By Shannon Selis
Many places in South Korea have every convenience from your native country. My city, Ulsan, is large, but does not necessarily have all these conveniences. The best thing is definitely a Costco. Due to the lack of readily available home goods, a group of foreigners (to Korea) have come together to create a monthly market. It is here that people from all over the world gather to sell their wares and services. One of the most popular vendors is known as the Eonyong Cook. He sells homemade pies: shepherd’s pie, beef + Guinness, cheesy onion, quiche, etc. He pretty much started the market as well. The pies have gotten so popular that he has to make a preorder list for people or they will sell out in the first hour. One guy preordered 15 pies for the June market. Another lady sells homemade breads. Her friend sells homemade soaps. One girl crochets and sells little hats, scarves, dolls, etc. Another guy offers computer/cell phone repair services. So there’s a good variety of things people miss or want from home.
It’s no big secret that I enjoy cooking. I get a kick out of spending hours in the kitchen and seeing a big smile on peoples’ faces when they eat my food. I don’t have too many original recipes, but I normally glance over a few of them online then take the best of all of them and put them together. I then give it my own artistic touch… usually in the form of spicy seasoning. I happen to have a few favorite foods, but there is one particular thing my family and friends connect me with: pickles. Sour and half sour, crunchy, green, garlic pickles. I would go to the Medieval Fairs just so I could reach into a giant barrel and get a pickle the size of my hand. I have received jars of pickles for my birthday! Yes, the pickle passion is intense. My family events tend to be ‘Don’t forget the pickles!’ and then everyone brings some and we have so many pickles that we don’t know what to do with them!
In Thailand, pickles were non-existent. The day I went back to the US, my grandparents picked me up from the airport with 5 pickle spears from Toojays (along with a hearty corn beef-pastrami sandwich and a cream soda. BEST GRANDPARENTS EVER!). I had my share while I spent a few months in the US. Then I moved to Korea and to my delight, there were pickles! But they were tiny.. and sweet…and mushy…and depressing. Then I got an idea. An awful idea. A wonderful, awful idea. I would make my own pickles.
Many weeks and months of testing and trying, and I finally figured out how to make the perfect sour pickle. My friends gawked and begged. One friend ate the entire jar before she could get them home. Another friend offered to pay me for it. So I signed up for that market and decided to sell pickles. I used cucumbers big and small, jars leftover from olives and tomato sauces. I had 12 jars of pickles ready to go by the time the market was upon me. But it wouldn’t be enough. I knew I had to do something else to grab the attention of the people of Ulsan.
So I made dips. I made the spinach artichoke dip and buffalo chicken dip that my friends pined over at my birthday party. I created an original (maybe?) dip of artichokes and Brussels sprouts. I made an olive dip! I made 32 300mL containers of dip. I worked my ass off preparing these for the day of the market.
And it came… and went. And I sold all but 2 jars of Cajun pickles, 2 containers of buffalo chicken dip, and one container of olive dip. But that night, two friends who hadn’t made it to the market asked for a jar each plus buffalo dip each. I sold out. On my first day as a vendor, I sold out!!
July 6th is the next market. I will likely offer a pre-order this time. And maybe, just maybe, I will introduce Ulsan to my homemade pastas.
Shannon Selis is an English teacher and massage therapist currently frequenting South Korean karaoke bars. When she’s not teaching, singing show tunes, or mastering recipes, she shares her experiences at wittylmt and Another Food Thing.