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Korea

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Omma
177 rue Bernard Ouest
Montréal, Québec H2T 2K4
(514) 274-1464
www.restaurantomma.com

Since moving to Montréal a few years ago, I have accepted a few culinary facts about the city:
(1) The baguettes are always amazing
(2) “Vegetarian? No problem, we have fish!”
(3) The quality of Korean restaurants are dreadful

File this under complaint number 8,356 about the gaping hole of good ethnic eats in la belle province. Alas, I have come to terms with the lack of quality and authentic Korean restaurants in Montréal with heavy pangs in my heart. I get it, I was spoiled with an excellent array of Korean food during the first twenty years of my life as I grew up in the Toronto suburbs where a subpar Korean restaurant would never last more than a year. Torontonians, both those of Korean heritage and seasoned Korean food diners, demand some decency when grabbing Korean grub, whether it is Korean barbecue, KFC (aka Korean Fried Chicken), hipster Korean tacos, momofuku (or those inspired by the inventive Japanese-Korean fusion eating trend), late-night pork bone soup, or just a traditional eatery. See? So many different types of Korean restaurants are out there! Why not bring some good ones to Montréal, I ask?

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Dol sot Bibimbap (top) with sweetened hot sauce, Kimchi Combo side (middle), and Spicy Lamb or Agneau épicé (bottom)
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Happy Lunar New Year! The new year according to the lunar calendar is also known as “Chinese New Year” for those of us in English-speaking countries. Koreans, just like the Chinese, traditionally followed the lunar calendar before adopting the Gregorian calendar of the west, so we Koreans refer to the same horoscopes as the Chinese. For 2014, we celebrate the Year of the Horse, and apparently it is the year of the “Blue Horse” for this cycle. According to the Korean Broadcasting System (KBS), the Blue Horse, unlike a regular horse horoscope character, comes around every 60 years. This is just as unique as the two other “special” horoscopes that I am aware of — The Golden Pig, which happens to be my dad, and the White Horse, which happens to be my sister.

The Lunar New Year is a very big event in Korea; it is considered the most important holiday of all, besides Chuseok or Korean Thanksgiving in the fall. And holidays in Korea mean family and food, not unlike the celebratory traditions of many other cultures. So what does my family do? We make a feast. But what do Korean people make at home to feed a crowd? I am the kind of person who asks my friends from non-Anglo-Saxon backgrounds what their families make at home, so I thought others may be interested in what the dinner table looks like for Korean-Canadian families. So here it is.

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“Kalbi” or barbecue short ribs

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As an exclusive user of virtual calendars, contact lists, and notes, I have come back to the fold of paper-based agendas. How did this happen?

Two years ago, I went to Indigo Bookstore here in Montréal in search of a proper, physical agenda — paper ones that you can actually write with a pen. A sales associate showed me their current collection which was a measly three or four hard cover books that did not meet my size and content specifications. Since then, I have relied entirely on my Google Calendar, Google Tasks, Google Contacts, and Apple Notes. I used to have both a paper agenda and my virtual organization platforms that I would access with my laptop. But once I got a smartphone, I transitioned entirely to the virtual agenda. I thought to myself, “How on earth did I live without a smartphone?!”

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My dad in Banff, Alberta, as a recent single parent

Is it enough to only have a father?

I have a mother, of course, but she died more than a decade ago. And since my undergraduate university years, my dad has fronted the parent fort, watching my sister and I go through years of tuition fees and multiple boyfriends. And as much as I felt the gap left by the absence of a parental figure, I never thought I lacked a looming force of authority in the family. A feminine one.

But I often rethink this when certain people react to the fact that my sister were still relatively young when our mother passed, and we are guided by only our father at the helm. For example, when I was working full-time in Toronto I worked with “Tom” who was nearing his retirement, an older gentleman in his 70’s. This was at a financial firm and the recession of 2008 hit us big, meaning Tom had too much nervous energy and time to wring his hands, filling his days with multiple coffee breaks and some times intrusive chatter. Tom often barged into the office I shared with two other co-workers, all female, and we would all politely listen to Tom’s banter while multitasking on Excel sheets. He was an interesting character, an old-fashioned but a vehement feminist, shaking his head with emotion as he talked (yelled?) about how “Women are going to rule the world!” and “Children are nothing without women!” The latter statement being not really a feminist one … but Tom meant well.

I had to graciously interrupt him, however, when Tom minimized the role of fathers, to phrase it nicely.

“Well, I only have a dad and I think I turned out OK,” I chirped in, smiling.

