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Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle in Korea

June 20, 2013


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Ok, so this isn’t really fully a TL;DR on Korean culture and might not be fully relevant to you, but some people might be interested in different food lifestyles in Korea. You can get by eating Korean food just fine. It’s lovely and delicious, but you might be interested in trying a different lifestyle, for different dietary purposes, like our own. We’ve found Korean food to be a bit too…carb-heavy, and that lead to us getting a little softer than usual. We told you that we dropped carbs to lose weight, so here are more of the specifics on how we got by.

We mentioned two key phrases that got us by: Bap Baeh-Jusayo “No rice, please” and “Hwang-Jay Diet-uh” which is…you know, I’m not too sure what hwang-jae means. Diet-uh means diet, that much I know, but Hwang-jae? Not sure. I just learned that phrase and it worked perfectly well when we’re at restaurants and trying to avoid carbs.

We also took a lot more responsibility in preparing our own food, primarily for the low carb purposes, but also because we’re just trying to eat healthier ingredients as well. White sugar and white flour are great tasting, but not all too great for your body. So we started using different sugars like Xylotol, for example. We use a lot of flax seed, chia seeds, coconut flour and coconut oil, almond flour, protein powder, textured vegetable protein, and such. These products aren’t easy to find in Korea, and when we do find some of them, they’re RIDICULOUSLY overpriced. So we order lots of stuff online.

Also, yes, I know there’s lots of debates about what ingredients are good or not. Some ingredients seem healthy, but then one blog will say that they’re not healthy, and another blog will say something else. The point is, we’re trying to avoid foods and ingredients that we know aren’t all too great, you know? So much food is so processed, and you just don’t know how good it is for you. Sure, some people might eat it and be healthy tanks. For us, though, we’re feeling a lot healthier and more energized after taking more control over what we eat and what ingredients go into our foods.

We talked about our spinach smoothie, which is more of a lumpy, and it sounds gross, but we actually REALLY LIKE IT! When Martina was last in Canada, she went to an alternative food course, and learned some cool recipes, the spinach smoothie being one of them:

Healthy Green Breakfast Lumpy


1 whole organic apple chopped (if non-organic peel it first)
1 lemon chopped (peeled but not seeded)
1 large handful of spinach chopped
6 additional leaves of sturdy greens (ex: kale, collard greens)
1 heaping tsp of peeled fresh ginger
3 cups of cold water


1. Dump all of it into the blender and blend on maximum speed until no longer super chunky.
2. Drink it immediately or seal it in an airtight container for one day.
3. Feel like a better person because you drank down a bunch of healthy green slop

Another thing we’ve started doing is something that we heard about a lot before but were too hesitant to try. I think the English word for it is “exercise” or something like that. People go to these rooms called “gyms” and they lift and push heavy things, or they walk on the spot on machines that let them walk without going anywhere. It sounds silly, and we refused to do it for the vast majority of our married life, but over the past couple of months we’ve given in and tried it out. It’s not that bad, you know? We feel like we’re looking better than before, and our bodies are getting somewhat tighter, and we can see and feel muscles that we didn’t know existed before. It’s weird.

After the gym we make protein shakes:

Berry Soymilk Protein Shake (For One Person)


1 (200ml) juice-cartoon of chilled Yonsei Soymilk
1 scoop of unflavoured natural Whey Protien powder (Now Foods)
1 tbsp chia seeds
1 tbsp raw cacoa powder
2 heaping tbsp berries (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, or a mix is fine)

Additional Options:

1 tbsp of honey/sugar (if the smoothie is too dull tasting for you)
2-3 ice cubes to make it less thick
1 banana (very carby but makes it more delicious if you don’t care about carbs)
1/4 cup of cool brewed coffee (adds your morning kick)


1. Put all the ingredients into a blender and stir. Let it sit for 1 minute for the chia seeds to expand.
2. Blend on maximum power! VROOM VROOM!
3. Drink it all. It’s easier to drink it in one shot.
4. Yell at the person next to you “BRO YOU EVEN LIFT?!”

