Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Food Week Korea Expo 2014

Ahh! I really wanted to post this last month but didn't get around to it because I wanted to finish the Halloween one first >< 

Back in October, I happened to find out through a random third-hand Facebook post that there was this food and beer expo going on, so I clicked on it, since I'm always looking for free stuff to do. I found out that the Great Korean Beer Fest was being held at the National War Memorial Museum that weekend, but that it cost $50 to get in (and sample ALL the beers), but that there would also be a smaller version at this food expo thing. Went to the site, found out that, surprisingly, it was free if you registered in advance. Nice. 

I usually get up at 5:30 or 6 to start work at 6:45 or 7 something and then finish at 9 with a gap in the middle that varies in size from 2 to 11 hours (I seriously can't wait to be done with this shit), so I actually have a lot of free time right in the middle of the day. We went to the expo on a Thursday, and it turned out to be super awesome.

Stuffed squid rings fried in egg.
It covered the enormous exposition area of COEX, the biggest underground mall in Asia, and there were tons of free samples being given out, plus swag. Plus booze. A lot of booze. Seriously, by kiosk #3 (just inside the front entrance) we were already sampling shots of hard liquor.
BEE FEET and other products

Cheese and sweet potato-stuffed grilled rice cake.
As expansive as the largest area filled with various Korean food companies was, and as amusing as it may have been to watch ill-mannered older people clamboring for free samples like half-starved animals recently released from captivity, we immediately ditched the tea and rice-based eatables when we realised we'd reached the connecting exhibition hall that housed the Beer Fest.

In what was essentially a repeat of the similarly-free Asahi Brewery tour, we found ourselves pleasantly buzzed at what is normally a respectable hour and were especially proud of ourselves when we passed the beer area again before leaving, only to find out that they were charging something like $10 for tickets that were good for a certain number of free samples. Hahah, suckers. You've got to drink mid-morning on a weekday if you want to get anywhere.

After the beer section there was something like an Etsy area: handmade household items, sweets and other crafts. Most of it was pretty mediocre, but (as horribly nerdy as this sounds) there were some really amazing candles I wish I could've gotten. They were around $7 - $18 each, which is fair enough, and I wish I'd gotten the name of the girl who makes them. They're not only cute but seriously the best-smelling candles I've ever come across.

This section and the event stages near it, I think, were placed where they were in order to serve as some sort of a sobriety buffer zone. Because after this were all of the Korean soju, wine and especially makgeolli makers. Except for the ones that were mixed in with the food stuff, because we'd already had samples of those, too. (I'm fiiiiiiine.)

I tried bamboo liquor once before in Insadong, but it didn't come in an actual tube of bamboo that you had to drive a spike into to open. Sweet.

Bokbunja, Korean blackberry wine (which sounds a lot better than it tastes, truse me). These frosty glass bottles were only $2! We should've grabbed a couple..

Important fact: even the nicest, most expensive soju there is still tastes like absolute shit.

By the time our lengthy and informative tour of Alcohol Land tapered off, it was about 1 in the afternoon, and we were pretty drunk. It was great.

We headed back through the Beer Fest that we found out cost money and got some cool free Craftworks coasters with local brands' logos on them, which I said loudly was a really fucking awesome promotional idea, and then apologised to the guy stifling his laughter. I'm fiiiiiiiiiiiiiine.

We headed back through the food section to the main entrance on our way to take a bathroom and smoke break and find an ATM when we came across these guys, which were the first mascots we'd seen since the giant walking cup of ramen we went by coming in:

I was laughing so hard (I'M FIIIIIIINE) because the giant female Kirby thing had started coming toward me menacingly and hadn't stopped until the guy inside got close enough for me to hear him saying, 

"Hey! Hey! I... am rice. Big rice."

Which was also hilarious of course.

And so was this big weird lit-up snow pile mountain sculpture thing with wild animal toys stuck in it:

It's okay, I probably wouldn't have completely believed me without a pic, either.


When we went back in we headed to a different floor, where the much-anticipated international exhibitors and Bakery Fair were being held.

Understandably, the international folks didn't have a lot of free stuff to offer, but we did have a moderately interesting conversation with the Indonesian woman pictured above who had lived in Germany for 4 years, and in which Hannes got to show off the little bit of Bahasa Indonesia he knows. She gave us some edamame and okra even though her shipment had gotten destroyed and they were just Japanese replacements.

I also tried durian. I did it. This Malaysian company had it, jackfruit, and others frozen in various creamy forms, including as mochi filling, but I had it straight up. And you know what? It tastes like weird creamy sweet onions. It's not bad at all, I thought, until I realised that the aftertaste stayed in my mouth all day and was pretty terrible when I burped from all of the makgeolli we'd been drinking. I wish you could see my disgusted face right now, lol, but I felt the experience needed to be shared. There is hope.

Anyway, the last and most spectacular section started with a forest of commercial kitchen appliances and contraptions and a few chocolates and pastries.

This custom cake company's creations were a combination of great, weird and hilarious. Mei looks totally blazed, Satsuki looks like she ate the wrong kind of mushrooms, and wtf is going on with the last one?

Seriously though, wert da ferk.

When we reached the back area, there was some serious Food Network-style competitive cake decorating going on:

Oh, is this photo dump making you hungry? Well, I'm laying here freezing, without having eaten lunch yet, with almost no groceries, having walked uphill to work in the snow, both ways, and feeling too lazy to go to the store, so screw you. Look at these sandwiches:

There were glass-candy sculptures:

Towering feats (not feets) of chocolate:

And of course, the aforementioned entries in the cake decorating contest:

But even better than these were the cake sculptures, some of which were so massive that we couldn't get them into one photo, and others of which were so intricate that we couldn't figure them out. How exactly does one make perfectly uniform chocolate lace? How does the mold work? More questions than answers.. Maybe if there were some fast, easy way to search for these kinds of things I wouldn't have to forever relegate them to the Mysteries of the Universe pile..


Yep, that's a cake mosaic.

This enormous tribute to Joseon Korea (supported by no fewer than 14 small loaves of bread) dwarfed the rest, and these weren't small cakes.

The various pastries and competitive chocolates looked so amazing, it was hard to take only this many pictures, and I obviously took way too many.

Don't ask me why, but I've specifically been wanting that sundried tomato one since I saw it.

And finally, last but definitely not least, were all the beautiful breads:

It's kind of hard to tell, but these are dragons.

Never in my life have I seen so much tentacle bread in one place. Never in anyone's life has anyone ever seen so much tentacle bread in one place.

We spent quite a while meandering through this delectable labyrinth, and it took so long to walk back to the subway from where we'd ended up that I had to go straight to work from COEX, and walked in 3 minutes before my first phone lesson started, still slightly buzzed.

If this event passes through a city near you, check online to see if you can pre-register for free.

Fuck. I'm gonna go eat something now.

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