The Christmas shopping season is here again. But when I’m looking for small gifts or stocking fillers that are unusual or only available in Korea, it’s not always easy to know what to get. I get overwhelmed in the large markets like Namdaemun and I do more and more shopping online these days, but I also have a few favourite places I like to browse every year for gifts: the stationery and gift section of YP Bookshops and Kyobo bookshops; Alpha Stationery shop (Myeongdong branch is the biggest), Hangaram Stationery Shop in Express Bus Terminal, the National Museum of Korea gift shop, and of course the local supermarkets have stuff to offer depending on what you’re looking for.
Here are ten small items I chose – some are practical, some traditional, others cute or just quirky or just for fun for stocking fillers or hamper goodies. (SPOILER Alert for any family members who may be reading this post 😉 )
1. GARLIC CASE APPARATUS
(price 5,000 won; bought from my local corner shop)
Let’s start in the kitchen. This gift could be considered very practical and useful for anyone into Korean cooking. Or it might simply offer a bit of quirky novelty value before being thrown to the back of the cupboard to retire. It just depends how much you are into garlic. But this is perfect for anyone who uses A HUMONGOUS AMOUNT of GARLIC in their cooking!
I bought this in the kitchen section of my local corner shop. The local shops are small and so I suppose they keep only the most practical items on their shelves. So I wonder where else you would find a ‘garlic case apparatus’ considered worthy enough to be stocked in the local shop? Where else do you need so much garlic when you cook? I don’t know!
Garlic can be bought whole or in bags of separated cloves or in bags of crushed garlic. The cheapest option is to buy the whole garlic and peel and crush it yourself. (You can buy it on a garlic truck in the street) But it’s a pain to crush just enough for one meal so many people crush a LOAD of garlic all in one go and freeze it. But once the garlic is frozen you can’t separate it so that’s where this jolly contraption comes in handy. Like an ice cube tray it keeps the crushed garlic separated into cubes so you can just take out one cube at a time (or several if you are cooking something very potent 😉 ) very snanzy. If you like that sort of thing …
2. BUNGOPANG MAKER
(14,500 won, bought from Interpark online shopping mall)
Now that it’s getting colder the bungopang street stalls are getting more popular. There’s one stall right outside my apartment and sometimes I buy a bag (3 for 1,000 won) on the way home from work if I’m feeling peckish. (Bungobang are fish shaped waffles traditionally filled with sweet aduki beans or sometimes custard). But if you couldn’t buy the bungobang on the street or if you know someone who may want to make it themselves at home, well this is the gift for them.
The bungopang waffle maker can make two fish waffles at a time. The waffle mix is added to the waffle maker which is heated on the gas hob like a frying pan. (It’s not an electric waffle maker) I confess that I have’t tried this one but it had the most positive comments on the Interpark website. I heard that the bungopang maker is also on sale in Baking Street in Seoul.
3. BUNGOPANG MOIST & CREAMY CAKES
(about 5,000 won for a box of 8; bought from the local supermarket)
And staying on the bungopang theme … I bought these fun bungopang cakes, great for those who don’t want to actually make bungopang waffles! The cakes don’t actually taste the same as the waffles obviously but they look pretty similar!
There are 8 fish in a box individually wrapped. Each fish is made of a sweet sponge cake with a creamy chocolate and chewy sticky rice filling. I really like the packaging design. I was going to give this box as a present but then I thought I had better have a taste of one just to make sure they taste ok… and I needed to take a picture for this post of course … So now I have to eat all 8 fish 😉 and buy another box to give as a gift. The fish are quite sweet but I like the chewy rice texture inside the cake. A nice hamper or stocking filler.
4. PANCHAN 반찬 TINS OF BRAISED QUAILS EGGS, BRAISED BLACK BEANS IN SOY, ANCHOVY IN SOY SAUCE
(3,000 won each, bought from the local supermarket)
Here’s an idea for anyone who likes to eat Korean food. Or just wants to have a taste to get the idea …
These are ready to eat panchan, side dishes. 매추리알 장조림 (mechurial jangjorim) quails eggs marinated in soy sauce, 콩자반 (kong chapan) soy beans cooked in soy sauce, and 멸치조림 (myeochil jorim) small anchovy. There are more side dishes available in this range including burdock cooked in soy sauce and soy sesame leaves. All that’s needed now is some rice and kim seaweed and we’re good to go. (oh, and kimchi of course)
5. GANGNAM SAUNA TEA
( price 14,000 won, bought from YP Bookstore)
I couldn’t resist this tea. What a cute idea (I guess that’s Psy relaxing in my tea?) And perfect for a single cup of tea when you don’t need to brew a whole pot. Usually I’m a loose leaf tea fan but a teabag that can make you smile can’t be all bad, can it?
