Thursday, September 20, 2012

Seoul Food Girl in Japan: How to make Takoyaki in true Osaka fashion

Forget spending a fortune in America or taking a trip to Japan, making your own takoyaki is easier than you think.
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 How to make Takoyaki live video:

A takoyaki grill is needed.
      Bubbly balls of goodness shimmering with moving flakes and green sparkles is the best way to describe the famous Japanese dish takoyaki (γŸγ“η„Όγ). During my first trip ever to Japan, my friend and I stopped by the famous takoyaki restaurant in Dotonbori in Osaka. Osaka is the best place in Japan to try takoyaki as the delicious octopus fried balls originated in the coastal city in 1935. To be honest, I was very skeptical about trying takoyaki for the first time because of the crazy hype fellow travelers and friends expressed as they lost their minds telling me about it. Speaking from past experience trying popular food items in tourist locations usually turns out to be a let down and more of a tourist trap or experience rather than being popular for the actual taste and quality of the food. But all of my premonitions were wrong about takoyaki as I bit into a flaky and crunchy yet gooey ball of absolute joy and decided it was by far on the top 5 list of things I had eaten in Japan. Returning back to Tokyo to work 10 months after my short trip to Osaka, I found myself with a Japanese family making my own takoyaki for the first time. 

My great takoyaki teachers.
Takoyaki Ingredients:

-Fish flakes
-Pickled ginger
-Green onion
-Seaweed flakes (kim)

Simply add all of the ingredients to the inside of the balls and turn them with a toothpick. Then season as shown in the video.

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  Creative Commons License  Gone Seoul Searching by Marie Webb is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Seoul Food Girl: Mappo BBQ is the Korean BBQ restaurant in San Diego that never sleeps

Mappo BQQ in San Diego stays true to Korean night life every day of the week.
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The traditional round tables are just like in Korea piled with goodies.
    Six bottles of soju later, a free bill, and Korean Karaoke marked a wonderfully Korean night out on Convoy St. in San Diego. The small round tables at stools at Mapo BBQ Korean Cuisine keep the traditional Korean BBQ alive as many local California Korean BBQ's take a modern take Korean dining with Western style tables and chairs. Mapo offers both a traditional Korean experience with charcoal grills outside and a modern American experience with electric grills inside. Whatever you are looking for, the Korean cuisine will be delightful.
    After 2 kimchi jjigaes, bi bim bap, samgyupsal, gal bi sal, thin sliced beef brisket, shrimp, 2 steamed eggs, several bottles of soju and hite, my table was stuffed. We went a little overboard having a great Korean BBQ experience with my friends and their Korean students studying in California. One of our group members was also vegetarian so we ordered her the shrimp and vegetable bi bim bap. We ordered the set menu A which lets you choose 4 kinds of meat, 1 steamed egg, and 1 kimichi or tofu jjigae. We also ordered extras such as the shrimp and more jjigaes and rice to satisfy our appetite.
The grills outside in the traditional Korean section have charcoal.
     After a good two and a half hours of eating and playing Korean drinking games one of the Korean students got up to use the restroom. After a long departure, another one of our group members went to check on him only to discover that he had been sucked over to his Uncle's business meeting (drinking meeting in Korea) at another table. Our large bill over $200 was comped by the boys Uncle who explained that it was tradition for the oldest family member to pay the bill! The uncle had also encountered my blonde friend near the restroom which could have been another contributing factor to the free meal. Even funnier, we never saw our friend again as he was initiated into the business table and was stuck there until everyone had finished!

After Mapo head over to a local Korean karaoke room for some fun.

Price- Certain things on the menu seem outrageously priced for those of us that have lived in Korea. To see bi bim bap priced at $8-12 seems ridiculous when you can get a giant sizzling bowl with free side dishes in Korea for just $3. However, if you are going for BBQ the all you can eat is the best route to go. For $20 you get everything included. The set menus are also

Service- The service takes much longer than in traditional Korean restaurants. They serve you your side dishes first and the meat comes out much later. The trick is to not get so hungry that you eat all of your side dishes before grilling your meat as you should mix and match them along with the meat for extra flavor.

