Seoul-Busan Backpacking 2011 – Food

Hi everyone..

Is this my fourth write up? Fifth? Hehe. Let’s just stop counting. Don’t know how long this would take me to finish but I hope I could do it fast coz suddenly I feel like there is still so much more to share with everyone about Korea. 🙂 For this entry, I will talk about FOOD. A rather sensitive issue for Muslim travelling in South Korea, where only a small percentage of the citizens are Muslims.

This would probably be the most popular question I would get when I mentioned about travelling to Korea; “Is it easy to find HALAL food there?” My answer would always be the same. It’s hard, but it’s possible. Meaning you CAN FIND halal food in South Korea, but of course there are not as many choices as those in Malaysia.

Don’t expect to find a restaurant with Halal logo because it’s almost impossible in central Seoul. You will need to go to Itaewon where most restaurants operated by Muslims are situated. There are a variety of choices here and most of the menus are suitable with our taste palette (Indian food, Pakistani, Middle Eastern) et cetera.

However, if you’re like me, who wants to taste the local food when you’re in Korea, here are some suggestions. After all what’s the use of coming to Korea if you can’t eat its food,right? Food has always been one of my reasons to visit Korea. So here are the list of food that I have eaten during my stay in Seoul, Gyeongju and Busan.

Ttokbokki (떡볶이) – Spicy Rice Cake

Ttokbokki - Spicy Rice Cake

You would always see this dish if you’re a Korean drama addict. Ttokbokki is a very popular street food usually sold in stalls on the streets in a big and deep rectangular pans. You won’t miss the ahjummas (or even ahjusshis) making this spicy and hot dish. Ttok means rice cake. It’s a type of Korean rice cake made from glutinous rice flour or plain rice flour, steamed and made into big rod-like shapes.

You should be careful however when buying the ttokbokki. Look into the pan carefully. Usually the ttok are cooked with fish cakes, which means it’s perfectly fine for us Muslims to eat. But there are some who mixed the ttokbokki with Korean sausage (순대 – soondae) which is a Korean dish made generally by boiling or steaming cow or pig’s intestines that are stuffed with various ingredients. So do check the ingredients before you buy the ttokbokki.

Kimbap (김밥) – Rolled Rice in Seaweed

1,500 won per roll. Veges+fried egg kimbap

Kimbap is probably our equals to rice during our stay in Korea. Or maybe just for me and Shambie. We would eat kimbap everyday bought from the nearest 김밥천국 (Kimbab Heaven) near our guest house. If you’re staying in Myeongdong area, take Exit 4 and you won’t miss this outlet. Also if you’re staying at Namsan Guest House like I did, it’s just a few minutes walk from it.

I think this place is used to having Muslim customers so when I asked for kimbap-minus-the-ham, the ahjumma quickly understands my request. “Ham pae-go?” she asked. Which means leave out the ham? I said yes. You could just tell the ahjumma “ahjumonim, ham shiro-yo” which means I don’t want the ham. Alternatively, ask for tuna kimbap (참치 김밥 – cham chi kimbap) from the ahjumma. The price here is very reasonable and you have a lot to choose from the menu.

Jang-eo-gui (장어구이) – Grilled Eel

20110618-105427.jpg

super duper delicious eels made our mouths water

This was our scrumptious lunch in Gangnam. Freshwater eel is a delicacy in South Korea and is super duper expensive. A kilo of this costs a fortune so we were really shocked us when we found out about it. Thanks to Appa (Oggy’s foster father) we got to taste this super-duper-finger-licking-good dish.

The eels were still moving and wriggling when they were put on the fire, so it was actually a new sight to us. LOL. The ahjumma at the restaurant skillfully grilled the eels for us. When they are ready, we eat it in vegetable wraps, with salad and also sesame leaves. The taste?? M-I-N-D B-L-O-W-I-N-G!!!Oh my goodness, writing about this made me salivating all of a sudden. Haha.

A fun fact about the eels. I asked Appa why Koreans (especially the men) love to eat the eel’s tail. He laughed at my question and told us it’s because the tail is believed to be good for their “stamina” if you know what I mean. *wink* LOL. *blushed*

Chu-eo-tang (추어탕) – Mud Fish/Loach Stew

20110618-105227.jpg

Tastes like Laksa gravy. lol

After finishing an eel each (at first we thought one eel for each person is not enough – but we were so wrong!) Eating eel on its own might not make you full, but try eating it with wraps, it will surely make your tummy burst. But Appa said it doesn’t end there.

