Octopus Soup yeonpotang

연포탕

This weekend I tried a Korean dish that I haven’t had before: 연포탕 yeonpotang (octopus soup). Although it’s summer and around 30 degrees during the day, it was still surprisingly good to munch my way through a hot pot of seafood!  Mr. Kim thought it was very 시원해 ‘shi-won-he‘ (refreshing).

The soup is cooked at the table and is made with a whole octopus caught in the East Sea, abalone, mussels, scallops, and clams. Another version comes with chicken too but we went for the regular shellfish dish this time. Continue reading “Octopus Soup yeonpotang” »

food diary from Sapporo Japan

mistukoshi lunch set

I just took a few days break in Japan and as always food was on my mind. ;) Of course I enjoy the strong flavours of Korean food – vegetables, fish, and meats all so often seasoned with pungent garlic, explosive chilli, nutty sesame oil, and spicy chilli paste. But I also love the subtlety of Japanese food which is so different to Korean cuisine.

In Korea, bibim (meaning ‘mixed’ as in bibim bap ‘mixed rice with vegetables’) is often the norm where all the ingredients are mixed together with a sauce to give a hearty mixture of flavours. But Japan doesn’t really do ‘bibim’. Presentation is so important that the actual dishes look the same as the plastic examples in the restaurant windows! The individual flavours of each ingredient should stand alone. So when I go to Japan I appreciate each ingredient laid  on the plate with painstaking precision and seasoned with care to enhance the original flavour. Sapporo is famous for its seafood, soup curry, and miso ramen, so these dishes were at the top of my must-try food list. Continue reading “food diary from Sapporo Japan” »

The best kimbap in Seoul? Robot Kimbap

robot kimbap

On my quest to find the best kimbap in Seoul, this week I tried the intriguingly named Robot Kimbap chain to see if it can beat my favourite kimbap shop so far – Kim Seon Saeng. With so many premium kimbap shops around, the unique selling point of Robot Kimbap has to be that they use brown rice rather than white. And they use low salt and fat and so can market themselves to be the healthy option. Continue reading “The best kimbap in Seoul? Robot Kimbap” »

Buddha’s Birthday in Seoul

Jongno Buddhist shops

Walking from Jongno Tower to Jogye Temple, the streets are lined with shops selling all things Buddhist – grey monks robes and headwear, statues, 목탁 moktak wooden percussion instruments used for chanting, pictures, candles, Buddhist music CDs, sutras in notebooks sewn together with thread, beads, protection charms and bracelets, to name just some of what’s on sale! The Buddhist shops look busier than usual as crowds come to  visit Jogye Temple on Buddha’s Birthday. Continue reading “Buddha’s Birthday in Seoul” »

Jang Ok Jung: Living by Love SBS 2013 drama review

Jang_Ok-Jung-Living_By_Love1

So this is the love story of a cold young king who falls in love with a beautiful commoner which causes all sorts of problems at the palace when she rises up the concubine ranks.

Jang Ok Jung (Hui Bin) was an infamous concubine in Joseon history. She was famous for her beauty and infamous for her ambition to be Queen and King Sukjong did end up dethroning his second Queen – Queen Inhyeon – and putting JOJ on the throne. But she was eventually demoted back to Hui Bin (the top level concubine in Joseon times). JOJ was suspected of several crimes including using black magic to put a curse on the ill Queen. Finally she was put to death for her crimes along with members of her family. Even though JOJ was only a concubine, her son still became King – King Gyeongjong (r.1720-1724).

But this drama’s version of events are far more sympathetic towards JOJ than other dramas. Here she is not the villain, she’s the (almost) innocent victim. Most of her crimes are shown to be set ups by her enemies and apart from one major mishap, she is only guilty of behaving rather arrogantly and feeling entitled because the king loves her. She’s young and naive. According to the drama King Sukjong always loved JOJ and she was not the villain she has been portrayed to be. She was the victim of politics and the Joseon social class system.

Continue reading “Jang Ok Jung: Living by Love SBS 2013 drama review” »

Book Review: The Confucian Kingship of Korea: Yongjo and the Politics of Sagacity

the confucian kingship of korea

Now I’m watching the drama Jang Ok Jung, Living in Love (SBS, 2013) about the romance between King Sukong (r.1674-1720) and his infamous concubine Hui Bin. Hui Bin’s son became King Gyeongjong (r.1720-1724) but he died young and his half brother became King Yeongjo (r.1724-1776). There were rumours that King Yeongjo killed his half brother to take the throne. Later he had his own son Crown Prince Sado suffocated to death in a rice chest …

So since I’m watching dramas set in the late Joseon period I recently read the book – The Confucian Kingship of Korea: Yeongjo and the Politics of Sagacity by Jahyun Kim Haboush, a Korean American scholar of Korean history and literature. (This is the 2001 paperback updated version of the book first published by Columbia in 1988)

(BTW In Sageuk historical dramas King Yeongjo appears as a child in Dong Yi MBC 2010, Crown Prince Sado dying in the rice chest appears in the drama Yi San, The Wind of the Palace MBC 2008, and in the upcoming 2015 film The Throne )

Continue reading “Book Review: The Confucian Kingship of Korea: Yongjo and the Politics of Sagacity” »

Mungyeong Tea Cup Festival and Mungyeong Saejae Provincial Park

MungyeongIn Joseon dramas we often find characters travelling great distances across mountains to get to the capital – on foot if they are poor, by horse if they have money, or perhaps even on a palanquin if they are really posh. But they definitely don’t travel by car on nice expressways that go through mountain tunnels, so it was fascinating to go and see part of a mountain path that has been preserved just as it was during Joseon times – Mungyeong Saejae. Mungyeong Saejae is now a tourist attraction but in the Joseon period it was part of the route that travellers had to take to get from Busan in the south to Hanyang (now Seoul).

There’s plenty to see and do in Mungyeong as the Mungyeongsaejae KBS Drama Studio is also here – the largest historical film set in Korea where dramas such as Deep Rooted Tree (SBS), Horse Doctor (MBC), and Sungkyunkwan Scandal (KBS2) were filmed.

And the Mungyeong Chasabal Tea cup Festival is on this week too celebrating pottery making and tea culture in the area. So as it was a long weekend (today is Children’s Day and a national holiday) it was a perfect time to visit. Mungyeong is about 3 hours from Seoul in Gyeongsang Province. Continue reading “Mungyeong Tea Cup Festival and Mungyeong Saejae Provincial Park” »