Thursday, October 31, 2013

Mexican Food in Seoul

Hey everyone! 

It's time to talk about one of my favorite things ever.... Mexican Food!, funny how I used to write about Korean Food in Mexico and now I'm doing the opposite. 

3 months ago I left Mexico, I've never been away from my home-country for so long, surprisingly, what I miss the most is the Food, you can say I'm food-homesick?, almost 2 years ago I posted "My 12 reasons to visit Korea" and 1 of them was eating Mexican food in Korea, so, of course when we decided to spend some..."more" time in Korea I knew we would be definitely doing it. 

The only place I've read before was Vatos Urban Tacos, mostly on twitter, they are pretty popular in Seoul, specially for their "Kimchi Carnitas fries", then I read about Cirilos on Jay Park's twitter account (This seems to be his favorite place to have Mexican food) and last but not least, I found an article about the Top 12 restaurants in Seoul and "Don Charly" had made it to the list, I saw this place on our 1st day in Seoul but didn't know it was THAT good, so, here's a little review of these 3 places. 

Of course you will find many MANY more "mexican" restaurants in Seoul, Specially in Gangnam and Itaewon, some of them even claim to be "Better than authentic" but come on!, the place name is "Julio" and they listen to Argentinian music... that's just not better than authentic lol. 

Just for future reference, I'll give Chilis to rate the place, 5 being the highest and 2 lowest (because no one deserves just 1 lol)

Ok, so, I'll start with the order I tried them

1.- Cirilo Taco

If you are Mexican and you hear Cirilo, that kid on your right is the 1st thing you think of, so when I found Cirilo Taco's twitter account and they had a picture related to that kid I knew it had to be somehow authentic, you'll see, that kid's name is Cirilo, Cirilo was one of the kids in a Mexican soap opera in 1989!!! (Gosh I'm old), so, after seeing that, my sister and I decided to pay a visit to Cirilo.  

When we 1st arrived we had no idea what to order, since you have to order and pay 1st, we felt kind of pressured to do so, I chose Asada Tacos (Get it together people, it's called Tacos de Asada....pft), anyway, my sister felt VERY pressured and ended up ordering an Asada Burrito (And we always complain on how people think Burritos are Mexican....oh well...), in addition to that we ordered 1 guacamole, 1 order of Al pastor fries and 2 Coronaritas aka a Giant Margarita with a Corona stucked inside O_o, it was quite pricey as we ended up paying close to 90,000 Won (around $80USD), so, yea, I would NEVER pay so much for Mexican food, let alone, for such a small meal for 2. 

The Tacos were good and made with a corn tortilla, I would only recomend them to make the tortilla a bit more thin and tiny bit bigger (please?), aside from that, the tacos were really good! 

The Guacamole, ugh, dissapointing, it needed more chilli, lemon, salt and it wouldn't hurt if you hrow a couple of "totopos" aka Tortilla chips in there, I mean, 4,000 won for a small bowl of guacamole and you can't add 4 totopos?

The Al pastor Fries... O M G!, 1st, this is not a Mexican dish, no señor, BUT, here comes the but, places like this usually sell "Chilli Fries" also not a Mexican dish, Cirilo also has Chilli fries but people who knows about food will order the "Al Pastor Fries", al pastor is pork marinated over one or two days in a combination of dried chiles and achiote and results in a red looking meat, well, this was my favorite dish, I would go back anyday just to have Al Pastor fries!

I won't bother with the burrito, because it was just a burrito, so, the Drinks, they were BIG (too big señor!) with lots of alcohol and a Corona...expensive: YES, good: YES, but I wouldn't order it again lol, I'm just not into margaritas haha. 

and last but not least... Dessert!! - Churros with a Chocolate/peanut sauce... O M G (yes again!), those were some good churros, we ended up ordering more, the only problem is, they were too greasy, maybe the oil they fried them wasn't hot enough, but that's easily fixed ;), so, Fries and Churros were OUR favorite, they are Mexican approved. 

Pic taken from Cirilo's FB
The interior of the restaurant looks good, simple enough, not filled with Cactus and sombreros to make it look more Mexican, it looks Mexican enough, and, they were playing Ranchera music (Musica Ranchera pues!) hahaha, oh!,and they are located in Itaewon!

