Dadam Korean Restaurant

soju

This week we went to Dadam 다담 a Korean restaurant with a more swanky, sophisticated  menu and atmosphere than the average sikdangs we usually go to! The interior had a simple design in rustic materials and colours.  But there was an air of luxury too – napkins had the restaurant’s name embroidered on them in Chinese characters. And I liked the decadent touch in the bathrooms where individual towels were provided instead of standard paper towels or those embarrassingly noisy air driers.

The menu was in Korean but they obviously have a lot of foreign customers as I was promptly brought an English menu (on an ipad!) They had a huge range of soju from all around Korea so first we ordered a soju from Jeonju called 이간주  - the ingredients include rice, pear, and ginger. (there’s wine too)

I really enjoyed the whole experience here but I did have an issue with some of the food… Continue reading “Dadam Korean Restaurant” »

2013 Food Diary in 12 Pictures

 Here I’ve picked 12 pictures that show a variety of the food that over the past year – for various reasons – I considered worthy enough to take a picture of! (I don’t always remember to take a snap. I’ll try harder next year.) Anyway, in no particular order, here’s the list.  

1. According to traditional Korean medicine, we should eat COLD food in winter and HOT food in summer (see samgyetang). So here’s some icy makguksu (cold buckwheat  noodle soup) to get us going in the winter of 2013. The broth has a savoury, vinegary, mustard flavour with sesame seeds and seaweed. Yum.

SONY DSC

 

Continue reading “2013 Food Diary in 12 Pictures” »

What’s the difference between sesame and perilla?

perillasesame

sesame and perilla plants. Sometimes we just call them both sesame. But actually they are totally different plants. So which one is which?

Since I’ve been writing about the drama Dae Jang Geum lately, I think it’s suitable to do a post on Korean food too! And by coincidence last weekend we went to Yanggu where the fields are full of plants and veggies essential for Korean cooking. Yanggu is about 2 hours from Seoul. It’s very rural with cool clean air – a joy after the concrete summer heat of Seoul! And this is where I got to take a closer look at sesame. Continue reading “What’s the difference between sesame and perilla?” »

My favourite Korean food

Today we went out and had my all-time favourite Korean dish 낙지볶음 nakchi bokkum – spicy stir-fried octopus – for lunch. There are restaurants all over Seoul that specialise in this dish and we’ve tried MANY of them. Jongno district is particularly famous for nakchi bokkum. But after seven years living in Seoul, the Banpo branch of 유정 낙지 is STILL my favourite nakchi bokkum restaurant.

They serve 8 dishes here and six of them contain octopus. (So this is not the place to go if you don’t like octopus!)

The restaurant serves 산 낙지 san nakchi (raw octopus) (below), 낙지 볶음 nakchi bokkum (spicy sir-fried octopus (below below), 어린이용 낙지 o-rin-i-nakchi (non-spicy version of stir-fried octopus), 낙지전골 nakchi jeongol (spicy octopus stew – I should point out that the octopus is still alive when it’s put in the stew and cooked at the table), 낙지파전 nakchi pajeon (octopus pancake) 감자탕 kamja tang (potato and pork rib soup) 조개탕 cho-ge tang (clam soup) and 낙지손만두 nakchi son mandu (octopus and pork dumplings – the menu just says octopus dumplings but dumplings in Korea ALWAYS contain pork too!)

san nakchi

For a starter we had 산 낙지  san nakchi – raw octopus with sesame and salt dip and raw veg with soy bean paste dip. The octopus is so fresh it’s still moving on the plate.

nakchi bokkum

낙지 볶음 nakchi bokkum has lots of spicy garlic and chilli. The dish comes with a pair of scissors to cut up the nakchi into edible pieces as it’s cooked still almost whole! Just looking at this picture makes my mouth water :)

nakchi bokkum

The dish is served with rice and bean sprouts. So you can mix the nakchi bokkum with the rice or simply eat it separately.

soju

A bottle of soju is optional ….

nakchi bokkum restaurant

Lunchtimes on Sunday are quiet but weekday evenings are pretty busy.

This is the place I like to go to when I’m having a bad day and need cheering up. Nakchi bokkum here just makes me feel better about everything!

Over the last seven years many of the restaurants that we like have closed down. But happily this place still seems to be going strong. Touch wood. ;)

 

 

 

The best kimbap shop in Seoul?

 

 Kimbap shops are a great place to grab a quick cheap meal in Seoul. You can get a kimbap (rice and seaweed roll) with various fillings for as little as 1500 won. But there are LOADS of kimbap shops in Seoul with varying degrees of quality. (Mr. Kim thinks there are more than 1000 chains – but this is just a guess ;)) So I can’t say that I’ve tried every chain. But I have been to quite a few and this weekend I found the best kimbap shop that I’ve been to so far. Thinly sliced crunchy vegetables with just enough spice. Really fab.  Continue reading “The best kimbap shop in Seoul?” »

동빵 Dong Bang: Poo Bread?

