Monday, April 19, 2010

Office-tell Cooking: Pasta Salad

When I first came to Korea my first home was a modest and well equipped office-tel. I was lucky to have a good sized fridge and a working stove area. But at that time I worked till 7:30 pm and when I got home I wasn't in the mood to cook. Then, as you know, drama happened and I moved out of that place and into a really cramped and crappy office-tell that I lived in last year.

It is not that I had no desire to cook or had no experience it was that my kitchen wasn't inspiring. A reminder picture (something I really don't want to recall):

Look closely, for there is NO counter space. That area on the right is where the drain was to dry the dishes. The water always smelled funky and the stove barely had room for a large pot and a sauce pan at the same time. Finally, by the near end of my term at that place I finally got more into cooking, improvising with a toaster oven and making my dining table into a prep table.

Eventually, my term was up in that hell-hole and since then I have been living in my very comfy modern office-tell, which has counter space. I am trying not to get too attached to this place seeing how anything can happen when my contract is up next December, but I am going to make the most of it.

On Sunday, another day that JH was too busy to come by, I decided to do some recipe hunting. I love eating out and finding great food but it is costly and also fattening. I don't have an exercise routine in my life but feel that both exercise and healthy eating are intertwined. My big deal is that I am extremely hungry by the time I get off work, because the school lunch is very meager. (I would make a lunch and bring but don't have time.) So instead of exercising after work I make dinner than relax afterward.

However, I do have time to prepare food on Sundays. Stuff like pasta salad or muffins can be made ahead of time and eaten later at the office. (Also they can be shared with coteachers...)

But what I am also trying to say here is that although you have a small kitchen with no oven don't let it fool you that you can't cook healthy and delicious meals. Also, don't let yourself believe that Korea doesn't have the ingredients you are looking for.

Korea's supermarkets and mini-supermarkets are full of fresh fruits and vegetables. To tell you the truth I love Korean carrots because they are full of flavor and very juicy. Carrots are a hint that you can make great salads from supermarket ingredients. There are a variety of lettuces and other salad materials, including sprouts. Finding a good salad dressing can be challenging but there is olive oil & balsamic vinegar (although pricey) for those innovative types.

Also major supermarkets are carrying familiar Western products like pasta noodles, tortillas, chicken breast...and so on. My suggestion is to check out your local marts and see what they have. If they have large tomatoes do a recipe search on to see what you come up with.

If you see an ingredient you are not familiar with, which is the case here, take a note of it's Korean name and ask your coteachers or close Korean pal what kind of food is made with it.

Getting into Korean cooking will make your life easier, since the ingredients are usually cheaper than Western ones and also a lot of Korean food is really healthy. Maangcha is really helpful in Korean recipes since she has videos and simplifies it for everyone.

With that said you should not make the excuse, "Korea doesn't have any ingredients I am familiar with" and "I could never eat healthy here because there were never any fresh ingredients." That last statement is something similar to what I read on a blog one time and couldn't believe that the person didn't see all the fresh produce at the market. For Peet's sake there are like a dozen different varieties of mushrooms, some of which cost a lot back home!

Allright, there you have it folks my little tidbit on how to cook, find food and recipes here in Korea and cook in your officetell.

Now let's move on to what I made Sunday afternoon, which was pasta salad.
It came out gooooood.
Pasta salad is really easy to make and a lot of fun, because you can change it up each time you make it depending on what kind of noodles you use, veggies you cut up and dressing that you put in.

Here is my recipe adapted from the allrecipes website.

Office-tell Pasta Salad:
(Makes two large ziplock (gladlock) containers portions)
  • 1/2 package spiral pasta
  •  1  tbsp of Olive oil
  • 10 grape-tomatoes cut in half...or more to your liking
  • Half a carrot, cut up into thin slices
  • 1 cup of black olives, thinly sliced
  • 1 bell pepper, seeds taken out and cut up into small cubes
  • A few stalks of green onions, slicing up the white-ends and few of the green ends
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Salad dressing (I used a balsamic version, but prefer to use Italian, however Lotte Mart was all out)
  • Optional: Mozzeralla cheese cut up into cubes or (if you can get it) Greek Feta cheese 
Here is a look at the dressing I used, which tastes pretty good.
How to make:
  • Cook the pasta but not all the way leaving it slightly hard in the center. Drain and rinse under cold water, moving the bowl around till all the pasta is cool. Shake the colander till the water is gone or (in my case since my colander sucks) take a thick wad of paper towels and dry off the pasta. Place pasta inside a wide and deep bowl.
  • Pour the olive oil around the pasta and then stir, this is so that the pasta will not stick to itself (dumb pasta)...hehe
  • Take the cut up veggies and put in the pasta. Stir till well mixed. Add the S & P to your liking (I used more pepper than salt). 
  • Pour in the salad dressing to your liking. The way I did it was that I put in a little at first and then more later, seeing and tasting what I liked. Since the stuff marinates in it I figured I really didn't need to use a heck of a lot. 
  • Place it all inside the gladlock containers and put in the fridge, usually overnight or eat a few hours later.
  • Add fresh cut up cheese (see above) for extra flavor and *protein.
Depending on your ingredients I figure this is a healthy dish, however for those who count pasta as some deadly carb then I am sorry. I look forward to eating this at work or when I come home as a snack before trying out a fitness routine.

If you have any similar food stories and recipes please do share! I hope this post comes in handy for other office-tell dwellers. ;)


  1. Looks yummy. I've kind of forgotten how to cook in the past year. The other day I steamed some broccoli and added a touch of butter and Parmesan cheese and it was delicious. I'm sick of soggy kimchi-ified vegetables. I want something fresh and crisp!

  2. Finding a recipe, buying the ingredients and making it for myself has been a real pleasure out here. Sure I can go and find a "Western" restaurant but nothing beats home cooking!


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