27 January 2005

Good Eats 3

Continuing with our Good Eats series ......

Ttok with a modern twist at Jilsiru in Ywaryong-dong, downtown Seoul.

Tradition Meets Innovation in Rice Cakes
By Lee Yong-sung & Kim Hyun-cheol, Staff Reporters

Food evolves as time goes on. Sushi served at a Japanese restaurant here cannot be the same as genuine Japanese Sushi. By the same token, the kimchi we eat everyday can hardly be the same as that of centuries ago in tastes and style.

The important thing is that it always changes in a way that satisfies more of people's picky tastes. Long-loved as a traditional dessert in Korea, "Ttok" or rice cake (not the dry, crispy American health food type of rice cake) has been destined to follow this evolution as well.

Ideally made of rice, ttok had long been treated as very special, eaten only on holidays in those days when foods were scarce. However, recent times have been richer and, with the surplus rice, the rice cake quickly lost its special status as the most popular national snack, failing to appeal to the taste buds of young Koreans. Smitten into fast foods of Western origin, they tend to think that biting into big chunks of ttok is far from cool. Well, at least until an institute specializing in the study of traditional Korean food came up with the idea of a "ttok cafe", where about 50 different kinds of both traditional and newly developed rice cake items are sold like hotcakes.

Located on the first floor of the Institute of Traditional Korean Food, Ywaryong-dong, downtown Seoul, rice cake cafe Jilsiru (named after the unglazed earthenware steamer used to cook rice cakes) has lured back the younger generations, as well as foreign visitors, into eating rice cakes, with bite-sized ttok coming in all shapes and colors. "I used to hate ttok because of its sticky texture, but it is totally different here", Lim Soo-ji, a 25 year old graduate student said.

Opened in January of 2002, the cafe takes ttok far beyond the rice flour and beans variety. Coffee, apple, cocoa, berries and even dried tropical fruits like mango and pineapple are baked into ttok here. Beautifully dyed with natural juices, their colors hint a wealth of flavors, self-explaining the meaning of the old saying, "Ttok that looks good also tastes good."

The most popular on the menu here is the ttok meal combo (5,000 won), which includes a ttok sandwich with salad filling, along with ttok rolls with kimchi, fried ttok with caramel dipping sauce and a piece of coffee ttok cake. Various type of ttok is available in piece (1,000 to 2,000 won) and large ttok cakes (20,000 to 35,000 won) are also made to order, with an hour advance notice.

Jilsiru is also well known for 14 different traditional teas, which are all brewed from fresh ingredients. One of the most famous tea items here is Siru Mugwort Tea (5,000 won), which is made of dried mugwort gathered during spring. The uniquely deep, fragrant smell of it is key to its popularity. Another famous tea is Siru Flower Tea (5,000 won), which is made of fermented green tea flower that starts to blossom from the middle of October.

Don kaseu (pork cutlets) at Dr. Oh's Pork Cutlet (Obaksane Tonggas), Sungbuk-dong, northern Seoul.

Drivers Love Dr. Oh's Pork Cutlets
By Lee Yong-sung & Kim Hyun-cheol, Staff Reporters

Drivers' restaurants, or "kisa sikdang" in Korean, are a unique variation of regular Korean restaurants, whose main customers are taxi drivers who cannot waste time searching for a restaurant with parking or even in the act of eating.

Those restaurants are unique in that they promise not only quick service but also free parking and some even offer free car washing service. Located at the entrance of the fancy residential area Sungbuk-dong, northern Seoul, Dr. Oh's Pork Cutlet (Obaksane Tonggas) is one of the better-known eateries among Seoulites.

Meeting all the criteria of a fine driver's restaurant, the diner specializing in pork cutlets provides free parking and quick service, but that's not all. Pork cutlets here are as big as a car tire! Okay, maybe not that big, but it certainly is closer to the size of a steering wheel.

The taste is not exactly first class but it's more than good enough considering its price of 5,500 won. It is not like the popular Japanese-style pork cutlet, which is loved by younger generations. The pork cutlet at Dr. Oh's is thinner, larger and crispier (the most conspicuous difference between Japanese pork cutlet and the local version will be that chopsticks, instead of fork and knife, are used to eat it). In fact, pork cutlet originated in the west, but after going through the localization process, it has become one of the most popular dishes in Japan, as is curry and rice.

