As I’ve said before, I’m not crazy about the cold. Yes, I’m from New England, but no, I don’t really ski, so winter for me is about the first magical snow (just one please, that’s enough) and then of course the oh so mature Christmas countdown. Sometimes January and February can leave me in a kind of funk. But this really hasn’t been the case in Korea.
This year I didn’t dread January. Maybe it’s because I spent the beginning of the month on the beach in Thailand. Or perhaps it’s my Korea bucket list I am excited to complete before leaving in May. (I was supposed to leave in March…but I have decided to stay a touch longer.) It might also be the awesomely optimistic and adventurous people I have met in my travels.
A few Sundays ago I pulled myself out of my cozy apartment and rallied a few friends to meet downtown and try a ‘healing bar’ I had eyed advertisements for a few nights before while waiting for the bus. I couldn’t think of anything better to scare away the gloomy and cold end-of-weekend-blues. The funky cafe was tucked away on the top floor of a quiet building. The name intrigued me most. “Beetlejuice Beetlejuice Beetlejuice!” My friends giggled as we ascended the stairs toward a sunny and healthier state.
Although the cafe was empty and one lone worker eyed us curiously, we made ourselves at home and took time carefully deciding which fruity/vegetable concoction to try. I chose a pomegranate based drink while my friends chose mango and avocado. We ooed and awed as the juice bar worker simultaneously produced all three drinks at once. As the blenders purred and spun brightly colored liquids around it instantly felt like a summer day in Uijeongbu.
Sometimes you have to get creative. Winter is here to stay, and I know I don’t love it but it also makes me appreciate summer that much more. You have to stay curious during the winter months. And make sure you recruit outgoing companions to stick with you throughout. Plus, having my two friends with me at Beetlejuice allowed me to try two other delicious juices. Who knew avocado could make a fantastic beverage?
Filed under food, uijeongbu
If you’re reading this while considering a move to Korea to teach and live in Asia I can assure you you’re on to something amazing. A year in Korea was just what I needed and I can not recommend the experience enough. Of course you will learn to love your students and their silly ways, you will have wild adventures with new friends throughout The Land of Kimchi and perhaps in other Southeast Asian destinations and you will gain loads of self confidence and cultural understanding. But let me give you one more reason to come to Korea. It’s called Casablanca Sandwicherie and I’m not even sure why I am letting you in on this glorious secret. I guess I am feeling generous, enjoy it while it lasts.
The tiny sandwich haven is located in the small yet buzzing neighborhood of Haebangcheon (aka HBC and close to Noksapyeong Station) in Seoul. I was introduced to my beloved Moroccan Chicken Sandwich last Spring during a local brewery beer fest in HBC. Casablanca is run by the Naciri brothers who are found laughing and working together behind the sandwicherie counter each night starting at 5pm. The menu and shop are small, yet the cozy space is always full of HBC residents stopping in to say hi to the owners and or to pick up take-out orders. There are a few tables for those dining in and usually my friends and I decide to sit and eat because really, we can’t make it out the door before taking a bite of the Moroccan magic. And don’t just take my word for it, Groove Korea wrote that Casablanca makes The Best Sandwich in Seoul.
This past Saturday was a splendidly clear day in Seoul and my friends and I finally made it to the top of Seoul Tower. After enjoying a memorable sunset we descended the hill that surrounds the tower. At the bottom someone quietly muttered, “Well, we’re close to Casablanca…” That’s all it took for us to set off on foot to find HBC and our favorite Seoul eats. The lively scene and filling food in Casablanca made for a perfect beginning to a Saturday night in Seoul. Then, as it always seems to happen, Sunday crept up on us and it was edging toward the end of an eventful weekend. Finding ourselves in Seoul yet again, we discussed where to grab food after a long afternoon of museum touring. Someone joked that they wouldn’t mind another Casablanca meal. And then we were back, and no, we weren’t the least bit embarrassed. Because when a sandwich is that good people understand. Your friends understand. The owners understand and they just give you a knowing smile when you walk in less than 24 hours later and place the same order. They give you that smile that I assume they give many people each and every night.
So, if you’re looking for a reason to come to Korea, I promise this is it. Korean food is the best, you will love it all, even kimchi, but when you want a sandwich you now know where to go. And please, only tell your most favorite people about our little secret. It’s a small place and they close each night when they run out of their famously fresh bread. You don’t want to see my ‘Casablanca is closed!?’ face, I can promise you that too.