Gujung celebration

Gujung celebration

Hope everyone had a fantastic Chinese New Year celebration!

This year, I threw a big dinner party introducing  Gujung (Korean New Year) to friends  in Bangkok. I wasn’t sure what their reaction would be serving rice cake soup (dduk guk-click for the recipe) but most people seemed to enjoy it.

Here are some of the photos from the Gujung night…

 

ddukguk3

 

 

I have never made this much ddukguk in my life!!

ddukguk

 

Some of the essential dishes for Gujung!

  • Fried fish

photo

 

  • Fried Zucchinis

zucchinis

 

  • Japche

japche1

 

If you want to read more about Korean Gujung, check out the The Epoch Times Newspaper.  I am a regular contributor now.  It’s fun writing about Korean food and culture. Check out my first article, my best friend’s daughter’s my cute model here!

January article (click the link to open the file)

 

Screen shot 2014-01-19 at 6.07.55 PM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My not so recent trip to Seoul update

My not so recent trip to Seoul update

I wonder how the year has passed by right in front of my eyes so quickly. 2013 has been filled with mostly happy memories. My husband and I celebrated our 5 year wedding anniversary, 10 years since we first met and our first complete year in Bangkok. I am still traveling back to Singapore whenever I can to conduct group classes and private events. Hopefully, there are  lots of interesting adventures in store for us 2014.

 

A late update of my not so recent trip to Seoul….

If you are planning a trip to Korea, I think Autumn is the best time to travel. I was almost shocked  at how clear the sky was and how refreshing the air was.  You could mistake this picture with a postcard. No photoshop, a quick snap of Seoul with my iphone from the subway.

 

view from the train

 

I like trying new dishes whenever I visit Seoul. Italian cuisine is the latest trend in Korea. It’s not quite my scene as I always look forward to authentic Korean food whenever I am there. Oh well, I can’t try Italian food in Korea, can I, so I resisted and stuck to me beloved Korean food!!

First stop, Gwangjang market for some authentic street food! This time I thought I will be a little more adventurous…

I have tried Chicken feet before and the sight of it has never convinced me to try it again but these ones at the market were rather delicious – especially washed down with a nice cold rice wine.

chicken feet

 

rice wine

 

Pork three ways – Pork belly, blood sausage and pigs ear. We used to feed  dried pig’s ear to our pet dog, but now it is a delicacy! How can I describe it… chewy??  At least I can proudly say I have tried them for the first time.

 

Pork three ways

 

Next, freshly made mung bean pancake.  There were so many stalls cooking mung bean pancakes but they all seemed to be deep frying. We finally found one that used a fry pan. Between three people, we could barely finish half of the pancake. Doggy bag!  The chilli rice cake thought was a little disappointing and quite tasteless… I think I can make this better!!

 

mung bean pancake

 

chilli rice cake

 

On the second last day of my trip to Seoul, one of my relatives invited me to a neighbourhood restaurant that specialises in oysters. I have always considered oysters as potentially dangerous if you don’t eat them fresh. I have had friends get very ill eating oysters in Asia, so I normally only eat them when I go back to Australia.

Apparently oysters are in season from October in Korea. This particular restaurant specialises in Octopus most of the year but from October they only sell oysters.

To start with we had oysters steamed…  After it was steamed for 15 minute or so, we were given gloves and knives to shuck our own oysters. Each oyster was as big as my hand and so sweet!

oysters steamed 1

 

In addition to the steamed oysters, we had a big plate of fresh oysters to wrap with pork belly. I was speechless. It was just amazing. The saltiness of oysters married with boiled pork belly wrapped with chilli radish in Chinese cabbage leaves was just heavenly.

 

oysters2

 

To finish off, we had oyster pancake. I was so full already but I was on a mission to stuff down as much as I can. I wasn’t sure when I was going to have this much oysters in one go again!! What was most surprising was the total bill  was only S$100 including alcohol. What a bargain!!

 

For my last night in Seoul, my parents decided to pamper me with my favourite food which is also in season.  Crabs!! My parents bought live crabs from the seafood market and steamed them straight away for dinner!  Can you tell which ones are male and female crabs? Females have lots of eggs but less meat and male crabs are very meaty.

crab steamed

 

The two top ones are females and the bottom one is male. Can you see the difference in shape of their tummy? Female ones have inverted U shape and males ones are shaped like a tip of a rocket.

 

Dinner time!!

dinner

 

 

When you open the female crab, you get the orange eggs and it’s juice. I prefer female crabs so I can mix the eggs with steamed rice! I wouldn’t indulge too often, they are high in cholesterol.

