What is the best breakfast to cure a hangover in Korea?

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Well, Kognamul gukbap soybean sprout soup with rice is said to be the best food to cure a hangover. The soybean sprouts (not mung beans which are thinner) contain lots of vitamin C and amino acids which apparently break down the alcohol. I always feel better after a bowl of kongnamul guk so it must work!  Continue reading “What is the best breakfast to cure a hangover in Korea?” »

Autumn in Nami Island 2014

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Selfie Sticks on Nami Island in November 2014

If 2013 was the year of the selfie, 2014 must surely be the year of the selfie extension stick! Is this just a fad that will be over by 2015? I don’t know, but at the moment,  EVERYWHERE  I look there are people pulling out their selfie sticks to take the perfect snap without having to extend their own arm for that giveaway selfie look. Continue reading “Autumn in Nami Island 2014” »

Soraepogu Fish Market: The Best Place to eat Prawns near Seoul

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Fish drying at Sorae Port Fish Market in Incheon

Sorae Port Fish Market

It’s the prawn season in Korea (hurray!) so as seafood fans we headed off to the Sorae Port Fish Market in Incheon which is famous at this time of year for its prawns. The Soraepogu Festival was held last week. But judging by the crowds here even on a regular weekend, I bet the festival was pretty hectic! The market is not as big as Noryangjin Fish Market in Seoul, but the atmosphere is completely different. The Fish Market is walking distance from Soraepogu station and takes a good hour to get to from central Seoul. Continue reading “Soraepogu Fish Market: The Best Place to eat Prawns near Seoul” »

Congdu Korean Restaurant Review

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Having seen some rave reviews about the restaurant Congdu, specialising in Korean dishes with a modern twist, I booked a table there last weekend since I’m always on the hunt for restaurants that do great Korean food in a creative way.

Congdu is located behind Deoksugung Palace in a quiet atmospheric part of Seoul. And the restaurant has a calm and sophisticated feel too with candles and a minimalistic style in a natural toned colour scheme. The subtle dim lit restaurant was already half full with customers chatting in hushed voices when we arrived at 6pm and our expectations were high. There was a large a la carte menu to choose from with 3 set courses starting with the green menu at (I think it was) 58,000 won.  We chose this menu. HOWEVER, the restaurant just didn’t live up to my expectations. :( Continue reading “Congdu Korean Restaurant Review” »

Autumn Gingko Trees in Seoul

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The streets of Yeouido in Seoul are lined with gingko trees and cherry trees. So in spring there’s a cherry blossom festival, but in autumn it’s the gingko tree’s turn to shine. I try to avoid stepping on the smelly gingko seeds though – It took me a while to realise that the strong smell of (what I thought was) sick was not caused by drunk salarymen, unable to hold their beer, but rather by these innocent looking gingko seeds. Oh the aromas of autumn. :?

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The ground is still covered in gingkoes even after the local adjummas have been around with a plastic bag collecting the fallen seeds off the pavement to take home for dinner.

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It was a glorious autumn day today so I strolled around Yeouido wanting to enjoy the last of the warm weather for this year. (that was partly the reason –  and partly because the water in our apartment was off all day while the management sorted out the pipes – or something – so I couldn’t even flush the loo!)

Autumn in Seoul

The gingko fans are turning yellow now ready to flutter to the ground.  I like this juxtaposition of old and new: Yeouido, the finance district of Seoul with its super-duper modern architecture, nestling in amongst avenues of gingko trees, the oldest trees on Earth. :)

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I’ll call this the zig-zag building.

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Is this the last 빙수 bingsu of the year?

What could be better on a hot afternoon than a bowl of green tea pingsu – green tea flavoured shaved ice, sweet aduki bean paste, and rice cakes?

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It’s still pretty hot – 27 degrees today – even though we are supposed to be in autumn. So we went to a cafe that specialises in pingsu to enjoy the cold dessert before the weather gets cold. Although it still feels hotter than a British summer, I know that winter will be here soon so this could be my last pingsu of the year!

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The plastic display in the window of the cafe (below) presents what seem to be the two signature desserts of the cafe: green tea pingsu and original pingsu (served with condensed milk). The three bowls underneath are filled with raw aduki beans.

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There are all kinds of bingsu available these days. Some are served with ice cream and fruit and cream and look like a fruit sundae. Anything can be added really – chocolate chips, marsh mallows … the list is endless.

Pingsu type desserts – shaved ice with fruit – have been  available since the Joseon period (1392-1910). (Japanese kakigori is a very similar dessert.) Our pingsu was served in a traditional brass dish which made it feel more authentic.

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We also ordered a kind of 떡 deok rice cake dessert which we were warned would take ’8 minutes’ to prepare. (the time given was very specific but I didn’t check if it actually did take exactly 8 minutes) Anyway, we agreed to wait the 8 minutes and were served this warm rice cake called injeolmi 인절미 made from glutinous rice and coated in bean flour topped with pin nuts, walnuts, almonds, jujube, and aduki. As always the dessert for two came on one plate with two forks. The warm and soft chewy rice was comforting and the toasted nuts on top gave a festive touch. Made me think it will soon be time to get the Christmas tree out!

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Happy Hangeul Day

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hangeul screen in the Hangeul Museum, Jongno, Seoul

It’s Hangeul Day (October 9th) and a national holiday, so there are events going on around the city celebrating the creation of hangeul. We went into town a few years ago to watch the Hangul Day events. A lot of the action takes place near King Sejong’s statue and Gyeongbokgung Palace. It’s also a popular day to visit the Hangeul Museum.

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Statue of King Sejong in Sejongno, Jongno, Seoul 

I’m not a huge museum fan but the Hangeul Museum almost feels more like an art gallery than a museum. Even the furniture looks like hangeul!

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The museum has a modern feel with its generally black and white colour scheme. Glass walls with hanguel painted on them separate the exhibition rooms. The glass walls together with the delicate lighting and silhouettes of other visitors  add more layers to the exhibitions giving an arty atmosphere. I like it. :)

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There’s a lot of information around the exhibitions about King Sejong’s reign and how and why Hangeul was created – King Sejong wanted a new and easy alphabet that anyone could learn to read quickly since at the time only scholars where given the time and education to learn the thousands of Chinese characters necessary to be literate.

The exhibition also houses some copies of rare early books of hangeul. This was the first book written in hangeul: Songs of the Dragons Flying to Heaven. (용비어천가 yongbieocheonga). It’s a collection of songs written by Confucian literati to celebrate the founding of the Joseon dynasty. The book was compiled during King Sejong’s reign. (1418-1450)

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 yongbieocheonga Songs of the Dragons Flying to Heaven – the first book written in hangeul

The Korean sageuk drama Deep Rooted Tree (2011)- the murder mystery set around the time that King Sejong and his team of scholars were working on creating hangeul – takes its title from the first words of this song (below) starting from the top right hand side of the page and written vertically in pre-modern Korean 불휘 기픈남ㄱ ㄴ (뿌리 깊은 나무 buri kipun namu, the tree with deep roots …) I suppose that is what the early Joseon leaders hoped that Joseon would become – a tree with deep roots that’s sturdy and strong.

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