Those who were in college during the '70s through the early '90s, when fancy franchised restaurants had not yet invaded local college towns, will find this restaurant sentimental. Back then, a huge crispy pork cutlet served with white cream soup and a simple cabbage salad was something that made special moments even more special, though the restaurants were far from modern and stylish.

Dr. Oh's Pork Cutlet has revived them all, including the soup and salad. The restaurant attracts about 500 customers, not just the cabbies, but everyone who believes the prime virtue of food is quantity, of fairly good quality as well.

All of the dishes are served almost as soon as they are ordered, but they are never precooked. Each dish is made-to-order, guaranteeing freshness. In addition to the pork cutlet, hamburger steak (6,500 won), which is made of ground beef and vegetables, is another popular dish. Fish cutlet (5,500 won) and beef cutlet (5,500 won) are also recommended.

Budae jiggae at Kwanghwamun Pudaejjige in Kwanghwamun, Seoul, right across from Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency.

From Trash to Delicious Treasure
By Lee Yong-sung & Kim Hyun-chul, Staff Reporters

Most food we eat doesn't have noble origins of course, but talking about one with a unique origin, almost nothing matches "pudaejjige (spicy stew made with Spam, sausages, ramen noodles)" among Korean food.

Also known as "Johnson tang (stew)", or army base stew, the origins of the dish can be found in Korea's leaner years in the aftermath of the Korean War, when the poor used to collect discarded food from American military installations for use in stews.

With a little bit of exaggeration, the dish is one of the few relics passed down from the most tragic event of the country's modern history, as well as a perfect example to show how tradition combines different culture to create a new cultural resource, which later becomes part of the tradition.

Although leftover food is not used for the stew today (not openly at least), as it probably was done after the war, the recipe remains almost the same, in which items of Western food are submerged in the traditional hot and spicy Korean stew to produce a unique flavor not found in other Korean dishes.

Whatever its origin, pudaejjige is now widely loved as a Korean dish, not only by young students with no money, but by just about everyone. Opened this month, restaurant Kwanghwamun Pudaejjige serves high quality pudaejjige (sounds like an oxymoron, but its true).

Located in the new combined commercial and residential district of Kwanghwamun, right across from Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency, the upgraded diner attracts a power crowd during lunchtime already, with top quality ham and sausages, and a fresh attitude.

Usually, beef bone soup is used as the soup base of pudaejjige. However, Mun Bok-rye, the restaurant's owner found it a little greasy, which led her to come up with the idea of tasty but not greasy pudaejjige (5,000 won), in which tangle weed and anchovy are used in place of the bone soup. Mun got the idea from her 13-years know-how of running a swellfish (pok-o) restaurant (fresh soup is the key to good swellfish stew).

Ham and sausages used here are all high quality brands purchased from a reliable retailer,not generic brands. Besides pudaejjige, grilled sausage and bacon (6,000 won) is also a specialty. It promises to taste best when eaten with grilled kimchi, adding a little bit of garlic powder on it.

Combined with hot pudaejjige, the grilled dish will provide a very unique cross-cultural feast that is sure to help you forget the bitter cold weather for a while. Unlimited bowls of rice and ramyon noodles are also served without any extra charge.

Thai food at Khaosan, in the Hongdae/Hongik University area in western Seoul.

Thai Delight Comes to Southern Seoul
By Kim Hyun-cheol & Lee Yong-sung, Staff Reporters

It is not strange many of those who have been to Thailand have been fascinated by the fathomlessly unique world of Thai cuisine, from the morsels from street vendors to lucrative full-course dishes in fancy restaurants.

But it is also understandable when they miss the taste that they hesitate to try some of the Thai restaurants available in Seoul. How could it ever be pleasant for them to have to pay tens of thousands of won for the dishes they enjoyed for not above a couple thousand won back in Thailand?

In that regard, "Khaosan", a Thai restaurant located in the Hongdae, or Hongik University area in western Seoul, has been a reliable place since its opening in 2002, serving quality foods at reasonable prices to Thai-food lovers. Now the place has taken up a challenge _ it has opened its second store in the Kangnam area in southern Seoul, an area totally different to the backpackers' street in Bangkok, after which the restaurant was named.

Most pleasing to fans of the place is that the prices stay the same as in Hongdae, even though it lies in one of the most budget-guzzling regions of the city. All the dishes range 5,000 to 6,000 won except special ones like "tom yum kung (spicy shrimp soup)" (8,000 won) and "poo phad pong kari (stir-fried crab with curry)" (9,000 won).