 

female crab

 

We just demolished them….

empty shells

 

I have so many photos and stories to share about this trip but it will have to wait until 2014. We are back in Sydney visiting family and friends and enjoying beautiful Sydney. It’s been a while since we had our Christmas back home, I am ready for Christmas ham and Christmas cake cooked by someone else!

Have a fantastic Christmas and see you all back in New Year!

IMG_6340

 

 

 

 

 

Eating my way through the streets of Seoul III

Eating my way through the streets of Seoul III

You may remember my giant steam bun(hobbang) from my previous blog. The bun which was as big as my face?

 

hobbang

 

We arrived to have hobbang for lunch at this famous cafe near Gwanghwamun area in Seoul but realised they were only available from 2pm.  While we waited, we decided to try another famous dish, Chilli rice cake (dduk bok yi -떡뽁이).  The best part was that we get to cook it on our  table. This is called instant dduk bok yi(즉석 떡볶이). You can also add extra ingredients such as instant noodles, vermicelli, fish cake or chewy noodles . Instead of ordering our usual ddukbokyi, my friends suggested pizza dduk bok yi. What the??

menu

 

 

As you can see below, we ordered the extra chewy noodle on top, only S$1.70!

IMG_3160

 

 

Doesn’t this look spicy and delicious?   It was starting to get chilli outside and this was just perfect dish to warm us up. And then final ingredient arrived…

rice cake cooking

 

 

Mozzarella cheese was sprinkled on top as our final step.  We now have pizza dduk bok yi!

cheese piza

 

 

Cheese on top of  dduk bok yi wasn’t my thing. It just didn’t seemed to go together, but my friends loved it. I picked around the cheese as you can see below.

rice cake

 

 

As I am writing this I have a sudden craving for dduk bok yi right now… I might have to head out to Korea Town to see if I can find decent cafe or restaurant.  Hungry!!! 🙁   I tend to gain 2-3 kg while I am in Seoul for a week. The reason is there is breakfast, morning tea, lunch, snack and then dinner and supper and repeat for a week!

 

While we were waiting for hobbang to be ready, we stopped by a Coco Bruni cafe nearby and had some lovely cakes and teas… The cafe is a chain so you will be able to find it in many locations in Seoul.

Coco Bruni

 

 

The cakes were so delicately made and melted in our mouth so smoothly. Such a different texture and taste to what we just had…

cakes

 

IMG_3178

 

 

Now back to hobbang. This is the man behind this wonderful hobbang. He was making them earlier and waiting for them to rise and now he is steaming them.

 

hobbang man

 

 

Finally, they are ready. I have been waiting for these for 3 hours!!

hobbang

 

 

We ordered 3 buns with 3 different fillings. I think the owner thought we were 3 little piggies….  The first one is with red bean paste filling. This is my favourite but today it seemed too much red bean paste. The second one is with cooked sweet potato filling and this was new, not bad at all. The third one is mixed vegetable with pork. A bit like Chinese dumpling except it’s a giant bun. Out of 3, the one with vegetables and pork was the best. I noticed a lot of people of taking them back to the office or home.

red bean hobbang

 

hobbang with sweet potatoe

 

IMG_3221

 

 

This cafe is not hard to find but if you are not familiar with the area, it might not be easy. I would recommend your hotel to call the cafe and write down the direction.  Remember, the buns are not ready before  2-3pm in the afternoon. Have ddukbokyi as your main and hobbang to take away to your hotel. One side of the cafe is called Bbang Hana palgu and the other side is called Sanhane cafe. Strange…

 

Cafe name: Bbang Hana pal gu  (translation –  selling one bun)  Tel: +82-2-756-0189

빵하나 팔구

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eating my way through Seoul II

Eating my way through Seoul II

If I have to pick one restaurant from my childhood memory in Korea, there is only one that pops up in my mind. Every time I visit Korea I always go.  The restaurant has been around since 1966 and it’s renowned for their handmade noodle soup (kal guk su-칼국수).  Why do I like this restaurant so much?  Firstly, there aren’t many non-chain restaurants that make their own noodles and their authentic stock like this one. Any guesses??  Drum roll please….. Myundong Gyoja (명동 교자) restaurant!

My last visit to Korea was going to be a slightly different to my usual trip. Instead of going to all my usual favourite places, I decided I was only  going to try new places,  but Myundong Gyoja had to be an exception. I just couldn’t go back home without having my fix from Myungdong Gyoja restaurant.

