aboutWe are Akila and Patrick. Our minds (and waistlines) expand as we travel, cook, and eat our way around the world with our two dogs.
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transnational fast food theorem
in south korea

Korean fast food

South Korean chain restaurants in Busan (TGI Friday's, Bennigan's, Starbucks, and Outback)

The Transnational Fast Food Theorem, named by one food-obsessed traveling duo (ahem), reads as follows: the deliciousness of a fast food chain restaurant is directly proportional to the distance from the chain restaurant's home location.  For those of you visual learners, as my mom likes to call herself, here's a diagram:


[The Homesickness Axiom is a related proposition which states that the longer and farther you are away from your home location, the more appealing fast food from your home will be.]  We have tested this theorem with the Krispy Kremes in Australia that sell ice cream donut sundaes (why, oh, why doesn't Krispy Kreme in the South --- origin of the deliciousness --- sell ice cream?) and McDonalds in New Zealand which have full coffee shops, including a pastry corner, and free WiFi.



South Korea is perhaps the best proof I can offer.  Dunkin' Donuts in South Korea, located approximately 7,000 miles from the original location in Massachusetts, are clean and filled with a mouthwatering array of delicate, fluffy donuts with exotic flavors such as banana, passion fruit, green tea, and pineapple.  Bennigans in Seoul serves healthy, garden fresh salads and pastas rather than the greasy burgers and sandwiches they used to serve in the United States (apparently, Bennigans only exists in South Korea now because they filed for bankruptcy in the US - who knew?).

Kimchi Kimbap
Korean food Korean food

Green onion pancake

Zucchini pancake

Kimchi, kimbap rolls, green onion annd zucchini pancake

Now, I don't want you to think that we only ate American food when we were in South Korea.  We had our share of bibimbap, ramyan, galbi, kimchi, vegetable pancakes, and gimbap.  But, with only one week in the country, we did not have the time to adjust to the food.  The fiery South Korean fare, which uses generous helpings of ground red chiles, blistered our tongues and we finished every meal looking for water or milk. 

Sanchon dinner

Sanchon vegetarian restaurant meal (one of the few vegetarian options in Seoul, it specializes in temple cuisine)

Vegetarianism, too, is a word that has rarely crossed the South Korean mind.  We ordered three vegetarian dishes at each meal, in the hopes that one would actually avoid meat, and often I couldn't even find one vegetarian dish in a restaurant.  And, the truth is, we were lured by the irresistible pull of the familiar.  We hadn't seen an American restaurant in over a month and the chance to eat pancakes and donuts for breakfast and sandwiches for lunch appealed to our gastronomic instincts.

Making honey pastry Stretching the honey
Strands of honey Honey sweet South Korea
Honey sweet Honey sweet South Korea
This delicious dessert is made from honey and starch and filled with peanuts. They pull the honey and starch into long threads and then wrap it into a small cookie.  Pretty amazing to watch!

We celebrated our ninth anniversary in Seoul.  I had hoped for a romantic South Korean meal, perhaps at a barbeque place, so that Patrick could wear those snazzy gloves that they give barbeque eaters in South Korea, followed by a nice walk through the downtown area back to our hotel.  Instead, we woke up in Gyeongju, took an hour long bus to the temples, ate a hasty, mediocre lunch of bibimbap, sped back to Gyeongju and took a five hour long bus to Seoul. 

Silkworms at Korean market Barbeque
Barbeque gloves

Silkworms at the market; galbi (barbeque); puppy at the store; bibimbap

Patrick slept and I watched a Korean cooking show that mainly involved people frying still-wriggling, bug-eyed fish.  This is not a particularly uncommon cooking method amongst South Koreans.  South Koreans will slice open raw eels, sea slugs, and sea cucumbers and serve them to you just like that, without any cooking or seasonings.  We saw vendors selling piles of silkworms and curiously unripened fruit because South Koreans prefer purchasing fruit when it is hard and bitter.  [Despite the bad rap they have gotten for eating dog, the only dogs we saw were these cute and cuddly little fellas at pet shops on every street corner.] 

Dolsot bibimbap

Dolsot bibimbap

As that poor fish slithered and flopped in the sizzling pan, I closed my eyes and started thinking about food.  This is something I do.  Other people daydream about rainbows, money, that perfect guy, or shoes, but, when I need to relax, I think about glorious food that makes my stomach and heart full.  I remembered pizza: the pizza that we had grilled when we once owned a house, the pizza they served from the wood-burning stoves in Rome, and the crackling coal-fired pizza we had at Grimaldi's in New York before we left the States.  When we reached Seoul at 9:30, my stomach sounded like a revving lawnmower.  As we walked past restaurant after restaurant, I kept telling Patrick, "Not this.  Not this."  "What do you want?" he asked, but I was too embarrassed to tell him that I really, really wanted a proper slice of Americanized pizza.

