29 February 2004

Let's Speak Korean

Like clockwork at midnight every weekday, I stay up late (well, I sleep late every night anyway!) to catch Let's Speak Korean - a 10 minute TV programme shown over Arirang TV (on SkyLife) at 12.20am. It's a great show, concise and to-the-point. However, it's tough taking notes while trying to catch everything said on telly (OK, I'm really slow up there).

Fortunately, I can now review these episodes via VOD streaming over at Arirang TV's website. If you're a novice student of the Korean language, give this a try. You'll need to register first though (one-time free registration).

It helps that Lisa Kelley is a cutie.

[ update : interestingly, right after I posted the above, this article appeared. Talk about coincidence. ]

Long weekend

Tomorrow is a public holiday here in Korea - Independence Movement Day.

Nice long weekend break. Think I'll go watch Taegukgi. Luckily, screening Korean movies with English subtitles is a growing trend, a move which I most welcome. Only select, not all, cinemas offer this though - usually Cine Core and CGV Myeong-dong. You can check out the viewing times of English-subtitled movies here. There's also a pop-up map to the cinemas with contact info and directions. Nice.

28 February 2004

Of Doota and Korean Shoes

My shoes are killing me! I need a bigger pair. So off I go to my favourite shoe store at Doota. Doota, or more specifically, Doosan Tower, is a large shopping centre in the Dongdaemun Stadium vicinity. This area is definitely a shopping hotspot.

Doota, like Migliore, Freya and aPM, is basically a multi-storey building, with each floor housing many independant vendors of the same category - e.g. 1st floor - women's clothing, 2nd floor - men's clothing, and so on (accessories, children's stuff, shoes, household etc.). These shopping centres also have great food courts. The next time I eat there, you can be sure I'll post it here. Doota is my favourite because, in my opinion, it's the most tourist-friendly and everything is price-tagged. However, like everywhere else in Korea, you can never avoid the perpetual "May I help you?" syndrome of the sales people.

So I braved today's gloomy wet weather to get to Doota, thinking my feet will thank me for the new shoes. This is the scene in front of Doota at 5.30 pm today.

Guess what? Doota is closed for renovations or spring cleaning (I can't tell really - I need to learn Korean!) until 14 March 2004. Hmm...... Because of the closure, some of the more enterprising shops have taken to setting up stalls on the sidewalk. Until it started to rain again and everyone packed up in a hurry.

Speaking of shoes, is it just me or are the design of Korean men's leather shoes (for office/formal wear) rather peculiar. Have you noticed that these shoes get really flat towards the front. I mean really flat. I won't say that I have large feet. Just normal-sized feet. But I can never squeeze my toes into these shoes. So I guess I can never buy leather shoes here. My feet are really small, honest! I finally ended up getting my shoes at Migliore.

27 February 2004

Pizza Etang

I've slipped into a routine of late - every Friday for the last several weeks, this ritual involves pigging out on pizza while laughing at the starving contestants on Survivor All Star. Today is no different.

My neighbourhood is swamped with pizza joints - they should just rename this place Pizza-dong. We have the regular "branded" culprits - Pizza Hut & Domino's - and also the home-grown pizza chains mushrooming around Korea. While pizza lovers all over should be familiar with the usual variety - super supreme, hawaiian (pineapple), chicken, pepperoni, mushroom, vegetarian etc., Korea has its localised variants e.g. bulgogi pizza & potato pizza. Is there a kimchi pizza? I don't know.

20 metres from my office is a Pizza Etang outlet, one of the many Korean pizza chains. While my usual choices are either Super Supreme or Cheese Crust Pizzas, they've recently introduced 3 new varieties - Sweet Potato, Mexican Taco & Garlic Pizzas - all of which I've never tried. So I went for the Garlic Pizza and the Mexican Taco Pizza.

This is the large Garlic Pizza (KRW9,900).

Toppings - pepperoni, mushroom, minced beef, pineapple, cheese (of course!) and a white creamy herb & garlic sauce.

You can really taste the aromatic garlic flavour. This is traced to the creamy sauce that is used as the base instead of the usual tomato-paste sauce. Nice combination of toppings, and the chunky sweet (canned) pineapple does well to take away some of the sting from the garlic. I love it. Really nice change from the tomato-based pizzas. Strictly for garlic lovers, though.

This is the large Mexican Taco Pizza (KRW9,900)

Toppings - pepperoni, onion, capsicum (green bell pepper), pickled green chilis (jalapeno), cheese (cheddar and mozarella) and a tangy spicy sauce.