The ahjumma brought us a bowl or Chu-eo-tang EACH. We were all like, HUHHHH??? More food?? Thank god Appa was being considerate and ordered only 3 bowls of rice so we shared them (he would’ve ordered 6 bowls of them if it’s according to the locals’ appetite.) Hhhnnnnggg.

The chu-eo-tang is surprisingly good, and tasted very much like the laksa gravy we have in Malaysia. The “tang” – meaning stew – was made from grounded mud fish or loach and made into stew/soup and added with some herbs. But it was not as sour as the Laksa Penang. The taste is just nice for me.

Soon Dubu Chigae (순두부찌개) – Soft Tofu Stew

Soon Dubu Chigae - Soft Tofu Stew

This was our lunch in Gyeongju. It’s soft tofu soup/stew, mixed with eggs, dried shrimps and some vegetables/herbs. The taste is a bit bland, perhaps because Abonim (our foster father in Busan) purposely asked for a non-spicy dish for us. To be honest, I think Korean’s level of hotness (in terms of food) is rather acceptable to us Malaysians. If they said it’s spicy, perhaps for us in Malaysia it’s just a mild taste of pepper/chili. But IDK, this is just my opinion.

The dish was served with a few banchan (side dishes) and a bowl of rice. O-M-G. Try having rice with a bowl of tofu+egg soup. Too much for me I think, sadly I could’t finish all (which made me guilty for wasting the food). Huhu.

This is something that I can make at home. Just a simple dish of boiling tofu,egg,dried shrimp and some vegetables. Very healthy, and fulfilling.

SWEET TREATS

Bbopki (뽑기) – Sweet Candy

Sweet Treats - Bbobki @ Myeongdong

Bbopki is a candy made from mixing sugar and baking soda on a ladle over a fire. Once the mix is melted, it’s poured on a flat surface and made into a flat disk with various shapes stamped on it. Sometimes it’s also molded onto a stick to make it like a lollipop.

It tastes sweet, but with a tinge of bitterness in it, which I kinda like. And you might be wondering why the vendors stamped the shapes on the candy. There’s definitely a reason. 🙂 Take some time to sit at the vendor stall and try to take out the shape without cracking the figures. If you managed to do it, I’m told you will get one piece of bbopki free. LOL. Though I got one anyway because the ahjumma was surprised I told her I like the candy. Hehe.

This sweet candy costs 1,000 won a piece and you can see vendors selling them in Myeongdong.

Gyeongju Bbang (경주빵) – Gyeongju Bread

A must have if you ever go to Gyeongju!

Thankfully, we managed to squeeze Gyeongju into our 7-day-itinerary in South Korea. Gyeongju is a beautiful city with lots of monuments for you to visit. It’s very tranquil here and picturesque. If you have the chance, take the free bus tour here. You won’t regret it (take the tour bus, as going around on your own might be hard – we had Abonim to tour us around).

You will see lots of outlets selling Gyeongju Bbang (bread). So after touring the city, while waiting for our friends, I asked Abonim what’s so special about Gyeongju bread? He said according to him it tastes like any other bread, so he didn’t really get it why Gyeongju bread is so special. LOL. But he bought us a box anyway, and I think the warm bread tastes so nice.

It’s the usual bread with red bean paste filling, but I guess WHERE you eat it matters. Having Gyeongju bread in Gyeongju, perhaps made it tastes a bit more delicious? Hehe.

Hodo Gwaja (호두과자) – Walnut Cake

20110618-105123.jpg

Yummy Walnut Cake at the rest stop on the way to Gyeongju

On our way to Gyeongju, Abonim stopped at a rest area to get ourselves a bottle of water each. He also bought us a packet of these heavenly walnut cake. The cake was still hot from oven and we even got free pieces from the seller onnie. Ahhhh, sometimes it’s nice to be a foreigner! LOL

The cake was in the shape of a walnut (what else?) and its filling was made from red bean paste, but there’s a piece of walnut in each of the cake. We could not stop eating the cake. Haha. If you ever found this in your trip to Seoul, do try it!!

Deli Manjoo (델리만쥬) – Corn Shaped Cake with Cream Filling

You can get this at Myeongdong Station

I would say me and Shambie literally ADDICTED to this during our stay in Seoul. A packet of Deli Manjoo costs 3,000 won, was just not enough for the two of us. We finished them in a blink of an eye.

You can find the Deli Manjoo stall at the Myeongdong Subway Underground Shopping arcade. You won’t miss it as it is situated just outside the exit from the subway. The ahjummas at this stall were all very nice and friendly.