Al pastor Fries + Coronaritas

Tacos de Asada + Guacamole + Burrito
Food: ffff Good food, but there's room for improvement
Service: ffff I don't see the point of having 1 or 2 waiters if you still have to go and order at the register.... if you have them... use them!
Price range: ff EXPENSIVE! I think this was the most expensive out of the 3 we visited.
Authenticity:  fff1/2 Despite not being VERY authentic, I still think the food was very good, plus, they earned points with those fries!.

1.- Don Charly 

CNN told me this was the place to go for AUTHENTIC Mexican food, at 1st I had my doubts because, well... you just never know :/

"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" - CNN

Luckily for us, this place is just a walk away from us, located in Itaewon (close to Haebanchon), the place is SMALL, there are about 8 seats?, but it's totally worth it even if you have to line or order Take out, the owner Carlos aka Charly is the cook, owner and the Willy Wonka of Mexican food in Seoul, when we found this place I wasn't even hungry... until I saw the Menu, the Menu is in Spanish, they were playing Mexican radio (awkward how I was singing "17 años" while listening to "La Sabrosita" lol), they sale Tacos and Tortas, Sodas and Tequila (but of course), we ordered 1 torta and 2 Tacos (because we weren't hungry haha).

We ordered the Choriqueso Tacos, the chorizo is homemade and it comes with a flour tortilla and Real lemon (Ugh!, it's been a battle in Korea with the lemon, turns out the green LEMON we know in Mexico is known as LIME around the world and the LIME is our Lemon,,,,understand? lol), ok, this tacos come with real GREEN lemon and sauce is already on the table, if you go there, try the RED one!, that's the good one, I managed to eat my Taco with sauce and lemon spilling and Nothing got on my clothes (this ALWAYS happens to me with Korean food lol).

We also shared a "Llorona" torta, alambre with cheese, avocado and beans, what made this torta so glorious was the BREAD, you don't find this kind of bread in Korea, so, we asked Charly and he said the bread is his own recipe (no wonder it was so good!), Charly is from Mexico City (aka Chilango!), we talked about Mexico, were we used to live and why were we in Korea, it was a nice dinner and it was even nicer to Meet another cool Mexican, I just can't wait to go back to Don Charly!

About food pictures, the place is a bit dark and I got so excited about the food I didn't take any pictures (I'm not even sorry!), but I swear it's REALLY goood! 
Inside of "Don Charly" pic taken from DC's FB
Food: fffff
Service: ffffIt felt good to order in Spanish, Don Charly has a Korean helper, he can speak Korean (duh!), Spanish and English
Price range: fffAlthough it's not as expensive as Cirilo, it's not cheap either, specially when you can have a Korean meal for 5,000 won, the Torta was 10,000 (9USD) and the 2 Tacos 7,000won
Authenticity:  fffffJust because I want charly to be my Compradre lol jk 

1.- Vatos Urban Taco

No doubt most people in Seoul has heard about Vatos, whenever I say I'm mexican, people will ask if I have had food at Vatos, and I finally had it, I don't know what's the big deal, this was overpriced, the food didn't have a great taste and it looks like another restaurant taken from LA, I went there with my sister and a friend... I will call her Carmelia because she likes to remain anonymus.

Vatos has 2 branches, 1 in Itaewon (the one we went to), Sinsa and Vatos Express in Gangnam.

According to Vatos' website, all the owners lived in the States, most of them worked or had some contact with Mexican food there, and even though I wasn't expecting real Mexican food but a fusion, I still don't think this is enough, the food was average, portions were petite and the flavor just wasn't there :( 

We ordered the "Kimchi Carnitas Fries", yup, a mix of Tex-mex-korean food, the carnitas were bland and the fries average, the Kimchi was there but I thought I would feel more of it taste, I would have a Carnitas + Kimchi taco anytime, the combination sounds good, a spicy kimchi would brigthen up the taste of the carnitas, but this one?, I was eating them, but couldn't really tell the flavours apart :( 

We also got Fresh chips and Salsa, the chips were deep fried corn tortillas, or what we call Tostadas, the sauce, I didn't like them very much :( , but maybe that's how sauces taste in sunny Californa.

We got an order of "Galbi short rib" tacos and the "Classic carne asada" tacos (I think lol, can't remembe), this tacos we SOO wrong, the tortilla was like a flour tortilla, they were cold, and just not good, the tortilla was so blend that I felt like I was eating a cold mexican mandu...and that's just wrong. 
All pictures taken from Vatos website
We also got fun drinks, lol, we all ordered a Macolita (is that the name?), like a Margarita with Makgeolli, it was good, alcoholic, and I would have that again, thank you :) 

I understand Vatos is not authentic, they don't claim to be, everyone knows it's an American/Korean take on Mexican food, but those Tacos were awful... 