Some of you follow us on Twitter. If you don’t, you should! We do cool things on Twitter, like last night when it was 3AM and we made coconut pancakes. We made a Vine video for it. Here’s our recipe for it:

Low Carb Coconut Pancakes


1/2 cup coconut flour
3 tbsp coconut sugar Xylitol (or normal sugar)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt


6 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 cup milk (or almond milk if you want)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Additional oil for the pan


1. In a large bowl, whisk together coconut flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, vanilla extract, and slowly add the melted butter.
3. Add the egg mixture to the coconut flour mixture and stir well to combine. Let it rest for 1 minute until the coconut flour absorbs the liquid.
4.Heat a large frying pan over medium high heat and brush with vegetable oil. Most important part: SMALL pancakes or they will fall apart when you flip them! I use about two big tablespoons of batter onto the frying pan and spread into a circle.
5. Cook until bottom is golden brown and top is set around the edges. Flip carefully and continue to cook until second side is golden brown. Remove from pan and keep warm in tin foil plate or on baking sheet in oven (170c).
6. Eat them mofos any time of day. It’s better really late at night, when you feel like a crazy person for making pancakes at 3AM.

Ok, last recipe we’re going to share, because this seems like a crazy ass long post about recipes, and I’m sure it’s going to be hella sucky to read. This last recipe here is for pizzas we make on our own, and they’re freaking delicious and we like them more than other pizzas we get. Yes, it could be because our standards of pizza have really degraded from being in Korea for so long, and good pizza is hard to come by here, but I’d like to not think that. This pizza, to us, is delicious, and healthy, so give it a shot!

Low Carb Pizza Crust


1/2 cup flax meal
1/4 cup coconut flour
1/4 cup almond flour
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp oregano or Italian spice mix
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 eggs


1. Mix everything but the eggs in a bowl.
2. Add the 2 eggs and stir until a dough forms. I find using my hands are a lot easier to use than a spoon or whisk.
3. Using parchment or a silicon pad on a cookie sheet, flatten the dough to the thickness you want. You can use a cookie roller but you need to grease it. I use my hands to just press and spread it thin.
4. Bake at 350 degree (F) oven for 12 minutes.
5. Remove from the oven, add pre-cooked* toppings, and then return to the oven. Use the grill setting until the cheese is melted and the crust is golden brown, 2-5 minutes.
6. Eat that pizza and look at the person next to you and be like “I KNOW RIGHT? THIS IS SO MUCH BETTER THAN IT SHOULD BE!”

Side Notes:

*I cook chicken breast cubed with eggplant while the crust cooks. I also make homemade tomato sauce with garlic and I drain the excess liquid so the crust doesn’t get soggy. In order of operation I do tomato sauce, shredded cheese, chicken and eggplant and crumbled feta cubes. After the pizza comes out I use the drained liquid and pour it onto since the crust is very crispy and dry.

Ok, that’s it. It’s a lot more information than we thought we’d be sharing about our lives and how we’re trying to live healthier.



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Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle in Korea


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  1. Question, not enough for a tldr, but just wondering: When I was in Korea (Incheon) it seemed like nobody local drank the tap water, and I was told many times not to drink it (idk what they thought would happen to me. Daehan min-guk’s Revenge was what I assumed) though cooking with it was apparently ok. However, a couple of fellow teachers told me they drank it all the time without a problem. What do you think? I may go back someday so I’m interested to know: do you drink the water out of the tap? Have you heard rumors? Any brave friends imbibing on the daily?

    And for the record, I’d love to see cooking videos on Open the Happy :)

    7 years ago
    • Hey there! I know the post is 3 years old, but just wanted to… well say a word I guess.

      From what I understood, although the government declared that the tap water was good for consumption I think most Koreans don’t like the taste of it. You might have noticed how they love their water purificator so that might be why. Personally (and I’m also living in Incheon at the moment) I spent my first 4-5 days drinking tap water and nothing bad happened to me. Now I guess I just boil it before drinking it (because for ecological beliefs I don,t want to buy bottled water, even if it’s cheap), but I do grab an “unpurified” glass from time to time, because I really don’t think there’s anything wrong with the water.

      Though their are countries where you shouldn’t drink tap water, like Russia. I’ve been on a 1-week trip once and they told us not to drink the tap water because we might get sick. It depends from country to country but as for Korea, I don’t believe there’s any real problem except for personal tastes, force of habit and maybe superstition.