You can buy 3,000 won packet (I think about 9 pieces) or the 7,000 won packet. Eat this while it’s still warm. Guaranteed to satisfy you. 🙂

{ Coffee Houses.Universities }

-coming soon-

Advertisements

Seoul Backpacking – Places (Part II)

Hello, everyone.

Phewwwww…this is my third write up for our Seoul-Busan backpacking trip. So far so good, at least I’m doing this on a daily basis and while my mind is still fresh from the memories in South Korea.

As I’m writing this, I can’t help but to feel a bit ‘homesick’. LOL. Yeah, Korea had been my “home” for one week and I miss it dearly. Whenever Koreans asked me why I choose to travel to Korea, I always say it’s because of their culture,language,food and lifestyle that kept me coming back. And no, in my case it’s not entirely because of Kpop anymore.

So, shall we continue with some more interesting places to visit in Seoul? But to be honest I don’t really go to enough places to actually be sharing with all of you reading this. As I wrote before, me and my friends went our separate ways on our third day in Seoul so from then on, me and Shambie really spent our time in Seoul rather leisurely. Hehe. Anyway, I’ll try my best to write more. 🙂

Bukchon Hanok Village, Jong-no

This was actually the first place we went in our itinerary. Inspired by Kim Jongmin in the “Exploring Jong-no” episode in KBS variety show 1 Night 2 Days (1박 2일), we head out early to take the subway to Anguk (Line 3, Exit 3). Getting to Bukchon is not hard, but finding all EIGHT spots here is totally a different story. Though I must say we were a bit organized than Kim Jongmin in terms of finding those photo spots. LOL.

Clockwise - Erenah, Bahie, Shambie, Fizzy

If you plan to come here, please look for the tourist information counter and get the map. Most of the time there won’t be anyone in the counter, so make yourself at home. Hehe. Pick one map and plan your quest to look for all the photo spots. Thankfully we have Bahie in our group who was superb in reading the map, something which I am really not good at.

We came across a group of school students doing the same thing as us and they were so loud. It was totally understandable because they were with friends and I know I would be even louder if I were them. To see them having fun doing the task, made me smile (and miss my school friends too).

There was a kind ahjumma who speak really good English greeted us and asked us where we were from. Korean people seems to be liking Malaysia for I don’t know what reason, but that made me happy. She offered us to take photos of a Hanok (Korean traditional house), which we happily accepted. At the same time, there was a group of production crews from SBS setting up the cameras and jimmy jib at the Hanok, perhaps doing a filming later in that place. Not wanting to interfere with their job, we finished snapping photos quickly.

Bie + Erenah goofing at Hanok

As we were looking for all those photo spots, we bumped into one Korean boy, who’s shy but very generous with his smile. After bumping into each other a few times, we asked him to join us instead and he gladly accepted out invitation. We exchaged short greetings and got to know that he’s a student of Hongik University, just 20 years of age. Ahhhh, I wish I was that young!

With our limited knowledge in languages, (Hangugo for us, English for him), we managed to communicate well I think along the quest to look for the spots. We even cracked jokes (though it still amazed me how we were able to do that) and shared music (he asked us who do we like, and I said CNBLUE, so he quickly played “Intuition” for me). Awwww, our sweet Seon Gyu.

Bahie - Seon Gyu - Erenah - Shambie

Having him around made us slightly forget the aching feet and calves and it’s cute how he had to always turn to his mobile dictionary to convey something to us. LOL. I’m so gonna miss him.

If you ask me, yes Bukchon Hanok Village is recommended. Especially if you love the traditional architectures and love taking photos. Though I don’t really think you need to find ALL 8 spots because some actually looked the same. But for satisfaction, yes you should find all. Mind you please wear super comfortable shoes here, because the place is very “hilly”. And bring water!

Oh, and don’t worry if you ever got lost here. There are tour guides stationed by Korean Tourism Organization to help you with the photo spots. They are wearing red shirt, with KTO logo, you won’t miss them. In fact, they are everywhere, I mean at tourist spots like Myeongdong, Namdaemun, Dongdaemun, Insadong et cetera.

You can also find some galleries in this area. Make time to go into some of them, just to see their crafts and everything. It’s refreshing.

20110616-015900.jpg

Still not open when we arrived

Just before the last photo spot.

Insadong

Seon Gyu, being a sweet guys that he is, offered to show us to Insadong. So we walked together with him until we reached the place. It’s lunch time when we arrived in Insadong and as I had been here once last year, I tried to look for the place to have our lunch.

