Jihye Chang

“News and Thoughts”

For the first visitors to Korea

The concert choir of the school that I work at is going to Korea for their international tour this summer. Since I am from Korea and spent more than half of my life there (and I go back every year), I was asked to answer some questions from the students. I would like to share my answers to whoever is planning to go to Korea!

Currency… get some before or there? – Korean currency is “won”. As of April 2011, $1 equals to about 1090 won. Change money while you are there, either at the airport or in the city. In my opinion Korean Exchange Bank has the best rate and service. Woori bank is also nice. If you are in Itaewon, you may be able to bargain as well!

Clothing? What is normal? What should we pack? – Weather in Korea is much like weather in America, say NYC. Summer is hot and winter is cold! May is not the hottest month, but the summer weather has been gradually getting warmer and more humid during the past few years.

What clothing shouldn’t we wear? – shorts? – Yes, Korean people do wear shorts during summertime. But it’d be wise not to wear shorts or flip-flops when visiting Buddhist temples or any other religious place. May is not a very hot month, so you may want to bring some cardigans and other spring cover-ups.

Converters for electrical devices? – Korea uses the 220 (same as European countries) with round ends. So you do need to bring a converter.

What are our options for internet access? – Many hotels and coffee shops in the city will have free Wi-Fi. Incheon airport has many free Wi-Fi spots. South Korea is one of the most wired places in the world, so you won’t have any problems!

What is the food like? – Korean traditional food is based on rice+@ pattern. Unless you are at a BBQ place, you will usually get a dish and a few (or many) side dishes consist of various cooked vegetables and kimchi (pickled cabbage or radish). Sometimes noodle can replace rice. Some dishes are hot – usually colored red! Some dishes are very mild.

What food should we experience – ie your favorites – You should try Bibim-bap, which is a rice dish with various cooked vegetables and fried egg on top/ mixed with some hot pepper paste and sesame oil. If you are a meat-lover, try “Galbi” (grilled marinated beef ribs) or “Bulgogi”. “Ttokgalbi” is also good (it’s like a round hamburger patty with sweet and savory soy sauce marinade.) “Haemul-pa-jeon” is very popular and yummy savory pancake with green onion and various seafood. “Nok-du-jeon” is another savory pancake made with mungbean flour and various toppings. One of my favorite dishes is “Naeng-Myun” (cold buckwheat noodle with cold soup/ or spicy paste and some spicy fermented fish), which can be strange at first but becomes quickly addictive!

If you are an adventurous eater, try “Kimchi zigae” (Kimchi soup usually made with fatty pork) or “Kimchi-bokum-bap” (Fried rice made with chopped kimchi and other vegetables and meats). If you are ever in a Chinese restaurant in Korea, try “Tangu-yuk” (Sweet and sour pork) and “Jajang-myun” (stir fried noodle with black bean sauce). Koreanized Chinese food is fantastic and addictive!

If you get tired of eating Korean foods, you can easily find bakeries, hamburger and sandwich shops. (There are McDonalds, Burger King, KFC, Papa Johns, Smoothie King, and other American franchise restaurants in Seoul.) Among the Korean franchise bakeries, Paris Baguette and Twosome Place are good choices. There are so many great food places in Seoul, so just explore and have fun!

One of the best places to see and eat a lot of different cuisines is the basement of any department stores. (Hyundai and Lotte are two big department chains in Korea.) The whole floor is packed with bakeries, smoothie-shop, ice cream shop, coffee store, fried food shop, dumpling shop, and many many other restaurants and grocery stores. If you have time, go visit the Lotte department store in Myung-dong area. It’s fabulous! Top floors of department stores present more sit-down, formal (and more expensive) restaurants, but the basement is more fun.