Tea is becoming more popular in Korea these days. A few upmarket tea shops have opened in Seoul including the Singapore teashop TWG Tea which now has a shop in Chungdam and is so popular that it’s best to make a reservation.
There are 10 bags of lemon tea in this box. The company Teazen makes a large variety of teas and there are five different flavours and characters in this range of ‘Happy Tea’. As well as Gangnam Sauna, there’s Forest Tea Cafe (Orange Rooibos Tea), First Love (Strawberry Ceylon tea with a glasses-wearing Bae Young Jun character from the drama Winter Sonata) Happy Day (a Champagne flavoured celebration tea) and Happy Company – this is actually coffee flavoured. But the salaryman looks a bit hot and sweaty in his shirt and tie sitting in his bath of tea 😉
[Teazen] Korea Traditional Tea, Gangnam Sauna Lemon Mate Tea (Happy Tea)
6. CHERRYCAT MARIE CARDHOLDER
(price: 4,000 won bought 한가람 문구 hangaram stationery shop in Express Bus Terminal)
This cardholder could solve the problem of a purse bulging with cards from here, there, and everywhere.
Cherrycat is a Korean brand making lots of cute cat items from keyholders to mugs to mousepads. But I like these little dancers. A sweet gift for someone who needs somewhere to keep all those store cards, credit cards, etc.
7. KITTY HOUSE-IT and PUPPY HOUSE-IT POST-IT NOTES
(1,800 won each; bought at Hangaram Stationery Shop)
I don’t really know what’s available in the stationery shops back home anymore. But I don’t remember every seeing stuff like animal post-its! In cardboard boxes. How cute is this? And who doesn’t need a post-it note now and again?
You make the little 3D cardboard box or dog house for your pet post-it notes to live in when they are waiting to be used. ahhh. These post-its are very small and there’s not a whole lot of room to write anything on the post-it note, I admit. But who cares? They are too adorable. They are made by Thehaki. (You can see the post-its fully made up in action on the thehaki website).
8. CUTE SOCKS AND SLIPPERS
(bought from Hangaram Stationery Shop)
STILL staying on the cute theme. Cute socks. Always useful aren’t they? Everyone needs socks. (OK, BTW so far I think everything I have suggested is made and designed in Korea, but the two slippers on the left (above) by Ibiskorea.com are made in China). On the packaging of the slippers it says ‘school fun indoor shoes’ (스쿨펀! 덧신). Are these actually for indoor use at school? I don’t know. But they are sweet.
There are LOADS of socks on sale here. Walk around Gangnam Underground Shopping Centre or browse the shops in the subway stations and you will see socks. BUT I don’t normally buys socks here because the ladies socks usually only go up to about a size 240 mm. I need something slightly larger so I usually just buy socks at home. So I’m not convinced who these ‘sleeping socks’ are going to fit. They look a bit small for an adult with my western lady feet but on the other hand they look rather large for a child. So I don’t know. Maybe they’ll stretch (or shrink). To make things more confusing there’s no size written on the socks and the lady in the shop said they were free size. Free size socks? I suppose it’s possible. Sorry if they don’t fit.
9. KONGCHUMONI 콩주머니 BEANBAGS
(price 8,000 won for a set of two small bags, bought from the National Museum of Korea gift shop)
What do you give the child who has everything – iphone, computer, playstation, and every other techie thing you can imagine? How about something a bit retro? For a bit of traditional fun I picked up some beanbags in the museum gift shop after having a look around the Buddhist paintings on show there.
I have to say though, when I think of what I can do with small beanbags the first thing that comes to mind is juggling. But these very small beanbags were sold in sets of two, so I wasn’t exactly sure what anyone was supposed to do with them! They are not exactly cheap but I like the colours and designs. (Mr Kim thinks they were very over-priced and I agree that for the price, there could at least be three in a box! It might be better to look for stuff like this in Namdaemun Market) Still cute though.
10. GONGINORI 공기놀이
(price 8,000 won, bought at the National Museum of Korea gift shop)
And sticking with the traditional game theme, here’s a Korean game played by children since games were invented. When I was a kids we played marbles. Gonginori is a perhaps the Korean equivalent of marbles.
Gonginori was originally played with 5 actual stones or pebbles from outside but now the shops sell sets of plastic stones. I found this miniature set of gonginori with the ‘stones’ made of heavy thread. And the five stones all just about squeeze into the tiny purse. There are various levels of difficulty to the game involving throwing the stones in the air whilst picking up other stones. In a harder level you have to throw all five stones in the air and catch them on the back of your hand. But as these are round stones I think this will be impossible!
So my shopping is nearly over and I can now go and put my feet up and have a cup of Gangnam Sauna tea and a bungopang cake. Then I’ll have to go out and buy another box of Gangnam Sauna tea and another box of Bungopang cake for my gifts. Perhaps I should just get to the post office before I eat all my presents myself. 😉