20110616-020637.jpg

Insadong..

Insadong, is very different from Seoul. Here you will find lots of cute cafes, and shops selling hand made dresses, shoes et cetera. Mind you these hand made goods cost a fortune as they are all well, HAND MADE. Also, local brands are more expensive than those brands we are familiar with. So don’t be surprised if you see dresses made in Korea are more expensive than ZARA or others.

Insadong is also a place where you can see many Korean crafts are being made. When we were there, we managed to see Korean women making colorful cloths from natural dyes (flowers). I’ve seen the documentary about this once but nothing beats seeing with your own eyes.

LOL I forgot to rotate!

After much circling around the area, and through the small alleys, we finally found the same place where I had my lunch last year. The restaurant served a yummy baked mackerel and it costs us 20,000 won (5,000 won each, we took 2 mackerels) for the superbly-fulfilling lunch. As you know Korean dish is always served with lots of side dishes (banchan), and they are all refill-able. So if you ever finished your kimchi, or any other banchan, ask for a refill. 🙂

20110616-020711.jpg

We had our lunch at this restaurant in Insadong

Yummy lunch, minus Seon Gyu. T__T

Too bad when we ere having lunch, Seon Gyu sat outside waiting for us. We only knew at that time that he was a Judo athlete and that he only eats chicken breast. *face palm* Imagine how guilty we felt at that time because we intended to buy him lunch after all the help he gave us but we could not. And he was again, so sweet, waiting patiently for us to finish lunch.

After walking around the place a bit, we said goodbye to Seon Gyu because he had a class to attend at 2.30 pm. We promised to meet him again next day in Hongdae and he said he would show us around.

The Ever Sweet Seon Gyu

{ Hongdae-Namsan Tower-Apgujeong }
-coming soon in part III-

Seoul Backpacking 2011 – Places

Good day everyone.

I hope my recent post had been of help to those thinking of going to South Korea. Actually there are still a lot more to tell you, but as I only relied on my memory to write, I was bound to leave out a few stuff that I planned to write or tell to the readers.

So my next post(s) will not be really organized, as I will just write what comes to my mind. Plus, writing a day-by-day post doesn’t really fit me because by the third day in Korea, me and my friends already “split” and we went our separate ways. That left me with my BFF, Shambie, and both of us really took our own sweet time in Seoul. LOL. Namsan Guest House was not a GUEST HOUSE to us anymore, it felt like HOME. Hehe.

Namsan 2 Guest House

It’s our HOME for four days in Seoul. And we even lazed around the guest house AFTER we checked out. LOL. The staff are helpful and very friendly, though their English might sound a bit harsh. Kkkk. I think it’s unintentional, since I know I would sound harsh too when I speak in Hangugo (Korean language). So, staff-wise, no problem at all.

The room? Ahhh, too bad I didn’t take any photo of my room (I stayed on the top floor, Twin B room), it’s a room for two. Not that spacious, but big enough for two. The shower’s nice, and there’s a flat screen TV with HUNDREDS of channels to choose from. But most of the time we would be too tired to even watch the TV shows.

There’s a computer for public use in the kitchen, and you can use everything there too. Refrigerator, gas stove, microwave, washing machine et cetera. Breakfast is prepared, around 8 am everyday. Ahjumma will prepare coffee, but you’ll need to toast your bread yourself. Hehe.

WiFi is available too. The speed is not that fast, and sometimes you’ll lose the connection all of a sudden, but speed-wise, surely it’s much faster than Malaysia’s. LOL

Me and my friends left our big luggage at the guest house for the 3 days we went to Busan. The luggage were “kept” just outside the office (which is NOT in a store room or anything) but as we had no choice, we left them there. Thank god, nothing’s missing. 🙂

So, if you ask me which place to stay, Namsan Guest House is totally recommended! Just make sure you choose, Namsan 2, not Namsan 1. The latter is wayyyyyy uphill and I don’t think I can survive climbing up the hilly alley everyday. Kkk

Myeongdong

Perhaps the place where I’ve been to the most! LOL Mainly because it’s just across the guest house and it’s a shopping haven for me. But to be honest, I didn’t shop that much even though I got the chance to. I’m not that into Kpop unlike the first time I was in Korea. Hehe. I guess people do grow up. LMAO

I just love being here, amidst the ocean of people (and couples holding hands – urghh). Most of the time you will be lured with freebies from all the cosmetic shops and in the end you’ll end up buying something. Being in Myeongdong multiple times during this trip, I learned NOT TO MAKE EYE CONTACTS with those promoters. Hahaha. Once, I even grabbed the freebies and walked away. Poor promoter she was dumbstrucked.

