Fire Magic – Making Sichuan Hot Pot (四川冒菜火锅)

I love to cook and try new foods and I really like hot pot. There are so many different vegetables that you can put inside of it that gives you something different to taste with each bite. However, this hot pot is more than what you put into it; the flavor is all in the broth. It’s spicy, yet cooling. The chilly peppers are balanced by peppercorns that have a numbing and cooling effect. And there are a plethora of other herbs and spices that make this hot pot flavorful and comforting. The herbs and spices work together and one does not overpower the other. It’s the perfect balancing act.

My partner and I decked to make this hot pot one chilly Friday evening. We covered the furniture and made sure no cloth was left exposed, lest it become permeated in hot pot aroma and continually tempt us long after our stomachs were full. Since I like to be in charge of the kitchen, even if I don’t understand the recipe, I decided to get started. My partner told me we could put whatever we wanted inside of the hot pot and I might have a taken that too literally. We made this hot pot on two separate days, so here are the two versions.

Version 1:

  • 1 cup broccoli florets
  • 1 medium sized sweet potatoe chopped
  • 2 small white potatoes chopped
  • 4 shitake mushrooms sliced
  • 5 button mushrooms sliced
  • 4 leaves from a large napa cabbage chopped
  • 3 bok choy stalks chopped chopped
  • 1 carrot chopped
  • Thinly sliced beef
  • 1 package of Hot Pot Sauce

Version 2:

  • 1 1/2 cups of soaked wood ear mushrooms
  • 2 sausages sliced lengthwise
  • 6 bok choy stalks
  • 3 sweet potatoes chooped
  • 2 white potatoes chopped
  • 10 leaves of Napa cabbage
  • Sweet potato noodles soaked in warm water
  • 1 package of hot pot sauce

* These measurements can be adjusted according to preference. Hot pot is very versatile and there are many different types that you can choose from.

After boliling the water I placed the first seasoning packet inside the water and the aroma that came from the pot was overwhelming delicious. I think my mouth was literally watering. I boiled the potatoes and carrots for a few minutes, until they were almost tender, and then I added the remaining vegetables. After everything was cooked we mixed in the remaing 2 packets and stirred for a few seconds before adding the beef. Since it’s thinly sliced it only takes a few seconds to cook. You can eat this as is or with a small bowl of rice.

 

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Version 1: The vegetables are chopped a littler smaller.
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Version 2: The vegetables aren’t chopped, except for the potatoes, and we added sausage.

For me, part of kitchen magic is appreciating the ingredients that I use and enjoying the process. Making this hot pot is not only simple, but it is impossible to do it “wrong”. Each ingredient you use is what inspires you, so if you feel more inclined to use another vegetable you can use it. It’s not fancy or pretentious and it doesn’t require a lot of work to make it, yet it does more than any meal at a Michelin rated restaurant could do for me. It made me feel warm, relaxed and deeply satisfied.

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Sacred Ink

8DE52C7A-1735-48F4-9856-8D15BB6154BFI remeber wanting a tattoo when I was 18 years old because I thought it was trendy and cute. I know, big eye roll into the back of your head. I actually got over the idea of getting a tattoo rather quickly so I am very thankful that I didn’t get one when the tattoo would have held no meaning to me.

Fast forward several years and I started to see tattoo artists on instagram that are creating amazing tattoos. I didn’t realize the skill that is required when giving someone a tattoo and I started following many of these artist because their work was stunning. I couldn’t take my eyes away from their creations that came to life and told different stories. I started to view tattoos differently and I realized that having a tattoo was a way for me to show part of my spiritual path. That is when I decided that I wanted a tattoo. I did’t make an immidate appointment, but I was a lot more informed than I was when I was a teenager and I knew exactly what I wanted.

I had decided on getting a realistic triple moon with the colors of the bisexual flag on it. My religion and my sexuality are two very important parts of my life and I felt as though this design would be the most meaningful tattoo for me.

