Monday, 30 March 2015

Chicken Feed: Andong Jjimdak!

When I looked it up on the Internet, they said this dish originated in the city of Andong in the North Gyeongsang Province in Korea. What a coincidence! Andong is actually the sister city of Bacolod, my hometown and the birthplace of the Masskara Festival. And just like Bacolod, Andong also has its own mask festival!

And every time I get face-to-face with this dish, it always reminds me of a Filipino favorite, adobo!

Andong jjimdak is a dish made of slices of steamed chicken marinated and almost submerged in spicy soy sauce, swimming alongside potatoes, carrots and other sliced vegetables, and choking in lengthy cellophane noodles. 'Jjimdak' means steamed chicken.

The spiciness is actually brought by the small cuts of red pepper, which I totally avoid. Once the Korean ajumma brings over the big plate of Andong jjimdak to our table (you can't eat alone with this dish!), you will also need a clean table scissor to cut the noodles short so you can fish them out and carry them over to your plate. 

Each bite of the steamed chicken reveals its soft meat coated with a bit of saltiness from the soy sauce and a little spiciness from the pepper. I usually top my bowl of rice with the chicken and the noodles, which I then bathe with a few spoonfuls of the spicy soy sauce. 

Eating Andong jjimdak, unlike other Korean dishes, is like a ceremony because of the scissors. I always feel like I am opening an event with all this ribbon-cutting, except that these aren't ribbons. These are cooked cellophane noodles that are chewy and slippery.

A big plate of Andong jjimdak is actually pricier than most Korean dishes. A plate for two is about KRW24,000. That includes two bowls of rice and the use of the scissors. Ha-ha-ha!  These Andong jjimdak restaurants actually have aprons for costumers to use. And borrowing one is advisable if you don't want to splash some soy sauce on your white shirt or blouse.

So, if you want to be fed with spicy, steamed today, try some Andong jjimdak and cut some ribbons for me! 

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Photo Of The Day: An Old Seoul Train

If you're looking to have your photo taken with a train in Seoul, it would not be a good idea posing next to a running subway train. Most subway station have installed safety doors on their platforms, which are there to serve a purpose: to ensure everyone's safety. But there are still stations which don't have these safety doors, and I don't exactly recommend you posing there. It's just not safe.

So, instead of risking your life posing with those moving trains, I recommend that you pose with this non-moving, old Seoul train standing in front of the National Museum of Modern History near the Gwanghwamun area. The National Museum of Modern History is accessible from Exit 7 of the Gwanghwamun Station, or Exit 4 of the Seodaemun Station. From either of these exits, it's a hundred meters or so. 

Once you find it, you can gamely pose in front of this train and join the two statues, one of which is a Korean lady vendor selling snacks to the passengers of the train. 

So, before this old Seoul train moved, and before she ran out of snacks to sell, they both provided me the photo of the day.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Earth Hour 2015

Today, March 28, 2015, from 8:30 to 9:30 tonight is Earth Hour.

Let's unite again today to protect the only planet we have. So far. Although wouldn't it be cool if we actually will be able to travel to other solar systems just like in the movie Interstellar?

But since as of today, we still don't have the technology and the science to look for distant hospitable planets, we have to take good care of this one. Let's start with ourselves to daily remind us to conserve water, energy and other limited resources we have. Let's not abuse the environment and other creatures here on Earth.

And tonight, across 24 time zones and six continents, I enjoin you to participate in protecting our planet. Not only tonight, but everyday hereon.

#Earthhour  #Earthhour2015 #YourPower #Savetheplanet

Friday, 27 March 2015

On A Seoul Sidewalk: One Man's Trash Is Another Man's...

Treasure! Treasured art, maybe.

I was walking along the sidewalk of Itaewon in the Yongsan District of Seoul last night when I stumbled into this pile of trash. Usually, it would only be black trash bags and other garbage.

But what made the scene unusual was a couple of framed paintings, or at least they looked that way under the dim lights. I wonder if the owner lived nearby, or had a shop that just closed down and wanted to get rid of these.

Or maybe they weren't paintings at all. Maybe they were just prints which were then framed. I'd never know. I'm not an art expert and I didn't look closely. I just took their photos. Ha-ha-ha!

I wonder if the garbage collectors were able to throw these two frames into their truck the next morning. 

Maybe, someone passing by also saw these and realized these two could still hang on their wall, which then proves that...'one man's trash is another man's treasure', indeed.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Photo Of The Day: Marching Soldiers

If you roam around Seoul, you would always chance upon a Korean soldier in the subway, walking along the sidewalk, or even driving a military vehicle. He could be on duty or on leave. 

