Gwangju Blog

Where to Eat Wednesday: 볏짚삼겹살

After spending so much time seeking out fancy new places, I can sometimes forget to indulge in the goodness that is proper Korean food from time to time. An issue that seems to happen fairly often when living as an expat who mostly hangs out with other expats is that you tend to be surrounded by people who eventually grow tired of the norm and end up looking for other options. As much as I love trying new things while keeping an open mind, there are times when I just want to get back to my Korean roots and grill some meat before making a sloppy lettuce wrap.


Seeing how it had been some time since I last had dinner in the Sangmu area, a good friend of mine invited me to check out a restaurant he had visited and enjoyed quite a bit. Considering how it had been months since I last had Korean BBQ, I was all sorts of excited to see what 볏짚삼겹살 (Byeotjip Samgyupsal) had in store for me.

With a name that literally translates to “Straw Pork”, I arrived knowing that my dinner would be full of pork goodness. When we arrived, I was initially impressed by the sheer amount of space the restaurant had. Not only did it have enough room to seat dozens of people, but the place was also full of actual chairs for us to sit in. As someone who’s not a fan of learning how to walk again after a long dinner, this perk was very much appreciated.

MenuSelf Bar

Once we were seated, I took a look at the menu, which came with English translations. As expected, the typical options included different cuts of pork to be grilled at the table. There was also a side menu that offered stews, noodles, and rice. It didn’t take long for us to decide the best course of action would be to order a serving of the Grilled Pork Belly w/ Herb & Garlic (허브갈릭삼겹살), Grilled Big-Sized Pork (황제왕갈비), and the Skirt Meat (갈매기살). I also threw in a bowl of Steamed Egg (활화산계란찜), as I personally love that stuff.

SidesPork Belly

After we placed our orders, it didn’t take long for our table to run out of space as we were ambushed by an assortment of sides and dipping sauces. One thing I really liked about this restaurant was their grill and vent setup, which didn’t hang down from the ceiling and was more off to the side in a way that didn’t awkwardly get in the way. Another major plus for this restaurant was the fact that the sauces and most of the sides could easily be refilled at the self serve bar. When eating with picky people who may not love perilla leaves and enjoy consuming obscene amounts of garlic, this perk is always a winner.

The first part of our dinner to hit the grill was the Grilled Pork Belly w/ Herb & Garlic, which came with thick cuts of seasoned pork belly, as well as potatoes and mushrooms. It was difficult to wait as everything cooked, but it was certainly worth it. As much as I love the traditional method of dipping pieces of pork in a mix of salt and sesame oil, there are times I wish that I could have something more than plain pork. Though the flavor of the herbs was rather subtle, especially when competing with the other aggressive flavors that are typical with Korean BBQ, I enjoyed eat bite. Also, I’ve decided that more restaurants should give me the option to grill potato slices, because they are awesome.

GalbiSteamed Egg

The Grilled Big-Sized Pork was not kidding with such a name. The literal slab of meat was large enough to take up most of the real estate on our grill. Outside of the bone, everything cooked evenly, and it wasn’t nearly as fatty as the pork belly. At around this time, we also received our Steamed Egg, which arrived piping hot and topped with a mix of chopped carrots and chives. The entire thing was soft without being too runny, and seasoned well without being too salty. I may have burned my mouth a few times by excitedly trying to eat too much at once, but as always, it was worth it.

Skirt MeatDessert

The last of our order to arrive was the Skirt Meat, which is a very popular among locals for being lean, tender, and significantly more flavorful than other cuts of pork. Due to the smaller sizes, everything cooked fairly quickly. It was around this point we realized that the self bar also had desserts and free drinks. Whatever room we had left was quickly filled with fruity teas, cookies, and very confusing potatoes that were somehow both very sweet and way too salty.

Though it’s not a place I’d hit up for dessert, 볏짚삼겹살 turned out to be a nice, casual spot. The large amount of seating room combined with affordable prices and the overall convenience of being able to grab vital parts of the meal without bothering anyone made for a positive experience I think most people who aren’t in the mood to speak Korean would appreciate. Now if only those dessert potatoes could be more of a savory thing..

Address: 광주광역시 서구 치평동 1182-6 (located around the corner from McDonald’s)
Phone: 062-384-6111
Average Price Range: 8,500 to 9,000 per serving



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Wow – this weekend saw the GFN Gokseong Rose festival take place and what a great time it was!


