Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Seoul food, part 3

Our hunt for dinner ended up in a drinking house near Myong-dong. It was the only place packed full of men and we thought it had to be good. We saw 5 or 6 food pictures outside the place and little did we know that was all the place served. Nonetheless we were happy with our draft beer and we decided to give the food a try.

As the waiter didn't speak a word of English the only way to communicate was pointing. What my husband thought was beef turned out to be conch. It was actually pretty tasty even though it required a bit of chewing. The kimchi salad with cucumber, gosari, whitebait, and other assorted julienned vegetables was an interesting mix but a little too spicy. Not bad at all consider we didn't know what we were ordering.

We knew we were ordering some soupy type dish, perhaps with tofu but it was actually sliced fish cakes. The soup was extremely tasty with a peppery base. The fish cakes were very similar to Japanese or Chinese fish balls - we liked the dish so much we ordered a second helping.

The only dish we were sure about while we pointed was the fried pork chop, as it looked pretty nice on the picture. The real thing was a little dry but not bad.

Another success: sliced frankfurters on hot plate. We went for s second helping once again. I can see why the men drinking next to us kept ordering more and more of the stuff!

Our last surprise turned out to be seafood soup. Loved that red Korean soup base. I wish it would come with beef or something as we were a little afraid to eat fish and shellfish at a tiny drinking house. Instead we polished off all the tofu and radish with the fiercely hot soup. Yum!
The bill for 5 with beer came to US$100. A bit pricey (especially when we are so used to China prices) but it was an interesting experience.


I practically followed the trail of people walking up to this 2nd floor restaurant. I thought it had to be good with all that traffic and once again the people were right. The small menu had 9 items and ordering was easy with pictures.

I like the way that you get soup and kimchi as starters automatically, even in a semi fast food joint like this one. The soup was soooo salty I was a little worried about overdosing on MSG. The kimchi radish was so good though, very refreshing and crunchy.

As all other diners had dumplings on their tables I had to try some naturally. They were nothing specially unfortunately. The veg and glass noodle filling was too bland.

I got the cold noodles by mistake as the pictures were too small and I couldn't really see. It turned out to be excellent fortunately! Besides they got the condiment right: white vinegar and mustard made all the difference.

I was not hungry after my cold noodles but when I saw the noodle dish everyone else was having I decided to try some. The dish was also cold but not soupy. I loved all the freshly chopped vegetables and the chili sauce - a perfect dish for the summer.

Another picture of the noodles once it's been mixed up. I can eat this dish everyday.

Everything came to US$10. A bargain!


I found this hot pot restaurant packed full of lunch crowd so I went back at 2pm. The strategy paid off as I was able to sit comfortably at a normal table. There were traditional Korean tables but I wasn't dressed for it.

Anyway the menu with pictures was straight forward: there were 4 or 5 hot pots with different combinations of frankfurter, sprouts, baked beans (I know it's weird), vegetables, tofu, macaroni, and beef. I went for the one with everything and I liked the look of it. Red hot, big and smoking. I didn't think much of the kimchi, especially the lower left corner one with seaweed. It was a little too fishy for me.

I ordered noodles to go with the pot, like everyone else. I was a little disappointed to find out they were just regular noodles and not the spicy and firmer Shin Ramyun. I could also use the extra spicy soup base. Still I was really happy with everything - I loved all those Korean soup bases.

The meal came to US$7. I wish I get to go back sometime.

Seoul, food market

You can always find interesting stuff in an Asian market. The one we came across in Seoul was very exotic indeed.

A showcase of dried shrimp, squid and assorted seafood.

Boxes of dried fish - similar to whitebait I think.

Sacks of dried squid.

Dried baby squid - notice they are the same size as the shrimps on the side. I wonder how you eat them?

Pickled cucumbers and onions. Look again. Pickled crabs!

Inevitably there was ginseng. Lots of it. It could not have been too expensive as some local women were buying bags and bags of the stuff without even checking.
You can't have a Korean market without kimchi. This stuff looked fierce somehow. I was hoping to figure out what the tubular red things might be. I never got anywhere close though.

Dried seaweed. I hadn't realised there are so many varieties.

Different types of chili paste, a Korean food staple.

Some kind of dried long fish. I included the shopkeeper's butt on purpose for scaling.

Sacks of bondegi - silkworm larvae. I felt weak.

