29 April 2004

Sam Gyeob Sal

While in Sinchon, I visited one of my many favourite places for some sam gyeob sal (삼겹살). The last time I was here was in December last year. Imagine my amazement when I walked in and the owner exclaimed that he remembers me from my last visit and even pointed to the table I sat at and what I ordered. Wow! If this isn't friendly service, I don't know what is. (Then again, maybe it was the whole pig that I ordered the last time, but that's another story).

The place is called 生삼겹.com. Yes even the Korean cuisine of sam gyeob sal wasn't left untouched by the dot-com explosion. It's located beside the Hyundai Department Store in Sinchon.

You have the option of seating here - floor or chairs. The place is clean and there's even a small aquarium upfront. This carving table, as you'll see later, takes centrestage.

A quick rundown of the menu - you have the varying grades and cuts of pork (between KRW6,600 - KRW7,000 per serving of 150 - 200 grammes), a variety of tang (soup) and jiggae (stew) for KRW4,000 - KRW5,000, and a variety of soju and maekju (liquor) KRW3,000 - KRW6,000.

THIS is unique to this place, the automated rotating griller. You lift the cover, place the skewer of pork inside, cover and it will start to rotate and cook over the fire. Two big advantage here - (1) the meat is evenly grilled (2) you don't get oil splutters on your bare skin, and (3) you don't have to lift a finger - it's all done for you. OK. That's three.

A satellite image of the table, with side dishes comprising mostly of various salads and kimchis.

A variety of dipping sauce, from the red samchang (chili paste mixed with preserved soya beans), the yellow honey mustard, the salt mixed with sesame seeds and finely grounded peanuts. The bottom dish is shredded cabbage with coleslaw dressing and a squeeze of chili sauce. Interesting combo.

The bacon'a almost done. You can hear it sizzling in there, and can see the fat dripping away. Nice even tan.

The cooked skewers of bacon are then brought to this carving (cutting) station where they're sliced into generous portions.

After that, they're thrown back into the fire to continue cooking, this time over the flat grill. While all that is happening, another set of skewered bacon goes into the rotating pit. It's ready to eat.

As I've mentioned in my previous post on sam gyeob sal, I like them thick and chuncky. And this place doesn't disappoint. The meat is thick enough so that it is crispy on the outside and still moist and juicy on the inside. Just perfect. The pork here is fresh and of good quality. Thumbs up.

One of the things I enjoy most about eating sam gyeob sal (or even anything that involves grilling for that matter) is to lightly grill the garlic. If you've never had garlic in Korea before, be forewarned that Korean garlic can be extremely pungent to the extent that it stings. But once it's grilled, the garlic turns all sweet and fragrant and its texture turns into that of a potato - soft and crumbly. If you've never tried this before, you should. Trust me. :o)

The other variation is to grill your kimchi. Kimchi when cooked in this manner tastes different from its raw counterpart. Try it. Goes oh so well with sam gyeob sal.

Next up is gochu sam gyeob sal, which is basically the same thing with the addition of gochujang (seasoned chili paste). The meat is smothered with gochujang and then grilled. It is a good idea to work your way up from the plain sam gyeob sal to the gochu sam gyeob sal if you plan to have both at the same sitting. This is because you may find the plain ones, well, plain if you had the gochu ones first. So remember, plain first, then gochu.

Again, the gochu sam gyeob sal here is well executed. The sauce is sweetish, not overly spicy, and I swear there is a tinge of BBQ sauce in there if my tastebuds didn't fail me. You will need to refrain yourself from eating this too soon, and let the sauce simmer and dry up to fully envelop the meat.

Typically, after a good and hearty meal of sam gyeob sal, I like to wash it all down with a hot bowl of dwenjang jiggae (된장찌개), or spicy bean paste stew/soup. The soup is made from adding preserved beanpaste to stock, then adding chili paste and lots of sliced green chilis, spring onions, dubu (beancurd/tofu), beansprouts, chinese cabbage and clams. Very hot and spicy. Nice end to a very good meal.

26 April 2004

Sinchon & Ewha

Today we visit another of Seoul's chic and trendy hotspots for the young and young-at-heart (the latter was slipped in to comfort my naive ego).

