Some of South Korea’s best loved dishes are sold from giant iron woks at open-air stalls or the front of carts, with people standing about and huddling around to order and eat. Today, I’ll be sharing with you about a few of these, and what to look out for in your hunt for great street food, so let’s begin! #1 Odeng 오뎅 Also known to many of us as fish cake, these are the cheapest street food and stalls dishing out sticks from a rolling boil are a dime a dozen. In general, there’s no need to be too picky about odeng since it is a fuss-free type of food and does not vary spectacularly in quality, but join in and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the locals for a truly authentic experience (and also because they know where the broth is better). #2 Tteokbokki 떡볶이 Probably the number 1 export to Korean restaurants around the world, Tteokbokki is famed as one of the “must-tries” when in Korea. Tteokbokki is a springy, chewy and dense rice cake that comes drenched in a spicy red pepper paste sauce that you will find so “Korean” (they love this sauce and use it on many things). And yes, it can look rather messy, but don’t let that deter you! Again, it’s all in the sauce so go where the locals go. #3 Hotteok 호떡 I could eat 10 of these in one sitting. Hotteok is a sweet Korean Pancake that is fried then cut open and filled with a mixture of sunflower seeds and brown sugar, and often folded and then squeezed into a paper cup for easier handling. Always go to those where they’re frying them fresh (i.e. avoid those that have been pre-fried and left to sit), because that way the batter is tasty and with the slightest bit of crust, and the brown sugar caramelises between. You will smile, and so will the kids. A lot of the places pre-fry but there’s a great one just across the road from the Haeundae market along Jungdong 1-ro; a small shop about in a row of shophouses. #4 Mandu 만두 Freshly fried and off the grill, these are basically a sort of dumpling and can be either filled with meat or vegetables or both. This one at Nampodong near the Jagalchi Market in Busan came with a side of finely sliced and crisp cabbage in a tasty spicy (note the expression of the guy in green) sauce. On a cold day, this is just heavenly heat in the tummy, and is definitely something you have to try. The key to mandu as well as a lot of the other street food, is to make sure they have a busy business and are making it fresh – otherwise they’ll just be doughy and chewy. So now I know what I need to try, but where do I go to get them? They’re all over Korea, but if you want to try multiple of these in a single place, Nampodong and Gwangbokdong in Busan are great. In Seoul, head to Namdaemun which opens till the wee hours. Namdaemun is also a great place to do souvenir shopping because prices are easily 1/5 or less of the price you’d pay at the airport duty free! 😮
I’ve just returned from Spring in South Korea – a great time to go, with gorgeous and breathtaking scenes of Cherry blossom trees. On my first day in Seoul, I set up basecamp at a hotel in Gangnam-gu. Gangnam is a beautiful trendy district (made famous by Psy’s “Gangnam style” song) with lots of cafes and indie label shops, and lies to the south of the Han river, which winds horizonatally across the city. It is an area obviously loved by the teens to 20 somethings, but probably not so much the elderly because I hardly saw them hanging about.
Bongeunsa Temple lies in the eastern part of Gangnam-gu, just north of the sprawling COEX mall, and is an unexpected sight amidst tall buildings decked in glass. Near the entrance to Bongeunsa, street beggars sat or walked up to visitors waiting to cross the road at the traffic lights, holding their hands together with dark crinkles of toil etched into their tanned skin. Inside, there was a sense of quiet calm – especially in the gardens. I drifted from one building to another, drawn by the beautiful green and red-brown coloured paints incorporated into a simple but seemingly complex design and the neatly tiled roofs of slategray. Rows of brightly coloured paper lanterns folded into lotus flowers were strung across the ceiling of the main prayer building, and I watched silently as a lady unclasped her hands and lifted a flame to light a candle at the altar.
531, Bongeunsa-ro, Gangnam-gu, Seoul
서울특별시 강남구 봉은사로 531 (삼성동)
Open all year round; There is also a 2-day temple stay activity should you wish to participate. Alternatively, there is also a 3hr programme where you can experience participating in different temple activities.
Otaru has become a special memory for me. The tinkling music in LeTAO and the Orgel Museum transported me into a Disneyland of sorts, while the abundance of food places along the street and souvenir shops kept it real by singing with wonderful aromas and displays of kawaii toys, telling me that indeed, “This is Japan”.
I managed to capture some of my experiences in this charming town of Otaru, so come along and take a walk in the town with me!
