The countdown continues. I officially only have three days left until payday. If you do some strange maths and rearranging of sleep schedules, it’s actually only two days until food a plenty! And that day couldn’t come quick enough because, despite my miserly ways accrued from days past (cough – high school – cough), I only have 11 dollars left.
Wait. It was just on Saturday that I had around 30. Where did 19 dollars go in the past three days? That’s not really sticking to my budget… I should be cooking exclusively at home, not going out, and certainly not exploring any part of Seoul that costs money.
That’s where I fail. I can’t just sit around an apartment, eating the same food day in a day out – even if that means my having absolutely, positively, no money.
So, what exactly did that 19 dollars get me? A few necessary things. Necessary is a strong word. How about “a few desired things.” Like a well-deserved feast of bibimbap, kimchi, radish, and soy-honey-glazed-potatoes for four dollars at a local restaurant, a soup made with three-year-old kimchi, a coffee (yes yes, I’m additiced), a subway ride to and from the zoo (um….), zoo entrance fee (yeah, I know, I’m not frugal), and a desperately needed donut. Oops.
Anyway, now that we all are past the judgment portion of the post where you sit there and say “well I can’t be sympathetic anymore because, you obviously just spend your money for spending’s sake.” But get this: the zoo was awesome. So was the donut. So was the bibimbap. So worth it.
The start of this spending fiasco started out slow, though. Last Sunday I set out for a nice afternoon walk. I didn’t want to spend more than the 800 Won I found when cleaning my apartment in the previous afternoon hours, but that 800 Won was really burning a hole in my pocket. I had also been meaning to go and photograph my running route. How convenient that those two activities – ruthlessly spending 70 cents and photographing a beautiful river-park – lined up around 5pm.
Off I went to the bakery two blocks from my house – Paris a Baguette. (If you haven’t noticed, Korea has a strange obsession with French-named bakeries. Tous Les Jours, and Paris a Baguette coming to mind first. I’m not complaining. I mean, without their fascination, my Sunday afternoon would be incomplete. ) There I found exactly what my little taste-buds were screaming out for: a red bean filled donut.
Red beans? Yes. That’s right. Red bean in Korea is quietly ubiquitous. It is used in the number one selling summer dessert – pot bingsu – and other delicious sweet treats for hot days and cravings. Red beans are actual beans, but that have a sweet, thick-syrupy taste to them. In pot bingsu (shaved ice drenched in condensed milk, topped with fresh and candied fruit, red beans, and ice-cream), they serve as the distinguishing flavor that sets this dessert apart from western ice-cream snow cones. In porridge, it makes it more like a sweet breakfast food. In my donut, it is heaven.
After finding my delicious treat in Paris a Baguette, I strode quickly to the Han River Park. Quickly because with every step, this donut was disappearing. I wanted to save at least half of the donut for a nice sit-down by the water, over looking the sunset. But those chances were growing quite slim with every taste I had.
Folks, let’s just put it like this: this thing is crack. Much like a beignet from Café Du Monde, this inexpensive donut is warm and crispy on the outside, but gives to any pressure you put on it. Dusted with sugar on the outside, and stuffed full on the inside with red beans. It’s as if Korea took the Dunkin Donuts jelly-filled donut, took away all the powdered sugar, and replaced jelly with red beans. Oh, and made the actual donut ten times better.