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How to Survive a Korean Bar

April 30, 2015

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Ah bar life in Korea. A key point to everyone’s experience in Korea whether you drink alcohol or not. The bar scene in Korea is very different than what we’re used to back home. There are many different types of bars, all of which we plan on making WANKs for, but for today’s video we’re going to focus on the Korean basic: the good old fashion PojangMacha 포장마차 also know as Pocha 포차 for short.

The Pocha is a basic Korean bar which can be outdoors, set up on the side of road, plastic wrapped shut in the winter, and is equipped with quivery plastic tables and stools. If you’ve seen a Korean drama, you’ve seen the lead end up at one of these and pound back soju on a bad day while a sassy ahjumma cooks and watches over them. The menu is normally simple with basic Korean booze such as one brand of soju and maybe even beer. The anju, which are mandatory side dishes, usually consist of dried squid, nuts, fish cake, and maybe a fruit platter. This very basic kind of Pocha has definitely morphed over the years and while you can still find the plastic wrapped outdoor Pocha in any local neighbourhood, you can find all kinds on indoor ones now.

The most basic Pocha in a local neighbourhood can be tacky as hell with awful velvet textured floral print fabric wrapped booths and totally mediocre anju. Did I mention blue tinted lighting? Cause that will happen. Now there are so many modern Pochas everywhere that cater to the younger crowd. They all serve Korean pub food like various dried squid, nuts, fruit platters, stews (jjigae), fried fish, french fries, and even fusion street food but some of them get fancy with “nachos” or “pizza”. Be warned, this is usually an awful choice so don’t go there unless you’re looking for your pizza to actually be a tortilla covered in ketchup and shredded cheese. The Korean food can be absolutely satisfying and even straight up yummy at a good location. The location we went to, Warawara, is actually a Japanese owned location which is why they have things like sake on the menu, but it caters to the Korean audience with Korean food and drinks. Some people might be so bold to call Warawara an Izikaya but we’d argue that point because it has no typical Japanese pub food on the menu. We love Warawara because their drink menu is very exciting, I mean, LOOK AT THAT BLENDED PINEAPPLE DRINK!!!! LOOK AT IT!!!! Not all Pochas have this kind of choice so check out the menu before you grab a seat to see what they offer.

Ordering Tips:

1. When in a group of people, pick anju based on how freaking hungry you are. Fried food needs to be eaten right away or it gets gross and soggy over time. That includes street food like dukkbokki and fish cakes which get gross and bloated very quickly. French fries are an exception to this rule because Korean fries are usually very crispy to begin with. If you’re looking to order anju just because you have to but you’re not very hungry, something like dried squid or fruit will hold up over time.

2. Stew aka jjigae is always one of my favourite choices because it often comes with a burner allowing you to warm it up once it gets cold. We’ve lingered over kimchi stew while drinking and gone back for more after a couples bottle of soju foooooooor surrrrrre.

3. If you’re with a group of people, soju is always a good way to break the ice especially when you have all our Korean Drinking Games under your belt! If it’s too strong, order a cola or cider to mix with it. If you want to nurse your drink, go for a giant pitcher of beer. It usually comes in a double walled pitcher to stay cold on those hot summer days in Seoul.

4. If you don’t want to drink anymore but you’re at a mandatory group outing for school/team called an “MT” (Membership Training) or even at an after work meeting (hwehshik) it’s time to learn how to hide your shots. Yes, you can bow out of drinking but people might nag you (especially when they’re drunk), think you’re a debbie downer, or that you’re not part of the team. I recommend pouring water into your shot glass so you can join in the cheering which is really all anyone wants. If you can’t do this straightforwardly, I have many a times filled my own glass with water and then quickly filled my shot glass with water too. Option two: We recommend lifting up your shot glass to cheers with everyone and then pretending to down it while you actually throw it on the ground. Yup. Seriously lift it to your mouth and bring it back down under the table and dump it fast. This has literally never failed me. Option three is to dump it in a water glass. Then get to pouring shots of soju or glasses of water for other people before they notice.