      5 years ago
    • It’s because there are different bacteria in the water than what your body is used to. Locals acquire a natural immunity, and if you have a strong immune system then you’ll probably be fine. That being said, if you DON’T have a great immune system or are particularly susceptible for some reason, then you’ll end up getting very sick- sick enough not to keep down water- and that’s when you’re in trouble. There is no way to tell whether local tap water will make you sick unless you try it; having been there and done that, I REALLY don’t recommend taking your chances! I’ve never been so miserably sick in my entire life. As a type 1 diabetic, I run into this issue whenever we travel overseas. If you end up getting very sick in a foreign country, it’s important to know the numbers of your local embassy or medical center. For example, when this happened to me in Russia, we called the American Embassy, and they were able to redirect our call to the American Medical Center, and from there we were able to arrange for an ambulance. The best way to avoid getting ill is to eat well-cooked food (rather than, say, salad) and drink bottled water.

      7 years ago
    • I’m pretty sure it’s like that when you’re a foreigner in every country. When you’re new to a country you’re not supposed to drink the local water because it can make you very sick (something to do with the quality of water, not exactly sure). You can do things like cook with it because it gets your body slowly used to the water in your system. Eventually you can drink it, but I’m not sure how long it takes.
      Hope this helps. :)

      7 years ago
    • They talked about this in one of their earlier videos, actually! I can’t remember exactly, but I think it’s because Seoul is so populated, the sewage systems aren’t amazing, something like that.

      7 years ago
  2. Illinoisan here too! And I’m down in Florida, and no one says it right… they all pronounce the ‘s’ too T^T

    7 years ago
    • Right?! I thought every kid had to learn states and capitals in elementary school! Also, down here in FL, it’s called “primary school” which confused me at first xD And ugh, I’ve heard it once or twice on the news, but generally they get it right.. dkhjfs;d Illinoisproblems

      7 years ago
  3. I would love to see cooking videos on open the happy! I love that you substitute wheat with other flours, because I can’t eat gluten at all and after researching a lot about it I found out that it’s really unhealthy to eat it even if you don’t have problems with it. I’ve heard from people who can eat wheat and stuff that when they stopped eating it they didn’t feel bloated anymore and their overall health improved :)

    7 years ago
  4. If you can get permission you guys should go for a wank in a Korean gym. I think it’d be awesome to see some of the differences, and you guys could talk about things like memberships, fees, how easy they are to come by, general quality etc etc.

    7 years ago
  5. Red

    I noticed in your berry smoothie recipe you mentioned “cool brewed coffee”. Are you talking about coffee brewed with cold water, or hot water brewed coffee that has been cooled?

    7 years ago
  6. Hey! I do eat cereals with no milk! lol

    I don’t like the texture of soft and wet cereals..ugh.. XD I’m a weird person, I know… lol

    Greetings from Spain ;)

    7 years ago
  7. Hostility? I doubt it — there are a lot of Buddhists in Korea, and many of them are vegetarians. But there are a lot of regular Koreans who just don’t understand the concept (kind of like Americans in the 1980s … or Spaniards today), so it can be tricky, especially for broths and sauces that aren’t obviously meat, but often contain meat for flavor.

    7 years ago
  8. LOVE!! And especially love the Rob Ford shout out ha ha ha ha ha!

    7 years ago
  9. ._. When I was still living at home all I ate was basically white rice; I guess my body’s used to it because I was suuuuper thin. I weighed 90-100 lbs! Then I left and had all the french fries and pizza I could eat in college. :( Boy, that was a mistake.

    7 years ago
  10. Why not make your own almond milk too? :) The recipes I’ve come across are all fairly similar and seem easy enough. Something like this; http://thekindcook.com/almond-milk-recipe/

    7 years ago
  11. Those are quite cool (and appetizing *drools*) recipes. My mom is also a health buff and cooks really healthy food for us almost everyday. We are fed rice everyday but it’s organic red/brown rice with quinoa seeds which is pretty good for people trying out a healthy lifestyle. My younger brother used to be really round (almost 60kg) before my mom changed to healthy cooking and now he’s around 49kg.

