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! 😮
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 hanbok, Gonryongpo, 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).
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.
We made a stop by Otaru’s wet market in the late morning to check out their range of fresh seafood. Being a seaside town, Otaru’s streets are lined with restaurants and shops selling seafood in various forms – from live to dried to fresh cuts served with don. Otaru’s wet market was smaller than Kushiro’s Washo market but better, with fresher seafood and great value. The stall owners are a lot kinder as well, perhaps due to lesser competition, and even took the time to explain the different catches and fantastic sea creatures.
I walked down the length of the market armed with my DSLR, trying my best to capture as much of the colour as possible. One of the shopkeepers saw me pointing and commenting on the giant crabs in my video, and without hesitation, lifted the entire crab out of the tank and said, “Yes it is hu-ge!” Haha! – often it’s really the locals that really make the place even more memorable. He gave me a pinch of uni to taste before we eventually sat down to enjoy a Major seafood meal.
Right- enough of my talking. I’m going to hit you with the pictures 😛
Category: European (Varies) – Desserts
Singaporean (girls, in particular) seem to have a fairly sweet tooth and are fond of good-looking food (maybe because that’s just good for Instagram). Whether it’s because of a high demand or a trickle-down influence from a colonial age, Singapore has a fair number of places hosting Afternoon Tea, and Chihuly Lounge at The Ritz-Carlton hotel has been one of the top favorites for a long time.
The Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore, 7 Raffles Avenue, Singapore 039799
Chihuly Lounge is just in front of the Main Reception area, and right by the lobby and driveway. I came in from the Millenia Walk side, through the side entrance to the Ritz, and so had to walk most of its length to get to Chihuly. We practically “stumbled” inside without knowing because there was no front desk, and the lounge was completely open.
Damage: $$ – $$$
Chihuly changes its afternoon tea line-up seasonally. When I visited in February, they were featuring the Bernardaud Afternoon Tea at $48++ per person. Afternoon Tea in Singapore, or anywhere for that matter, tends to be a pretty pricey affair. While the value really varies depending on what you’re getting in the selection, I thought the Bernardaud Afternoon Tea was promising due to the chocolate-themed desserts which had first been introduced in December 2014 as part of their Winter Afternoon Tea.
To Go: Depending on the Seasonal menu, as an occasional treat
Chocolate is my weakness and my undying love for it means that I’m acutely critical of chocolate which have been ‘branded’ as upmarket, good-quality chocolate. I’m by no means a chocolate snob – KitKat and Ritter Sport are still totally up my alley, but when it comes to “artisan-type” chocolate, I expect to be able to taste the difference. The majority of the items (hot counters, sandwiches, etc.) were pretty average, so if anything was to turn my assessment of the Chihuly Afternoon Tea around, that would’ve had to be the parade of chocolate desserts being featured for the season. I don’t know if the other blogs I’d read were actually paid to write the reviews because they were lavishing much praise, but in my experience, they were about equal parts hits and misses. Service was inattentive, perhaps partly due to under-staffing – we spotted only about 3 staff attending to the entire lounge which was running at full-house.
A MORE DETAILED REVIEW
We lingered near the beginning of the lounge area for a bit, not quite knowing what to do with ourselves since there was no waiting area or desk, until some time had passed and finally managed to catch the eye of a staff who helped us get settled in. By day, Chihuly Lounge is a very open-concept lounge with sofa seating and a live band playing pop classics by the tall glass windows between the lounge and the main driveway. My companion told me that by night, however, the lounge would transform into a chill-out bar at which guests can enjoy cocktails and bar bites to live jazz.
After we were seated, we were left unattended for a good 10 minutes just sitting and waiting to be even offered the menu for selection. After the menu was presented, we waited another 15 minutes to try and get the hostess’s attention so we could inform her of our selection of teas.
The tea was a highlight of the session. I went with Vanilla flavoured Black Tea, while my companion went with the Wild Cherries flavoured Black Tea. Both teas were delightful, although the vanilla was the more perfumed, sweeter, and lush of the two, while the wild cherries one had fruity notes and a deep berry colour.