I took my time searching for an artist and I found one that I felt was able to give me what I wanted. I messaged her and sent here all of the details about my idea, but I never received a message back. I was sad and disappointed because I had my heart set on that particular artist giving me my first tattoo. I momentarily gave up the idea of getting a tattoo but my partner encouraged me to continue looking at other artists, so I started searching again and I found my artist.

There were so many signs pointing to her being the one to tattoo me. First, she only does tattoos for women. Secondly, her name is 타투이스트 달 (Tattoist Moon). Third, she was very responsive and worked with me over messenger for a few weeks before my visit. Lastly, she brought my design to life and created something that went beyond what I had imagined. When I went in to see her she had printed out 6 different sizes for me to choose from and while she was willingly to place my tattoo anywhere I wanted, she did give me her perfesional opinion on why she thought another placement was better. Throughout the process she gave such great customer service and she made the whole process less stressful for me.

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Photo credit goes to Tattoist Dal

This is my first tattoo, so it wasn’t pain free, but I am beyond happy with the final result. It’s part of my body now and every time I look at it I love it. I am beyond grateful to the artist for bringing something so meaningful and sacred to life and putting herself at risk for her art. Tattooing someone without a medical license is illegal in Korea so I really respect this artist and her work. This process reminded of how the Goddess works in my life and how the universe is working out as it should )0(

Seeking the Sacred in Japan’s Temples & Shrines

7BF38602-128C-4DD2-B425-C12766238A44I love to travel. I enjoy learning about other cultures and seeing how other humans live. This is one of reasons why I decided to move to South Korea and why I’ve been to Japan twice.

Seeing the human experience and how others interpret the divine is something I especially look forward to in other countries. So I always make a point of visiting local shrines and temples. Some local traditions have been lost to colonization and time and sadly we will never know how those people lived through those traditions. However, there are some that have survived and we can see the vast richness that is part of humanity.

The first time I went to Japan I was able to visit several temples and shrines. Japan has tens of thousands of temples and shrines, so I can only speak about the ones that I have visited.

Whenever I visit a scared place I try to remember to show respect towards the divinity in that space, as well as the people who hold this place sacred. I think that it is important to remember that a religion and tradition holds special meaning to those whose cultural that it belongs. Whether or not the people practice or follow the religion they still view it as an integral part of their culture. Come into these spaces with knowledge, respect and gratitude towards the people and the divinity.

The first shrine I visited was Hōkoku-jinja Shrine (豊國神社) in the Osaka Castle Park. I was very excited to see this shrine because my friends and I hadn’t planned on visiting and we happened upon it when we were exploring around the castle. There weren’t that many people there, probably because it was getting late, so we were able to enjoy the quiet of the shrine.

The next sacred place we went to was Tōdai-ji Temple (東大寺) in Nara. However, before we could reach the temple we were greeted by many eager deer that were happy to walk alongside us searching for food. We decided to buy some food and feed the deer. They’re very used to humans and are friendly and sweet. Seeing them before arriving at the temple felt as though they were welcoming us to this place. 

When we arrived at the temple I couldn’t help but feel awe. We couldn’t see anything of the modern world and it looked as though we had been transported in time. I couldn’t hear any noise besides what was made on the temple grounds. I was thankful that the other visitors were quiet and seeking blessings as well.  We washed our hands at the spring and then we went into the temple to pray to the Great Buddha. The statue was much larger than I had anticipated and we felt small in comparison.

Afterwards, we decide to walk a little further away from the crowds and we found a shrine. I don’t remember what it was called or if it was connected to the temple, but there was a shrine gate with a path that led up the mountain. We saw a few more deer along the way and there weren’t that many people. It was very beautiful and easy to walk around without the crowds. There was also a resting area inside with fans, which we desperately needed.

The next day we ventured to Kyoto to the Monkey Park. I didn’t expect to see a shrine at the base of the mountain, but I was glad that I had an unexpected opportunity to see another sacred place. Ichitani Munakata Shrine (櫟谷宗像神社) is a small shrine that is worth seeing. There were many people climbing the mountain to see the monkeys, but no one was stopping to visit the shrine so it was empty. We couldn’t go into the shrine itself because the gates were closed, but that didn’t stop us from enjoying some peace and quiet on the shrine grounds.