"Yam unsen", or Thai-style glass-noodle seafood salad (7,000 won), is an interesting appetizer that reflects the character of Thai cuisine with its intense harmony of spicy, sweet and sour flavors.

Dishes like "khao phad sapparot (fried rice with pineapple)", (5,000 won), or "phad thai (fried noodle)", (5,000 won) appeal to most Korean eaters as non-risky choices for those not familiar with Thai food. All other items on the menu list are served with plain rice or rice noodles.

Some loyal Thai-delectable devotees, however, will prefer to try some of the full-scale dishes on the menu, which will unexceptionally include tom yum kung, a world-famous soup. However, if you want to experience a real exquisite combination of hair-raisingly sour and spicy tastes with a gentle touch of coconut milk, don't miss this unexpectedly surprising dish of "tom ka gai (chicken and coconut milk soup)", (8,000 won).

A handful of "pakchi", or coriander, on the soup will be enough to make you feel as if you were right under the sizzling Thai sun, but you will have to ask for that separately, because unlike in Thailand proper, dishes served here don't include that particular herb as it is not favored by most local customers.

Even though Thai dishes might be too strong-flavored to some Korean people, the place doesn't make their items as mere "fusion" cuisine catering to the novice tastes, said Lee Jung-im, owner of two Khaosan restaurants, and Lee Dong-eun, manager of Khaosan Kangnam and also sister of owner Lee.

"We bring all the materials like spices and herbs directly from Thailand, except for common vegetables, meat and seafood", Jung-im explained. "It is true the dishes served here are a bit milder than the original ones, but we follow authentic ways of cooking them, especially for tom yum kung and poo phad pong kari".

Dong-eun added: "Thai cuisine is distinctive, pleasantly stimulating and also nature-friendly as they focus on livening up the original flavors of ingredients with various kinds of natural spices".

"We believe more Korean people will be enchanted with the diversity of Thai food bit by bit".

Kimchi jiggae at Jangttugari in Kwanghwamun, Seoul, in the vicinity of the US Embassy nad Kyobo Book Store.

Enjoy Rich Kimchi Stew at Jangtugaree
By Kim Hyun-cheol & Lee Yong-sung, Staff Reporters

Of all the delicious Korean cuisines, "kimchi chigae", or kimchi stew, is no doubt the dish most favored by Korean people. It is the taste they miss after a long stay abroad and also the very first image that comes to mind when they hear the words "flavor of home".

That's why most Korean restaurants have this item on their menu, and also why it's not really easy to find a really lip-smackingly good one either. Indeed, most Korean men claim to have at least kimchi chigae down, but on the other hand, it seems to be a dish that is quite hard to cook really well. Just the notion of kimchi chigae as the most common dish makes it hard to attract the mass of Korean gourmets.

Most lovers of the dish prefer it in authentic style, usually characterized by a thick heavy soup. However, if you want to try some other styles, "Jangttugari", a newly built restaurant in Kwanghwamun area, will offer you a good alternative choice.

Just about four months since its opening, Jangttugari has already gained a favorable reputation, becoming packed with customers in every lunch break and forcing latecomers to queue up for a long time outside. And almost every one of them comes here to enjoy the kimchi chigae.

The dish served here is more modern but with a touch of elegance added to this traditional dish. Actually, the kimchi chigae here is called "kimchi kamjong" (6,000 won) on the menu. Kamjong is the Royal Court's word for chigae.

At the first mouthful you will notice a sharp but light-feeling mixture of sour and spicy tastes, stimulating the taste-buds enough but different from your run-of-the-mill kimchi chigae. The well-balanced soup somehow reminds one of "tom yum kung", Thailand's world-famous hot and sour shrimp soup.

The key to its full-bodied gusto comes from the special kimchi. All kimchi used goes through a maturation period for one year, as it is often served in the Cholla region, enriching the dish of kimchi kamjong. Fresh pork meat added to the stew also makes a nice combination with the kimchi stock.

"Kyeranmari" (5,000 won) is a Korean-style omelet and another favored item to be ordered along with kimchi kamjong. With cheese stuffed inside, unlike original Korean style, the kyeranmari served here first pleases the eyes with its surprisingly generous portions and then pleases the mouth with the rich and exotic taste of a Korean dish with a western touch.