Even though it was a really hot day everyone managed to take such amazing and creative pictures at the festival. And that made it really hard for the judges to narrow down the finalists for not only the Photo of the day but also for the themes.


We would really like to thank everyone who came out and took part and we hope that you had a fun experience at the Gokseong International Rose Festival 2015.


Below you can find some, NOT ALL, of the pictures from the event. And you can see why it was so hard for our judges. I will collage the other pictures and put them all up on the facebook event page later today.


Once again thank you all so much for coming out and participating and we hope to see you at the next GFN cultural experience event pretty soon!





The Slow Train



The Mugonghwa train, bound, sooner or later for Seoul leaves the old Gwangju station situated just north of downtown. The train is more empty than not, and passengers seem to start settling in for the long (by South Korean standards) ride up north. The announcements commence, one after the other for the first few minutes, and the woman’s voice strains the tired speakers in each car. Not yet settled into this change of scenery, I wonder northward through several cars of upper-middle-aged and elderly riders (it’s a bit early in the day for the teenage crowd I’m told) in search of a coffee. In doing so, I pass though the spaces between the cars (I always liked these loud, drafty corridors, but that is for another photo) and end up in the brightly decorated, yet still dated snack car. It’s mostly empty. A woman in red vest and hair reminiscent of a 50’s commercial advertising instant cake mix is busy putting away prepackaged sandwiches. A lone man sits opposite her, but seems content to stare out the window as northern Gwangju passes by.

I soon realize that there is no coffee ready, or perhaps none on the horizon. So, I purchase a juice and sit down to take in the car, and the movements of those sauntering in and around this lone social space. My eyes eventually fall on the snack bar employee, who after servicing an initial rush of thirsty passengers, seems to have little to do. She ends up sitting at a video game console (think Donkey Kong minus the Nintendo) next to me, and, back turned, is soon lost in thought (the contents of which it is clear is absolutely none of my business). So, as if on cue, out comes my trusty Ricohmatic 225 TLR (a jewel of Japanese postwar machinery) loaded with Kodak Ektar 100, and with an almost imperceptible click of the shutter, a new image is born.

I soon follow the woman in red’s cue, and begin to wonder, naturally, about the service industry, about uniforms, about gender roles in society, or about the culturally-defined spaces which provide structure for, yet simultaneously stunt the growth of a burgeoning identity. However, in a break from the norm, these thoughts peter out soon after arising, and I am left with the syncopated rhythm of this scene, both in light, reflections of the city passing, and of sound, a cacophony of noises. Everything from axles to door handles seems to lead me into a state of perpetual movement (until the next stop, that is), yet also within which, a stasis. This train, this woman, this uniform, are showing me that within such movement, there is a stillness which, just as the dated interiors testify to, has no choice but to take things as they come, one stop at a time.

Mugonghwa Train

Gwangju station to Yongsan station (Seoul)

4:00am, 12:40pm, 2:20pm, 11pm

4:20 minutes – timeless



(Photo and Text by Marty Miller)

What to do this Weekend: Big Buddha’s Birthday Edition

Photo courtesy of Michael Anthony Simon.

Photo courtesy of Michael Anthony Simon.

The annual rose festival is taking place May 22-30 in the beautiful Chosun University Rose Garden. There will be various activities and vendors in the midst of the 152 different varieties of roses that are the highlight. Check out this link for a brief description and directions on how to get there.

The opening reception for the Michael Anthony Simon solo exhibition “Aftermath” is May 22 from 6:30-9:30 P.M. at the Scholz and Jung Gallery, located under Kunst Lounge across from the Asian Culture Complex downtown. Admission is free. For more information check out the Facebook event page.

The Daein Night Art Market continues in Downtown this weekend May 22 and 23 from 7:30-11 P.M. Over 200 local artists and merchandisers will participate, and visitors can also try some art making activities.

Photo of Daein Night Market courtesy of Jenny Jung.

Photo of Daein Night Market courtesy of Jenny Jung.

The Boseong Tea Festival is May 22-26 at the Korean Tea and Sori Cultural Park in Boseong County. There will be an opening ceremony, a tea art festival, hanbok fashion show, and many other activities. An admission fee is required. For more information call 061-850-5223 ext. 4, or check out the website or this English tourism site.