Later in the day we ventured to Tenryū-ji Temple (天龍寺). This temple is right beside the bamboo forest, so we couldn’t pass by without stopping for a bit. We stayed a little longer than we had anticipated, a few hours, but there were so many different things to see that it was difficult to leave. The gardens are extensive and there are various pathways that you can walk on without being bothered by other visitors. There are many buildings and walkways leading between them that I couldn’t resist walking on. Walking were others who have dedicated their lives to their path have walked felt very sacred. I tried to connect to the energy of the place and feel what they have felt and I realized that even though they lived in a serene environment they were human like me. It’s very comforting to know that even those who I see as spiritually evolved go through the same human emotions that I do. I was able to leave this temple with a full heart and ready to see what else this land had to offer.

Yasaka Shrine (八坂神社) is another famous shrine in Kyoto. We didn’t enjoy this one as much because it was so hot that we were literally running underneath the shade whenever we had the chance, but this shrine was gorgeous. It was very crowded and a little difficult to see some parts of the shrine without people standing in the way, but it was still worth it to go.

We walked a little further and we saw a few unoccupied areas and that is when stumbled about the best rickshaw driver ever. Not only did he give us a rickshaw ride, but he also told us about the history of the area. He gave us a break from walking and an unexpected guided tour. May he be blessed.

That ride led us to our last temple that we visited, Kiyomizu-dera Temple (清水寺). Because the temple was under some construction we couldn’t go through certain areas, but there was still so much to see. There were various sized Buddha statues lining the pathway and plenty of shade from the sun. The most interesting part of this temple is the spring that offers health, longevity and success in studies to those who drink from it. There were many people lined up that wanted to drink from the spring and touch the water. I hope those people received the blessings that they sought.

Each sacred site gave me different feelings and perspective, but what I felt from each of them was that while each path may be different we are all striving towards oneness with the divine.

In Celebration of Buddha – Lotus Lantern Festival(연등회)

5E1A9572-E1D8-4E26-B04D-76920232BDA6I have always enjoyed going to festivals. I love the atmosphere that they have. Everyone comes together to experience a few hours of joy and even adults forget the cares of the world and for a few moments everyone is a child again. Over the weekend my partner and I went to the Lotus Lantern Festival(연등회). Despite the rain, many people still attended and were able to enjoy the parade.

FCE4347D-AF86-4F0F-9A2A-B0C5F2CA6AE0The reason I love this festival so much is the history behind it. It is very old, over 1,300 years, and it is a celebration of Buddha’s birthday. Thousands of visitors come to Seoul to celebrate together, no matter their religious beliefs or background. And it feels kind of magical to see all of the lanterns lit up making their way through the night.

When we arrived I was worried that we wouldn’t have a decent spot to view the parade. We were a little late and it was raining. Also, I’m on the shorter side(159 cm) so I was sure we would be in the back where we couldn’t see anything. Our chances of having a good view in a crowded city seemed slim, but thank the Goddess we were able to stand near the front behind a considerate family that sat the entire parade. Bless that family.

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C5F4367C-E4DD-4187-ADE4-B3A50FA5CF3FIt was raining, but that didn’t stop the participants and those of us who stood on the sidelines. It was wonderful to see how those in the parade were still happy to walk through and greet everyone happily. Many of them gave away their own lanterns to people that they passed by, which always brought a smile and joy to those people.

07DA371B-03FE-4243-A535-E95E4BF54F6AWe stood beside a lady that thoroughly enjoyed herself. She made our experience more enjoyable. She yelled out to the people walking by and gave them blessings and thanked them for being part of the parade. She asked for high fives, which she received, and she commented on how wonderful each group was. She had a childlike joy that was infectious and despite the rain my partner and I laughed and had an even better time. Thank you, joyous lady.