Able-bodied Korean men from 18 to 35 years old are required under the law to serve in the military. That's why you would find a lot of these young soldiers everywhere.

And one morning, as I was passing by the War Memorial of Korea, I saw a platoon of them marching towards the Memorial grounds. I guess they were heading to their assignment that day. 

So, thanks to these soldiers for their service to the country, and for our photo of the day.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Photo Of The Day: A Subway Ride

A subway ride during rush hour in Seoul wouldn't look like this. It's usually packed with lots of passengers standing and cramming all over the car.

But this time, on Seoul's Subway Line 4, it's less crowded with most passengers seated, relaxed and busy with their smart phones. 

Although everyone would have different final destinations, here's wishing all the passengers on this train (and on our photo of the day!) a safe journey home.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Photo Of The Day: Pinoy Lunch!

It's Sunday! And it just means one thing to Filipinos living in Seoul. The Pinoy market at Hyewha-dong is open!

I don't regular visit the Hyewha-dong area on Sundays, but when I do, I make the trip count. I enjoy a Pinoy lunch! For KRW7,000, you get rice, three dishes of choice, a drink, and a burp!

And as these yummy dishes (dinuguan, kare-kare and adobong atay) have already travelled from the lunch tray to my digestive system, all what remains is this photo, the photo of the day.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Happy Birthday, Dongdaemun Design Plaza!

The Dongdaemun Design Plaza opened on March 21, 2014, and today is its first birthday. I wonder how many visitors came to visit and greet its exhibition rooms a 'happy birthday'. I always pass by this uniquely designed structure every now and then. 

I pass by the design plaza when I crave for some really good Korean delicacies that are available around the Dongdaemun Station area.

I also pass by the design plaza when I need to have my tennis rackets restrung at the sports shops around the area.

And last year, I had a fun time buying some quality bags as presents at the Nampyeonghwa bag market, which is just a few meters to the right of the design plaza. 

But late last year, Dongdaemun Design Plaza's grass hill area became very popular when 20,000 white flowers with LED lights were installed. These flowers were like a postcard picture during day time and even more beautiful at night. I wonder if they are still there.

I also wonder if the Philippine jeepney parked at the backside of the Dongdaemun Design Plaza is still there. I was surprised the first time I saw it last summer. By the way, last year's pikachu event was very popular.

The groundbreaking ceremony for the plaza was in 2009. In 2013, the construction of this Zaha Hadid design was completed, and it was opened in 2014.  The cost? Reportedly at about US$450 million.  On its second year, and with that huge price tag, I should look forward to the line-up of events as I pass by its shiny, silvery tiles. Every now and then.

Photo Of The Day: Windmills

Yes, the song Windmills Of Your Mind came to mind when I saw these colorful windmills at a corner of that street where you find the Korea Tourism Organization headquarters, just across the Cheonggye Stream. 

Although they're not round like a circle in a spiral, but just 'like a wheel within a wheel, never ending or beginning in an ever spinning reel'. But since it wasn't windy, they weren't spinning 'like the circles that you the windmills of your mind', and our photo of the day.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Fish Be With You!

Today is another Friday of the Lenten season. For Catholics around the world, it's a day to abstain from eating meat. When I was growing up, it was a strict diet at home during a lenten Friday; no meat, no pork, no chicken, and not even sausages. It was either fried fish, sardines, eggs, or fried rice with fresh mangoes. I actually liked the pair of fried rice with fresh mangoes. The taste of salty, oily fried rice mixing with the sweetness and pulpy ripe mangoes was enjoyable. I miss it!

So, if you're a devout Catholic adhering to the practice of abstinence today, fish be with you!


Thursday, 19 March 2015

Photo Of The Day: Runaway Bride

I wonder if she was running to....or running away from...her wedding? Ha-ha-ha!

That was the question that immediately popped on my mind when I saw her get off a car (and not a bridal car!), crossed the street and on towards the I-Park Mall with an assistant dutifully carrying her train.

Was she rushing to the electronics mall to shop for some discounted home appliance? 

Was she rushing to catch a KTX train at the Yongsan Station?

Or was she running away from her in-laws? Ha-ha-ha!

