing stuff, I tell you! I think basically because the bread was Charly's personal recipe and not the terrible bread they make here in Korea (TBH). The second time around -we brought friends so they'd experience the authentic Mexican food!) and we (sis and I) had Tacos de Chicharron en Salsa Verde and Cochinita Pibil and shared so we could try both; as I am writing this post, I swear I am pretty much drooling all over again just remembering the taste of those tacos, that's how good they were -especially de Chicharron ones -glorious! The only thing I didn't care for were the prices, it's still a little pricey for just Tacos and Tortas, but well, Western food is always expensive in Korea.

Don Charly. Itaewon. Noksapyeong Station, Line 6.


Anyway, now you know what your options are for whenever you're having those crazy Tacos and Mexican Food cravings (that oddly enough, are not exclusive to Mexicans!). If you still feel undecided, you can try them all one taco at the time OR, you can always bring me with you for personal advice *wink*.

Oh, and just so you know, one of the best and most authentic Mexican dishes in Korea are -of course- at my house. Nothing better than Mexican Homemade Food to make you feel like at Casa!

Homemade Cheese Gorditas, Guacamole, Quesadillas + Salsa Roja :)

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Volunteering in Korea

Angel's House is a residence for disabled people with no one to turn to, it is located in Goyangsi Dukyangu and it was founded by Jang Soon-Ok in 1993, who not only was a disabled person herself with spine problems, but also had a disabled daughter. This is why she decided to open a place that could house people of various ages and with different kinds of disabilities, and help them out.
Jang Soon-Ok is known as the "125 cm Tall Tiny Angel" because of her height due to her spinal problem and, of course, because of her selfless labor with the disabled.

Picture borrowed from the Group's FB Page

The Angel House has around 50 disabled residents and one of the things that makes it unique is the fact that the disabled residents support themselves by making (or more like assembling) crafts they later sell the popular low-cost store Daiso in South Korea; in my opinion, that is something not only worth mentioning but also worth baring in mind to remind us all that no matter what conditions and situations life puts you through, you will always be able to make it as long as you’re willing to fight for it!


The Angel House opens its doors to volunteers on the first and third Saturdays of every month. Each volunteer gives a 10,000 won donation to cover the cost of food for the day. The remainder of the money is donated to the Angel House to benefit the residents. Some of the chores the volunteers are responsible for are: cleaning the facilities, doing laundry, cooking, and providing basic personal hygiene for the residents. When the work is all done, they get to eat, talk, and socialize with the residents.

Personally, I always enjoy volunteering but I think I’ve only had experience volunteering in the Arts field, which –for me- was not only rewarding but also amazing; however, volunteering and giving your time with people is a completely different thing, it’s much more fulfilling and you actually feel like you’re helping out. 

When someone talks about “giving back” people usually imagines celebrities being altruistic and “giving back” to the community as a thank you for everything they’ve got: fame, fortune and whatnot. However, giving back is not only for celebrities and/or rich people, giving back is something we can (and probably should) all do. In my case, I consider myself to be very lucky and blessed with the life I’ve got, the people, the experiences and all the things in it, so I wanted to “give back” and contribute to the society even if it was a little of my time and care. I knew it might be a bit of a hard experience for me as I’ve dealt with disabled people before (my Mom) -hard in the sensitive kind of way- but I also knew I would be able to help them and share my time with them and treat them like normal people, because not everyone is capable of that, to be honest.

There was this lady who had a purse hanging across her body and she had this little phonebook with her, she’d take it out and ask each of us to write down our name and phone number in it (all in Korean, of course, as none of them speak English), I thought she was so cute and endearing! There was also this guy, a very smart man, he’d tell us how to assemble the crafts properly and made sure to let us know if/when we were doing it wrong, but in a nice way and when you were doing it right, he’d say “good job!” (again, in Korean). For me, that kind of things are the ones that fill your heart with love, your mind with peace and your body with good energy; and I don’t mean to sound all hippie here and all, but it is what it is.

The general experience was just alright, really, as I was expecting to spend a bit more time with the people rather than the crafting part; however, I enjoyed it and would definitely do it again.

If you’re in Korea and would like to volunteer, you can check out the Angel’s House FB Group or find any other place where you can do so, if you’re not in Korea, I’m sure you can always find places where your help is much needed, so don’t be afraid or wait until you’re rich or a celebrity to give back. We can all contribute a little now!

Special Thanks to Kiki for inviting us to share this great experience!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Mexican in Korea P.I.