Category: Vietnamese – Casual
When it comes to pho, Namnam is usually the first suggestion to be thrown out because it’s conveniently located at multiple locations, and I suppose, not very expensive. I’d never heard of So.Pho perhaps because it was later to the market than Namnam, and so was pleased to hear about it as a new alternative – I’d long cut back on patronising Namnam because of the declining standard of the food and somewhat appalling service.
Paragon, 290 Orchard Road #B1-20, Singapore 238859, opens 11am – 10pm (Multiple Branches)
I visited the branch located at the basement of Paragon, but there are three other branches; at Jem (Jurong), NEX (Serangoon), and Tampines Mall (Tampines). The Paragon branch is just around the corner from Starbucks, and with bright white words against a black sign, and a bustling casual concept – an ease to locate.
Pho is a relatively simple comforting dish, and at So.Pho, the prices were about $9 for a bowl which is about the average rate at Pho restaurants in Singapore. Side dishes averaged slightly under $10 as well, but portions were quite small. All in all, I’d say prepare to spend around $20 each for a main and a side to share.
To go: For casual comfort food, and to fix Pho cravings when about town
If you’re out about town or at any of the major malls at the extreme corners of our island and want tasty, comfort food, So.Pho is a good idea. Given the choice between So.Pho and Namnam, I can now safely say that I’d pick the former any day. They’re as packed and seating is tight as is at Namnam, but they have a lot more variety and noticeably better service attitudes that really makes the meal that much better. The food is good as well, and nowadays, almost always better than Namnam.
A MORE DETAILED REVIEW
So.Pho is your typical Vietnamese restaurant – tables barely 30cm apart from each other, quick and colourful food, and a lively crackling atmosphere. If you’re looking for privacy, this won’t be it. But if you want vibrant asian spices and flavours and love noodles, rice rolls, and that sort of stuff – So.Pho is your lady.
The Pho (featured picture) was served with a tasty broth – lighter than the one at Namnam but not compromising on flavour. It was more refreshing, and the beef slices were tender and there were meat balls in the mix as well. A hearty comfort dish.
I had the stir-fried vermicelli noodles with sliced beef, which was one of the restaurant’s recommended dishes. It was delicious – the noodles were well tossed in a fragrant sauce and the beef was tender as well. The serving of vegetables was pretty generous, and I think they could’ve afforded to do more of the same for the beef as well. All in all, a good dish and decently priced.
The appetiser dishes were all good and of a wide variety, and so it’s difficult to make a recommendation. The mango salad, I hear, is pretty good. If you do go by, let me know which you enjoyed as well!
Wanting to have a good steak, a friend asked if we should go to Bistecca Tuscan Steakhouse and Restaurant or Bedrock Bar & Grill. Since I’ve been to Bistecca and not the latter, we decided to give Bedrock a shot and met up for dinner there on a Tuesday night.
96 Somerset Road, #01-05 Pan Pacific Serviced Suites Orchard, Singapore 238163
The entrance to Bedrock Bar & Grill is along the alley right outside the glass doors of Somerset 313, right next to Marché, and will be the first restaurant to your left.
Steak with prices in the region of Bistecca’s (ex. the Fiorentina steak, $188) and just a tier under Morton’s and Cut by Wolfgang Puck, it is needless to say that I was expecting a really good steak. With a starter and side dish to share, the meal came up to about $120 per head. Prepare for about $160 if you throw in a glass of red and a dessert as well.
To go: For this price, perhaps we should try elsewhere
It was good but for the price, I was not sufficiently wowed. Service was great – attentive and pro-active with the recommendations – and the ambience is cosy and romantic with comfortable booth seating at the periphery, with just the right amount of space to lend a comfortable level of chatter from guests and yet maintain privacy. There are two private dining rooms at the back as well, which can seat about 8 persons each, at which you can host a small private dinner if you so wish. In my opinion, Wooloomooloo Steakhouse is better value, equally cosy, and with equally fantastic service.
A MORE DETAILED REVIEW
I visited Bedrock Bar & Grill on a Tuesday evening after work. From the outside, it doesn’t look like much – the front of the restaurant is modest with a narrow reception and entrance. Following the front of house down a softly lit corridor, I found that it opened up into a comfortable space with a cosy setting of lacquer and dark brown wood, kept slightly more relaxed with the filament lamps suspended over the bar in an intentionally unintentional manner, like a man rolling up the sleeves of his carefully ironed shirt. When we entered at around 7.30pm, it was about 30% full, but by the time we left at around 9.30pm, it was packed to about 75%. Heading back out again, I noticed that the high stools which were unoccupied when we entered now had a few groups of people enjoying a drink or two.