I’ll spend but a blink on the hot stations and the sandwich counter; since the offerings change all the time, it makes little sense for me to go into detail on each and every dish. The kurobuta pork in puff pastry was good, albeit too little pork in too much pastry. The scallop was fresh lacked depth, partly due to the cream beneath which was too strong and overpowering, masking the feature ingredient with a thick cheese-like lather. The tuna was sorely disappointing – it was overdone, dried-out and lacked flavor; a pity on the meaty tuna, really.
Sandwiches were nothing special. The bread was not particularly fragrant – some were better than others, but nothing like the ones at my favorite Provence bakery – and the ingredients were scrimped on, although they did taste fresh and were, on the whole, well-seasoned. I’d dedicated much of my stomach space to the chocolate, and so approached the display with much excitement. Sadly, they weren’t half as good as they looked – I’d stopped halfway on the first, the macaron was very ordinary (2/10 on the scale of memorability) and the star atop was very hard and tasteless, and the thin eclairs were completely dried out, coarse in texture and stingy on the cream filling.
The best of the collection were the two featured – chocolate discs were wedged into a smooth, rich and creamy chocolate dusted over in cocoa powder, whilst the other cut open to reveal a mix of hazelnut cream and chocolate sponge and reminded me of a giant ferrero roche.
When I think of Orange, I think of Dubai. It might seem like a funny association, but in March, everything in Dubai is permanently painted in an orangey golden glow from the arabic sun- casting sharp shadows and reflecting off surfaces and into my lens, easily convincing anyone looking through my reel of photos that I’d photographed with a warming filter.
This was the first trip I’d taken with two of my closest friends, and orange reminds me of that as well. It’s a warm, happy colour – a colour which conveys smiles and friendship. We’d explored the souks (marketplaces)- drifting from one into another, into another, getting lost in the alleyways lined with handcrafted arabic slippers decorated with colourful threads one moment, and the next- being draped in shawls and pashimas by shopkeepers trying to make a sale. We laughed, asked questions, observed and took photographs.
Then there was the desert- a picturesque memory of undulating fine sand, drenched in orange as the sun began its descent, stretching like waves as far as the eye could see. Stepping out of the jeep, I was taken aback by how strong the winds were and the grains of sand rising up and about in the air, sometimes getting to the eyes or the camera lens, but I soon was so taken in by the beauty of the desert that I forgot all that.
Now, I only recall the dunes, like a smooth silk, rising, falling, rising, falling, and the feel of how my feet sank into the sand slowly and softly with each step, and looking on at the animals which have known the desert for years- and they, as if knowingly safeguarding the desert’s secrets, looked back from behind a soft woven veil.
My other stories from Dubai can also be found here.
In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Orange you glad it’s photo challenge time?.”
On our second day after lunch, we went to the Otaru Orgel Museum, which is synonymous with the “music box museum” simply because that’s the museum’s claim to fame. We drove up to the museum and parked in the open-air carpark just in front of the main entrance, and from the outside, the building looked incredibly plain for something that supposedly housed a variety of interesting souvenirs and music boxes.
Stepping in, however, I could see that I was incredibly wrong and, as they say, looks can be deceiving. A soft, cheerful music filled the entire place, and I was greeted with huge rooms on both my left and right – displays full of shiny, moving things from miniature carousels, to snow globes and photo frames, to intricately carved music boxes within which little ballerinas danced or fabric butterflies flapped their wings. Sort of like a disney shop for grown-ups.
I don’t think you’ll need that much time at this stop – around 45 minutes should do – unless you’re a huge music box fanatic or plan to do some serious souvenir shopping. The upper floors contain some of the most exquisite (and very expensive) music boxes and other vintage items, but really, I spent the most time standing by the shelves pressed up against the wall, picking out little musical movements encased in clear acrylic boxes, labelled and prepped to play everything from Backstreet Boys to Phantom of the Opera to KPOP/JPOP and Classics. I eventually brought home Beauty and the Beast‘s signature soundtrack because it’s my favourite Disney classic, and I thought nothing would be more magical than to have a musical movement which tinkled the tune whenever I feel like winding it up for a listen.