Crazy happy times at www.memoirsoftaste.com

To my dearest friends and readers,

Thanks for being part of my journey on .wordpress.com – I’m so amazed each time I hear from one of you, and I’ve never felt more connected!

I started out http://www.memoirsoftaste.wordpress.com as a sort of challenge for the year of 2015. I start each year with a list of things I’d like to accomplished, and to those of you who’d asked, I’d shared that it was my way of documenting the things I love most – Food, travel – and also a way for me to share the things and moments which moved or inspired me.

But now I want to make it a commitment – I want to keep writing, I want to keep sharing, and I want to keep getting to know each one of you. I’m excited about the road ahead, and I hope that you’ll join me at www.memoirsoftaste.com. If you’re already following me, just make sure you click for notifications again so that you’ll get my posts in your feed (because I hear this doesn’t happen automatically although I’ve taken you all (a.k.a. “migrated”) with me already)!

Big smiles and big hugs to everyone, and ttys!

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4 Things to Taste: Adventures with Street Food in South Korea

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! Korea Street Food Odeng Fish Cake #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). Street Food Korea Tteokbokki Rice Cake Cheap Budget Eats Review Travel Blog #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. Korean Street Food Hotteok Sweet Pancake Food Travel Blog #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. Korea Street Food Pancake Kimchi Mandu Gyoza Jiaozi Travel Blog #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! 😮

Poetry by Photography: Love Locked Lovers

So many; Love locks hanging in the waning light
Yet none of them are really quite alike
Some are big and some are small,
Some have been weathered; rust and all
For one out of naivety, another perhaps assured,
But neither promise could be insured

For you and I, we are individuals all
Sometimes we just cannot predict a fall
But those who keep strong in the rain,
May find their love holds through the strain
And at the end of a time of trial –
Their love locks fused, never to exile

Some forlornly looking in quiet haste,
Others holding hands in rapid chase
Fingers are traced around an etch
While toes are tipped to peer past the hedge
Love locked lovers in embrace,
Navigating through life’s intricate maze.

April 2015, Sunset at Namsan Peak, Seoul, South Korea

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Intricate.”

Ssangdoongi Dwaeji Gukbap (돼지국밥), Busan, South Korea

Category: Korean – Casual – Gukbap (Pork and Rice Soup)

Dwaeji Gukbap is a specialty of the Gyeongsangnam province, which the Southeastern part of South Korea. It’s a very very simple, unpretentious dish, and a comfort food in all aspects – I can’t tell you how good this tastes especially when you’ve been out in the cold! Since Busan is supposed to have some of the best renditions of this dish, I stalked out what was considered to be the best one, and made sure we stopped over for dinner right after our visit to Busan museum.

887-1, Daeyeon1-dong or 35-1 UN Pyeonghwa-ro, Nam-gu, Busan, South Korea, Tel: 051-628-7020

It’s right within walking distance from Busan museum, and better still, right along the straight route back to the metro station. I was obediently going in the direction of the red pin in Google maps until we chanced upon the store front at 35-1 UN Pyeonghwa-ro from which I immediately recognised the logo of the two pigs with red chef hats. A row of flower arrangements and wreaths lined its entrance, and the interior was clean and spacious – nothing like what other reviews had said to be “extremely crowded” and having “a long queue even at 3pm”. As it turns out Ssangdoongi Dwaeji Gukbap is so popular that this was its newly-opened 2nd store.

Ssangdoongi Dwaeji Gukbap Busan Food Review Blog

Damage: $

So inexpensive! They had a sort of hotpot version with vegetable wraps but we went with what Ssangdoongi was famous for – the original gukbap at 6000KRW. Since this was Korea, we did it K-style and called for a makgeolli at 3000KRW to go with.

To Go: Yes you should, and go to the newer restaurant if you want to skip the queue

Food is fuss-free, very affordable, and great in the tummy on a cold day. With rigid-looking wooden tables and chairs and a metal-sheet counter top at the far end, ambience is obviously not their forte – but then again, who cares? The original restaurant (nearer the metro and about 5 mins from the newer one) is more compact with a more old-school feel, but really, walk that extra 5 mins if you want to skip the queue.

Ssangdoongi Dwaeji Gukbap Busan Food Review Blog

Ssangdoongi Dwaeji Gukbap Busan Food Review Blog

Like well-behaved pupils, we eagerly flavoured the dish with the garlic chives, tiny salty shrimp (which we happily called out as cincalok) and the red pepper paste as instructed by the waitress. The serving of pork is generous for the price – we kept magically unearthing pork from below the rice – and tender, with fats I’d imagine contains collagen which is all the Asian rage about being good for the skin right now. The broth was light, very tasty and when had together with the rice, reminded me of teochew porridge back at home.