On a beautiful sunny spring day sometime last week, we visited Sinchon and its neighbouring vicinity, Ewha Womans University. "Sinchon" literally means "new town" and "ewha" is the flower of pear trees. This area is a popular hunting ground for students (and also a popular hunting ground for students, or so I'm told *cough*), and is home to several universities, namely Yonsei University, Hongik University, Sogang University and Ewha Womans University (no typo, it's "Womans" I tell ya).

Getting off at the Sinchon subway station, one of the first Sinchon landmarks to greet you is the Hyundai Department Store. That's the tall building you see in the photo with the huge red banner. (sidenote : take note that there's Sinchon and there's Sincheon and are nowhere close to each other!)

Sinchon offers lots of great places for good food. As with most popular hotspots, there's always a Tourist Info Centre nearby, usually close to the subway stations. Grab yourself a guide book to the area. The Seoul Metro Government publishes a ten booklet series entitled "10 Best Places in Seoul". Grab the Sinchon & Ewha edition (booklet no. 4), and in it you'll find a detailed and comprehensive guide to all the reputable restaurants in the neighbourhood. The streets are lined with eateries left and right. There's even a "sam gyeob sal" street beside the Hyundai Department Store.

I've passed this place many times but beside a casual peek inside once, I've never patronised it. Perhaps the air of romance that surrounds this place makes it ackward for me to go in alone. I'm told that this place is an institution revered by the student population here. And I'm a believer, as the weekend queue going into this place is looooooong. This is Mindelle Yeongto (민들레영토). It is dubbed a "culture cafe" with six stories of private rooms, each floor with a different theme, for groups of friends or love couples to spend "quality time" over drinks and cakes and pastries.

Tucked away in a quiter corner beside the railway line that borders this area is this architectural beauty of a church. A surprising find, to me at least, in this jungle of monotony. The building lends an aura of a bygone era nestled amongst the characterless buildings in the area.

About 500 metres' walk from Sinchon, you arrive at the neighbouring Ewha Womans University area. If you're not into walking from Sinchon (yes 500 metres may seem like a marathon to some), then get off at the Ewha subway station, which drops you right smack here.

This area is a shopping paradise for the chic and hip, and is lined with clothes, shoes, accesories, you name it, in bright lively colors of this spring season.

It's a myriad of small lanes and every corner leads you to more. You'll need to bump and grind your way around on a busy day.

I came across this restaurant which had a unique entrance, to say the least. Choo-choo your way to this restaurant if you get a chance and let me know how's the food. The only spoiler to this replica were the neighbour's air-conditioner compressors.

This is a new cafe along the main street leading to Ewha Womans University's entrance. I don't recall seeing this the last time I was here. Very apple green - nice colour scheme. Notice the internet kiosks in the middle section, and also the outdoor garden seating area right at the back. Great idea, a choice of inside or out. Looks like a nice place for a relaxing cuppa and some cakes whilst you gossip about Ha Ri Su.

But instead I ended up at Star$ for my Caramel Frappucino. KRW5,000. What better way to end the day than a nice cold Frap Grande.

So, in conclusion, here's the deal. If you're into the food, head straight for Sinchon. Lots of good food everywhere. It'll take you months before you finish try each and every place. If it's girlie shopping that you want, head on over to Ewha. The streets are lined with fashionable goodies.

Have fun!

25 April 2004

Link Pimp

Nothing to read this weekend? It's time once again to point you to the various sites and blogs which I've come to notice since my last link pimping.

First off, need to send some love Joel's way over at About Joel. He blogs of many things Korean, and he is the reason I once ran out after work searching for ho-deok (sweet korean pancake).

Some of you are already familiar with noodlepie's lust for Vietnamese food from my Pho post some days back. I just love reading it as it captures the essence of Vietnamese food.

Here's the link to Min's food journal. Journey with newly-wed Min as she attempts to cook up a storm in the kitchen.

For some eating in Chicago, check out these vital information on the Windy City.

Makiko's just hungry food blog is truly cosmopolitan, as is Maki herself.

And last but certainly not least, check out the quintessential woman of the world Liza's Seoul Style. Why is it I never ever get invites to such events?!?! :o)

23 April 2004

It's a Pup's Life

Puppies for sale on the streets of Myeong-dong. You'll be able to find them selling puppies, rabbits, hamsters and other homely pets on the streets. Great saving on rental eh?

Here's a street vendor selling t-shirts for the pups. Strange they don't have it in the size of a full-grown Rotweiler.