Tom did not expect that, and he became flustered, repositioning his head back inwards after stretching it out and wide for his rants. And then it became awkward at the office between me and Tom, that is, until I soon packed my bags and moved to Montréal.

I knew Tom was only trying to extol the place of women in society, but he was falling into that belief that women are better parents than men. And such perspectives embrace women as “natural” caretakers, caregivers, and parents unlike men, whose natural space is elsewhere, usually at an office where he can bring home the bacon. This belief is very hardwired in Korea, where I was born, but as I was raised in Toronto I was not aware that Korean culture perceives children without mothers with a critical eye. So when my mom died my dad warned me that other Koreans may see me differently, that they would think that my character and foundation was lacking because I did not have a mom. And this meant, to some Koreans, that I was not marriage material. (Not that I really care about my grading on the marriage-worthiness scale. Plus I was never meant to marry a guy straight from Korea and not raised in this culture.)

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Did you know that May is Asian Heritage Month here in Canada?

I did, but it took forever for me to write a post about this month despite the fact that I am Canadian and Asian. But here is a music video worth sharing by a Korean rock band called Jan Kiha and the Faces for their song, That Sucks. Though I am ethnically Korean, I have never heard of the band — I do not follow any Korean musicians except for Psy, but this is not exactly extraordinary since everyone knows of Psy! Also, I cannot decipher what exactly the band is singing about, but nevermind the lyrics (though the tune is catchy). Look at the food porn!

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God you just have to love Phoenix.

The French band dropped their first single from their fifth studio album, Bankrupt!, set to be released on April 22 (U.K.) and 23 (North America). The album has ten tracks, as expected from Phoenix, and should include one instrumental track as well, another Phoenix album standard. The band also announced their world tour last month, which so far includes two stops in Canada (no Montréal?!) from late March to the end of August. Interestingly, the band is playing at The Grove Music Festival at Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. I have never heard about this festival but I am surprised at the big names that signed up! The line up for The Grove Music Festival not only include Phoenix, but Macklemore x Ryan Lewis, Hot Chip, and Earl Sweatshirt. Where on earth this did festival come from?!

In the meantime, watch the band’s video for their first single, Entertainment, which does not feature any members of the band. However, the video juxtaposes scenes from a fictional South Korean drama (also called K-Dramas) and images of a militaristic North Korea. As expected, scenes of romantic unfulfilled love, co-worker conflicts, ancient Korean landscape, backstabbing (literally) and other ingredients essential to the k-drama unfolds. And a very hipster looking Korean dude sporting eyeliner and long locks. However, no Kim Jong-Il in sight. Pure entertainment.

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Montréal had yet another snow fall in the last couple of days, meaning winter is still making itself comfortably languid in this part of the world. All these months of winter weather has changed my skin into a dysfunctional and irritable mess. I usually have the oily, shiny type and moisturizing lotion was something I used strictly below the chin. But come December, I was digging through my medicine cabinet for something to control my flaky, peeling visage. This winter I even started to experience frequent rashes and other forms of skin irritation from exposing myself to -40°C temperature. My skin demanded attention; it became red, taut, and even sported a matte texture for once. My usual grooming regimen needed an overhaul.

I admit that I already am a skincare junkie. I read news and articles concerning skincare like the way you hope your broker keeps tabs on your mutual funds. My Internet bookmark is set to various beauty sites and I peruse Sephora almost like the way Terry Richardson picks his young models — ravenous and wide-eyed though perhaps I am more restrained. I regularly scan the flyers for my local drugstores so that I know when there are sales and deals for my usual lotions and serums, leaving me no excuse for ever running low on eye cream.

This may seem odd to some people since I keep my makeup to a minimum and seem accepting of many so-called imperfections on my skin: freckles, acne, and pores so huge I could probably stock an emergency supply of water jugs for the apocalypse. I accept that I do not have “perfect” skin and even dismiss such an objective though yes, I do drink the Kool Aid of the beauty myth. That said, I do enjoy many grooming rituals, even the artistic nature of makeup, and I want to feel confident and look presentable. However, that is hard to do when my face has been invaded by an army of red bumps and blisters that the wonders of makeup can only partially address.

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Hence, this winter, I stored away my soaps and scrubs, and looked for something mild and soothing. I had a couple of thoughts on how to go about restoring my skin to a less angry state, which included some measures by two of my friends involving products meant for nursing mothers and their babies (i.e. slathering on nipple cream and lotion for eczema on baby skin — they swear by it!). Well, those options were at the back of my mind, but I decided to try some alternative options first while being as economical as possible.

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