Some kind of melon? They were not very big - size of a small apple.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Seoul, shopping

Seoul is full of shops everywhere. Downtown is lined up with huge shopping malls and department store, and there are street vendors everywhere. Shops for skincare, clothes and accessories are plentiful and available at different price ranges - something for everyone. Imports are very expensive though.

I found the Shinsegae Department Store on my first day in Myeong-dong and I thought I hit the jackpot. There's half a floor full of shoes! There I found the Louboutin shoes I had been considering for a while...but they never had it in my size in HK or SH. Although ideally I would like to get a pair of platforms but these would do also. There was a 30% discount but since imports are expensive the 30% offset the extra.
Interestingly I found Balenciaga shoes in a couple of local chain shoe shops. I think they are licensed to be manufactured in Korea. The quality is slightly above average and not the best, somewhat similar to Ann Klein if I have to make a comparison. I wanted some platforms so badly I thought I would try them. I wore them once to dinner and they seemed comfortable enough.
I found these at the Lotte Department Store. A Korean brand and pretty funky. They are not very well made but the salesman was so nice and polite I thought I would give them a try. One could use some silver slingbacks anyway. I wore them once and walked around for a bit. After 90 mins my feet were hurting like hell. The front pinched my toes even band-aids didn't help. They were not very comfortable for walking al all. I guess I will wear them for evening cocktails or something.

I found these in Myeong-dong from one of the many street vendors. There were a whole lot more colors.

The headband came from Doota, one of the malls in Dongdaemun which all open till 5am daily. Tres tres Chanel don't you think?
I bought a couple of belts from Doota and made my retreat. There were tons and tons of clothing and accessories and I was beginning to experience sensory overload. To up the spirits I couldn't help but to go and look at food again on my way back. In the basement of Lotte Department Store there is a huge food section with cooked food and grocery.

I am not really a bun person but it made me smile just by looking at the freshly steamed buns. They smelled good.

I think they were pineapple buns with cream fillings. Looked good.

Then of course there was the colorful kimchi showcase.

Just as I thought kimchi is all vegetables I found one made with big chunks of beef!

In the grocery section there was a whole tank turbot. Yum.

Look at the size of this crab.

Salted fish - I bet they'd taste good on a BBQ.

Too bad we didn't have a kitchen in our hotel room!

Seoul, walking

Getting around Seoul is pretty easy. The subway system covers most of the places in town and it's relatively easy to navigate around. All the stations are numbered and it's useful when the Korean name gets too long and tricky. Ticket price for most downtown destinations is about US$1.
The service is efficient and the trains and stations clean. Stop announcements are only in Korean so you have to watch out for the stations you want.
Taxis are everywhere but there are at least 3 different types and they are priced differently. The cheapest ones are in white or silver color, then black ones. Then you have station wagons (we called it dog catcher's van), and they are the most expensive off all. Basically a 15 minute trip costs US$8 to US$10 in white or silver ones, slightly more in blacks but US$25 in the dog catcher's van so be careful. Take a look at the avant garde electronic gadget shrine in our dog catcher's van we took one night.

Downtown Seoul is cosmopolitan but there are lots of parks and palace gardens dotted around. Like most Asian cities there's always at least one park where old people chill and hang out.
I always liked food markets and we had a great time looking at all the local dried goods market.
On that day we also came across an electronic market specializing in CCTVs and speakers (weird combination I have to say), a paper market with wall papers and carrier bags, an office furniture market, a street with bathroom fittings. Here we have a street with little hardware stores.

Our map indicates a small "stream" running all the way across downtown Seoul and we went to check it out. It was more like an artificial drainage canal but I thought the city had done a really good job dressing it up. It's green, pleasant and cooling and most importantly away from the traffic.

At night the canal is a popular hangout too. In this section there are little rocks in the water you can walk across. The kids were all having fun.

A small side street off the busy Insa-dong.

A small street rally. An unfamiliar sight as we're used to living in Shanghai.
Myeong-dong, my haunt for this trip. It could get a lot busier.

Friday night in Myeong-dong. It was full of young people, street vendors selling food and generally useless accessories.
Here's an example of the junk (my husband's word) being sold there. We couldn't work out what you would do with open-toe socks. Strange, but cute I suppose.

An old city gate at Dongdaemun. Somewhat similar to the ones we saw in North Korea.

Before I made it to the legendary Dongdaemun shopping centres which open till 5am, I had a look at the local markets. There are streets specializing in different products such as hats, shoes, clothes, plants, porcelains...you can find everything there.