There were also Buddhists from other countries that participated in the parade. There were groups from Thailand, Nepal, Vietnam and Sri Lanka. All of whom were wishing everyone peace, joy and thanking everyone for coming.

There were so many different lanterns to see that it is impossible to describe all of them. Each one was beautiful and different from the next.

A fire-breathing peacock and a dragon boat! It doesn’t get much better than that.

And that wasn’t the last of the birds(these were roosters) and dragons. We got more! The others were bigger and even more colorful.

C414297B-430A-4DBE-8CEB-9DA095AE7BD6A tradition that has lasted for over a thousand years. May it last a thousand times a thousand more until time is no more spreading peace and joy.

13 Beers to Try – The Great Korean Beer Festival 2018

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I remember not liking alcohol and only drinking to get drunk. I didn’t enjoy the taste and it was only a means to an end. However, that changed when a roommate offered me some of their beer. I tasted it and I was surprised. It wasn’t bitter. It was actually light and refreshing. I decided to give beer a chance and I started trying out different beers. I realized that I actually liked beer. Now I’m not a beer connoisseur, but I do have an appreciation for beer and the craftsmanship that is involved in brewing beer. Fast forward several years and here I am at my second beer festival in Seoul.

I love this beer festival! I went last year with a good friend of mine and I am so thankful to her for bringing me. This year I came better prepared to take pictures and notes of the beer that we had. Before we could get stared we had to buy tickets. This was optional, but I think it’s a better value than outright buying the beer at each booth. The cups they give you are 6oz each, but I think it’s the perfect size to sample each beer and get a good feel for the taste of each one, without getting shitfaced. There were 2 ticket options so we got both.

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We decided to start from the front of the venue and work our way back. The first beer we tasted was a Czech beer, Merlin Cerny. This was my partner’s favorite. It was a stout so it was bitter, but it was slight and it had a rich aftertaste. My partner was excited about trying it and tasted it before I could take a picture.

Next stop: Goose Island. We(my partner) really wanted to taste the Duck Duck Goose because it’s an ale with tropical fruit, peach and pineapple flavor. It sounded really interesting, but they unfortunately ran out so we had the Urabn Wheat Ale instead. The Urban Wheat was light and had a slight fruity flavor. The sign said citrus, but it didn’t taste citrusy to me. More of a sweet, fruity flavor, but very light. It wasn’t a sweet beer and it still tasted like an ale. I generally like Goose Island beer and I’ve never been disappointed with any of their products. It’s not my favorite, but I think it’s a solid beer that you can rely on.

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Schöfferhofer Grapefruit Beer – I’ve had many grapefruit beers in Korea, which are just grapefruit flavored Cass. They’re usually too sweet because they’re trying to mask the flavor of a subpar beer and this reminded me of that. I was surprised because Germany is known for their great beer and I’ve liked all the German beers I’ve had, but this was too sweet and tasted more like a cocktail than a beer. The line was also really long so it wasn’t worth the wait and reminded me to not follow the crowd.

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Platinum Craft Beer Oatmeal Stout – My partner and I alternated between ale and stout to balance out the flavors so we wouldn’t be influenced by the aftertaste of each beer, but I really wanted something bitter after that last beer, so I chose the stout. I’m usually more into ale but I liked all of the stouts we tasted and this one made my top 3. It had a deep, rich flavor and it wasn’t bitter and it had no bitter aftertaste.

Gorilla Brewing Co Raspberry Wheat Ale – My partner didn’t really want to go to this booth because there weren’t really many people lining up, but I wasn’t going to let one beer go untasted. The initial taste was a little sour and bitter. The sourness was subtle but it lasts long. The aftertaste slowly dissipates, but I felt that was a good thing. While the flavors weren’t particularly strong, I felt that this indicated quality ingredients and good brewing technique. It was a little flat, but I think that it’s a great beer for summer because it’s kind of refreshing. Also, it’s something you can drink for a while without feeling bored of the taste.