Mariya Haponenko is running a watercolor and still life techniques art class at the GIC May 23 from 12:30-3 P.M. Come learn about the various techniques to create colorful still life, spring and summer themed subjects. Mariya will bring items for you to paint, and will teach the basic techniques. The fee for this class is 5,000 won. All materials are provided, but if you have some materials that you like to work with, bring those along too! For more information, check out the Facebook event page.

Photo courtesy of Boseong Tea Plantation.

Photo courtesy of Boseong Tea Plantation.

GFN 98.7FM is hosting a special photography competition at the Gokseong Rose Festival May 23 from 1:30-6 P.M. Teams of 3-4 people will be given an hour to snap their most creative pictures based on the themes and subjects given. At the festival there is a massive rose garden, a mini theme park with rides, an animal farm, and more. Although it’s to late to register your team, go on out and watch all the fun and cheer on your favorite team. Check out the Facebook event page for more information.

Jenny Jung and the Language Lounge are hosting a trip to the Daein Night Market May 23 starting at 4 P.M. Attendees will meet at Mango Six downtown and then head over to the night market together. This event is free to attend, and participants pay only for any food and drinks you buy. For more information consult the Facebook event page.

Photo courtesy of Salt Art Gallery.

Photo courtesy of Salt Art Gallery.

The Salt Art Gallery is hosting the Pianist Klein + Wanshin Trio event, “All About the Blue” May 23 at 8 P.M. This is an audiovisual experience about the color blue in which Jukyoung Oh plays and improvises on the piano, while singing and accompanied by a personally edited video. Admission is 10,000 won. For more details check out the Facebook event page.

Yoga Yogi is fundraising for victims of the Nepal earthquakes May 25 as a unique way to honor Buddha’s birthday. Participants will attempt to complete 108 Sun Salutations starting at 3 P.M. Everyone is encouraged to participate either by attempting to complete the 108 sun salutations, or sponsoring a YogaYogi student for each repetition they complete.  For more information check out the Facebook event page.

The GIC is hosting French cooking classes taught by Solène Heurtaux on May 27 and 29 as part of their culture classes series. Learn how to make traditional French dishes such as quiche Lorraine, ratatouille, and chocolate cake. Classes are priced at 20,000 each for GIC members, 30,000 for non-members. For more information about how to register, check out the web page.

Photo courtesy of Mariya Haponenko.

Photo courtesy of Mariya Haponenko.

Weekends of the Future

Mariya Haponenko and Áine Byrne will be hosting a stitching class Saturday May 30 from 12-3 P.M. at the GIC. They will give you various tips on embroidery techniques and stitches you can use to decorate your own tote bags or makeup pouches. Prices are 18,000 for the tote bag project, and 15,000 for the makeup pouch. The fees include all the supplies you need to complete the project. For more information, including how to register and pay project fees, check out the Facebook event page.

The Global Families of Gwangju (GFOG)  is hosting their spring festival May 30 at Chosun University 5.18 Amphitheater from 11 A.M. to 5 P.M. There will be activities, food, games, and crafts for the kids to take part in and experience a bit of western culture in Gwangju. There is no entrance fee, but food and crafts will be sold separately. For more information check out the Facebook event page.

Heather Aiken, President of the Gwangu Performance Project and director of the GPP Choir, will be leading a workshop in music theory May 31 from 3-5 P.M. at the GIC downtown. This will be an introductory lesson on basic music theory. Plan ahead to learn something new! Check out the event page for more information.

People You Should Know…in Gwangju: Al Barnum

Photo Courtesy of Al Barnum

Photo Courtesy of Al Barnum

This week’s person needs very little introduction.  A man of great passion and integrity, he is certainly a pillar of the community.   Like a superhero, he’s always there when you need him.  He has also likely done more in his life than any 10 people I know.  But why listen to me tell you?  Here, in his own words is Al Barnum…a person you should know in Gwangju.

How long have you been in Gwangju?

7 yrs. this month (May)

What do you do here in Gwangju?

ESL Professor at Chosun University, Volunteer / Advisor for Sung Bin Home for Girls

What did you do before you took up your current job?

Taught ESL in Torrence Calif. at an International Language School

What has been your most rewarding achievement?