What shopping items are a great value for Americans? – Clothes, shoes and accessories. Koreans make such amazing quality clothes and jewelry at such amazing prices! Many street shops in Myung-Dong area and other shopping centers (Dongdaemun market, for example) exhibit a huge array of fashion items ranging from cute pajamas to high-end looking bags. Also you can find many attractive stationary items as well as traditionally made paper items and potteries. Korean traditional brass-ware spoons and chopsticks would make good souvenir.

Phrases to know? – Hello – [Annyung-ha-se-yo]/ Thank you – [Kamsa-Hamnida] or [Komap-sumnida]/  Excuse me – [Shille-hamnida]

What are the people like? – Younger generation is more outgoing and Westernized. Usually Korean people are very friendly and willing to help foreigners. You may notice that Korean women are very well-dressed, even on a college campus and commuting trains!

How are Americans viewed? – I don’t think there is any conformed ideas about Americans, although many people may think that “Americans” = white Caucasians.

How to conduct ourselves – ie rude loud Americans? – Just do whatever seems polite to you. Public smoking or loud conversations are rude, for example. Korean people are physically a bit conservative, so personal space is important. A lot of people are now used to the idea of hugging friends, but not someone they just met. Also you should get used to the formal bow – a lot of people say hello and goodbye that way.

Character: personal grace, dignity, respect for elders – Koreans are proud people. 🙂 Also they respect elders, although sometimes you see some conflict between old people demanding unconditional respect/ younger people who want to claim their own rights.  For example – young people would usually stand up if they see an old person standing in front of them. But sometimes old people tell younger people to stand up just because they are older and they want to sit down.

What is a brief history of S. Korea that might help us understand the Korean people – Well, this is not a question that I can answer shortly or easily. However you need to know about the Korean War n the middle of the 20th century and Japanese occupation during the early part of the 20th century. East Sea is a very sensitive issue (Japanese people keep pushing the political agenda to say that is a “Sea of Japan”).

Itinerary details, short paragraphs about each city? – Seoul is the capital city of South Korea. Very dynamic, always changing, amazingly crowded, and incredibly modernized place. Kyungjoo is a very historic place as it was the capital city of Shilla dynasty (3 Countries – Shilla – Coryo – Chosun – and Republic of Korea). There are beautiful temples, towers and tombs in Kyungjoo. Daegu is a very hot and dry place. You may notice different dialect in that area, which is very different from what people in Seoul use.

Do-s/ don’t-s – Don’t lift your bowl (soup or rice) when you are eating.  This is considered OK in Japan and China, but not in Korea. Also don’t blow your nose at the table.

What to expect at homestays? Gifts? Monestary? – Get used to the idea of taking your shoes off when entering someone’s home. Even if there is carpet in the living room, Koreans take their shoes off and keep everything clean. For gifts, Vitamins and Omega-3 are very appreciated. Also things from popular brand names such as Polo and Burberry. (The prices for these brands are 2-3 times higher in Korea.) A lot of people drink coffee, so good coffee beans from famous American roasters (Counter Culture, Intelligentsia, Peet’s, etc.) would be nice as well.

What should we hope to gain from this tour? – Experiencing a country that you have never been before would be a very valuable thing for any young student. Also the standard for classical music performance is really high in Korea as well as the quality of performance venues throughout the country.

What books should we read to help us prepare? – I think the following two websites would do just fine:



ENJOY your visit to Korea! 🙂

Where to carb out before Go Far! Fargo Marathon

The Fargo Marathon is this weekend, Saturday May 22! I signed up for the 2-person relay with a friend of mine but have not trained myself all that much. So I plan to make it up by eating lots of pasta before Saturday! I have written a few things about restaurants in the Fargo-Moorhead area on this blog, but today I will present a list aimed at fellow marathoners and runners in search of good carb-loading/ pasta options.