It is a steakhouse, so steak is what we had. I had the Bedrock Pepper Steak (300gm ribeye, $79; featured picture) which our host mentioned was Bedrock’s signature steak and had been very well received by guests on the whole. I asked for it on medium and instead of going with the default black peppercorn sauce, chose the wholegrain whiskey mustard sauce to go with. My dining companion had the same, except on rare and with the classic béarnaise. The steaks all come with a single sauce, and if you’d like, you could swap the default sauce for another or add on any of the available sauces at $4.
To begin, we shared the Caesar Salad ($22) which was one of two recommendations for starters, the other being the Bedrock Smoked Tomato Soup ($16). This, to be honest, I wasn’t at all impressed with. The baby cos was fresh, as was to be expected, but the egg was ordinary and the bacon was too hard and its presence, sparse. I couldn’t find the white anchovies which the dish’s description made mention of, except for the single good-sized one atop.
The steak was served in a typical old-fashion style on a sizzling iron hotplate. My steak was cooked to a good medium, was rather tender and kept its juices. However, for some reason, I was just not quite blown away. It was good steak and cooked well, no doubt, but in terms of flavour, there was nothing very special about it, even when supported by the special sauces – both of which I tasted. In my mind I just couldn’t help but compare it to Bistecca – which I’ll readily admit wasn’t the fairest comparison given that I’d only tried their $188 Fiorentina made from a Wagyu F1 t-bone (serves 2-3 persons), although they also have steak options in the $70 – $90 range of a comparable portion size – which had a finer grain and smoother texture than the one at Bedrock. I’ve heard many good things about duck fat, and I once had a friend aspiring to be a chef who’d asked me to hand-carry a jar of it back for her from London, and so when we were looking at the sides, the duck fat potatoes ($16) were really calling out to me. I’m not sure what exactly it’s supposed to taste like, but I knew the duck fat flavour when I tasted it and was trace. We both agreed that the potatoes tasted somewhat ordinary, so I would advise to go with perhaps the creamed spinach ($18) as a side should you visit. Or, if you’re dying to have some potatoes, I’d think the Ash roasted sweet potato with bacon & blue cheese ($16) is going to be a little more special.
Category: Japanese – Desserts – Special milk pudding
I was really excited about Furano Delice (菓子工房フラノデリス) after all my research and what my cousin had told me, and you can totally tell from my voice and the ooh-ing in the video below.
Shimo-Goryou 2156-1, Furano-shi, Tel: 0167-22-8005, Opens 10AM – 6PM (June – September)
Seated atop a hill in the outskirts of Furano city, Furano Delice is not difficult to find and can be easily spotted when you’re in the vicinity. I’m not sure if you can get here via public transport and if there is it is probably rather infrequent, but if you do plan to drive like we did, the telephone number provided is accurate for the GPS and there’s an abundance of parking at the open-air public carpark just opposite its entrance.
Damage: $ – $$
I guess that depends on how many cakes you order, but on the whole it was inexpensive. They’re most famous for the Furano Milk Pudding which was 300JPY (~$3.50), and the cakes are just a little more than that. They have coffee as well, and the espresso we had was really intense, so all you caffeine-lovers should be pretty happy at Furano Delice too!
To go: When in Furano for sure!
Just to try the milk pudding! Creamy and luscious, like a softer cousin of panna cotta. In my opinion, cheesecake cravings can be better fulfilled at LeTAO in Otaru, but their double fromage cheesecake is pretty good too.
A MORE DETAILED REVIEW
The Furano Milk Pudding was decadent – made from locally produced Furano milk, cooked, and then set in a miniature Furano milk bottle, it is super cute AND delicious. The syrup at the bottom is not caramel, like I’d thought when shooting the video, but more of a thicker, darker, maple sort of flavour which went on smoothly atop the flavours of the pudding. You can keep the glass bottle as a souvenir as well! The cheesecake was good, LeTAO’s is still better, but the strawberry cake was nothing special.
If it’s cold out enough, you can sit on the terrace outside under the tent with gorgeous views over the countryside, but when we were there we sat indoors to get away from the scorching heat.
I stood on the gravel, staring at the textured bark of one of the tall, lean trees in the middle of the Hokkaido Jingu Shrine – like wrinkles of the wise, and as if possessing a knowledge that the rest of us were still lost in seeking to discover. Just a moment before that, I’d been standing on the steps of the main building, quietly and respectfully watching from the side as the locals went up to what looked like wooden kneelers and knelt, looking straight ahead at the altar through the glass, bowing piously.