Photo Courtesy of Al Barnum

Photo Courtesy of Al Barnum

Here in S.Korea, it would be as the founder of Adopt A Child for Christmas Program.

What do you do for fun?

Listen to Jazz, read, hike and visit Jeju- do, as often as I can.

What’s the most interesting thing you’ve ever done?

Attended the (original) Woodstock Music Festival in Upstate New York when I was 19 yrs.old. Later in life, it was delivering my two daughters  ( Ruth & Joy) at home  during natural child birth. I had a midwife assist me. I must also mention, visiting the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation with my friend the late Floyd Redcrow Westerman (Dancing with Wolves) in S.Dakota, an experiencing my first Sundance Ceremony and my first Sweatlodge experience. Transformative times.

What is something you wish you could do?

Do away with orphanages. Every child would belong to a loving & caring family that wants them & can provide for them.

Photo Courtesy of Al Barnum

Photo Courtesy of Al Barnum

Any embarrassing tales for public consumption?

Recently, I was riding on the bus (public transportation here in Gwangju) and my hands were full as I was helping someone carry a big bag to her home. As I got on the bus, it was full (as fate would have it) except for a couple of seats in the back of the bus, which I try to avoid since Mrs. Rosa Parks paid so a high price for us to sit anywhere on a bus. ( forgive my dry sense of humor). Anyway, as I was making my way to the back of the bus, the bus driver pulls off very fast an I lunged forward, try to hold onto the seat in front of me, and before I could grab the seat he slammed on brakes as the stop light was only 5 ft.way from the bus stop and “for once” instead of running the light, which is the norm here in S.Korea. He stopped abruptly, an as I went flying backwards, and so did the bag &  its contents leave my hands and the items went sliding down the aisle an I followed, flat on my face, lying in the aisle. You couldn’t hear a pin drop except for
a few gasps. I got up and did not sit next to my friend, because I didn’t want others to know we were together. My side was bruised for 3 weeks, I had a knot on my left knee and my pride and self respect were damaged more than anything else. Did I mention the bus driver never slowed down, or asked if I was okay, an certainly didn’t feel the need to apologize for his thoughtless manner of driving. That was one day I could have done without. haha..

Is there any person you admire?

Always Gandhi, Dr.King, Malcolm X, Nelson Mandela & always my Mom (R.I.P.)..In Korea, it would have to be the late former president Roh Moo-hyun. His humble beginnings and determination to become a self taught lawyer with only a high school education and passing the bar was impressive to me. Also, Kim Dae-jung , the 2000 Nobel Peace Prize recipient. He came to be called the “Nelson Mandela of Asia” for his long-standing opposition to authoritarian rule and for his Sunshine Policy towards North Korea.

Any personal code you live by?

Sometimes it is better to be kind rather than right.

What’s your “perfect” day in Gwangju?

Waking up to a sunny day, taking a taxi from my apt. in Bongseon-dong and 20 min.later boarding a plane at Gwangju airport bound for Jeju Is. only 30 min. away, having lunch at my favorite vegan restaurant in Jungmun Beach, walking the (surfers) beach with a female friend and hopping back on the plane at sunset, to return back to Gwangju in the same day. I’ve done it before and look forward to doing it again soon. Thanks for that question..

Is there any place in Gwangju you recommend?

Photo Courtesy of Al Barnum

Photo Courtesy of Al Barnum

Yes, there is a hiking trail behind Hi Mart & the elementary school In Bongseon-Dong, that leads you high up in the woods above the area, and winds thru the woods and you cross a long beautiful bridge that connects you to another side of the mountain. Almost 1 1/2 hr. hike that terminates at a big field that local farmers have divided up into beautiful gardens, As you make your way down the path, you will reenter the area very close to Bongseon -dong E- Mart. A great workout!

What is something you think everyone should do at least once in their life?

Learn a type of meditation that suits your style and belief system. I have studied Vipassana Meditation for many years now. Visit India, live in a temple, study & learn, Visit a Native American Reservation, an experience the sacred Sundance Ceremony followed by a traditional Sweat lodge.

Any advice you want to give the people of Gwangju?

If you are a foreigner I say, learn the language, (Something I still struggle with, more than most) Find a way to get involved with the local community. For the native Koreans of Gwangju, I simply say, Thank you for being so patient, kind and willing to share your culture with total strangers, some of which are passing through an, others are privileged to make this country there new home.