Pizza Hut Rich Gold Super pizza

Our ninth anniversary meal

And, there, in the bottom of the subway station, I saw it.  A little red roof with words scrawled below it.  Pizza Hut.  I hadn't eaten at Pizza Hut in years but, on this day, it was the only thing I wanted.  I ran to it, dragging my backpack behind me, as Patrick rushed to keep up with me.  "Pizza Hut!" I yelled.  We ordered the Rich Gold Super pizza with a crust ringed by a layer of melted cheese and an inner layer of sweet potato puree.  We ate that pizza in five minutes flat and proclaimed it the best thing ever invented.  Why don't they sell pizzas with sweet potato puree in their crust in the United States?  I cannot tell you but I offer this as further proof of the Transnational Fast Food Theorem.

08/13/2010 10:14
That's a funny foray away from international delights back to home-grown fare! I can easily understand why you craved that pizza so much, altho I'm not keen on the sweet potato puree. Mo and I went to TGI Fridays in Delhi for Valentine's Day (very big celebration in India, bizarrely enough), and it was very odd looking at an Indianized menu with American music playing in the background and red hearts stuck everywhere. Surreal but we thoroughly enjoyed the kitschy madness of it all.
08/13/2010 14:42
I am glad I am not the only one obsessed with food! And I wholeheartedly agree with the Transnational Fast Food Theorem. We've succumbed to McDonald's in Spain, Czech Republic and Croatia (although I wouldn't touch Mickey D's at home with a ten food pole); Subway in Hungary; and Starbucks in too many locations to count. I am sure it will only get worse when we get to Asia. Happy Anniversary, by the way!
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08/13/2010 17:04
Ain't that the truth! I've eaten Dunkin' in Moscow, Papa Johns in China and A&W in Malaysia, and I can only be a little embarrassed about it. Sometimes you just need a taste of home. And as a coffee drinker in China, there's no sweeter sight than a McDonalds or KFC at 8 in the morning!
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08/13/2010 18:05
Hilarious! And yet so true...after eight weeks of falafel, I don't think I've ever tasted a better McDonalds burger than the one I ate along the Nile in Luxor...or the one I had three days later at Cairo airport!

In my defence, I saw a doctor in Jordan who warned me to 'only eat at American fast food chains' while in Egypt. I was just doing what he ordered!!
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08/15/2010 15:49
I like your theorem. I never eat fast food abroad or at home, but as a vegan there just aren't that many choices for me. I was always really sad to see foreigners in Subway or McDonalds while in Asia...felt like they were missing out. But each to their own, of course. If you ever make it back to Seoul, go to Loving Hut in Hondae. It has vegan mondoo, soups, shabu shabu and even (sort of) veggie burgers.
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08/18/2010 01:37
I think you got the wording of the theorem wrong - deliciousness is proportional to distance, not inversely related.
08/29/2010 12:51
i love korean food!!! i always get hungry whenever i visit your site hehehe
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09/09/2010 09:55
Ahimsa - traveling vegan must be extraordinarily difficult. We sometimes have lots of trouble, especially in meaty countries like South Korea, finding even vegetarian food. I can't imagine looking for restaurants that have vegan dishes!

Somudro - definitely the cuisine abroad is amazing, but I think there are some really good American foods too. My mouth is watering knowing that Thanksgiving is around the corner!
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09/12/2010 08:35
Jason Reibold
I just left Seoul a few weeks ago, and I have am jealous of all the sites you visited! BUT THE FOOD OVER THERE IS MY FAVORITE!!! It's so good! Though I must admit that being a vegetarian there may very well be a nightmare...
09/12/2010 11:41
Somudro: I was chatting with Akila and just got your note! I thought you were commenting on lack of good food in general in the US, but it appears that you correctly noted that we had our theorem worded incorrectly. Thanks for the note - I just updated the text.
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02/20/2011 20:59
I used to teach in Seoul in the 80's. There were 27 paid teachers in the Seoul area. I'm sure things have changed by now and I can't believe they would allow fast food into S.Korea. Big mistake I think.
02/21/2011 11:48
Wally - Yes, things have definitely changed! There are tons of fast food restaurants and LOTS of English teachers all throughout South Korea. In a way, it is very American but has retained a uniquely Korean character.
05/11/2013 23:30
Your theorem does make sense!
Funny that you think about food when you need to relax.. same here! I love reading about food and looking at delicious photos before going to bed.. but that always ends up with me having to get out of bed again to eat something!
05/15/2013 13:45
Zara, same here! I always end up thinking about good food and then get hungry. :)
01/05/2015 09:31
I think you might be onto something with your Transnational Fast Food Theorem :) Great post!

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