20110615-114931.jpg

Shopped here A LOT coz I'm CNBLUE-biased!

What to do in Myeongdong? Hrmmmmm… A LOT. Mostly required money (read: shopping) but if you know your way around, you’ll find good deals here. Lots of cosmetic shops like Holika Holika (CNBLUE+Kim Minji), Etude House (Sandara Park), Nature Republic (JYJ), Tony Moly (Song Joongki) are in Myeongdong, so if you missed one, don’t worry. You’ll find other outlets within a few hundred meters.

If you’re a Super Junior and/or Girls Generation fan, be sure to visit SPAO. The price of the garments here are quite reasonable, though the sizes are a bit smaller than Malaysian. Just ahead of SPAO, you’ll find Uniqlo, the brand Big Bang endorsed. It’s a 4 or 5-floor shop, with no escalator, unlike SPAO. Hehe. Both were having sales when I was there. So, my dad now owns a SPAO t-shirt. LOL

20110615-114229.jpg

SPAO tee for daddy

You’ll find clothes (blouse,cardigans) at the average price of 10,000 – 15,000 won in Korea. And if you buy well known brands like SPAO or Uniqlo, the price might be doubled (though the satisfaction is indescribable). But my personal favorite in Myeongdong is clothes from Cordi Factory (actually I’m not sure of the name.. but it’s Cordi something..), so sorry I forgot the real and correct name of the outlet.  The price of the clothes here vary, starting from 3,000 won and they are of good quality too.

How to find the shop? First look for SPAO (you won’t miss it), then go into the alley opposite SPAO. There are lots of shops selling bags for 10,000 each on your right, and Cordi Factory is the third or fourth shop on your left. Sorry if  my info is inaccurate, if you ever found this shop, please let me know of the details. I was too engrossed looking at the cheap clothes (and buying them) I forgot to jot down the details. LOL

Namdaemun

Namdaemun

credit: Michael McDonough

I love this place. I know my mom will love it too if she ever comes here. This is where you should be buying all your souvenirs to be brought home (okay, either here or Dongdaemun). Like Myeongdong, Namdaemun Market is HUGE. You can find almost everything here.

There are a number of gates into this market, but the easiest for me to get is from exit 2 of Myeongdong subway. Once you got out from exit 2, you will see Shinsegae shopping complex and cross the street to go to Namdaemun just behind it. Or was it beside? LOL. Either way you won’t miss Namdaemun.

Our sole quest for the day was to look for authentic Korean brooches for our moms and aunts and colleagues back home. So Shambie and I head out to Namdaemun in search of that. But my oh my we underestimated the size of this market so after about two hours we finally found the brooch shops.

And luck was on our side, thankfully, as we met the same seller that we bought the brooch from last year. We met Benny, and I told him I remembered him going to our tour guide’s room in Gangnam selling brooches March last year. He was shocked, but happy that we actually remembered him, so without asking, hello D-I-S-C-O-U-N-T!! Hehehe.

He brought us to his mother’s shop and hers were even more beautiful!! Me and Shambie actually had to stop looking as each new box she showed us, we were like, “O.o.. pretty!! Kyaaa!! So nice!! Omo, the color!! Aaaaa…” We ended up buying more than we did at Benny’s stall. Haishhh, he’s one helluva good businessman I tell you. LOL

Benny speaks good English too. I have his contact number and email, so if you need them, just let me know. Mention my name <Fizzy> from Malaysia, and ask him if he could give you more discounts. Hehehe.

And oh, in Namdaemun we managed to eat Kebab too!! It’s sold by a Muslim. He’s a Pakistani if I’m not mistaken. The small kebab stall is situated outside the market, it’s one of the many stalls near the main road. If you hear Al-Quran recitals then you’re not far from the stall. Again, I can’t give you the exact location of this stall. We found it by luck too, after being ‘lost’ looking for the brooch shops. Hehe. But to finally be eating chicken meat, we were so satisfied. Burpppp.

You can buy “I Love Korea” t-shirts here too. But don’t quickly buy at the first shop you found. Look around first. My friend got it for 10,000 per piece, while others (that I met at the guest house), got 3 pieces of the shirts for the same price.

In my opinion, you need to spend at least one whole day here. There are just so much things to do,look at, and finally buy. I didn’t get a chance to visit here last year, that’s why I made sure Namdaemun is in my itinerary. It should be in  yours too.

-part 2 coming soon-