It was a funny sight, just like a scene out of Julia Robert's movie, Runaway Bride. But then I realized something. She was not a runaway bride; she was just a bride running. Why? There's a wedding hall on the 7th floor of I-Park Mall just above the electronics shops. She must have been late and didn't want to keep her guests and of course, her groom, waiting! She might have been worried he would change his mind. Ha-ha-ha!

Well, I didn't know if she actually made it to her wedding and lived happily ever after with her groom. But what I knew was that she provided some amusement to her fellow pedestrians crossing the street with her. (I didn't hear anyone congratulating her, by the way.)

And of course, she provided the photo of the day.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Photo Of The Day: Reflections

The color is still brown as spring has yet to awaken these small trees along the Han River.  But as I walked around the area on the banks of the Han River, what caught my eye was the reflection of the brown plants and the Banpo Bridge on the very still waters. The body of water was actually surrounded by some man-made mounds. That's why it was still and quiet. 

For now, it is. Quiet and serene, that is. 

But not for long; spring is here.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Photo Of The Day: Seoul Tower From The Naksan Neighborhood

Hazy days are here again. It's spring but the the sun still wants to hide behind the clouds, and the atmosphere is littered with haze and smog, and on bad days, yellow dust!

But looking at the bright (how ironic!) side of a hazy day, looking around to figure out the silhouettes you see from afar, the view of some recognizable landmarks looks more interesting.

On this very hazy spring day in Seoul, the silhouette of the Seoul Tower as seen from the Naksan neighborhood provides our photo of the day. 

Monday, 16 March 2015

Photo Of The Day: Strawberries in Cups!

Since it's the season of strawberries in Korea, almost every fruit stand is now selling boxes of fresh, locally grown strawberries.

So, if you're walking around Myeongdong these days, or any busy area in Seoul, you will always find stalls selling cups of ready-to-enjoy fresh strawberries!

This one I stumbled upon on the very busy Myeongdong alley. The stall sells these strawberries topped with choices of dark chocolate, white chocolate and other flavors. A cup costs KRW4,000 each, but the only problem is, since it's cold, the flavored topping hardens immediately. And you will have to eat by piercing each slice with a small stick.

These enticing rows of fresh strawberries in cups deserve to be the photo of the day.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

@ Gwangjang Market: Dinner Is Served!

Gwangjang Market is one of Korea's oldest markets. Although I pass by this market most of the time either on my way to Hyewha-dong or to Dongdaemun, I never had the chance to savor the bindaetteok this market is famous for. My binddaetteok usually came from Namdaemun Market as it's closer.

So, when my friend, Sasa's nephew Neil came to Seoul for his research, a chance came up! I invited my other two friends, Joonho and Hyunsung, to join me and Neil at the Gwangjang Market. 

We went there on a cold Thursday night, and were surprised that most restaurants and stalls were full! We couldn't even get a table at a restaurant; we had to wait!

               (A crowded night at the market)

       (Flaglets adorning the ceiling of the market; 
                         no Philippine though)

But after checking other bindaetteok places, we finally got lucky; we got a table on the second floor on one of the more popular restaurants. 

Bindae-tteok, or mung bean pancakes, are like hash browns in texture, and are made by grinding those beans and frying them in round shapes. I saw a Korean ajumma downstairs frying those binddae-tteoks. I wondered how many of these did she actually fry in a day. Must be hundreds! 

We ordered a binddae-tteok and a haemul pajeon, or seafood pancake, which was a mix of seafood, onions and other ingredients held up in a batter and also fried. The haemul pajeon usually needed a sauce dip.

And with bindae-tteok and haemul pajeon as our dinner, we introduced Neil to Korean cuisine at one of the oldest markets in Seoul. But the introductory lesson for Neil didn't stop with these dishes. 

After cleaning up both plates, we went around the market and decided to eat some more! This time, soondae

                (Mung beans being ground)
                         (Haemul pajeon)
                   (Bindaetteok on a plate)

I would usually enjoy soondae in a hot stone pot with rice, but this Korean delicacy is usually enjoyed as street food served in slices on a plate coupled with slices of cooked liver. Yes, liver!  

As if our Korean dinner at Gwangjang Market wasn't interesting enough, the Korean lady at the soondae stall told us she had been working at the market for about 50 years; she was in her 70s. She must know a lot of about the market's history! If only the stall could talk! Ha-ha-ha!

            (Bindaetteok: frying and cooked)
                       (Whole soondae)

       (Soondae slices topped with liver slices)

I have always enjoyed patronizing these markets in Seoul, where their delicacies could match those of pricey restaurants. Their dishes are not only better tasting; they're cheaper!