Atmosphere- At about 10 pm on a Thursday night Mapo will start to get really crowded. Interestingly enough my group was there at about 8:30 and the traditional BBQ tables were empty in the inner room. But the later it got, the entire room and outside portion with the charcoal grills were completely full. Mapo BBQ is like Korea at its best as it lives up to the night life in Seoul and every other Korean city. If you go to any big city in Korea the BBQ restaurants are at their full capacity at around 10 pm to midnight and even into the earlier hours of the morning. I'd say that Mapo is one of the most authentic Korean restaurants in San Diego.

Food- Once again, for those of you that have lived in Korea the quality of American beef versus Korean beef is non comparable. You can taste the difference in quality and the flavors are quite different. However, Mapo BBQ does a great job keeping all of its side dishes including its kimchi extremely traditional. The dipping sauces for the meat are perfectly made and if you are lucky enough to get a charcoal grill outside your meat will taste even more Korean. Cut those long pieces of kimchi up and throw them on the grill along with the garlic and mushrooms for added flavor.

Reviews- Most of the reviews agree that Mapo Korean BBQ can be quite expensive but well worth it for the quality of food and atmosphere. In relation to the well known Korean chain, Manna Korean BBQ, Mapo stays true to its Korean heritage without becoming too Americanized or mainstreamed.

Check out Mapo BBQ Korean Cusine's Facebook Page

If you have any questions or comments about "Seoul Food Girl: Mappo BBQ is the Korean BBQ restaurant in San Diego that never sleeps" please leave them in the comment box below or email them to 
  Creative Commons License  Gone Seoul Searching by Marie Webb is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at

Sunday, September 9, 2012

What does it mean to be well educated?: A response to Alfie Kohn

Alfie Kohn came to USD last January to talk about what it means to be truly well educated.

     What does it mean to be well educated? My first experience with Alfie Kohn's simple yet complex question was last spring when he came as a guest speaker to the University of San Diego. At that time, my research fellowship required me to organize and plan for the Department of Learning and Teachings special events. My faculty advisor gushed about Kohn and made it clear to me that he was one of the biggest and most important names in the field of education today. After plenty of research and extensive readings, I found myself fascinated with his work and agree that he is one of the most knowledgeable and approachable writer and speaker in the field. Taking a look at his article titled "What does it mean to be well educated" (2003) answers many questions about education in a clear and precise manner.

1. Kohn's wife- After 29 years of schooling not including medical residency, Kohn's wife still cannot do basic arithmetic or use good grammar. Yet, what she is lacking is not preventing her from her professional success. Kohn's wife is a great example of the question of whether or not our schooling is flawed. If someone can go through such extensive schooling and still have trouble with the basics does that mean we have failed as educators? I believe the answer to this question is no and Kohn follows up by providing many great examples.

2. smart or book smart?- Kohn states that he has realized how many truly brilliant people cannot spell or punctuate. Does this diminish their value as a professional? Absolutely not. I agree with Kohn when he says that their insights and discoveries change the shape of their fields. Who cares if they can't use an apostrophe correctly to save their lives? As a journalist and writer myself, I admit that I am not the best at grammar. Every great writer still has an editor that focuses in on the minute mistakes that harm our writing but not our ideas. As an ESL teacher, I am still reluctant to say that I know all of the rules of grammar even though I teach many grammar points on a daily basis. Yes, I know more than most of my peers about grammar terminology, but that is just because of using it on a daily basis not because I'm smart. Of course knowing the foundations of any subject will help you to succeed, however if you still have the will to learn and challenge yourself every day towards learning something new you are on the pathway towards being well educated. We can pick up a dictionary and check our spelling and use a calculator to correct our math. Does that mean that we are dumb or just using our minds to focus on more meaningful things than the basics?

3. What is well educated?- How many times have you encountered someone that you think is smart because they know alot of names, ideas, and facts about a particular topic? In my personal history in life this person was an ex boyfriend. We would often talk together about his ability to recall a ton of random information and today I still wish I could recall names and cool facts like he can. Yet, he stated to me that I was smarter because I could talk in depth about the few topics I knew and could write about them better than he could. So who is smarter? One of my favorite quotes from Kohn's article on this topic states that familiarity with a list of words, names, books, and ideas is a uniquely poor way to judge who is well-educated. He says "to be well educated then is to have the desire as well as the means to make sure that learning never ends." We have to have the desire to keep learning in any context and to have the means or ability to do so. Thus in my opinion someone that is not well educated doesn't care or take the time to learn themselves or they do not know about or have access to resources that would make learning possible. With the internet I find it hard to believe that people in my generation don't know how to take control of their own learning and I believe they are easily distracted by the plethora of information available to them.

