October 31, 2009

What to Do Now - Photo Diary of Asia

I'm back in the comfort of my home, in the delicious and soft blankets that I've yearned for in those dark, cold days of my travels. In this place, in this town where I was both born and bred, I'm finally here again.

I spent many hours poring over many different publications and blogs and tweets. It's so easy to lose a step or ten if you're away, and the last two months have been no exception. I haven't had a serious post about my travels in a long time and the last few weeks in Seoul have made me wonder where I want to go from here on out. After making a delightful post about kimchi fried rice and seeing the positive response, I'm compelled to diverge this blog into a recipe blog, a format that is not only more popular amongst avid readers of food writing, but also one whose relevance supersedes the confines of a particular metropolis, as large and relevant as Los Angeles may be.

Being a restaurant reviewer has been a supreme joy for me these past three years. It's almost as if the chase, the search for that perfect dining experience, makes the whole enterprise both dazzling and remarkable for the ordinary life. To walk into a restaurant with the air and purpose of reviewing the place gives me a joy and rush that's hard to replicate.

Despite this sentiment, I find that I'm at a crossroads. First things first, I no longer have the digital camera that I've wielded for my dining adventures. I came upon a close college friend of mine visiting from Beijing who happened to lose her camera in a taxicab we took. In the previous week, I had lost my wallet in the same fashion, so I understood her completely. If anything, there were photos on her camera that were irreplaceable. So, with much thought, I resolved to surrender the very instrument which in many ways compelled and empowered my stature as a restaurant reviewer.

Though of course I'm now on the prowl for a replacement, but the time being, I only live in the world of celluloid film, 35mm to be exact. I could remain in this world and easily transmit my willing typewriting skills toward the field of recipe blogging.

I have to admit that while I admire many recipe bloggers, I don't find myself really reading them often. Honestly, I don't read that many restaurant blogs either. I merely skim. I might enjoy some good photos. There are only a few friends of mine where I read and delve on every word.

Otherwise, I spend my time reading books and magazines. Food writing of every age and format, all on the printed page. It's not quite that these are necessarily better than their digital counterparts, but just that I love paper. I love layouts and ink and glossy photos. I love enjoying various typefaces, soaking in their varied translations.

I found that while I was busy with exploring the vast city of Seoul, it was difficult to maintain a regimen of consistent and quality writing. Maybe now that I'm in my comfort zone, I can get back to it. Maybe when I'm in the company of other writers, I'll get on the ball. I can carry my petite little netbook to Intelligentsia (in Silver Lake) and nosh with other bloggers as they do their valued work (mostly on Macbooks).

Wherever I go, I know that my passion and love for good food, drink, and travel will never abate. If anything, this journey around the world has opened my tiny Asian eyes further than I could have imagined (okay, my eyes aren't that small, but they can be if I wince). And of course, I'm always reminded why I started this blog in the first place, because for me there are few things that surpass the pure joy of writing, from my heart, soul and mind.

I hope to at least entertain you with a short photo diary of the last few weeks I spent traveling in Indonesia, Japan and Korea:

the still mountain
Mount Bromo in Central Java, just before sunrise.

freezing cold
A cold morning near Mount Bromo.

treecorn griller
Trees near Mt. Bromo and man grilling corn.

four to a bike
Cool family in Surabaya.

Ramen shop in Japan.

Gamjatang or pork shoulder stew at a Gangnam district restaurant.

Streets of Daejeon, South Korea.

flower crab
Live flower crab (same one used at Ondal 2 Restaurant) trying to attack my dad's finger, at Jagalchi Seafood market in Busan, South Korea.

nakjii - live octopus
Live octopus, squirming and ready to eat.

Bin dae dduk or corn pancake at Hwangjang market in Seoul, Korea. Perfection.

kal gook soo traditional tea at Insadong
Kal gook soo or knife-cut noodles at Hwangjang market. Traditional tea service at Insadong, Seoul. Ddae-chu cha (jujube) and green tea with milk accompanied by rice cakes (dduk).


Gastronomer said...