Busan Museum (부산시립박물관), Busan, South Korea (Gallery)

We took a 3.5hr ride on the KTX to Busan, a busy port city on the Southern coast of South Korea, where we were to spend the next 4 nights. If you were to look at the map, Busan has 3 parts of its coast that juts out a little into the ocean – that’s also where most of the attractions are concentrated. The Busan museum (부산시립박물관) in Namgu, on the middle jutter-outer, has 3 levels of sprawling exhibitions from displays of artefacts – anything from bowls to tools to rust-eaten swords to life-sized mock-ups of blacksmith shops and fishmonger stalls.

I personally am not really a history buff, so these didn’t interest me at all (unless we’re talking about European palaces, which is a different story). Rather, we were there because the museum has a Cultural Experience hall at which you could try on traditional outfits like hanbokGonryongpo, Ikseongwan, Wosam, etc. And also had a Tea ceremony where we could try our hand at making tea – which, might I add, is a very intentional, delicate and lengthy process full of repetition and small hand gestures and placements, but constituted a whole lot of fun learning.

What most people might not know is that in the right season, Busan Museum has a gorgeous outdoor garden which you can slip into from the path on the right. We chanced upon it because we were killing some time before the tea ceremony at 4.30pm. I remember the scene unfolding before my eyes – cherry blossom trees in full bloom, lined up along the broad stone pathway all the way to the top of the hill, a heavy sprinkling of pale pink ‘snow’ strewn underfoot – to which I found that I could not resist staring at the ground.

948-1 Daeyeon 4(sa)-dong, Nam-gu, Busan, South Korea

Opens from 9am to 8pm daily (Closed on Mondays); Tea Ceremony Timings 10.30am, 1.30pm, 3pm and 4.30pm (Please note that you have to be there in person to book the slot).

Busan Museum Tea Making Cultural Experience 부산시립박물관 Travel Blog

Busan Museum Tea Making Cultural Experience 부산시립박물관 Travel Blog

Busan Museum Cherry Blossoms Garden 부산시립박물관 Travel Blog

Busan Museum Cherry Blossoms Garden 부산시립박물관 Travel Blog

Busan Museum Cherry Blossoms Garden 부산시립박물관 Zabrina Alexis Chew Travel Blog

No. 813 BBQ Restaurant, Seoul, South Korea

Category: Korean – Barbecue

Anyone who’s been to Korea or has watched any K-drama would know how much the Koreans love their barbecue. While I was in Korea, we had barbecue at least 5 times in 11 days, and man, that is A LOT of barbecue. When we first arrived in Seoul, we stayed in Gangnam-gu, and so I’d planned out an entire list of food places to go in Gangnam a week ahead. No. 813 BBQ Restaurant had been on Lady Iron Chef’s list of 17 Best Restaurants and Local Eateries to Eat in Seoul, and so was assigned as dinner stop for day 1.

Gangnam-daero 152-gil, opens from 5pm for dinner

Contrary to what was said online, it wasn’t all that hard to find, especially since No.813 has 2 units next door to each other – the larger one being to the right of the original one, with a slightly more modern (and less authentic) feel to it and also twice the size of the other. Since it was already the late afternoon, we ambled around Gangnam for a bit until 5pm when they re-opened for dinner.

Damage: $$

No.813 BBQ Restaurant has reasonable value with decent portion sizes, and we left reasonably full after spending about $20 each on a set selection of meats and some kimchi stew, but keep reading…

To Go: It’s okay, but it isn’t a must-try

It’s decent barbecue, but that’s all there is to it. This was the first barbecue we tried in Korea, and while the cuts of meat I thought were pretty average (and some of the meat was practically served just out of the freezer and had to be left defrosting at the table), we thought that all in all it offered good value… until we tried barbecue at like 4 other places, including one more in Seoul.

The kimchi stew here paled miserably to the one we had at Heukdonga on Jeju-do, and the side dishes were very average and limited (as compared to every other place we dined at while in Korea). Service was terrible; although we were only one of the two groups of guests, we had to wave several times just to get the attention of wait staff who were too busy chatting with each other over the counter just 3m away, and had to request multiple times for another serving of kimchi stew and kimchi which never arrived.

No. 813 BBQ Restaurant Barbecue Seoul Korea Food Review Blog

Liebster and One Lovely Blog Awards

I can’t tell you how incredibly surprised and honoured I was to be nominated for the Liebster and One Lovely Blog Awards! It’s always nice when fellow bloggers stop by to comment or like a post, but this! Such a special and pleasant surprise – thank you, Victoria! Check out her blog, Canny Cuisine, where she shares yummy recipes and the like (her instagram is full of food too).

There are two awards here, and I’m going to take them both on at one go! (If not you’ll probably be reading until tomorrow morning, OR fall asleep – which is more likely to happen)

For One Lovely Blog, the rules are:

1. Thank the person who nominated you and provide a link back to his/her award post.
2. Share 7 things about yourself.
3. Nominate 15 other bloggers and let them know about this.