Food: ff Because like I said, no one deserves just 1 chile
Service: ffffCarmelia almost dare us to ask for someone who spoke spanish and so we did, they said there was no one, but later one, this cheerful guy came and started speaking spanish, he was so cool, he made our time in Vatos a bit better :) 
Price range: fff Not as expensive as Cirilo (lol), we payed around 70,000Won for a meal for 3
Authenticity: --- Sorry!

There you have it, 3 of the most popular Mexican restaurants in Seoul, if you know any other that's really good, let me know!, or if you want to invite me lunch or dinner at Don Charly, also, let me know ;) 

-Gisela V.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

I want to be you

Seems like this is the week of the "I want to be you" - "I want your life" comments on my SNS', somehow this kind of comments make me feel uncomfortable rather than to make me proud of what my life is now, I don't want to judge those who have told me they wish they could have my life, but f'*ck it, this is my blog and I do what I want....

I guess I will have to explain why I feel uncomfortable with those comments, the only reason is, my life aint perfect and I've been through some though things to get where I am today, this is also not my ultimate goal, although I aree I'm closer now. 

You'll see, most of those comments come from young people, or maybe I'm getting too old and now I think everyone is very young, most comments are left on my pictures of Korea, noone bothers reading my profiles or my blog, so, I kind of understand they feel like I'm living the life if I post a picture of me and 2NE1's Dara, but how come a MEXICAN got to meet a famous K-Idol? 