So, on a cold week night, our dinner of bindaetteok, haemul pajeon and soondae was served at one of Korea's oldest markets! I hope Neil enjoyed his introduction to Korean cuisine... with a piece of Korean history. 

(The Korean lady's soondae stall number; 
                         I plan to visit again)

PS. When in Seoul, Gwangjang Market is a few meters out of Exit 8 of Jongno 5-ga Station (Line 1). Just follow the smell of deep-fried bindae-tteok.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

My Couple Of The Week: The Insadong Chestnut Vendors

To continue on with my 'person/s of the week' series, I feature this elderly couple at the Insadong area, next to the Anguk Station's Exit 6. 

Last year, I stayed at a B&B nearby to spend a weekend at the Jongno area as a tourist. Yes, after living in Seoul for many years, as an assignment from the Seoul City government, I booked a room, and shopped and dined in the area like a real tourist.  It was a different experience trying to pretend like a real tourist after having lived in the city and roamed this area on several occasions over the years.

On that 'tour', I discovered a chestnut vendor selling cooked chestnuts at that exit near Anguk Station. That time, he was selling alone. This time, on this weekend when I ventured around Insa-dong, I looked for that stall and saw that there was an elderly Korean lady helping him; I presumed she was his wife. And since I haven't tasted chestnuts since Christmas, I had to buy a small pouch worth KRW5,000 from them.

I wondered how many hours each day they have to stand there out in the cold to even make break-even. But today, I was just happy to contribute to their business. In return, I was able to enjoy chestnuts again since Christmas.

So, on your next visit to Insa-dong, do wander around Exit 6 of the Anguk Station and buy some cooked chestnuts from the couple; they're my couple of the week.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

#WorldTennisDay : Tennis in Seoul!

Today is World Tennis Day!

I just want to join all the millions of tennis fans and tennis players from all around the world in celebrating the day of our favorite sport, tennis!
Although I don't regular play during the freezing winter weekends here in Seoul, I am looking forward to the perfect tennis temperatures of spring when I join my other tennis friends at the clay courts of Hannam-dong, or at the hard courts of the Jangchung Tennis Courts.

I have been lucky to have watched Grand Slam tennis matches and met my favorite tennis players at Melbourne a few years back, and even luckier to have watched top ranked female players here in Seoul. But there's no comparison to watching the greatest players of all time, Pete Sampras, Roger Federer, and my favorite player, Rafa Nadal, play exhibition matches here in Seoul.

So, to all tennis fans and tennis players around the globe, a happy World Tennis Day from Seoul!
See you in court!  Ha-ha-ha!

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

"Why Do Birds Suddenly Appear?"

The late Karen Carpenter would have immediately burst into one of her classics if she spotted this mom and her kid in front of the I-Park Mall in the Yongsan District in Seoul. 
The kid obviously was interested to play with some of the pigeons and his mom just let him. Although adults in Korea are scared of pigeons (and practically about anything that flies), kids are apparently oblivious to whatever phobia adults have taught themselves. 

So, to caption the scene, let's listen to the Carpenters..."Why do birds suddenly appear...every time you are near?"

Monday, 9 March 2015

Strollin', Strollin', Strollin' On The (Han) River....

According to Tina Turner, it's "rollin'...rollin'...rollin'...on the rivah!".  

But the ajussi (older Korean man) walking by the bank of the Han River wasn't rollin', he was just strollin'. And so was I. As I joined the hundred other weekenders stretching their legs, walking their dogs and just trying to get some sun, I spotted him walking alone at the edge, and with the river and the floating islands as his background. And snapped a photo.

I continued my strollin' and didn't know where the ajussi went. But I know where he ended up: here!

Sunday, 8 March 2015

On Any Given Sunday...

On weekends, when I have the time to really think what I want to have for breakfast, I always wished I had puto manapla or some biscocho. And because last January when I was in Manila, my friend Marlu treated me to a breakfast of churros and hot chocolate at Dulcinea in Greenbelt, I continued to crave for churros here in Seoul.
                      (Dulcinea's churros con chocolate)

And it was as if the universe conspired (again!) to grant my wish! When I recently went to Costco to get my regular box of breakfast cereals, I stumbled upon Tio Pepe's Churros! All I needed to do was to heat them up. 