The Liebster Award is more complicated, and the rules go like this:

1. Put up the Liebster Award logo on a blog post
2. Thank your nominator and provide a link back to his/her blog
3. Write 10 random facts about yourself
4. Answer 10 questions posted by the nominator
5. Nominate 10 other bloggers for the award and inform them about it
6. Come up with 10 new questions for your nominees

Which puts me at 3, where I swan dive into 10 random facts about myself

1. I’m a Violinist and I do gigs as well as teach violin to kids during my free time.
2. I was a semi-finalist in a nation-wide singing competition, and eventually got to perform on stage in front of a crowd of 30,000 – the stress was intense, from choreography to vocal training to wardrobe, but was also where I got to know an amazing bunch of very musically-talented people.
3. I’m a rather sentimental person and Interstellar made me tear a record 8 times.
4. I love food, and it probably occupies my mind about 60% of the time. Okay, maybe 50%.
5. I’m actually kinda geeky and enjoy reading about all sorts of things from cryptography to writing code to nutrition to the science of smell :/ I think I’m just making up for how disinterested I was in everything when I was a kid.
6. I did the world’s highest bungee jump off the Macau tower last year – the craziest thing ever but woo yea!!
7. I love being outdoors- and near plants. They make me happy. I need plants.
8. I can lucid dream, which means adventures await almost every night.
9. I learnt muay thai for a few months last year and when I went into office one day, my boss asked if I was suffering from abuse.
10. I like the idea of being bad-ass. Sometimes, I try.

And incoming, the 10 questions posed by Victoria. Here goes!

#1 What is your favourite food and why? Chocolate. I just can’t. live. without. it. 

#2 Why did you start blogging? I love taking photographs, and I love writing so 1+1=Memoirs of Taste! Naw, that’s the half truth. I wanted to record of all the places I’ve been so that not only can I recall them, I can also share useful information about these places – information that I myself would have found useful to know before my visit and find so hard to find online.

#3 What do you do when life gets you down? I sit down in the quiet and think. I’d have a conversation with myself, reflect on the state of things, and then make a list of ways to improve the situation or overcome it.

#4 What is the weirdest song you know? Uh… What does the fox say?

#5 If you were a colour, what colour would that be and why? This is tough… I don’t have a favourite colour either. Black? I wear a lot of black because it’s so classic.

#6 What is the most difficult dish you’ve ever made, and how did it turn out? I made chapati from scratch. It took hours and it wasn’t bad, but I also succeeded in covering the entire dining table in flour and dough.

#7 What is the one thing you can’t live without? I hate to be cheesy, but it’s gotta be love. And water. Yea, that too.

#8 If you had the chance to be invisible for 1 day, what would you do? I might raid the bank. Haha.

#9 Who is your favourite super hero? Iron Man! He has the tech!

#10 What is your most favourite thing that you’ve ever done? Can I say travelling?? If I had to be specific, it would be my roadtrip through Italy! Amo Italia!

My turn to nominate – Yes you!

1. Peeled Wellness – K shares recipes that are great for people who believe in eating the natural way

2. Chincinitie – Very unique perspectives on street trends

3. Petite Christine – Plenty of adventures in America, including travel and food

4. Alex Elliott Photography – If you love beautiful scenery, Alex is your man. Stunning, stunning pictures.

5. Checking in. – Yes, check-in for great travel tips from budget travel to airbnb

6. Cooking with Kathy Man – A curated reel of recipes sourced from everywhere and interesting food facts

7. the L A Z E of days – Lovely recipes and mouthwatering pictures – a good resource for ideas on what to cook

8. Duane Pandorf – I don’t think Duane needs more followers, but I do think lots of people haven’t discovered his fantastic photography yet, and since Liebster is not just for newbies, I’m adding Duane to the list.

9. Watch! – A reel full of macro pictures full of colour, and incredible detail – Laila captures some truly amazing moments

10. Having fun with my camera – For someone who’s “having fun with (the) camera”, they sure take a lot of good wildlife photos 😛

And finally, some quick questions to you guys:

1. What is your biggest source of inspiration?
2. What was the first thing you ever wrote (or remember you ever wrote)?
3. Monochrome or sepia?
4. What is one thing you haven’t done but want to do?
5. Favourite food/dish and best associated memory?
6. If you had everything you needed to do whatever you wanted for a week, what would you do?
7. What do you fear (e.g. heights, darkness, etc.)?
8. Ever thought of overcoming that fear, and how would you do it?
9. Favourite book or movie, and why?
10. What do you hope to achieve with your blog and how can we help you get there?

PHEWWW that was long! All the best to my nominees – do tag me if you reply because I’ll love to learn about you.