There are also cafes for puppies, grooming centres for dogs, day care centres and private vets with clinics that would put a 5-star hotel to shame. Ahhh ..... the life of a pup. :o)

20 April 2004


"Your stars are not in alignment with your moon. Venus is exuding strange vibes and Uranus is blocked. Avoid all urges to be creative and stop pretending you can write during this period" mumbled Madame Zorra, my astrologer, as she drunkedly stumbled out of my sight. Now that my stars have moved 2 degrees south-west, the path ahead is clear. On with the show.

Inspired by noodlepie's search for the ultimate Pho, I embarked on a search of my own. This led me to My Canh Vietnamese & Thai Restaurant, in Bundang-gu. I believe “My Canh” means “my house” or “my home” in Vietnamese.

The interior here would hardly classify as typical Vietnamese by any standards. It looks more like a page from an IKEA catalogue.

Very plush, cosy, comfortable and nice use of wood. A choice of floor seating (at the back) or chair seating (ideal for those with long inflexible legs or weak ankle joints).

For starters, we had Cha Gio (or as the northern vietnamese folks would call it, Nem Ran) on the left (KRW4,000) and Goi Cuon on the right (KRW6,000).

Cha Gio is basically deep fried springrolls stuffed with yam paste, minced pork, crabmeat and seasoning. Unlike the usual cylinderical shape, here they’ve folded it into triangles. Served with Nuoc Mam sauce, a mixture of nuoc mam (fish sauce), vinegar, sugar and chili sauce. I love Cha Gio and My Canh serves a pretty decent interpretation. Tasty savoury fillings and crispy outer skin. My only gripe would be it's too puny and overpriced. :o)

Nothing like the Cha Gio here though.

Goi Cuon is basically cold springrolls which SHOULD be stuffed with rice vermicelli (noodles), fresh lettuce, raw bean sprouts, shredded carrots, thin pork slices and even shrimps.

Here, they’ve Koreanised it by using that all familiar pickled-yellow radish, pickled cucumbers, purple cabbage, alfalfa sprouts, lettuce and rice vermicelli. Very yuppie, but totally unwelcomed.

At least the dipping sauce that came with it was treated authentically – the Nuoc Mam sauce and another which is a mix of plum sauce, hoi sin sauce and grounded peanuts.

Now for the main course. I had Pho (beef soup noodles), which is probably the single most famous Vietnamese food item. KRW6,000.

The soup base is made from simmering a large pot of beef and bones for many many hours along with large onions, shallots, ginger, cinnamon stick, star anise, parsnip and season with fish sauce, salt and pepper.

The hot soup is then poured over a bowl of rice noodles (banh pho), and topped with thinly sliced beef and a sprinkling of spring onions. Add cilantro, basil, raw bean sprouts as desired and finally add a squeeze of lime/lemon, vinegared chili sauce and fish sauce to taste.

The stock has a unique fragrance and tastes surprisingly mild without the overbearing beefiness. Which is the way it should be – beefy but not overpowering. At My Canh, it’s just too mild for me. A little more beefy punch would have been nice. My tastebuds had to work overtime to find any hint of flavour. Too mild, too mild.

The other thing is that I like my Pho with rare fillet (Pho Bo Tai), i.e. Pho served to you with thin slices of raw beef laid on top, turning pink slowly as it cooks in the hot soup. That is not on the menu here. So we had to settle for the cooked beef variety (Pho Bo). I also like the “everything but the kitchen sink” Pho – all the fatty flank, tendon, tripe, brisket, cooked beef, raw beef, everything thrown in!! That’s the other letdown at My Canh, a limited choice of Pho. Pho has developed beyond just beef. You can find chicken pho (Pho Ga) and seafood pho even. But not here.

My only previous experience with Vietnamese food in Korea was at Pho Hoa, THAT international chain which also found its way here. I tried it out in their Sinchon outlet mid last year and interestingly, despite it being a franchise, I must say that the quality and taste from the Korean franchisee is dismal. I've tried Pho Hoa in other countries and can attest that it varies from location to location. But at least the menu choices at Pho Hoa are better than those at My Canh. If you want to give Pho Hoa a try, you can check out a store near you here.

(p/s : my apologies for the long delay. sometimes my real life takes precendence over my blog. please accept my apologies for this and potentially future occurences)

11 April 2004

Soon Dubu Jigae

Today we're having lunch at the House of Tofu. So I'm expecting everything tofu to come my way. Mr Stomach is wondering what's up with this spate of healthy food of late. First it's the sushi rice thingy, now tofu beancurd. Heck, I dunno. Maybe the fact that I've been having a hard time seeing my toes has something to do with it.