5. And the most important tip of them all? GET FREE CAKE! Now, this isn’t guaranteed, but it has worked for us many times, and hopefully it’ll work for you, too. Here’s how it goes: as we mentioned in the video, Korean bars like this one set up a bunch of micro-environments, so you and your friends can sit at your table and enjoy each others’ company, while people at another table can do the same, and everyone can ignore each other. Sometimes, you’ll notice a table that has brought a cake, because they’re celebrating a friend’s birthday. Later on in the evening, though, they’ll light the candles and start singing happy birthday and clapping. You, at your table elsewhere, should sing and clap, too. I mean, it’s nice of you! You’re helping make someone’s birthday special! We’re always happy to see someone celebrating their birthday, so we’ll clap along. We’ve noticed, though, that most every time we do this, they’ll come over and bring us a slice of cake. It’s so very kind, and completely unnecessary. We clap because we took part in the glee of the moment. We didn’t do so for cake. But now it seems like the consequences of our clapping have been so conditioned into us that we can’t help but now think clapping=free cake. So, there you have it. This might work for you as well. Give it a shot. Even if it doesn’t work, at least you helped make someone a wee bit happier on their birthday :D Speaking of birthdays, it’s Martina’s birthday tomorrow. HOORAY!

We’re also putting up the locations and dates for our US/Canada Meet Your Kimchi tour tomorrow. The tickets will be on sale starting tomorrow. Double Hooray! And we’ll be having an ultra-special giveaway for our app users. It’s probably THE BIGGEST THING we’ve ever given away, by 1000 fold. Get our app for Android and iOS. Trust me. It’ll be worth it :D

Anyhow, we have a few extra scenes from last night as well. Did you notice our new camera? This was our first video we shot with it, so we’re a bit wonky with it still, but it’s great for shooting in low-light places. We couldn’t have shot this video on our regular Canon camera. Ok I’ll stop talking about the camera. Extra scenes! Secret lovers!

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How to Survive a Korean Bar

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  1. Woah, that pineapple drink looks so good! Also, happy early birthday Martina!

    One thing I’ve been meaning to ask about, and seeing you guys order food reminded me: what’s Korea like when it comes to dealing with food allergies? I know here in the US, many menus mark if there are nuts, shellfish, etc in a dish. If not marked, a server will figure out if there is an allergen in a food, and if necessary, let the kitchen know they have a customer with an allergy.

    I ask because my boyfriend is allergic to shellfish and some tree nuts, and it’s not always obvious when they’re in a dish. (Like pesto, for example, it looks fine, but a lot of time there are hidden pine nuts in it.) Are there some dishes that should be avoided all together? Is there a good way to communicate someone has an allergy or to ask if there is an allergen present (if your Korean is limited)?

    If you are able to answer, I would really appreciate it! It’s just something that makes me a bit nervous when I think about traveling with my boyfriend.

    5 years ago
  2. Yup, that pineapple drink is the business… I want.

    5 years ago
  3. Meg

    LOL When Simon starts shaking up his Doshirak Martina flinches like a woman who’s been betrayed by not properly closed containers before

    5 years ago
  4. Dipping fried squid in ddeokbokki sauce…mmmmmm heaven! I want to know where to get that pineapple slicer carver outer thingie. next W.A.N.K.?

    5 years ago
  5. I looked at the title of this, and thought it said “How to Survive a Korean Bear,” and I thought, EYK – Wilderness edition! Boy Simon and Martina are really going for it today! And then I was disappointed when I looked more closely and realized it said “bar.”

    Happy Birthday, Martina!

    5 years ago
  6. Nowadays, Korea soju company launched a new three tasty sojus. we calling it “좋은데이 석류”,”좋은데이 블루베리”,”처음처럼 순하리”. its tasty are “pomegranate”,”blueberry” and “citron”
    Most of korea people has drunken a original soju , rice wine and sort of beer before the new tasty sojus came out
    You’ll see the new soju that many people drink it at the big or small shop, even on the street, if you come to korea
    —-thx! shaun from kroea, busan

    thx u for reading my bad english

    5 years ago
  7. I want to try that pineapple so freaking bad! What type of liquor is in it?