Similar to the Garlic Pizza, this pizza is not tomato-based. Instead, the sauce is BBQ-ish with a wallop of Tobasco - real spicy and sourish. The pickled chili adds further fuel to the already burning tongue. A real zinger of a pizza. Yummy!

It's KRW9,900 for one large pizza and KRW14,900 for two. Good deal if you can finish two large pizzas *burp*. Pizza Etang is cheaper than the other "branded" chains like Pizza Hut and Domino's where a large pizza can set you back KRW25,000 to KRW29,000. Oh and by the way, the ever naked Richard Hatch was kicked out of Survivor All Star tonight.

26 February 2004

Gobaksa Jip has Disappeared

Gobaksa Jip is the name of a restaurant in the Sinchon/Ehwa Womens' University area in Seoul which serves a wicked bowl of naeng myeon (cold buckwheat noodles). I also love their excellent pan-fried bin dae tok (mung bean pancake). Superb!

It's been operating for decades and is well-known amongst Seoulites. Recently, I visited the place again but to my disappointment, the restaurant was no longer there. Help . . . . I need my bin dae tok fix!

Does anyone know where Gobaksa Jip is now?

25 February 2004

Kimchi Jigae

Kimchi jigae is one of those things in life that grows on you. I used to be put off by it initially. But ever since I found this place, it's really grown on me. So much so that I really miss it when I'm abroad.

Kimchi is synonymous with Korean food. 'nough said. Jigae means stew. I especially like the way it's done here - kept warm over a stove. There's nothing worse that a cold pot of kimchi jigae.

What you get is a steaming hot pot of chinese cabbage kimchi in stock soup, with sliced pork, tofu (beancurd), onion leaves, sliced flour cake, chilli powder and all-important instant noodles (ramyeon). It's hot, spicy & sour - yummy. Kimchi tastes different when cooked versus eaten raw. In a kimchi jigae, it actually taste a lot like preserved salted vege found in Hong Kong (note to self - kimchi IS preserved salted vege - silly fool!). If the soup dries up, ask the ajumma for a top-up. It's free complimentary!

Cost KRW4,000. It's probably not as good as this renowned one, but still nice.

24 February 2004

Hae Jang Gook

The sky was real gloomy today. The temperature has dipped a little, due to the almost 48 hours of continuous rain over the weekend. Anyway, I had hae jang gook for lunch today. Actually, I've been having this for lunch for the last couple of days. Guess it's the flavour of the week.

Hae jang gook is sometimes nicknamed "hangover soup". Guess its a great kick-starter after a night of heavy soju-ing drinking. My only exposure to hae jang gook previously was a spicy pork bones soup. But this particular variant of hae jang gook is called kong na mool hae jang gook. Kong na mool is bean sprout, yes? But this bean sprout is of the larger variety, and not the typical teeny weeny bean sprouts most are familiar with.

This place, in Bundang-gu, is really popular.

It's usually very very crowded during lunch time. I had a late lunch today (2.45pm) and found no problem getting a place.

As with most Korean food, it came piping hot. Notice the bubbling soup? Hottttt!! You get rice in seafood-stock soup, large beansprouts, topped with kimchi, a sprinkle of sesame seed, chili powder, spring onion leaves and an egg.

You can eat it as it is. But the real kicker is when you mix the condiments that comes with it. That's kimchi, sliced green chilis, dried salted seaweed, heavily salted beef strips (in some brown sauce) & salt-fermented shrimps. Where's the salt? Hehehe .....

The salted shrimp thingy is similar to "cencaluk", a salted preserved shrimp condiment found in Malaysia.

So mix everything in and ta-da, it's ready to eat. Real yummy ..... more so on a cold wintery day.

Cost KRW5,000. FatMan says "Highly recommended".

23 February 2004

Doh Si Rak

This is the food court at the Carrefour hypermarket. It is typical of many such food courts located within shopping malls and departmental stores in Korea. This particular foodcourt has approx. 30 stores serving all types of Korean food.

Food courts are great if you're unfamiliar with Korean food, because the stores have mock-up of the dishes displayed at the counters (as depicted below). Tonight's dinner was doh si rak. Basically it is a bento-type set meal comprising of soup, rice, main dish and a variety of side dishes. There are many types of doh si rak to choose from, depending on your appetite and budget.

I chose their most expensive "special" set (KRW6,000). It had a diluted yuk gi jang(spicy beef soup), fried fish, a bulgogi/spicy bulgogi (thinly sliced beef) combo + assortment of side dishes. The interesting thing was the rice. It is not your typical white rice variety, but purplish in color. This is quite common in Korea, along with rice mixed with grains like oats, barley etc. Thumbs up. Real nice.

Desert? OK OK, if you REALLY must know . . . . . . .