Taste of Italy (Formerly Isabella & Stella) – 608 1st Ave. (close to Broadway) 701-365-0608

Stella was my (and my husband’s) favorite choice for Italian food and pastas in FM area, period. Their Ravioli, Pappardelle alla Bolognese, Spaghetti puttanesca (all $13), Rigatoni con porcini ($18), Seafood spaghetti ($21) are all very delicious and reasonably priced. I know they use San Marzano whole tomato cans for their tomato sauce, which makes a big difference. (I persuaded Tony to sell me a can once and made a great Bolognese sauce with it!) Their strengths as a restaurant are how well they do the simple things – the basic pasta dishes and simple tomato sauce that make or break any Italian kitchen.  Chefs here are not afraid of using a lot of garlic, and Stella’s pasta dishes are never salty or soggy. All dinner pasta dishes come with marinated vegetable appetizer, bread, and salad. Be aware that the service can be very slow, and the owner has a “personality.” Oh, and for their food the wine list is a bit sad. But the word is out – today (Monday, May 17th) I reserved a table for Friday (the day before the marathon) at 7pm, and already the restaurant was almost totally reserved for marathoners and carb-loading parties! (This restaurant changed their ownership in 2011. Some dishes are still same, some changed. No more marinated mushrooms, though!)

Toscana – 202 Broadway N. 701-235-9100

A lot of dishes here tend to be salty these days. (It was not the case when they just opened, but it has become that way and I don’t like it as much as I used to), but all the pasta dishes are reasonably priced and some of them are still pretty good. My husband likes their gnocchi, and I like their Piselli e prosciutto pasta. Their Arrabbiatta used to be good, but these days it’s too salty and too spicy for my taste. Also their shrimps (in any dish) tend to be too watery. Service is better than Stella’s.

Spitfire- 1660 13th Ave E. West Fargo. 701-478-8667

This restaurant is mainly a rib/roasted chicken joint, but 5-6 pasta dishes are on the menu. (BTW- their ribs are the best in town, if you would rather eat protein than carb.) My husband and I have tried their Diablo pasta with sausage, chicken and shrimp a few times, and it’s cheesy, peppery and tasty. Big portions, and satisfactory taste. Not anywhere near being “authentic Italian” but it’s good. Through many trips, I have not been disappointed at this restaurant, except getting a sad salad once. This would be actually a good restaurant to go after you run a marathon.

Granite City – 1636 42nd Street S. 701-293-3000

It’s been a while since I ate at GC, as they took some things I liked off the menu and their food tends to taste as if it comes frozen or pre-cooked, but a lot of people seem to like this restaurant. This place has 7-8 pasta choices on the menu, and almost all of them are parmesan or pesto-based. I recall trying a seafood pasta special, and it was not bad. Good beer selection and nice atmosphere.

Santa Lucia

This claims to be a “Mediterranean” restaurant. I ate at this place a while ago once, and today I went back to check out again. Spaghetti with bolognese sauce and meatballs (about $13, salad separate at $2.95) was not good at all. It had a very strange canned tomato paste flavor and was really salty, with very dry meatballs. Their Penne Arabbiata with shrimp ($14.95) was better, but it was also on the salty side. Both dishes were gigantic. You can probably go to this restaurant when you don’t want to go to Olive Garden/ when other restaurants are full.  I suspect that the Greek dishes on their menu would be more successful.

There are a few other non-chain restaurants with pasta menu, but I have not eaten their pasta dishes:

Sarello’s is a very nice Italian restaurant in Moorhead (28 Center Ave. Moorhead, 218-287-0238), but the only pasta dishes on their menu are Lobster Ravioli ($24) and Penne Arrabiatta. ($17)

Basie’s is also a nice restaurant inside the Ramada Plaza Suite. (1635 42 St. S. 701-281-7105) I have eaten their steak and fish dishes, and they are what you expect from this kind of restaurant. It would not be my first choice of restaurant, but it has nice service, good food, and good menu. They feature 5 very interesting pasta dishes. (Thai red curry sauce on Linguini with crab and mussels/ gorgonzola cream sauce over linguini to name a few)

Doolittle’s – 2112 25th Street S. 701-478-2200

Doolittle’s pastas all have Alfredo-type sauce, so I have never ordered a pasta dish here. But their food is usually quite good, and the portions are big. Oh, and their kitchen is open until 11pm, which is a bit later than the norm for Fargo-Moorhead.