    5 years ago
  8. Here’s my Korean bar tip: DO NOT keep up with the Korean girls! Even if they are half your size! I went drinking with friends and I tried to stay up with them, shot for shot, and I got wrecked. That night ended badly. Now I know to take it slowww

    5 years ago
  9. I always celebrate strangers birthdays with them by clapping/singing along here in the US and never got free cake. But I have lied about it being my birthday before to get free dessert from restaurants. Just don’t lie about it being your birthday with restaurants that offer free dinner especially a free steak dinner because they WILL check your id to see if you’re telling the truth.

    5 years ago
  10. can simon be my wingman when i go to pick up fly honies?

    5 years ago
  11. whoa super duper HD!
    i can’t wait to go to korea and check out the different types of bars, this will be really useful. but, i have to admit, i’ve always dreamed of going to one of those shitty bars on the side of the road with plastic chairs and one type of food to order. can you do a video of one of those please? :D

    5 years ago
  12. I have been to Warawara in Bundang and Korean guys have totally tried to pick and my friend up. They just came up to our table and asked to sit down and started having a conversation with us before inviting us to noraebang lol

    5 years ago
    • Well, that’s amazing! Are you foreigners? Maybe because you’re foreigners they thought that you play by different rules? Hmm.

      5 years ago
  13. Totally not related BUT the camera quality is soooooo goooooood

    5 years ago
  14. Great video guise!!! Awesome survival tips hahah

    And HAPPY BIRTHDAY MARTINA WE LOVE YOU <3 <3 <3

    5 years ago
  15. Martina I love your hairstyle in this video! Thanks guys also for tips on how to avoid alcohol when you don’t want it because I am not a fan (though that pineapple drink is enticing) and I hope to teach in Korea someday. Going with a friend on Monday to the place where she volunteers teaching ESL.

    5 years ago
  16. Happy Birthday Martina! =^ㅅ^=

    When I heard you complaining about $13-20 안주 I was really confused and then realised that living in Perth has ruined everything – $20 for a meal for one is normal here (possibly on the cheap side depending on what type of restaurant you’re at). I’m just gonna go cry about how expensive it is to live here…

    5 years ago
  17. I wanted to ask about Korean drinking policy. I’m going to Korea in the beginning of August and my birthday is in the end of August (I was born in 1996, which means I’m 18 and legal to drink in my country) and I’ve gotten very different information about drinking policy in Korea, some say that those who are born in 1996 can drink but some say that they can. So my question is, can I drink in Korea or not?

    5 years ago
    • It doesnt matter what month you born but ‘year you born’in Korea.
      If you re born in 1996, you re 20yrs old here in Korea which means you are legally ok to drink outside or buying booze.

      5 years ago
  18. In Ktown I usually call the place you were at a suljip, but some other places are pochas and tend to be a little more loose. I’m all about the alcohol/anju/plate combos.

    Interestingly enough, when we’re at a booth or table, yes, we keep to our own until we see a friend and it is like… SHOTS!

    5 years ago
  19. Happy Birthday Martina! (Australian time) Have an awesome day :)

    5 years ago
  20. Lo

    The first time I went to a Korean style bar it was at 3 AM with my coworkers and somehow got coerced into eating 닭똥집. DAMN YOU, SOJU!

    5 years ago
  21. The culture seems about the same as a Japanese izakaya, though the food is decidedly cheaper here. I also find it hilarious that Asia puts bars up so high because there’s always that one drunk guy who’s like “Ah, the elevator is too slow! Let’s just take the stairs!” And of course walking down several flights of stairs when sloshed can be pretty hazardous to one’s health.

    5 years ago
  22. Loved the video, laughed about the cake, in a rush, but I really wanted to say HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY BIRTHDAY MARTINA!