One observation though - whenever Koreans ask me what's my favourite food, and I tell them it's doh si rak, they look at me bewildered or in disbelief! Am I suppose to answer bulgogi? Or galbi? But I really do like doh si rak. Why is this? Anyone?

18 February 2004

Mr. Stomach's Flashbacks

From time to time, when Mr. Stomach has nothing interesting to shout about, I will post stuff from the past. Yes there are occasions when Mr. Stomach will be eating just boring ole stuff, which would be hardly worth posting. Below is one such example. So go ahead and start drooling! Hehehe . . . .

Tony Roma's

Christmas eve dinner was had at Tony Roma's in Gangnam-gu. It's located about 100 metres from Gangnam Subway Station exit 5 - real easy to find.

Here's their trademark The Original Baby Back Ribs (KRW27,300).

The pork ribs were delicious and finger-lickin good. Go for The Original instead of the St. Louis Red Hots Ribs (yes that's not a type .. it's "Hots" with an "s"). Besides coleslaw, you get to choose 1 additional complimentary side dish, from baked potatoes, buttered rice, french fries etc. I had the corn-on-cob.

In the background, we have the Onion Loaf (KRW7,500), another of Tony's speciality, and the Baked Potato Soup (KRW5,300). The Onion Loaf was nice, if you're not averse to oily fried food. Best taken hot from the fryer, it comes with a variety of dipping sauce (side plate). The potato soup was very nice, much better than their clam chowder. The Onion Loaf was complimentary because I brought along this coupon. Yes, I'm cheap!

For deserts, it was the Chocolate Brownie (KRW6,800). Nothing to shout about here.

I've also tried another of Tony Roma's outlets in the Myeong-dong area (downtown Seoul). I prefer the Gangnam outlet to Myeong-dong which is located at the basement level and offers no view. This Gangnam outlet is on the first floor (ground floor being street level, if you're not familiar), feels less claustrophobic and a better overall ambience and atmosphere.

Tony Roma's is all over the place. I've tried Tony Roma's in Bangkok and I've heard it's extremely popular in Singapore too. You can check out the full menu, prices and other specials at their website.

15 February 2004

Turkish Delight ..... not!

Went searching for food in Itaewon today. Itaewon has the only mosque in Seoul, up on a hill (I've heard this is an infamous hill for other notorious reasons *wink*). It is therefore not surprising to find a small minority of muslims living in this area. For the same reason, you'll also find a butcher selling halal meat (halal : meat slaughtered in accordance to Islamic rules) here at wholesale prices (e.g. boneless mutton fillets for KRW8,000/kg), and stores selling Asian spices like cinnanom, cardamon, aniseed, cloves, curry powder etc. I even found Thai green curry powder!

I decided to try out Salam Restaurant which serves Turkish food. It is situated just next to the main entrance to the mosque. I had the lamb shish-kebab (KRW7,000), moussakka (brinjal-based dish) (KRW4,000), rice (KRW1,000), turkish bread (KRW1,000) and turkish tea (KRW4,000). They also have a set menu - for KRW15,000, you get a lentil soup, salad, main course, bread/rice and tea/coffee.

I did not have my camera with me at the time, so no photos to go with this post. Sorry!

I need to be blunt here. It was not a good meal. The "lamb" was poorly marinated, dry and tough. It should read mutton and not lamb, as they're different! The moussaka was pre-cooked and microwaved before serving. I had expected pillav long grained rice, but it turned out to be just plain rice of the Korean variety. The bread was just ordinary and the tea, the pride of Turkey, was actually just Lipton teabags disguised.

OK. I'm ranting. Sorry.

[ appendum - I found their website after posting the above ]

14 February 2004

FatMan's Inspiration

I started reading blogs on a regular basis only recently. It started with A Geek In Korea and then I got hooked on Korea Life Blog and The Marmot's (Final) Hole. These have become my staple daily reading. I even have it sync-ed to my PDA via AvantGo.

They're the source of my inspiration to start this blog. Hopefully, readers will find it enjoyable and come away from it with some useful information, as I have from visiting theirs. So here's a shoutout to you guys. Thanks guys!

Blog Virgin ... on Valentine's Day

Hello Bloggers all over. Blog virgin here. I'm gonna give this blog thingy a try and see how it goes.

And I guess I couldn't have picked a better day than Valentine's Day to kick things off. Yes folks, that's how I'm spending my Valentine's Day ..... no chocolates, no candies, no flowers .... just hours on end cooped up at home ... alone ... setting up this blog. How pathetic sad romantic ....

I hope you enjoy reading my blogs and visit often. Stay tuned!