Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Bong Chu Jjimdak (Steamed Chicken), Seoul Korea

 Apparently one of the more popular Jjimdak places in Seoul, Bong Chu Jjimdak is located in Myeongdong, a popular (and expensive!) shopping district in central Seoul. 

 Spicy chilli and soy sauce, chicken, vegetables, cellophane noodles come together in sweet sweet harmony in Jjimdak (찜닭). This veritable cornucopia of ingredients is a full dish by itself, and is actually quite healthy due to high protein lean chicken, vegetables and carbs all in one dish. 

 The real miraculousness is watching two locals wolf down a portion meant for two, AND two bowls of rice. A portion of two feeds three Singaporeans, with leftovers.

The cellophane noodles are really great - while bland by itself, eat it with copious amounts of the sweet sauce - chewy and springy. As its name suggests, like a bastard son of cellophane and kuay tiew, is a lot better than it sounds.

 Wash the whole thing down with some Soju / orange juice shots.

 To be honest, the noodles were pretty alright with me. While tasty, it wouldn't really be a dish that reminds me of Korea. Regardless if you're ever in Myeongdong, you might invariably pass by and if so, give it a shot.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Yeonpo Galbi (Grilled Beef Shortribs), Suwon Korea

 For anyone wanting to visit Suwon, which is quite a large town in the south part of Seoul, a great itinery can be found here. This brings you to the Korean Folk Village and the Hwaseong Fortress and also leads you to this great Galbi place called Yeonpo Galbi.

"It (Galbi) is listed at number 44 on World's 50 most delicious foods

readers' poll complied by CNN Go in 2011."
 - Wikipedia

Yeonpo Galbi is located just at Hwahongmun. Once you're there at the river, facing the south side ...

 Yeonpo Galbi is this brightly lit place just to your right!

 They have the traditional floor sitting or the tabletop sitting, of course we opted to sit on the floor after a long day of walking.

 Suwon is famous for their Galbi (갈비), which literally means "rib". It is usually made with beef shortribs, and marinated in soy sauce, garlic and sugar, then cooked on a grill. While not exactly cheap at 31,000 won (~$35) per portion, the portion is awesome and comes with a huge variety of vegetable dishes, most of which is free flow. The portion of meat you see below is roughly one person's portion @.@

 The waitress actually cooks the meat for you, so there's no worry whether the meat will cook perfectly or not - it will! Feel free to eat some salad while the meat cooks.

 Once the ribs start getting cooked, out comes with the scissors and she began cutting them into sizeable chunks. Even skillfully getting all that nice tendony bits out of the bone itself.

 And the proper way to eat this delightful dish - grab some lettuce and add some beef, pickled vegetables and maybe some kimchi or pumpkin, sauce, wrap it up and pop it in, and await the party in your mouth.

 Abso-fucking-lutely delicious, the marinade not only accentuates the natural flavour of the beef, but also makes the beef more tender after grilling without drying up the beef  - a great way to end the day.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Samgyeopsal (Spicy Pork on Hot Plate), Seoraksan Korea

 Between autumn and winter is not exactly the best season to go to Korea in all honesty! Weather is rainy and cold, vegetation is mostly dead and the lack of snow makes most places seem bleak. Still once in a while at Seoraksan, one of the most popular national parks in Korea, you find nice spots amidsts the desolation.

 Took a much needed break for lunch and grabbed a few beers to keep ourselves warm and boogie woogie all night long.

 We fumbled in the restaurant until we came across the english menu where we ordered a spicy pork on hotplate for two people at 25,000 won (~$28). Not speaking a word of Korean (and them not speaking a word of English) I waited for 10 minutes before I realized we had to collect our food at the counter ourselves. And holy crap ...

{ Samgyeopsal 삼겹살 (28,000 won, ~$28) }
Spicy pork on hotplate. Feeds 2 - 4.

 Never had I seen a plate of pork redder, fattier, sizzlier and more awesome that this right here. A version of Samgyeopsal (삼겹살), or 三層肉 in Chinese, thick fatty pork belly and onions cooked in what I assumed to be korean sweet spicy pepper sauce in a hot plate. With a little dash of sesame seeds and voila, you're done.