    7 years ago
  12. please PLEASE tell me you’ve watched Portlandia!?! “oh the cocoa, cocao…Kocowa?”
    you sound like you are from Oregon <3 [yes, this is a compliment]
    *Don't know if you use it already, but Agave is a great natural sweetener. We use applesauce too, (keeps cakes and coffee cakes moist)
    * Spinach, banana, peach & yogurt makes a great smoothie XD
    *I ALSO use my bullet grinder! mostly for making meat rubs [grilled pork and beef….mmm, delicious meats]

    absolutely loved this video guise!!! and hey Bob's Red Mill: also from Orygen!

    7 years ago
  13. Is there Any chia seed here in korea? and rawa cacao? or i need to buy them online?

    7 years ago
  14. When you talked about that non rice thing it reminded me about me when I was in the US. I ordered breakfast but said “no eggs please” the waiter was sooooo chocked… And the rest of my time on that hotel I was known as “miss no eggs”…. it was kinda sad… But I got more potatoes instead xD

    But I am sure going to try those recipes you shared, it sound soooo good :D

    7 years ago
  15. :O I were reading trough those recipes and I saw organic apple. (Well this is how it is in the Netherlands)

    But organic/biological apples(fruit) aren’t as organic as some people think.

    Someone that I know is allergic to organic and non organic apples (fruit) in the supermarkets.
    But if he gets an apple from the tree in his own garden he doesn’t have this allergic reaction.
    Well because of this I found out that the organic and the non organic apples (fruit) in stores still get sprayed with poison.

    Maybe the organic apples (fruit) get less sprayed with poison but it still get sprayed on it.

    Or at least that is here in the Netherlands but I think it’s not only the Netherlands.

    7 years ago
  16. Rob Ford won’t notice if you’re in Toronto. He’s too busy eliminating all evidence of his crackhead ways and crackhead friends.

    7 years ago
  17. Hey guys I don’t know if you have heard of this but you can replace rice with grated cauliflower all you have to do is grate it and then microwave it till it gets doughy in texture but cook it with no water.

    From Ayla

    7 years ago
  18. I think you mean chicken chest

    7 years ago
  19. I learned in school that carbohydrates end up becoming fats if stored for too long. Simon and Martina aren’t exactly very physically active, plus their bodies don’t digest carbs very well like they said in the video. It’s more of how physically active you are and how your body digests carbs.

    My teacher also said it’s not always the calories. You could be eating a lot of calories from vegetables and meat and complex carbs, but they’re all good for your health at the end of the day. Idk, I somewhat agree with her.

    Still it’s pretty interesting how people do deal with diets in different countries. Since I grew up eating rice, it’s not that much of a problem for me it is for them. ^^

    7 years ago
  20. juice-cartoon ke ke ke ke

    7 years ago
  21. i’m into the low carb thing now as well, but i really feel like i’m eating too much meat and fat. if you guys put up recipe videos it would be great if you could focus on veggie options – that would be interesting! there’s only so much grilled meat a woman can handle…

    7 years ago
  22. I’m on Dukan diet and I have the same problem with potatoes which you guise have with rice. When I say “I don’t want potatoes. Only meat and salad” everybody stares at me and tries place potatoes on my plate . Especially my grandma. And everyday she comes to my room and leaves some cookies on my desk. It’s very hard to be on diet if you live with family…

    7 years ago
  23. Hey guys! I was SUPER curious what “Hwang-jae” meant too, so I asked my husband (he’s Korean, it’s unbelievably convenient for these situations haha) and he said “Hwang-jae Diet-uh” means you’re on a REALLY big diet. Just so’s you know ^^*

    7 years ago
    • Hwang-jae (황제) means emperor in Korean, so hwang-jae diet means that you eat like kings. Meat used to be expensive treat only for special occasions in Korea and only the very rich could afford to have it on every meal (even milk and eggs used to be a bit of delicacies). So the idea of satiating oneself with meat on all meals seems possible only if you were a king, and that’s why the Atkins diet got the nickname hwang-jae diet, which probably became more popular because it carries immediate meaning to Korean people, unlike Atkins which is just a difficult-to-pronounce foreign word.

      7 years ago
    • hahaha nice

      Oh and since you’re grinding your own almond flour (*cough* hippies *cough cough*) does it not also stand to reason that you should start grinding you’re own coconut flour? :P

      7 years ago
  24. YAY! Kudos to you both for eating healthier! You both look amazing! :)

    Martina, please record your whole Quinoa medley and put it up in your store. I’d buy it :p For the record, I can’t freaking pronounce it either. I keep saying “kee-noh-ah.”