If you are new to this blog I'll tell you a little bit more about me, I started this blog in 2009 as a cooking blog, by this time I was already into Korea (I've loved Korean language since 2008), but I started my blog after watching the movie "Julie&Julia", the story of Julie Powell's blog following Julia Child's cooking recipe book, shortly after watching the movie my mom got me a 365 recipes book and I wanted to challenge myself since I usually quit things 10 minutes after I start them, I started the blog and I had my fun cooking for a short while (lol), then I received the email that started this whole crazyness, an mail from the Korean Cultural Center in Mexico inviting people to joing their "Promoting Korea through SNS" contest, 2 seconds later my blog changed from being a cooking blog to be a  All things Korean blog, I submitted my application and got chosen, I was now blogging with other international bloggers and promoting Korea, each month we received points (I guess?...) and some months later I received an invitation to visit Korea, I was Ecstatic, I still remember I got the email while we were at the movies, my mom, sis and I were at the Opening of Harry Potter (5? 6?) at midnight when I got the mail, I couldn't believe it, ME, the mexican with a tiny blog was being invited to Korea!, of course I accepted, got my passport (with my mom!!!) and got ready for Korea, this was my 1st overseas trip and I was on my own, my mom was always very supportive, she would go with me to the KCC, Korea Town and pretty much everywhere, she was always looking for Korean related things for me to blog about, I would've loved to bring her with me, but I wasn't allowed to, my 1st trip to Korea was AWESOME, full of new things, new friends and until this day, there are things I still cant get over lol, I was even more excited about it because my sister was back from London and we were planning on openning a Coffee shop, a small business, something the 3 (mom, sis and I) always dreamed of, somehow while I was in Korea they planned the whole thing found a place, bought tables, chairs, and everything to open a Cafe, I would sometimes receive messages asking me what colors I wanted for the Cafe, I got lost in the process and felt like dreaming, you'll see, my goal was to decide what to do with my life, travel to korea and DO something with my family before my 27th birthday (I was 25 at that time), and got to do it!, I went back to Mexico on December 21st and after that we started working like crazy on the shop, I was still working full time as an Account Administrator so it was mostly my sis' and my mom's work, I still remember going to the shop on Dec 30th with my friend Beric to receive some things for the openning lol, the openning was on January 15th and it was a success, we worked a lot to get to that point and I couldn't be happier, "333 Cafe" was OUR thing, after that my sis and mom would open the shop and I would go there after work, but just 3 weeks after the openning, on February 7th something hit us, and it was quite a HIT, it was a Holiday (a monday), my sis and I were at home making Crepes when suddenly my mom came home running, she ran to her room and we didn't know what was going on, we 1st thought she was upset about something related to her work but it wasn't that, she was unable to speak, seemed lost and we got scared, VERY scared, as soon as she told us she was unable to speak/coordinate we got a cab and ran to the ER, can you imagine having to take your mother to the ER?, all I wanted to do was cry but I knew better than that, we had to be strong for my mom, once the doctor saw my mom she was admitted to the hospital for a check up, to make this story short, my mom was diagnosed with Kidney Cancer Stage 4, FYI Stage 4 is the worst, she had a tumor on her brain and that's what caused the episode on Fevruary 7th, she had surgeries, my sister and I decided to close the shop on march and started working from home, we took care of my mom, we basically became 1 hell of a close family (not that we werent, we just got CLOSER), we had family, but their support came and went, at the end of the day it was just the 3 of us, my mom got worse quite quickly, on August 2011 we were told she only had 6 months left, we decided to grant every wish she had, she had always wanted to travel and thats why she got her passwort when I got mine to go to Korea (Dec 2010), so, we planned a trip to Paris, it was her choice but we kept it a secret because we weren't 100% sure we would make it, the date came and the 3 of us flew together for the 1st time ever (Nov 2011), when we arrived my mom had lost more movement on her left leg and her arm, it was hard, she would cling to me or my sis to walk around, but everything was worth it the day we went to the Louvre, she was thrilled, her face was priceless (and still is), after the trip she got even worse, stopped walking and we knew what was coming, she became more dependant of our care, it was harder and harder each day, not because we didn't want to take care of her, but because we saw her suffering, something she would barely show to us, she became more like our child, 2012 came and we were happy to still have my mom with us, but things got (even) worse, by this time, most of our family was away from us, some would say it was because they didn't want to see my mom suffer, some others would give no explanation and we got to the point that nothing else matter, it was again just the 3 of us, "3 for 1 and 1 for all" as we used to say, on may '12 we made what would be our last visit to the ER, it was a friday and I left work early, I hate how can I still remember every momento of those days, on saturday my sis went out to meet a friend (after I kinda forced it to get some fresh air), I took this time to talk to my mom, I knew she was tired and sad and mostly worried because she didn't want us to see her like that nor to leave us alone, I assured her we would be fine and ask her to please take the rest she needed, later on I found out that my sister had almost the exact same conversation with my mom on that weekend, I say conversation but in reality it was just us talking since my mom stoped talking several weeks before that... and it was that sunday MAy 21st that we lost her, she decided to get the rest she needed... and as hard as (still) is to let her go, I was relieved she wasn't suffering anymore, I decided to change my (our) life on that day, decided to make her proud of us and to show her that she raised us well, I also detached myself from the people who decided to stay away from us for stupid reasons and to tresure those whom I trust the most... I guess that's how things started really....

Soon we realized we had nothing to attach us to Mexico city and decided to start a new Journey, we let go some people, things, the safety of living in your OWN country, leaving friends and things that make you feel at home, it wasn't really hard to decide what to do, and luckily me and my sister are more alike than what we'd like, we started our journey in Japan (my sister LOVED it) and next was Korea, where we are still learning, fighting, growing and still trying to understand why things happened.... I am so thankfull for the things we have, the people we've met and the friends we still have in our beloved Mexico (lol), a special Shout to our friends The Lalito's family because they became our family in the process :), we are having a blast in Korea and we know my mom is somewhere watching us and making this awesome things happen, although I would still change everything I've got to have her back...

I guess with this you'll understand why those comments kind of upset me, I can't stand when people can't value what they have in life, I still cry whenever I see older women, it reminds me how my mom always said "Can you imagine how will I look when my hair goes all White?", I still think it's unfair she was taken away from us, I still can accept the fact she is not with us, but that's how life goes, right?

I'm finishing up with that... as it makes me feel weird to go that personal on my blog, I'm sorry I'm not sharing stories about Korea or how Kpop-y my life has become, that would be a story for some other day...because luckily for us, we've been pretty busy in Korea :D

Thanks for Reading

Just a pic of my mom in Paris (Montmartre) being awesome <3 p="">

-Gisela V.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Re-visited Gyeongbokgung Palace in Pictures

I've visited the Gyeongbokgung Palace 3 times and this has been the only time I had the oportunity to take my time to explore it, I've posted about this before here and here, so this will only be a re-visit in Pictures!