So, this weekend, I didn't have to rush to a cafe in Itaewon that served churros, I just had to rush to my freezer. And since I was able to finish four of them with my hot tablea tsokolate, I needed to walk off a heavy breakfast. 
   (Hot tablea tsokolate with Tio Pepe's Churros with Nutella)

At the gym where I used to go, the trainer always teased me that I was like a bear; I hibernate during the winter. I skipped going to his gym during the cold months as I just hated getting up early on cold mornings. Just like everyone else, we all wanted to sleep some more.
                         (I hope this will be Coffeesmith)

Instead of going to the gym (which actually closes a few days during the month), I just walked around the neighborhood whenever I want to, or play tennis at the nearby tennis courts.  For walking, a few times I'd go as far as the Banpo Fountain Bridge, or as far as Itaewon. And while roaming around Hannam-dong today, a noticed a few changes here and there. What caught my eye was the renovation of an old building where the office of a real estate agent used to be. It now looks like the familiar facade of the Coffeesmith franchise. If it is, there will be a new coffee shop right at my doorstep! I hope they'll close past midnight! Ha-ha-ha! Starbucks on the other side of the street sadly closes at 11PM.  Although Coffine Gurunaru closes at 2AM, they have a horrible iced cafe mocha. The only thing good about Coffine Gurunaru was there patpingsu. And although there is TomnToms that closes at midnight, I noticed some shady characters there last weekend. Or maybe I was just paranoid. Ha-ha-ha!
                         (The view from the outdoor gym)

So, today, as I enjoy a very sunny Sunday morning, I hope you all have fun this weekend, too. I should write more about this outdoor gym we have on a hill here in Hannam-dong, where, the view is interesting with a few birds singing around you. At the gym where I used to go, the 'view' is just the TV monitor at the treadmill and no birds are singing; only a few familiar K-pop celebrities also running next to you on the treadmill. (I recognized a few Korean celebrities in the gym and inside the locker room. Oops! Not sure if I could write about what I saw. Ha-ha-ha!).

See you around the neighborhood!
               (An area of Hannam-dong as seen from the
                           hilly side of Bogwang-dong)

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Fly Me To The (Full) Moon: Spring's Jeongwol Daeboreum

Jeongwol daeboreum is a Korean tradition celebrated at the start of spring, the day of the first full moon of the lunar year.

This year, jeongwol daeboreum is on February 22, Monday!  In Korea, people will wish everyone for good fortune and good health by cracking a peanut or walnut with their teeth. But I wonder if it's okay to also crack macadamia nuts straight from the pouch. Ha-ha-ha!  Everyone will also drink rice wine to wish for good news all throughout the year, and share and eat with neighbors boiled rice mixed with five grains and seasoned vegetables.

In Seoul, you can experience the celebration of jeongwol daeboreaum at the Namsangol Hanok Village, where the First Full Moon Festival will be held starting 3PM. I plan to drop by the festival today after work, not to enjoy the cracking of nuts, but to watch the finale of the festival: daeljip tae-u-gi, or the burning of the daljip. I guess, like the rest of the crowd, I like drama. The tradition is to gather the twigs and straws, bind them together, and burn them to ward off misfortune throughout the year. It will be an interesting spectacle.

At Namsangol, the organizers will create a wigwam-like structure made of twigs and straws, and burn them at sundown as part of the tradition. As a precaution, there will be a firetruck standing by to make sure the fire consumes only the dried twigs and straws, and not the things that would otherwise turn the festival into a disaster. Although this is held during the week, I expect a huge crowd to gather around the burning daljip tonight chanting "Burn, baby, burn!"  Well, if nobody chants that way, I will. Ha-ha-ha! If you unexpectedly hear that chant, you know who it is.  I'm thinking of bringing hot dogs and marshmallows; I don't want to fire to go to waste.

The burning of the daljip is scheduled at 6:30PM. So, if you want to watch it, be there before that time. Here's the link to the detailed festival schedule at Namsangol:

Namsangol Hanok Village is accessible from Exits 3 or 4 of the Chungmuro Station (Lines 3,4). Do dress warmly as the forecast says it will still be very cold. Or, you can always stand next to the burning daljip to warm you up. Kidding!

And since it's the first full moon of the lunar year, everyone will be making their way to higher ground tonight to catch the rising of the full moon. Some may go up to their apartment's rooftop, while others may just trek to the nearest hill. And since I am in the neighborhood, I think I will head up to the NSeoul Tower after my visit to Namsangol.  If it won't be cloudy tonight, the view of the full moon will be spectacular. I should be howling before midnight. Ha-ha-ha!

Here's wishing everyone their first full moon of the lunar year!