2016 Year of the Monkey

japsangThis year is the Year of the red monkey (Fire Monkey), the 9th animal in the zodiac. And people born in the year of the monkey (1920, 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004) are said to be intelligent, witty, curious and playful.

So monkeys have pretty good personality traits. But not all the animal signs are considered equal – some are more popular than others, with the Dragon said to be the best of all (fertility rates in China tend to go up in the year of the dragon) Continue reading “2016 Year of the Monkey” »

Lunar New Year Food

lunar new year

Happy Lunar New Year – it’s the Year of the Monkey! We just got back from spending the holiday with my parents-in-law and here’s what we had on our lunar new year alter this year… From the front left: jujube, raw chestnuts, apples, Asian pears, semi-dried persimmon, rice cakes. Next row: spinach, bellfower, and bracken namul; soy sauce, fried tofu, seaweed, and sikhye – a sweet drink with rice and pine nuts. 3rd row: dried pollock fish; various jeon: fish, courgette, and sweet potato; marinated beef, fried croaker fish. Back row: 3 place settings with ddeokguk rice cake soup, rice, and rice wine.
Continue reading “Lunar New Year Food” »

What can we learn about Joseon society through the paintings of Shin Yun Bok?

shin yun bok

I have just finished reading the book 조선의 미인을 사랑한 신윤복 (Shin Yun Bok the painter who loved Joseon Beauties) He’s one of the painters portrayed in the drama Painter of the Wind (SBS 2008) but in the drama he is portrayed as a woman ( I plan to watch that drama asap!)

I really like his paintings which are so delicate and fresh and seem so modern. It’s a fascinating book which describes many of the painter’s works in detail revealing things that I never would have noticed just by looking at the work myself. There was lots to learn and all the information about the artist and his work that I’ve written about in this post is information that I read in the book. Continue reading “What can we learn about Joseon society through the paintings of Shin Yun Bok?” »

What do you eat in Korea when you are sick? Juk! Rice Porridge


For a couple of days this week I was feeling ill. I was shivery and couldn’t get out of bed. And I had no appetite.You’ve probably noticed that anytime someone is sick in a Korean drama, the invalid will be presented with juk – rice porridge. This is the traditional food to have when you’re feeling unwell because it’s nourishing and gentle on the tummy. And since it’s such a popular dish, there’s a large chain of restaurants that specialise in juk where customers can eat in, take out, or get their order delivered.

So if we were in a scene from a romantic Korean drama, at this point we should see the hero, Mr Kim, rushing through the door with his brow moist with sweat (from having run all the way from somewhere) with a bagful of ingredients ready to look after his loved one – me – by of course making juk (from scratch)…. Continue reading “What do you eat in Korea when you are sick? Juk! Rice Porridge” »

Yeongjongdo, Incheon


Yesterday was the coldest day of the winter so far. It was a very chilly minus 14 degrees. So where’s the best place to go on such a cold day? The beach of course with a nice sea breeze…  So we decided to venture out of hibernation and go for a drive to the island of Yeongjongdo (the island where Incheon International Airport is also located btw).

Away from the airport, the rest of the island is still pretty rural. There are rows of sashimi restaurants along the beaches, with some hotels and motels nearby. Apart from sashimi, another food that is famous in this area is  haemul kalgugsu – seafood and noodle soup. In fact, some of the noodle restaurants here are so renowned that customers are willing to wait up to an hour to get a seat!

So would the restaurants be really busy even on a freezing day? And if so, would the noodle dish really be worth waiting for? We set off to find out… Continue reading “Yeongjongdo, Incheon” »

A trip to Ganghwado


Ganghwado is the island where, according to Korean myth, the country was founded way back in 2333 BC. So the area has a long history and there are cultural artefacts dotted around the island ranging from bronze age dolmen stone tombs to castle walls built to keep foreign invaders out during the Joseon period.

In the summer, many visitors simply come to stay by the sea for a weekend getaway from Seoul. But since it’s winter, we had two sight-seeing destinations in mind for our mini trip, first a look at famous Temple Jeondeungsa followed by a drive over to the biggest dolmen in Korea – what Mr. Kim described as the “Korean Stonehenge”. Continue reading “A trip to Ganghwado” »

Christmas cake in Korea 2015

kyobo book store

The shops in Seoul have their Christmas decorations up and are making the most of the festive season. Kyobo bookstore (above) has a big range of Christmas cards from traditional and simple to intricate pop up cards to get us in the mood. And the bakeries are full of festive cakes too.

When I think of Christmas cake in Britain, I think of a very heavy, rich, moist, fruitcake soaked in rum and studded with dried fruit. To make it even more calorific it will probably have a layer of marzipan on top and then a layer of icing on top of that with Merry Christmas written across it in a Christmassy coloured icing like green or red. It’s very filling and anyone attempting to eat Christmas cake is advised to wear trousers with an elasticated waist. Perhaps that’s why it’s only really eaten once a year 😉

paris baguette

The local bakeries are full of Christmas cakes here, too. But the only difference between Christmas cake and rest-of-the-year cake is the decoration on top. Christmas cake is decorated with Santas and reindeers etc. – likes these ones from the popular bakery chain Paris Baguette. This winter other popular cake decorations have been inspired by film characters – they include a winter-themed cake from the film Frozen, the children’s character Pororo, and of course there’s a Star Wars cake too!

paris baguette

The cakes may look like regular sponge cakes but they can be deceiving. The yellow one above, for example, looks like it could be covered in coconut. Actually it’s made with sweet potato! And once I bought a cake covered with cream and cherries. It was only when I got home and took a closer look that I discovered that they weren’t cherries on top but baby tomatoes. But what is life without surprises?

So whatever you eat this Christmas, I hope you enjoy the festive season. And all the best for 2016 :)