Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Those Yummy Dumplings at Insadong's Koong Mandu

I always rave about things I enjoy....eating! Ha-ha-ha! (Obvious, ba?)

And if I like a restaurant, I make sure other people would be able to enjoy their goodies, too. I don't exactly expect anything in return from helping them market their shops, except maybe for a two-week gym membership to lose those excess kilos from eating! Ha-ha-ha! Why two weeks? I found a way to lose 2 kilos in a week. A two-week membership would ensure I lose more. Ha-ha-ha!
              (Customers waiting for Koong restaurant to open)

And when I discovered this mandu (dumpling) restaurant in Insa-dong with the help of friends, I thought I have tasted one of the best mandus in all my years in Korea! 
                                (Happy customers!)

I always knew that the best recipes are always the ones handed down from one generation to the next. These recipes wouldn't last, unless they have been tested and tasted over the years (and even survived a war!).

And this Koong Restaurant, somewhere in Insa-dong's labyrinth of alleys, serves mandu from the recipe of the family's grandma!
The grandma, whose portrait hangs in the restaurant, with her white-grey hair and sitting in front of her creations which everyone within her maternal gaze enjoys, must have perfected the recipe of the flavor, the veggies, the meat and everything else in each mandu.
                             (Grandma's portrait)
Each piece of the dumpling is heavy and filling, but I think I had about four at  one time!  I just couldn't get enough of the flavor, the aroma and of course, the history of each piece!

And I'm sure, if you're able to find the place, you would be able to experience the same! Here's their website, where you can find the map and directions. 
Now, I think I need to schedule another trip to Insa-dong soon. Burp!

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Loving Lety's Buko-Pineapple Pie And Cassava Cake!

I don't worry about gaining weight with all these goodies from friends.  With today's problems, the search on how to lose a few more kilos cannot compare with the search for world peace! Ha-ha-ha!
And vielen danke to Frau Sarah, who flew in from Los Banos, Laguna, last week, bringing with her to-die-for cassava cake and buko-pineapple pie!
It was my first time to taste Lety's Cassava Cake, and it was gloriously yummy!  Its sweetness was just right, not too overwhelming. It's firmness was perfect at each bite, and the flavor of the root crop just flooded my palate each time I twirled it around and around in my locked big mouth (Ha-ha-ha!), so as not to let any taste escape. After all, this was not available in Seoul! Sooner (and never later!), this box of cassava cake will have disappeared after a few forkfuls! 
And as if the cassava cake wasn't enough, Lety's Buko-Pineapple Pie was also masterpiece by itself! These layers of buko (coconut meat) topped with crushed pineapple was a delight of mixed flavors! How I wished they were available here in Seoul!  
But thanks to a very thoughtful (and generous!) friend, Sarah, I was able to reminisce my memories of Los Banos and its hot springs (in the province of Laguna, Philippines) with these goodies made by Lety.
           (The buko-pineapple pie and the Seoul Tower)

So, who's flying in again from Los Banos, Laguna? Ha-ha-ha!

Saturday, 24 September 2011

The Nami Republic's Embassy In Seoul

I thought the Nami Republic signage at its ferry harbor in Chuncheon was a cute marketing strategy:  proclaiming itself an independent state without having to ask approval from the UN General Assembly.

So when I visited its office in Insa-dong to reserve bus and tour tickets for Nami Island for friends flying in from Manila, I wasn't that surprised. They had to be consistent!  A republic needs an embassy!

Although it has no national flag flying outside its building like the real embassies, the Seoul Embassy of the Nami Republic looked very welcoming, and full of souvenirs and Korean actors' posters minus, of course, the bureaucratic red tape.
This embassy does not issue visitor visas. Instead, it issues bus reservations for the limited seats on its daily tour to the island Republic

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to meet the ambassador; he must have been on a state visit somewhere. So, I only met the next-in-command: the lady clerk accepting the reservations.

I have visited quite a number of embassies in Seoul, but this embassy is the coziest (with cafe-like atmosphere!), the most welcoming (no security doors and reception rooms with stiff, dusty chairs) and has the best display of its cultural identity (souvenirs and a lot more)!

I must have visited Insa-dong a hundred times, and I never realized that there was an embassy sitting right in the middle!

Now, I know the place in Insa-dong which I can suggest to Winter Sonata fans who may not have the time to leave the city.  This is the closest thing they have to visiting the island without having to cross the lake.

At this embassy, they can pose for photos, reserve tickets and seek political asylum while shopping for souvenirs! Ha-ha-ha!

It's on that end close to Tapgol Park, and is almost across Insa-dong's Starbucks; that Starbucks whose signage is the only one written in hangeul in the whole Korea.
But how come I didn't see any statue of General Nami at the embassy, the guy after whom the Republic was named? Hmm...O-eh yo? Why?

A Hawaiian Party At the End of Summer

 Though summer was almost over, there still was time for a luau ....without a lechon!

And one weekend, on the last days of summer, one birthday girl in Seoul named Ruth, gathered some of her closest friends (and friends who were available to join her that night, and including one who came all the way from Gyeonggi Province starving! Ha-ha-ha!) at her home to celebrate a milestone.

It was her 40th birthday! And we, as her extended family of sorts in Seoul, were there to celebrate with her!

                     (Maria G. with her fabulous chicken curry!)

And as the birthday girl wished for a hawaiian-themed party, everyone was game to arrive in their beach-y get-up; from Ruth's grass skirt, to garlands, to flowery shirts, sandals and   of course, tanned skin! Ha-ha-ha! 
And since it was a Saturday night, there was no curfew for anyone, but lots of food, fun and games!
                                    (Maria C. standing next to her 
                            irresistible meat lasagna)
                                                         (Adobo, anyone?)
                 (Maria's meat lasagna before it disappeared)

Although we didn't have a kalua pig, friends brought adobo, chicken currey, sweet and sour pork, meat lasagna, pancit and what else? I can't recall. Burp!

                       (Playing beach games indoors)

And who can forget that huge Moet et Chandon champagne bottle?
                                     (Ruth et Moet et Chandon)
Thanks to Ruth for sharing her birthday celebration with us. 

                        (A night full of food and fun!)

At the end of the hawaiian party night, the birthday girl was a year older and wiser, and her friends a few pounds heavier. 

Sa uulitin... next year! Ha-ha-ha!