    A friend had once emailed me an article stating the top 10 things we should stop eating, and white rice was one of them. I was pretty good with the rest of the list, but white rice is staple food here. When I told my friend, she did say that Asians for some reason are better able to digest rice. Something in our physiological makeup or something. That would explain some Koreans who believe that eating white rice will make you lose weight. Or in their case, not make them gain weight. It’s bizarre.

    7 years ago
  25. I don’t mind eating rice (it doesn’t seem to affect me like you guys) but I just have an issue with how much rice they usually give you! I’m usually good after a half a cup.

    7 years ago
  26. Everytime i think of dieting and/or eating healthy i get depressed T~T I love my Mexican food too much…

    7 years ago
  27. LOL Rob Ford.

    7 years ago
  28. Your diet seems like way too much work for me… lol idk how you do it, but I’m happy for you guys! You both are looking great!

    7 years ago
  29. You guys have mentioned your creepy room that is off the kitchen in your
    studio, why is it creepy? What happened in there? I am super curious even though you have mentioned in only a few times.

    7 years ago
  30. I really really hope you make some Open the Happy videos about your recipes! Or, you know, tips and tricks to cook things in a low carb way. My doctor recently DEMANDED I change to a low carb diet but I’m really new to cooking. I had no idea you could replace sugar and flour with other stuff! Martina! Please show me more! I’ll gladly be your padawan cooker! (As opposed to padawan learner… Hehe… Ok, sorry for the nerd reference.) My point is! I would really enjoy and appreciate some videos like that. Thanks again for the recipes, guys! <3

    7 years ago
    • looking forward to them^^

      7 years ago
    • It is interesting that you use “coconut xylitol”. Xylitol is a sugar alcohol, not an actual sugar like what you get from the coconut, so your body doesn’t digest it the same. Actual coconut sugar is sucrose. Do you get a brand where they hydrogenate coconut sucrose? I wonder if it tastes different from my cane sugar xylitol, because I know coconut sugar is tastier than white sugar. I will have to go hunting at my health food stores if you confirm this exists

      7 years ago
    • Please do!

      7 years ago
  31. Try adding lemon juice to your pan fried/grilled meats if you don’t know what else to do with it. It’s already flavorful. I learned this tip from my roommate friend. She is an awesome cook. You don’t need sugar, but maybe (and I mean maybe) a little salt, and you may like the taste! I know I did. :)

    7 years ago
  32. WOW! its great to hear you guys have found something that works for you! I have IBS which makes it hard for me to eat like I used to and I have had to find alternatives, so I know how hard it is. Keep up the good work!

    7 years ago
  33. I also would love to know about the coconut flour and sugar myself since my dad and I have some sort of allergy to coconut stuffs (except for coconut water) XD

    7 years ago
  34. What are the websites that you order from? i’m worried about not being able to find the things i like wen I move to Korea in a few weeks..

    7 years ago
  35. I’ve been having issues viewing your videos ;___; They keep giving me error messages. this one, and all of the singapore ones….

    7 years ago
  36. Simon & Martina,

    How did you transition to Korea money-wise. Like banks, and just making sure you have the cash that you need. I know you could use a credit card and that will probably help the most, but did you transition to a brink and mortar bank in Korea?

    I wish to move there one day…but want to spend a few months there during late summer / fall this year to make sure I can transition good enough that I don’t have to worry about minutiae details.

    Any other tips would be appreciated!

    – Christopher –

    7 years ago
  37. You know I agree with you guys trying to eat healthier but a lot of the healthy products much more expensive then say a bag of chips or something off the dollar menu at McDonalds. Sadly fast food is cheap and greasy…..

    7 years ago
  38. Hi GUYS!! I’m curious about something… how likely is it to meet a korean celebrity in korea? i ask because i notice a lot of celebrities open up their own restaurants and variety shows (like running man and infinity challenge) that shoot outdoors and have audience participation.

    7 years ago
    • hmm.. i consider a celebrity as someone I see on tv a lot… gagmen or women? singers? or perhaps simon and martina? :P

      7 years ago
  39. Simon you went too far with the poop it out! XD

    7 years ago
  40. Haha love that you also have recipes in your blog post!

    7 years ago