My girlfriend and I arrived at the restaurant exactly at noon and luckily there were only a few people waiting for a table. Usually, there is a long queue with a mix of locals and tourists.  By the time we finished our lunch, there were at least 50 people waiting outside for tables.  The staff  were very efficient and friendly despite the high turn over of the customers and all the food was served really fast. Don’t expect to sit and chit chat however. It’s one of those restaurants where you eat and run…

 

 

kal guk su(칼국수), aka handmade noodle soup is the star dish here. The free flow Kimchi is also very famous and has an incredible amount of  garlic.  It’s so strong they give you chewing gum when you ask for the bill to ease the smell of garlic. Besides the kimchi, a bowl of rice mixed with millets is served free of charge with  the noodle soup. It’s a lot of food for only S$10.

 

 

I was reading through a few reviews on the restaurant in Korean and one of the reviews suggested to order only one bowl of kal guk su and one serving of dumplings so you can have best of the both.  We were silly enough to order a bowl of noodle soup each and ended up staring at other customers with dumplings!!

 

 

 

Other dishes served in this restaurant include cold soy bean noodle (kong guk su) and chilli noodles (bibim guksu). I have never tried these dishes simply because the kal gul su is the best and leave no room for anything else. According to the restaurant website, you can  buy their home made kimchi and take it away.

 

How to get to Myung dong Gyoja:

 

Address:

Seoul-si Jung-gu Myeongdong 10-gil 29
(Myeongdong 2-ga)

There are two Myungdong Gyoja restaurants in Myungdong, They are not too far from each other.  If you are heading to Seoul next time, don’t forget to check this out!

Eating my way through the streets of Seoul.

Eating my way through the streets of Seoul.

I just spent 6 days in Seoul with one objective in mind. Eat my way through the city! The dreadful sticky hot summer is gone and I was welcomed by a beautiful autumn breeze when I landed. What a difference…. It was so pleasant to walk around and enjoy the change of the season.

I must have taken at least 500 photos of all the food but I will start with my favorite street food that you can too enjoy when you visit Korea next time.

 

  • Top left hand box: An old time favourite – chilli rice cakes (dduk bok yi -떡복이)  was on every street corner. You can buy USD$1 worth and eat as you stand right in front of the stall.  There were a few other sticks in chilli sauce but everyone seemed to enjoying the chilli rice cakes.
  • Top right hand box: you can only find these in autumn and winter – roasted chestnuts! The silver device you see in the background is the roasting machine. Personally, I prefer the old fashion style using a roasting pan over hot charcoal.
  • Bottom box: these sticks were new and were everywhere in Myungdong(명동). There were ladies on the side of the stall just peeling potato skins and putting potatoes through an unusual device that turned them into long spiral potatoes. Inside the potato, there is a sausage. These get dunked into hot oil and deep fried.  Nice and crunchy potatoes with a bit of protein!

 

 

 

 

  • For those of you who have attended some of my cooking classes you will recognise one of the photos above. Hodduck (호떡) is a great snack while you are wondering the streets of busy Seoul. Even better when the weather is nice and cool…
  • The white fluffy buns above are the best thing I have found in Seoul. I will write more on these buns in a later blog but for now all you need to know is that these buns are called hobbang (호빵). They are  filled with either red bean paste or sweet potato or a mixture of minced pork with vegetables.  The buns with two green chives on top are the meat/vegetable filling ones. Each bun was as big as my face. Seriously…..

 

 

You didn’t believe me, did you??

 

If you are visiting Korea soon, pack warm clothes. It dropped to 6 degrees one evening and it was so cold I thought my ears and nose were going to fall off.

Have a great week everyone!  😉

Happy Chu Seok everyone!

Happy Chu Seok everyone!

Days like today makes you really miss your family.  A friend in Korea shared these photos of her family celebrating Chu Seok. They remind me of when I was living in Korea. When my grand parents were alive, the entire family (my dad has 5 brothers and 1 sister) got together to celebrate Chu seok.

For those who don’t know what Chu seok is, it’s Korean Thanksgiving. We buy the best season produce and serve it on a table like in below picture to show respects to our ancestors. Looks a bit like a ghost month, right?

 

 

 

We also serve Korean rice wine to the ancestors.

 

 

Then we bow on the floors to the ancestors. The two kids in the middle are wearing hangbok (Korean traditional costume). So cute!

 

Now time to eat…  I can see various kimchi, stir fried vegetables and Korean soy bean paste soup. The most important dish for Chu seok is Song pyun rice cake.

 

 

This table is an indication of the hard work by the Korean house wives. Grandmothers, Aunts, daughters and daughter-in-laws would have slaved away over the last few days to put all this food together. Hmmm, now I have a big craving for all this food…. ^_^

Happy Chu seok everyone!

 

**Photos provided by Erin Kim in Korea**