Glad to have you back in town again, Matt!

Recipes and restaurants aren't mutually exclusive. You can do BOTH. And I encourage you to do so!

Eric said...

Wow, it looks like an amazing trip! I hope you write more about it, and post more photos. Jealous!

kevinEats said...

If you are indeed seriously considering venturing over to the "dark side" of recipe blogging, I urge you to think about the "community" aspects of restaurant blogging--of all the bloggers that you've gone out with, socialized with, how many were recipe bloggers? Not many I imagine.

I think that the recipe format lends itself to more solitary pursuits. Why not try to keep the blog a 50/50 mix at least?

In any case, welcome back.

mattatouille said...

Cathy: I know that they aren't necessarily mutually exclusive but for me it's really a mindset thing. I'm not sure if I could juggle the two things as well as you do.

Eric: Thanks! I definitely want to write up the rest of my trip. I already started working on my second Surabaya post.

Kevin: Dark side? Haha, funny that you put it that way. I think there's a community in the recipe blogger arena, they're just a little spread out because they're not limited to a particular city or metropolis. I feel that I could have the community aspects of restaurant blogging without actually blogging about it, as many people already do.

Pepsi Monster said...

Hey Matt,

Glad to see you back. I think in some ways, I can see what Gastronomer and KevinEats hitting on. I'll probably talk to you about that next week.

Again good to have you back!

Food, she thought. said...

These photos are simply breathtaking. And you seem to really be on a voyage of self-discovery, Matt. Bon voyage.

glutster said...

If you do both...then I'll do both, go in it together...we can do this.

glutster said...

and welcome back


let's hang out as soon as your settled again.

Joshua Lurie said...


Welcome back to L.A. Just because you write about recipes doesn't mean you have to give up the restaurant community. You're welcome at any meal that I'm at any time, whether you write about it or not. I think you should focus on recipes/photography. I've realized that restaurant blogs have limitations and to have bigger reach, the focus can't be on a particular city. Make the switch.

H. C. said...

What a generous act you've done for a fellow friend.

Recipe blogging have their community too... it's called potlucks! And it's the salvation of the singles (or even couples) who blogs recipes, since it's gives them the opportunity to prepare stuff in full batches and share.

I, too, tend not to give too much credence to blogs that are photo-centric, they say a picture may be worth a thousand words -- but I'd rather take a hundred beautifully-written prose over a perfectly-captured shot with no substance or context (or worse yet, accompanied by a caption like "YUMMY!")

And of course, welcome back from the U.S. -- can't wait to see how your worldly travels influence your writings in the future.

And of course, as the occasional avid cook myself, let me know if there's a potluck in the works.

Diana said...

I second what the Gastronomer said - give us both restaurant reviews and recipes! I think you could pull it off. Just write about what inspires you... maybe one day that will be an amazing experience you had at a resto... maybe another day you'll be in the mood to tell us about your new favorite burger recipe. Just stay true to who you are, and you'll be fine. Your loyal readers/friends will be here regardless of your content.

Diana said...

I enjoyed your restaurant reviews/blogs and hope you will find time to consider doing ethnic restaurants; a la Street or other upscale versions of street food. I'm not that interested in "dives", but local restaurants that do food well and healthy (A rating would be good).

Diana said...

I'm the second Diana (should be Diana J. to clarify) who mentioned focusing on street food.

yutjangsah said...

I like recipe blogs too but yeah, to echo the consensus, I'm sure you can do both. The pics look great. Welcome back to Hell-A.

Tricerapops said...

welcome back. at least you were able to keep up with USC football while you were away. the blog will evolve - which is cool. i'll keep reading.

thehealthyapple said...

O My; I want to go so badly...it looks amazing..welcome back...I love the pictures! I'm looking forward to meeting you at the Foodbuzz Festival in San Fran on Friday; I can't wait!

Kung Food Panda said...

Glad you're able to mix it up with food and receipes so far Matt.

BTW, I have to say, some of those Korean food looks awesome. Kal guk su, gamja tang! I just wish it's colder here in LA to enjoy stuff like this!