Suddenly- there was movement to the right side of the shrine. A door opened, and a man dressed in pine-green-coloured robes wearing a black headpiece tied with a skinny white rope around his face and under his chin stepped out, holding a small bell. Ring, ring, ring.
Two ladies stepped out with him, hair neatly and tightly pulled back into a ponytail around which a cream-coloured cloth was wrapped and bound with red ribbon, both clad in long white blouses with slits and big boxy sleeves, under which they wore full-length bright red skirts. Ring, ring, ring.
They promptly bowed low to each other, and one of the ladies spun on her heel and departed briskly, as if on a mission, her feet shuffling quickly in matching red geta slippers– and I watched as she navigated the peripheral pathways of the shrine, rounded a bend and vanished, her red skirt previously trailing with movement, going with her.
June 2014, Hokkaidō Shrine (Hokkaido-Jingu Shrine), Maruyama Park, Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan
In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Rule of Thirds.”
So I never thought fast food could be this good. I had my first taste of Hotto Motto’s donburi in Asahikawa, on one of the evenings when we were strolling along the main shopping stretch and wanted something to eat. I’ve never had Japanese fast food elsewhere that’s come anywhere close to this in terms of variety and taste. Along with Hotto Motto, Yoshinoya in Japan is fantastic as well – so much so that Yoshinoya in Singapore can’t even lift a pinky to it.
Everywhere in Japan
It’s easy to spot Hotto Motto‘s red signage in English, and it’s typically found along the main shopping street.
Each donburi (rice topped with ingredients) costs on average around $6 with a bowl of soup, and can go even cheaper depending on what you order.
To go: For a quick and easy, satisfying budget meal
I have no complaints. The wide ranging menu featuring everything from different portion sizes to add-on set meals to sides to variations on each dish, and we stood for a good while in front of the automated order machine because we were a little overwhelmed. The buttons were all in Japanese, but there are images to help you figure out what exactly you’re adding to your order.
Hotto Motto‘s ambience is your typical fast food joint with counter seating and tables to the side and, of course, service is snappy – perfect for the traveller on the go. In short, my order of beef cooked with onion slices, topped with leek and an onsen egg was nothing short of satisfying.
We followed the signs featuring a little cartoon character holding pink moss up a hill. As we curved around the last bend and approached the carpark, the Takinoue Pink Moss Park revealed itself to us – an entire undulating sea of pink, spotted with the contrasting green of the trees – a sight to behold.
On closer inspection, the pink “moss” was not any sort of moss at all, but rather tiny flowers, layer upon layer of it in such density which lent the landscape a bold colour, coming in full force as if knowing that each of them couldn’t have evoked the same response on their own.
平. A simple, symmetrical word. Pronounced píng, it means “balance”.
Today marks the first day of the Chinese Lunar New Year calendar, triggering the age-old tradition and flurry of visiting of the Elders, extended family, and sometimes friends. I’d start the day by visiting my grandmother, handing her a pair of oranges and wishing her good health and other blessings, followed by spending the rest of the day with my immediate family and relatives moving from house to house.
Over the years, the list of places to visit has gotten shorter and shorter that now for most people, it’s practically a cheatsheet of one-stop-multiple-hits (i.e. where everyone just agrees to congregate at one place). As the Elders move on, some of the tradition is lost and the generations no longer see value in (and in fact, dread) meeting people they mostly only see once a year. As a kid, it was all fine and dandy receiving hong baos (red packets containing money), but as we moved beyond childhood, we realised that we now have to make small talk with relatives, deal with never-ending questions about non-existent boyfriends and girlfriends, much less marriage, and have to actually appear interested in whatever conversations there are over the span of many hours.
But 平 – this simple, balanced, symmetrical word, has far deeper meaning in the Chinese language when used in conjunction with other words, and which possibly unlocks the secrets of the essence of harmony; if I were to attempt to string its range of meanings together into a mosiac, it is akin to a beautiful 平旦 (dawn) where everything is 平顺 (smooth-sailing), 公平 (fair; there is equality), and where there is 康平 (good health) and the ones you love are 平安 (safe).
This Lunar New Year, I wish you the same balance and harmony in the many aspects of life in which 平 remains relevant and rings true. As conveyed in the clean, simple strokes of the character itself, perhaps we could realise that, indeed, achieving a balance is far simpler than we think. And perhaps, we would also find 喜 (yet another word resonating in symmetry and balance; pronounced xǐ, meaning “happiness”) in the process, just as I had a few hours ago tossing yu sheng (an oriental salad) and cheering the full suite of blessings with my family in a team effort to fondly usher in the new year over reunion dinner.
In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Symmetry.”