A couple of weeks ago I left South Korea to return home to Southern California for a week. My reasons for returning home were personal and due to an impending death in my family. The journey home was a weird one…I had conjured up in my mind how I would return home in June and it would be so fun and exciting but this trip home came out of nowhere and was far from fun. But, it was something I was very lucky to be able to do. I understand that not many people get the opportunity to say goodbye to a loved one and for my chance I will always be grateful.
It was strange to be home for such a brief amount of time and without any planning. For the past couple of months Josh and I had been excitedly planning on what we were most excited to do once we touched down on our home soil…and most of it involved what places we would eat at.
Going back to So Cal for a week unplanned felt so surreal. I told Josh I didn’t want to eat at any of our favorite restaurants back home…when we had planned on eating at those places it was going to be together and a happy time…since my reasons for going home were sad I almost felt like I shouldn’t be doing anything enjoyable…but he told me I should not only eat at our favorite restaurants but also send him pictures of everything I ate. Sometimes I felt guilty about sending him home pictures of food I know he had been craving for 10 months but I made up for it later…read to the end to find out what I did :)!
After landing in LAX after a 12 hour non-stop flight from Seoul (at this point I hadn’t slept for over 24 hours) my first stop was the hospital after which my family took me out to a nice meal of my choosing…which was of course Mexican food. I made it a point when ordering food to get guacamole as much as I could since avocados are both difficult to find and expensive in Korea. That hasn’t stopped me from buying avocados when I see them here; but, when I do they never seem to ripen properly. And what is the point of making guacamole when you can’t get your hands on cilantro? Anyways, I digress, my first meal after touching down in the States was at El Cholo in Anaheim Hills. Not knowing what to order besides the guacamole, I ended up ordering “A Taste of History,” which is basically a little bit of everything.
I tried to surprise our puppy, Aurora, with my unplanned arrival but I only ended up confusing the poor dog. It was like she knew me and that she was happy to see me but she couldn’t quite place why…Oh well, when Josh and I get back to the States in June we will have plenty of time to bond over hiking and treat bribery.
When I woke up at 4 am (thanks jet-lag!) and made myself some mac and cheese!
I, of course, went to Josh and my’s favorite hole in the wall Mexican fast food joint Pepe’s and ordered way too much food. Oh, it was so delicious! I knew it would be but knowing and shoveling the food down your throat are two different things and I much prefer the latter.
When I visited my 할아버지 (Korean grandfather) he gave me this Choco Pie which made me laugh. I have a new found appreciation for choco pies following my experience as being a teacher in South Korea…”Teacher!! Choco Pie! CHOCO PIE!”
Another four in the morning meal…microwave chicken taquitos and pre-made guacamole…don’t judge me it was delicious.
And then…I went….with my dad…..for lunch….at El Farolito. El Farolito is by far the BEST MEXICAN FOOD in Orange County. The restaurant is an unimpressive building in the heart of Downtown Placentia…and inside….inside is where they make the best food ever. Usually this place is stupid crowded any time close to dinner so I really lucked out when my dad and I happened to be in the area at the slow time between lunch and dinner. El Farolito has many great dishes…everything I have tried from this place is tasty…but they are famous for their flour chips. These are basically your average Mexican restaurant chips on steroids…they are so thick and quite honestly can be a meal in and of themselves… I ordered the Mama’s Plate (you get to choose two items that get served with rice and beans), I chose the cheese enchilada and chicken taquito…and like an idiot forgot to take a picture of my main meal….. Never fear, when I go back to So Cal in 3 months I will make a post dedicated to my undying love for this place and be sure to stop salivating long enough to take some actual pictures.
I visited the Lazy Dog Cafe with Josh’s Grandma Jane since it would be a fun meal where I could bring Aurora. The Lazy Dog Cafe is a restaurant chain that caters to dog owners. They serve decent food and drinks but the main reason I go there is that they allow canines on the patio, you can even order your furry companion food.
Since I was stupid jet-lagged the entire week home I took advantage at waking up at 4 am by walking the dogs almost everyday…for real walks. One plus of living in Korea is that I am forced to walk to many places which means I can walk a lot more than I used to be able to…
I did somehow have time to squeeze in a visit with my lovely friends who as usual went all out with the food…
Of course…what visit to America would be complete without breakfast at Denny’s?
My last meal in the States before heading back to Korea was….KOREAN FOOD!!! HAHAHAHA….I guess it was only fair since my last meal in Korea was at the McDonalds in Incheon Airport. The place we ate at is called Morangak and is my family’s go to for Korean food. I always order the bibim naeng myun (spicy buckwheat noodles) and they are the BEST. I have ordered this dish whenever I could in Korea and have yet to find a strong competitor. Morangak is great…the banchan (side dishes) are delicious and according the meat quality is really good with plenty of options.
Finally, I had to pack up what I was taking back with me to Korea. Since Josh and I will be limited to 200 pounds of checked luggage on our return journey to Cali, we decided that on my unplanned trip home I would take as much as I could, which meant I took two fifty pound suitcases of stuff home. On the return journey to Korea I brought back 57 pounds of mostly food…
And finally…how did I make it up to Josh that I was able to eat our favorite Mexican dishes and he wasn’t able to…. I TOOK HIM SOME HOME!!! In a random stroke of genius I came up with the idea to surprise him with his favorite item from Pepe’s…the bean and cheese burrito. Thank goodness he likes something so simple as this made transporting it back to Korea not too difficult. I ordered him four bean and cheese burritos and had them double wrapped (two tortillas to keep them from getting soggy). I then took the burritos out of the wax paper they came in, put them in ziploc bags, covered the bags individually in foil and then put them in another ziploc bag and froze them. Pepe’s is known for their large burritos so the four burritos probably weighed a combined 8 pounds at least. The last thing I packed in my luggage was the frozen burritos into a soft cooler. I was afraid the burritos would get confiscated somewhere along the way but luck was on my side and they made it through the entire 16 hour journey just fine! AND…according to Josh they tasted amazing! He just heated them up in the microwave, threw them in the toaster for a little and was good to go. Oh..and it also helped that I made sure to freeze some of their amazing green salsa so he could get the whole Pepe’s experience :).
All in all my trip back home to California was a surreal experience. Most of my time was spent at the hospital. When I wasn’t there I was experiencing everything else through a thick fog of jet-lag. But, getting to spend time with the people I love back home was great, I cannot wait to go back home and see all my loved ones again!