    5 years ago
  23. THAT 60fps camera. SO GOOD.

    5 years ago
    • I’m glad you like it! Though, I feel icky with the 60p. I’m much more into 30p :D

      5 years ago
      • I actually tried to change it to 30 fps. I’m fine with 60 fps on my TV but not on my computer, maybe because my face is only 2 feet from my screen. It simply looks too stark for my taste. Of course I’m sure Spudgy looks even more gorgeous in 60 fps.

        5 years ago
  24. Oh my goodness, that pineapple hollow outer tool thingy is pretty cool! I saw that and I was like “Woah! Cool man!” It’s my first time seeing that. I live a sheltered life……

    5 years ago
  25. i’ve been to a few korean bars in new york and what you said about the mingling part is REALLY true. we went to one that was sort of like Outdoor Factory, like you go in but you’re still outside…? anyway there were tents outside for parties of 4 or 6 and we went into one of those. that was pretty awesome!

    5 years ago
  26. I will go and do some korean-bar experiencing this weekend, nice timing :)

    5 years ago
    • Just don’t take the taxis this weekend, or the buses. The traffic will be insane because of the long weekend. Today it was insane. I was in the car for 5 hours today, and barely went anywhere. It’s….sooooo….bad.

      5 years ago
  27. I literally just made a registration because for the first time I had the chance to be the “FIRST” obnoxious comment and I failed

    5 years ago
    • Hey: you’ll have another chance. Tomorrow we’ve got another video. Otherwise, I hope to see you around the comment section a bit more :D

      5 years ago
  28. That pineapple drink looked RIDIC! I want it!
    I’m kinda sad that I haven’t been to a “true” Korean bar, both times we went recently. The closest we got was going to Vinyl, but that’s walk-around alcohol, which is more like juice than anything. But its drinks were so yummy~
    I hope when we go back in two years that we’ll actually be able to go to one.

    5 years ago
  29. Did you change your camera ? It feel different.
    Aww lman you made me super hungry by just watching the food. Even the pineapple drink made me drool (even though i can’t eat it).

    5 years ago
    • Yeah! We got a new one, a Sony A7s, so we can do nighttime shots. This is our first video shot with it. It lets us shoot at night without the use of lights, at, like, over 50,000 ISO. I LURRRVVVV IT!

      5 years ago
      • Woow i don’t know what I’m doing. I’m like posting 30 posts at the same time -_-.
        Oh ok ! The motion seems more fluid.

        5 years ago
    • Never mind, I just read the end of your post. You did indeed changed it.

      5 years ago
  30. Happy Birthday Martina!!! I didn’t know our birthdays were so close together ㅋㅋ As always I love your videos!! :D

    5 years ago
  31. I’m listening to the Spudgy W.A.N.K Remix right now. Totes Random and awesome. That’s my jam!

    5 years ago
  32. Do you two know of any popular conspiracy theories in Korea?

    My friend from Seoul believes one about a Japanese group called “the Island” which is actively trying to take back Korea for Japan. Apparently the Sanrio company and anything related to Hello Kitty openly supports “the Island” in it’s efforts.

    Sorry that this is random, but I’m curious. Also, Happy Birthday Martina! Sto lat, sto lat, niech żyje, żyje nam!!!!

    5 years ago
  33. This was actually really helpful.

    I was a bit scared to try a Korean bar when I was there because I figured it’d be like an American bar that is essentially a club and people would be speaking so much korean so fast and I’d be shuffled about not knowing what’s going on. But this actually looks really chill. More like a restaurant than a bar which I like. Definitely going to hit one of these up next time I’m in Seoul.

    4 years ago
  34. Tia

    omg you guys, the new camera + food porn. I CANT HANDLE! SO GOOD T__T

    5 years ago
  35. I noticed you changed your camera ! The quality is much better, and we can see your face ! (Which is the use of a camera but anyway ~) What’s is the reference of this camera?

    5 years ago
  36. Simon, stop dropping your food! Hahahah!

    5 years ago