Anyway, I finally settled on soon dubu jigae (순두부찌게). That's soft beancurd stew.

Sorry for the crummy photos. Again, snapping without the flash isn't a good idea when indoors. But I hate to use flash as it's a nuisance to others. So bear with the yellow tinge. No not me, the photos.

Lots of side dishes here. The soon dubu jigae is that bubbly pot with the sunny side up at the bottom of the pic. We'll come to that later. As always, let's go through the side dishes first.

This is the soon dubu, or soft beancurd. This is the exact same thing that is used in the soon dubu jigae, except here it's served plain as a side dish along with the soya sauce mixed with sesame seeds (top left corner of the pic).

It jiggles to the shake and is silky smooth and soft. It's texture and taste is exactly the same as what the Chinese would call to-fu-far. To-fu-far is actually served as a desert sweetened with syrup or mix in with soya bean milk. But I digress. Here in Korea it's served at room temperature as an appetiser with salty soya sauce. Interesting.

Next is glass noodles sauteed with soya sauce, with some shredded carrots, green vege (I forget what it is), fungus mushroom and sesame seeds thrown in. A nice savoury side dish but would be better if served warm.

This is beancurd with a firmer and compact texture. It's sliced from a bigger block into little squares. Served with soya sauce mixed with chili powder, chili oil and spring onions. The plain and clear taste of the tofu goes well with the spicy salty sauce.

This is mini haemul pajeon, or seafood pancake. This little nugget holds diced octopus, spring onions and diced carrots. It's a savoury pancake and tastes nice, BUT is not fresh. This must have been prepared early in the morning and left in the cold for waaaay too long. By the time it reached the table, it's all hard and dry.

Now this is the main course. Soon dubu jigae. KRW5,000.

What you have here is a potful of the soon dubu (soft beancurd), 4 clams (yes I counted!) and a spoonful of chili paste (gochujang) in seafood stock. Topped with spring onions, sliced fresh green chili and break an egg on top.

I like soon dubu jigae. The plain soon dubu blends well with the spicy and robust seafood stock. Some places even add dried shrimps into the stew for added flavour. (sidenote : dried shrimps gives off a different flavour to fresh shrimps and is usually used as a flavour enhancer)

However, I am somewhat disappointed with the soon dubu jigae here. The stock is flat, there's too much soon dubu leaving little room for the soup to balance the bland soon dubu, and it's not spicy enough. It's unlikely that I'll be back here anytime soon. Thumbs down.

Sorry for the anti-climax. :o)

08 April 2004

Hwee Deop Bab

Returning to the Big Fish for lunch again, today we'll have something different. Something fresh. Something healthy. Something most unlike FatMan.

Today's lunch is hwee deop bab (회덮밥) or raw fish rice. So you're thinking sushi? Well, you're off by a mile. Think messy sushi and you're getting warmer.

The usual Big Fish side dishes are there. Deep fried sweet potato slices & sesame leaf, grilled fish, salad, kimchi and mushroom na mool. I had to turn away 3 other side dishes as I knew I'd be in for a tummy-busting meal.

This is the hwee deop bab sans rice.

A nice big bowl of fresh sea bass, diced into bite-sized chunks, and topped with fish roe, lettuce leaves, dried seaweed strips, alfalfa sprouts, shredded cabbage, omelette strips, sliced green chilis, carrot strips and shredded fresh ginger.

Now add in the hot bowl of rice.

Next add the vinegared chili sauce to taste.

Mix well.


Eating hwee deop bab at Big Fish is more like eating a salad than a rice-based meal. There is so much vege in that giant bowl that the rice disappears into the background. The chunky fresh raw fish just burst in your mouth when you sink your teeth into it. The vinegared chili sauce is the all-important ingredient that holds everything together. It makes or breaks your hwee deop bab. This sauce is spicy and adds an acidity that really zings up the entire experience. A healthy and delicious meal. Highly recommended. KRW6,000.

06 April 2004


Sorry I haven't had much time to update the blog. Minor distraction called work.

So while you wait for the next meal, nibble on these cakes.

p/s : Haloscan's commenting service seems to be down these last few days. My apologies but I have no control over it.