This article has brought me back to my latest post about whether or not getting a Master's of in Education in TESOL is worth the effort in our failing economy. To work at in the university setting I am required to have a Master's degree, however I strongly feel that the reason I have developed good skills as a teacher is because of my past work experience and observations of teachers in the field. My jobs in Korea and Japan are what have allowed me to make the connections and skills I have today. My future diploma has contributed to much of my background knowledge in the field and will allow me to begin applying to higher end jobs. But just because I have a Master's degree does not make me well educated. The program and many life experiences have inspired and equipped me to continue learning which is what makes me "well educated."

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  Creative Commons License  Gone Seoul Searching by Marie Webb is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Getting a Master's of Education in TESOL: is it really worth it?

My first job as an ESL teacher in Korea has helped me to secure more job employment than my Master's degree.

       Earning a master's degree program in Teaching English as a Second Language (TESOL) can open many doors to your future as an educator, but does all the hard work and student loan debt really pan out in our failing economy? This is the question that has been ringing in my mind as my last semester of graduate school begins. With such a tough job market that has proven tough for many graduates, the line between reality and our dreams can become easily blurred. Many students are now entering into master's programs simply because they couldn't find their desired job right out of undergrad. They are sucking their parents dry and taking on enormous student loan debts only to graduate and still be jobless because they have no valuable work experience.
       There are always jobs out there for ESL teachers at many local language academies anywhere in the U.S. They usually pay between $18-$25 per hour and will offer 25-35 hours per week.  Craigslist had a total of 4 job postings last week alone for ESL teachers at language academies in Downtown San Diego. These jobs will pay some of your bills and allow you to survive, but most of them offer no health insurance or benefits. In addition, most ESL teachers starting out in California are working at 2-3 different language academies because of the limited or varying hours. Working a split shift from 9 am to 1 pm and 4 pm to 9 pm is not unexpected for any local language school.
     ESL teachers with a master's degree have gone through intensive training as educators and will be able to apply for jobs at local universities and community colleges. However, they need plenty of experience first and so many young educators have to start out at language academies and then work their way up. Getting a salaried job at a local university right after receiving your master's is not going to happen. Most teachers work a minimum of 1-8 years as part time adjuncts at several community colleges and language academies before they ever get offered a full time faculty position with benefits. This makes my road towards becoming a full time ESL professional in California extremely difficult.
     My advice to anyone that wants to work full time as an ESL teacher in the university setting is to start teaching immediately at any school that will offer you a job. No matter how low the pay is, your experience as a teacher is invaluable. A master's degree in our society means nothing anymore. Many universities such as Miramar Community College will offer part time Instructional Assistant (I.A.) positions that will allow you to work as a teachers aid for 5-12 hours a week. Working alongside a full time faculty member allows you to get to know the university and the university to get to know you. This is my second semester as an I.A. at Miramar. Faculty member and Department Chair, Sheryl Gobble stated "the position is like a semester long job interview." This allows new teachers the opportunity to get their foot in the door for a part time adjunct position.
      The problem with my generation is that they all believe they will get  amazing salaried positions right out of college which is when they need to get their heads out of the sky and face the real world which is our lagging economy. Even worse, its easier to move abroad to Japan where an ESL teacher that holds a Master's degree can make $50,000 with six weeks paid vacation and a housing allowance making those that wish to stay in California feel torn and invaluable. The best thing you can do to achieve any dream job in this market is to work; and by working that means even at Mc Donald's or your neighborhood grocery store. There is an old fashion saying "it takes money to make money" and I believe it should read "it takes a job to get a job."
       So yes, in the long run getting a master's in TESOL is worth all of the hard work and high tuition costs if you are committed towards working and establishing yourself as a teacher over several years before getting a salaried position here in California. After gaining more experience in language academies and international contexts dream jobs at UCSD and local community colleges will be someday be attainable.

If you have any questions or comments about "Getting a Master's of Education in TESOL: is it really worth it?" please leave them in the comment box below or email them to 
  Creative Commons License  Gone Seoul Searching by Marie Webb is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at

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Creative Commons License
Gone Seoul Searching by Marie Webb is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at
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