Lastly, Speak Easy is a locally owned restaurant in Moorhead with an extensive pasta menu and a cute, old-fashioned deco. However their food is not something that I would recommend highly. Their spaghetti with meatballs was only marginally better than Olive Garden or other not so high-quality chain restaurants.

Well, good luck to everybody who’s running! I hope it will be warmer than last year!

News – Barlow Commission

A good friend of mine, Christian Gentry, just won a Barlow Commission to write a violin-piano duo piece for me and Ben. He will write a piece that is about 20 minute long, and we look forward to premiering it!

Oh, and Arsenal Trio was in Banff, participating in the Chamber Music Residency at The Banff Centre during the first three weeks of June 2008. We worked with Phil Setzer (of Emerson Quartet), Mark Steinberg (of Brentano quartet), Stephen Prutsman (an amazing and versatile pianist from SFO), Henk Guittard (artistic adviser of the Banff Centre’s music program), members of Gryphon trio, and Barry Shiffman (director of The Banff Centre’s Music Program). Also we had a great opportunity to record Ravel Piano Trio with awesome audio engineers, Alexis Baskind and David French. Part(s) of this recording will be posted on the “Media” section soon.

Award winning project!

I and my great friend -and a great composer-Derek Johnson applied to the Yvar Mikhashoff Trust’s International Competition for pianist-composer collaboration and today I found out that WE WON!

I am the happiest person in the world at least for a day. 🙂

Performances 2008

Things can be checked on the “schedule” on www.jihyechang.com as well.

* January 6, 7pm, House Concert at Dr. Brian Singletary’s, New Haven, CT. Program includes Piano Trios by Hummel, Ravel, Barnett, and Brahms.

* January 10, 8pm, University of Louisville Comstock Hall. Music of Marc Satterwhite -with Arsenal Trio

* January 14, 7pm, Indiana University Sweeney Hall. “Talk” at the Composition department seminar. Piano writing in the preludes and etudes by D. Freund, G. Ligeti, M. Ohana, Unsuk Chin, J. Corigliano, S. Shepherd and J. Merritt.

* January 15, 8pm, Indiana University Auer Hall. Guest solo recital featuring “Preludes and Etudes”

* January 22, 7:30pm, Plains Museum Fargo. Pierrot Lunaire performance with NDSU faculty members

* February 14-15, St. Olaf College and Gustavus College, MN. Guest lecture, performance and recording. Music by Justin Merritt

* March 21-22, Guest performance at the Ball State University’s New Music Festival. Music of Steve Rouse, Jody Nagel, and a set of piano etudes.

* April 6, 4pm, First Presbyterian Church, Fargo. Guest performance for the FM Symphony Chamber music series “Rapturous Ravel.” Maurice Ravel’s Piano Trio with Arsenal Trio

* May 12, Guest solo recital for the Studio 2021 series at Seoul National University, Korea. “Piano writing in the etudes of the 20-21 century”

* May 17, Lecture, Seoul National University (Analysis class)

* May 20, Guest recital for the Tuesday Concert Series at Seoul National University, Korea. Program to include Messiaen, Beethoven, and Chopin.

* June 18 and 25, Performances at the Rolston Hall, The Banff Centre, with Arsenal Trio

* September 27, Duo recital with Benjamin Sung, Plains Arts Museum, Fargo

* October 10, Solo appearance with the University Symphony Orchestra in Fargo-Moorhead, Schumann Concerto in a minor, Hansen Theatre, Moorhead

* November 7, The Pathway Ensemble Concert, Kumho Art Center, Seoul, Korea

* November 11, Tuesday concert series at Seoul National University, Korea

* November 19, The Pathway Ensemble Concert, Eunpyung Methodist Church, Seoul, Korea