OK I’ve seen it all now – I was walking through Jongak underground station in Seoul when I noticed yet another stall selling baked goods to peckish commuters and shoppers. Nothing strange so far; you can buy all sorts of baked goodies in the underground: muffins, waffles, sweet potato pastries to name a few. And there are interesting snack combinations like coffee and stylish potato too. But this was the first time I have seen 동빵 Dong Bang: Poo Bread. Yes, you heard right.

That’s my bad translation of it anyway. But 동 dong does in fact refer to, well, “poo” (note the swirly dong/poo shape on the counter below and in the name logo ) and 빵 bang is bread. So welcome to poo bread. The bread isn’t made of poo (that would be weird). It’s a kind of waffle similar to 붕어빵 Bungeobang which are made in the shape of a fish and filled with sweet red bean paste available on streets stalls everywhere. They are served warm so perfect on a cold winter’s day. 

But rather than looking like fish Dong bang are patented shapes based on the dong bang characters (below) and one is the cute swirly shape recognised as poo in Korea (and Japan and possibly other countries too)

Above are the dong bang characters - Just in case you didn’t guess, the dong is on the head of the characters on the left :)

When you buy your dong bang you can choose from various fillings including red bean paste, chocolate, vanilla, corn, cheese, and strawberry. There’s also coffee to go – Americano, cappuccino, latte, caffe mocha, or a caramel Macchiato. But if you are not interested in a sweet waffle, they also sell 동빵 친구 dong bang chingu – friends of Dong bang – which include various types of spicy meats and sausages on sticks…

So when I first saw this shop I wondered WHY ON EARTH would they call their product dong bang?! Does it sound nice in Korean? I became fascinated with this idea of Dong bang and how this concept can work in Korea. I did see some people walking past the shop and giggling at the large dong on the counter and the dong shaped waffles on sale. But they were amused, they weren’t disgusted. I tried to imagine the same scenario in Britain. Poo bread anyone? No? Didn’t think so. So why is dong bang tempting to buy? I decided to investigate a little further.

First a note on pronunciation

Mr Kim explained that the two words dong 동 and bang 빵 DO sound cute together. But here is the twist and it is a bit confusing –  the actual spelling for dong (poo) is 똥 not 동. This changes the pronunciation and the nuance of the word. The word 똥 with the double d consonant (ssang-digeut) is harsh and you need umph behind you when you say this word. Whereas single d consonant  dong 동 is softer.  Listen to the different Korean sounds here. But within the context of the curly-wurly dong poo shape, dong (동) is recognized as dong (똥) but not in a nasty way because the pronunciation and spelling are different. (Is any of this MAKING SENSE? :? )

So dong sounds cute in Korean. It doesn’t seem to be a rude, uncomfortable, or embarrassing word to say even with the correct spelling. (Although probably not appropriate in formal situations ..)

I could only think of the word poo in the translation as I think it is the least offensive. And there are other meanings for poo in English. We have Winnie the Pooh for example. But he is shaped like a bear.

All other words –  ’sh*t’, ‘crap’, excrement, turd, or the hospital friendly ‘faeces’, or ‘stool’ – all sound icky to me.  :(  I could use the word ‘plop’, but I would feel silly and about 4 years old!

Another problem is the shape that represents the concept of dong/poo. The shape of dong is like a swirly soft chocolate ice-cream. The curly shape is inoffensive- even charming. And there are good connotations attached to dong. Dreaming of doing a dong is very good luck in Korea – If Mr Kim dreams of doing a dong, the very next morning he RUSHES to buy a lottery ticket. (This hasn’t brought any money in yet but I haven’t given up hope.) So it’s not unusual to see gold coloured dong key rings on sale for good luck. On the other hand, consider the shape of a British poo. (I can’t bring myself to include a picture so if you need an image please refer to Google :)) The only place you would buy something in this shape is in a joke shop. No, not cute at all. And the only connotations I can think of are negative – like stepping on a dog poo. So I could never eat poo bread but I can eat dong bang with no trouble at all.

So the play on the sounds dong and bang and the cute recognisable shape of the curly dong make the snack tempting.  It stands out in an increasingly competitive baked goods market. And it definitely stands out – if they had been regularly shaped waffles, I wouldn’t have noticed the shop or written this post at all!

You can see some nice close up pics of the various waffles and interior of the shop on this Korean blog. Or go to the Dongbang website where they have some info in English too including a list of the outlets where the stalls are located. Bon appetit. :)