"Ogyopsal" (12,000 won) is another major item on the restaurant’s menu. The word ogyopsal means it has a better taste than usual "samgyopsal (barbequed abdomen part of pork)", and the slices are 12 millimeters thick, since it tastes best that way, according to the restaurant. Cooked on a stone plate with kimchi, Jangttugari's kimchi chigae would surely seem a rich, even lavish meal for even the most discerning gourmet.

Sigol changto gukbap at Sigoljip in Chongno, downtown Seoul.

Taste of Traditional Marketplace at 'Sigoljip'
By Kim Hyun-cheol & Lee Yong-sung, Staff Reporters

Anywhere you go in Korea, there is a marketplace, an exciting and invigorating place full of liveliness and real, regular people. Even though an authentic traditional market can no longer be found in big cities, the image of it still remains as nostalgia to many of their residents.

Just like the memories of the place, its most representative dish of traditional beef soup with rice, or "changgukbap", has been one of the all-time favorites for Koreans, especially adults. The meat soup, long-boiled with various ingredients, is a comfortable dish that can make one feel full by just looking at it.

"Sigoljip", which means "country house", a 17-year-old restaurant located in an alley facing the main street of Chongno, the heart of Seoul, takes customers back in time while enjoying the atmosphere of a marketplace and eating to your fill.

Sliding open the large gate to enter the shabby tile-roofed house reveals two large pots boiling away with broth. The look and the pungent smell of the soup with peppery oil on top immediately begin to stimulate customers' appetites.

On both sides of the pots lie small, partitioned eating rooms with Korean-style papered sliding doors around tables in the middle hall.

The most famous item on the menu, no doubt, is country-style marketplace soup with rice, called "sigol changto gukbap" (5,000 won). It is bone-based and quite hearty with chunks of beef, vegetables and blood curd, or "sonji".

The soup is surprisingly thick from being boiled down and thus looks quite greasy, but doesn’t actually taste that way. It is good for a meal and often favored as a hangover soup after a night of drinking. The rich, strong flavor shows one of the essences of Korean cuisine, the art of boiling soup.

Another recommendable choice that goes well with sigol changto gukbap is gridiron-cooked beef barbeque, or "bassakbulbogi" (15,000 won). It can be seen ceaselessly being grilled over a briquette fire in an open kitchen at the corner of the restaurant.

It is a chopped beef brisket with the fat removed and marinated simply with traditional soy sauce and sesame oil. The adequately seasoned barbeque au naturel makes a perfect combination with the soup and tends to make people want to accompany it with some Korean liquor like "soju" or "makgoli", quite spontaneously.

With some other dishes like assorted grills, or "modumjon" (8,000 won), you won't be in need of fancy restaurants. If you want an informal meeting with close friends for a rich and substantial meal at a reasonable price, Sigoljip is the place to go.

Earlier in the series:
Good Eats
Good Eats 2

Changdeokgung Palace

This is the main gate to Changdeokgung Palace. The Palace is inscribed on UNESCO's World Heritage List and is therefore a duly protected site.

It's within walking distance from Gyeongbokgung Palace. I've been inside on previous occasions, and the Secret Garden is just lovely. Unfortunately I don't have any photos suitable for sharing on this blog, except the following.

These are some photos of the changing-of-guards ceremony reenacted for the many tourists (and locals) that flock to the Palace.

The guard changing ceremony is held twice daily, and typically lasts about 20 minutes or so.

25 January 2005

Gyeongbok Palace

Gyeongbok Palace (경복궁, transliterated, Gyeongbok Gung) is one of Seoul's top tourist attractions, if you're into royal palaces and that sorta thing.

I shan't bore you with its history, simply because I know nothing of it. If you're interested, an excellent article on Gyeongbok Palace can be found here. The internet is abundant with info on this Palace as well - just google it.

Tourist related info (opening hours, transportation, tickets, etc.) can be found here. More photos and an excellent overview map of the Palace grounds and how much is NOT opened to the public can be viewed here.

Instead, I'll just share some of the photos I took from my recent trip there, circa November 2004. The gloomy winter overcast isn't particularly camera-friendly, so be forewarned. Beware dial-up users - lots of photos ahead.

(This overview map flicked from www.visitseoul.net)

The guards at the outer gates to the palace (somewhere approximating no. 1 on the map).