 But holy moley, was this one of the best pork dishes I've had in my entire life. The pork while fatty didn't taste oily - if that makes sense. While the pork fat in local 三層肉 disintegrates and melts into oily mush when you chew into it, the pork fat in these ones were strangely firm and tough, and every bite BURSTING in porky, bacony, sweet peppery goodness. I'm not sure if it's because the pigs were raised in a different way ... but needless to say this tastes unlike any pork I've tasted back home. And with a little bite of the caramelized onions ... awesomeness.

 While I've not had Samgyeopsal elsewhere in Korea, this simple dish blew my mind and it alone might have made the trip to Seoraksan worth the time and money. And did I mention there was enough meat on that plate to feed 4 grown men?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Street Food in Seoul

 I wasn't quite prepared to find the street food scene in Seoul to be this bustling in my short trip to Korea. While still in no means comparable to say, street food in Taiwan, Korean street food is great in it's own right!

Given that's in winter season now in Korea, much of the street food you find will be piping hot or chilli based. Hotteok (호떡) is one of the most common and popular street foods you can find, and is essentially a cinnamon sugar filled pancake (background) either fried / baked similar to a naan, or deep fried in oil like dough fritters. Waffles are also surprisingly common, probably due to the winter season, and are usually filled with sweet potato paste. The baked hotteok maintained one of my personal favourites throughout the trip, warm , light, crispy and sweet and usually only 1000 won (~$1.10) each!

 Hotteoks come in various fillings, and peanut / sugar mixture is also rather common, the heat from deep frying helps melt the sugar filling into a caramel-ly, sweet sticky syrup (but also bastardly hot when escaping the pancake). Fried ones of course taste that much better for clogging your arteries and staining your mouth with oil :(

 Not sure which came first, the Japanese Yakitori or the Korean Dakkochi (닭꼬치), chicken skewers - both are awesome in their own right. At 2000 won (~$2.20) per, generous hunks of meat and leeks and grilled over fire till charred and juicy - while Yakitori favours a sweeter Teriyaki / BBQ sauce, the Dakkochi favours the red pepper sauce, though at most stalls, the red pepper sauce is actually more sweet than spicy.

 You will also find your plethora of sausages, fish cakes, seaweed wrapped stuff or stuff wrapped around rice cakes. Tteok (), are korean rice cakes quite unlike other rice cakes you've eaten because they're SO IRRITATINGLY HARD AND CHEWY. I guess it's an acquired texture, but it doesn't have much flavour by itself so no matter what sauce it's soaked it, it loses all flavour after a few chews.

 The aforementioned Dakkochi comes in ultra long sticks as well at just 2500 won (~$2.80) - just be warned if the guy speaks English and asks you how hot you want it, stick to mild!

The renowned Tornado Potato makes an appearance, though I don't quite see the fascination behind these! Some times you can even find sausages inside the tornado of chips.

 Deep fried stuff galore! Now if you're really yearning for a heart bypass surgery, don't pass up this Corn Dog (핫도그) - which in case you think your eyes are deceiving you - has french fries in the fucking batter. So yes, hot dog -> corn bread -> french fries -> on a stick. With ketchup. Not only is this a mess to eat at 2000 won (~$2.20), it's also wonderfully delicious as the piping oil keeps you warm at night.

 Similar to Taiyaki, Bungeoppang (붕어빵) is a fish shaped pastry baked in a waffle iron and often contains either red beans or custard. Whereas Taiyaki are usually made from pancake batter and thus soft and fluffy, Bungeoppang are usually made from waffle batter, which gives that crispy, fragrant shell. Yum! And wondrously cheap, 1000 won (~$1.10) usually gets you 3.

 While not exactly street food, another popular snack / quick eat is the well known Chungmu Gimbap (충무김밥) which you can usually find in small eateries like this.

 Shops like these only sell this one dish, and sell them well and FAST. Rice or Gimbap only acts as the fillers, as you wolf down the spicy preserved vegetables (usually Daikon or Danmuji 단무지 in Korean) and the fermented baby octopus. Sweet, salty, spicy and carbs all rolled into a simple dish that can be shared or eaten yourself as a whole meal.

 There's tons and tons more street food to be discovered in Seoul and if you aren't afraid to just grab, pay, and eat your way through the often dingy stalls of the night markets, there's a veritable feast to be had around every corner. Impressed!
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