The Hand and Malt Brewing Company Mocha Stout – We didn’t have a ticket for this booth because my partner accidentally used it at another booth without that booth noticing(we kept the ticket as a souvenir). We bought a cup, which is bigger than the taster, and it was worth it. I’ve had this beer before because they sell it at the Shake Shack in Gangnam and I love it. The initial flavor is very mocha then bitter. The bitterness stabilizes and the other flavors diminish, but I like the bitterness in this stout because it still has flavor to it.

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We took a much needed food break because I didn’t want to stumble around drunk and I wanted to taste the beers. The food wasn’t great, but it sobered me up a bit. I looked a hot mess, but I’m sure no one noticed.

After we took a rest we went to the Ark booth and had Last night. I wasn’t really into this ale. It had a fruity bitter taste, if that makes sense, and the flavor disappears quickly. I felt that it was a forgettable ale because it doesn’t have a taste that distinguishes it from any other beer. It’s not something I would willing drink again.

Brewdog Punk IPA – My partner and I both liked this beer. When you first taste it the flavor intensifies, then comes down slowly. It has a long lasting flavor so I would drink this beer slowly. It’s definitely not something you want to throw back on a night out. This beer is meant to be appreciated and enjoyed.

Brau Breitbach BB Stout – This one was just ok to me. I thought the bitterness lasted too long and the flavors weren’t very well balanced. Even though they topped it with a lot of foam it was a little flat. I don’t know anything about their ales, but I pass on this stout.

Brewery 304 Cinema Houston Stout – This was my favorite beer of the festival. It was chocolaty, but not overpowering or sweet. The bitterness actually intensifies and then slowly melts away. It was very creamy and smooth and not overpowering like I feel most stouts are. I am definitely going to find a store that sells this beer. It was the best stout I’ve tasted.

Art Monster Ultimate Luck – I thought that this ale was refreshing and very light. The aftertaste lasted very long, but it still remained fresh. I think this is another beer that’s great for summer because it doesn’t make you feel weighed down and it remains light. I’m going to try it agin on a hot day and see how I feel about it then.

The Ranch Saison De Siegel – This ale had a long-lasting flavor. It’s a little difficult to describe the flavor because it felt very complex, like there was a lot going on, but it was well balanced. My partner said it made her mouth feel a little numb like a spice that they use in Northern Chinese cuisine. We both felt that it wasn’t the best tasting beer, although it was good, but it was so well balanced that it made my partner’s top 3.

Jeju Beer Company Jeju Wit Ale – I didn’t really care for this one. I’m not sure if they have other brews but this one was the only one on the menu. It was carbonated well and it does taste better than the cheap local beers we’ve had before, but it wasn’t different or special. The only real difference in taste were subtle, but nothing that made me want to drink more.

After several hours and 13 beers, we were finally ready to go home. The festival was still crowded and there were a few hours left, but I was very satisfied with the day and super proud of my cup collection. It may not seem like a big event or something special, but I felt blessed to have spent the day doing something that I enjoyed and sharing it with my partner. Part of my path is enjoying life and sharing experiences with the people I love. I cherish those memories and I hope that I can continue to share new experiences with my partner.

 

Finding Authentic Chinese Food in Seoul

I love food! So I make a point of trying as many new foods as I can. This past weekend my partner and I went to a Chinese restaurant near Konkuk Universtiy. There are many Chinese Resturants located there, many of which are authentic, but we happened upon this one while exploring the area for new restaurants to try.

I am so glad we decided to go there. There were so many dishes that we could try and they were from different regions in China, which is unusual for Chinese restaurants. According to my partner, most restaurants will serve dishes that are from a certain region rather than from several as this restaurant did. Each dish was reasonably priced and delicious. The chef, I don’t know if he received formal training but he’s a chef in my opinion, is amazing. He understands flavors and each dish is packed with layers of flavor and textures that leave you deeply satisfied after your meal. I loved this place so much I had to go back and try some more dishes and I was not disappointed.

The first time we went we were really hungry, so we went a little overboard and ordered three dishes. It was a lot of food, but we ate most of it and I am not ashamed.