The main gate to the outer courtyard (no. 2 on the map). Ticketing booths are to the right - KRW1,000 per adult.

Closer shot of the above. Note the 12 animals of the lunar calendar on the roof. They're on the roof of most of the structures here.

Shot of the gate from the inside, opposite direction.

Gate to the inner courtyard (no. 4 on the map).

The main hall (no. 8 on the map). Note the stone stumps to the left and right of the walkway - I was told that that's suppose to be markers indicating who stands where - they're each inscribed with the names of the respective ministers, generals and other senior government officials.

Also note the slightly elevated path in the centre of the walkway.

Here's a side profile shot. The centre path, of highest elevation, is reserved for the King. You'll see this elevated pathway throughout the grounds of the Palace.

The main hall (no. 8 on the map).

Close-up of the main hall.

The courtyard surrounding the main hall (no. 7 on the map).

The inside of the main hall.

That's the King, looking well after all these years.

A piece of artifact from the good old days - a sundial.

A nice tree.

Small park within the palace grounds (no. 11 on the map). Busloads of tourists from Thailand on this day.

This pagoda like structure (no. 22 on the map) is quite a beauty. It's actually one of the three inter-connected buildings housing the National Folk Museum.

Hope you enjoyed the photos.

19 January 2005

Duck Bossam & Soondubu Jiggae

Today we're having dinner at Nolboo Bossam (놀부보쌈), one of the many branches of the Nolboo chain of restaurants. There's Nolboo this and Nolboo that everywhere in Korea.

You can't miss their branding, which looks like this:

In particular, I wanted to try out their duck bossam. I haven't had duck since the last time I had duck, and I've been craving for some ever since I started craving for some.

Scoping the place out.

Panning right.

It started off with a large pot-sized bowl of jang gook, Korean bean-paste soup. If I needed to draw a comparison, this would be the Korean counterpart of the Japanese miso soup. The soup had chuncky bits of mustard leaves and chinese cabbage in a dwenjang-based soup stock (bean paste soup). Warm, salty and a nice start to the meal.

This is the main course. Smoked duck bossam (오리훈제보쌈 - ori hoonjae bossam; ori=duck, hoonjae=smoked, bossam=stuffed kimchi). KRW20,000.

The side dishes are pretty straight forward stuff - mix of corn, diced cucumber, potatoes & carrots in mayo dressing, garlic and fresh green chili slices, samjang (mix of bean paste and chili paste) and pickled cucumber.

Clockwise from 12 o'clock : green lettuce (상추 - sang chu) leaves, shredded onions (양파 - yang pa) tossed in vinegar, sugar and light dash of dried chili flakes, the smoked duck, arrowroot (칡뿌리 - chilburi) kimchi and fresh chinese cabbage (배추 - bae chu) leaves. At the centre is the honey mustard sauce.

Grab either of the cabbage or lettuce leaves, pick a bit of everything and stack them on your vege, roll/wrap it all up and stuff it into your mouth in one go. Yummy!!

The duck is deboned and the resultant fillet is then rolled, tied and smoked. The smoked meat is then sliced and slightly baked before serving. The smell of smoked meat immediately hits you as the dish makes its way to the table. Think grilled bacon and you're not far off.

The meat lacked that "ducky" flavour that I had hoped for, with the "smoky" component overpowering any "ducky" elements of the meat. The meat is best savoured on its own; adding the other condiments to your palm wrap distracts you from enjoying the full flavours of the meat.

An interesting way of taking your duck nonetheless.

This is another house speciality, the arrowroot kimchi, or referred to here as kimchi bossam (김치보쌈). Sweetish, not overly spicy despite the misleading red and offers a nice crunch to the bite.

After a quick poke test on the tummy to confirm there's still space in there for more, I ordered another of the house speciality, the soondubu jiggae (순두부 찌개) + dolsot bab (돌솥밥) set.

The photo above is the soondubu jiggae, or soft tofu spicy stew.

There's some decent-sized prawns in there, some clams and just the right amount of silky smooth soft beancurd. The stock obviously benefitted from the use of fresh prawns (as opposed to dried shrimps which is more commonly used), and coupled with the right blend of chili paste, infused the jiggae with the desired oomph. Thumbs up.