Today I decided to write about something I know very well...being a Mexican in Korea. Mexicans in Korea are not something you see a lot, at least, not as much as you see USAians (I hate calling them "Americans" because America is a whole continent and not a country, and we're all Americans from Canada to Brazil, FYI!) in Korea; so I guess you can say it's still a "new thing" and I can tell because, in order to support this post, I was doing a bit of research -as I usually do- and found least, nothing useful. So, that means that not only there are very few Mexicans in Korea (about 600, give or take) but the ones here aren't very active on the internet (they don't blog, vlog, write for any kind of media...nothing, really). So, other than my sister, I did not find any Mexican blogging in/about Korea. 

My Mexican Self

My Korean Self
Anyways, I'd like to start by saying that it is kind of odd that for Mexicans being rare in Korea, there are whole bunch of "Mexican restaurants", particularly in Seoul -where I live-, not sure about the rest of the country. This range of restaurants go from -the already a classic lol- Taco Bell to Don Charly, passing through places like Julio's, that call themselves a Mexican restaurant that is "even better than authentic", even though they play Bossanova (Brazilian music) as background music. Now, as a Mexican who respects herself, I have NEVER ever been to nor tried the food from Taco Bell because...well, why would I? I can tell it's all Fake-o McFake just by looking at their pics. I will say that Don Charly is the best Mexican "restaurant" (in Mexico we'd just call it "antojeria" for the kind of things they serve) I have tried in Seoul. I have tried several but that's a topic for another post (reviews and all).

A decent Mexican Food restaurant in Seoul

Being a Mexican in Korea is...funny, most of the times anyway. It's always fun getting people trying to put a finger on your nationality cause we clearly don't look like "gringas" but don't have the single-eyelid thing going on (to make them think we're from somewhere in Asia) either and then again Mexico is so far from Korea that that nationality doesn't even come up in their radar lol And when it does, 2 things -mainly- come to their mind: "Tacos" and "Tequila", oh yeah, it feels pretty amazing that in spite of having hundreds of years of -interesting- history what the world knows about us is Tacos and Tequila. But in a way is fun (funny?) cause you get to have a sort of an instant connection with people cause they meet you and they all go like "Mexico, really? Wow! I LOVE Mexican food!" (as if they've actually tried the real thing) and then I go "OMG, really? Me too!", then we all laugh and smile and it's like we're already friends cause we've got something in common ^_^

It's also cool cause people don't instantly hate you as they hate USAians (I mean old people, generally speaking) and most of the times they find you...exotic, and well, I guess that in a place like this...I sort of am (?). You know, my eyes, my hair...those are the features people most comment on. I've always considered I have small eyes (because I do!) but here, people is like "oh, you have such big and pretty eyes!" lol Also, when I wear my hair natural (curly) they just love it, like, they think I did something to it, when the fact is...I was too lazy to actually do anything on it that day.
A day when I didn't do anything to my hair...but washed it! lol
One of the parts I like the least, well, more like I totally dislike is the part when -again- Mexico is so far that -most- Koreans are very ignorant about it and it's not their fault...entirely cause we're two completely different cultures and set so apart from each other that, up to certain point, it is kind of understandable, I mean, I only knew so much about Korea before coming here. But when they think Mexico is a poor country and all they see/imagine when they think of it is this:

What Mexico looks Korean's imagination.
A dry-flat-dirty surface with tons of poor people on it. And yes, poverty does exist in Mexico and yes, it a country in "development" but, come on, you gotta widen your horizons a bit more and -at least- do some google-ing or naver-ing (for Koreans). This is how Mexico looks like, at least Mexico City -where I am from. It is a big, modern and AMAZING city, to be honest. Hectic and polluted, yes, also, but still quite pretty and interesting. So, before imagining we come from a dirty hole, please use  your super fast internet connection and get informed ^^  
What Mexico looks reality.

Umm, writing this post actually just made me miss Mexico and, as odd as it is...this is the very first time I miss it since I left over 6 months ago. Food? Yes, I missed that ever since I was having my last Tacos before even getting on the plane to Japan last summer but Mexico itself? Not one bit...until now. *deep sigh* Anyway, moving on.

Being a Mexican in Korea is also cool because you get to play the "Foreigner Card". What is it, you wonder? Well, it's when you use being a foreigner as an justification to get things, you know, cause foreigners are still sorta new to Koreans and they wanna impress them with their country and culture and stuff. So, even though I'm generally not a big fan of using it, I admit I sometimes do recur to it. It's good when you wanna get into shows, TV Network performances, clubs, etc. It can also get you a lot of free stuff, though that just may be us, I don't know...cause we have some foreigner friends and they're always amazed at the things that happen to us or we get, or even the people we meet lol 

That is all for now...but then again, it's only Part I, which is all I could think of so far but I'm sure more things and memories of experiences will come to mind later for the following Parts, so stay tuned!