4FAECE16-968A-4809-9E0C-6BC8ECE133CF酸辣粉(suān là fěn) Sour & spicy noodles from Sichuan

This dish was a little sour, but it wasn’t overpowering. The chili peppers added a nice kick and balanced out the sourness. I also appreciated that the noodles weren’t drowning in bean sprouts. While I do like bean sprouts, I find that overusing them in a dish is a way for a restaurant to skimp out on other quality vegetables that help inhance the flavor of the dish.

 

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烤鱼(kǎo yú) Grilled fish from Chonching
I have had this fish before and while I liked it I wasn’t nearly as impressed as I was when I had this one. It was so delicious that I felt deprived that I had never tasted this before. I was intimidated at first when I saw all the chili peppers, but this dish was more than chili peppers.  There was a lot of flavor going on and it was well balanced. It is a lot of food so at least 3 people should eat this together.

 

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宽面(kuān miàn) Wide hand rolled noodles
A simple noodle dish that I couldn’t stop eating. There wasn’t a lot of beef in it, but I didn’t miss it. The sauce went well with the noodles and the noodles were thick and soaked up the flavor of the sauce. My only problem was that I felt there were too many onions and they could have been cooked a little more. We didn’t really eat the onions and they didn’t interfere with the dish so it wasn’t a big deal.

 

These are the dishes we ordered when we went back.
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红肠炒面(hóng cháng chǎo miàn) Wide hand rolled noodles with red sausage
These noodles look similar to the above noodles, but the flavor was not the same. The sauce and vegetables were different and there was sausage. I don’t normally like sausage, but I was surprised by the subtle flavor it had and how it complimented the noodles.

 

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溜豆泡(liū dòu pào) Tofu (my partner couldn’t really translate this one, but it’s tofu^^)
I love tofu! I love the texture and how it absorbs the flavors you put into it. Not everyone can make tofu taste great, though. However, this tofu is now in my top 5 tofu dishes. The outside was crispy and the inside remained tender and moist. The sauce was a perfect blend of salty and sour with hints of ginger. It went really well with the noodles.

 

9A57F2A2-72CD-49D0-8D26-9FED60544E57Delicious coconut milk with the worst design ever

 

They have an extensive menu so we have a long way to go

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兰州抻面馆(lán zhōu chēn miàn guǎn) 란주천면관

This place is a hidden gem. I am so glad that we found it and we will be going back soon to try new dishes.

How to get there

7B4005AA-76A6-47EE-84B0-147DD19CF152Come out of exit 6 at Konkuk University Station and walk for 181 meters. Common Ground is on the other side of the street and you will see the blue shipping containers. Turn left and walk straight for 227 meters or until you see the emart 24 and turn right. Walk straight for 80 meters or until you see the GS25. The restaurant will be on your left.

 

All of the translations are from my beautiful partner ❤️

Pink Moon in Scorpio – Finding the Moon

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I have loved the moon ever since I was a child and long before I walked my pagan-witchy path. Seeing her waxing in strength every night lends me strength and urges me forward in changing my self by growing little by little each day. It also reminds me to be a bright light in the midst of darkness.

Gazing at the moon and communing with the Goddess on a full moon is even more sacred to me and I always bath in the moonlight on a full moon. However, living in a city can be limiting as there aren’t many quiet places to go. I walked around for at least 30 minutes looking for the moon and all but giving up hope thinking that light pollution and buildings were preventing me from seeing the mother. As I was walking back to my apartment she appeared. I felt such relief, joy and gratitude. I was able to view her for most of my walk back home, but the Universe and the Goddess were not done. As I was nearly home I saw a closed-off parking lot with a safe and full view of the moon. I was on a side street that was well-lit, yet still offered me the view I longed for, the safety that I needed and the quiet that I felt was lost to me. I was finally able to complete my spell and my ritual, even when I thought that I would have to give up and do it in another way.

Sometimes it can be difficult being a pagan and/or witch in the city, but I have found that the Universe and Goddess will make a way when it seems there is none )0(