This is the dolsot bab (돌솥밥), or hot pot rice. The sight of this instantly reminded me of claypot chicken rice, a favourite with the locals in Singapore and Malaysia. Anyway, getting back to this ....

Uncovering the wooden lid reveals this. The rice is boiled in this stone bowl over an open flame, and nearing the end, is topped with some kidney beans and a small cut of sweet potato. The rice is soft, moist, and just the slightest hint of sweetness and is the perfect companion to the soondubu jiggae. The soondubu + dolsot bab set costs KRW5,500.

Hope you enjoyed my meal as much as I did.

17 January 2005

Yong Pyong Resort

OK. The previous post was my feeble attempt at comedy. Not very good, I know. Sorry .....

My New Year was spent at Yong Pyong Resort, and boy did I spend! The Yong Pyong (Ski) Resort is in Gangwon-do, the province east of Seoul. It's approximately 200 kilometres from Seoul, or about 2.5 hours by road. Several days if you walk from Seoul though. Yong Pyong, along with Muju Ski Resort, are the largest two in South Korea in terms of slopes, lifts, facilities and acreage.

I did notice, which isn't very hard as you see it everywhere, that the Resort goes all out to brand itself as "Yong Pyong All-Season Resort", highlighting that it's not just a winter destination. There's golf, trekking, blah blah blah .... anyway we're here for the snow and skiing. So let's go.

(p/s : ignore the time stamp on the photos - they're all screwed up)

Stayed at the Dragon Valley Hotel - KRW240,000 per room per night. Pricey for what I would regard as a very basic room. Sorry no photos of the room.

This is the check-in lobby.

This is the hotel's smallish (12-15 tables) coffee house right at the end. Had dinner there one night, KRW15,000 average per person for a plate of fried rice or chicken main course. The entrance to the Korean restaurant is to the right of the coffee house entrance in the photo above, just after the wine racks.

The Hotel's lounge, complete with fireplace, which is purely for show though. The burning of 2 puny logs isn't going to warm my -8 degrees body.

An overview of the main slopes. They look like ants on a sugar hill. This shot was taken from the hotel room.

The building to the right is the Dragon Plaza Ski House, which is the main ski complex. More on that later.

The walk from the Hotel to the slopes is only a short one, some 100 metres or so. Exiting from the hotel, you're greeted with this view.

This is the Dragon Plaza. This is where you get to rent your equipment (if you don't own your own) and lockers, dressing rooms, ticketing booth for the ski lifts, eateries, pro shops, ski schools and the medical facility. Speaking of the latter, there sure was a lot of ankle twisting going on there that day.

The ski rental rates are pretty decent. You can get suited up with skis, boots and poles for about KRW25,000 or thereabouts. Snowboard rentals are about 25%-30% more.

Complete info at their website if you need to know.

A fine day to be skiing or boarding. Clear skies, sunny weather .....

.... and about 2,000 people screaming their way down the hills.

Oh, and if you happen to see the many craters in the snow on your way down, that would be where my body and the ground met. My apologies if you happened to be one of those that fell into it that day.

The hills at night. Night skiing lasts until midnight. Impressive use of floodlights.

Obviously, it's less crowded during the nights, so it's an ideal time to try out that new three and a half somersault + back-flip routine that's been playing in your head for months.

Although it may not seem apparent from the photo above, it actually snowed pretty hard the next day. I can't seem to capture any snowflakes on my digicam. Anyway, trust me - it was snowing.

And yet the queue for the ski lifts doesn't cease.

I had set aside the last day to take the gondola (cable car) up to the peak of Mount Balwang. I was hoping to catch the supposedly great view from up there at Dragon Peak. It's too bad the weather was not permitting, and the gondola services were halted in view of the strong winds. You can't see Dragon Peak from down here. It's tucked away somewhere at the back of the immediate hills. Well, just my luck. Maybe next time.

Oh, and how could I not mention this. Yong Pyong is also where many of THAT popular TV series, Winter Sonata's scenes were shot. So it's no surprise to see Management capitalising on this with not-so-subtle hints and cut-up posters of the series' main stars strewn everywhere. If you're a fan of Winter Sonata, you'll feel right at home. You can all play a game of "remember this is where ..... " and "yes yes this is the spot where Bae Yong Jun kissed Choi Ji Woo" and so on .... needless to say, I'm not a fan.

All in all, it was a great start to the New Year. Hope you enjoyed the photos, even if they're not gastro-porn.