Thursday, March 31, 2011

Chongwadae Sarangchae, Korean Presidential Museum

Myself, along with the other Worldwide Korea Bloggers that were able to come to the welcoming ceremony for The Korea Blog on Tuesday were welcomed to lunch and some time to look around the Chongwadae Sarangche (청와대 사랑채). We were brought to the Sarangchae restaurant and first were offered two choices for lunch, either bibimbap or bulgogi. I chose the bulgogi as you can see below. I particularly liked the gold dishes and utensils.

After finishing lunch we had some free time to wonder around the museum. The Sarangchae is dedicated to Korean culture, history and explanations of government projects. Above you can see each of Korea's four bills. We had a whole unit in my 사회통합 class last week about these so I'll give you a quick run down.

50,000 won- This woman is called 신사임당 and she lived from 1504-1551. Her claim to fame is being an model wife and mother and rearing her son 율곡 이이, a Confucian scholar who appears on the 5,000 won bill, although it seems she was also an accomplished artist as well.

10,000 won- The man who appears here is none other than 새종대왕 or the great King Sejong who lived from 1397-1450. If you know anything about Korean history, you've probably heard of this guy. He is famous for inventing various things but top on that list is Hangul. He realized that writing in Chinese was impractical and kept the lower class from becoming educated. Unfortunately, though he invented this during his lifetime it's use didn't truly become mainstream until early in the 20th century due to push back from the country's elite.

5,000 won- Here you can see 율곡 이이, the son of 신사임당, a Confucian scholar who lived from 1536-1584. He published many works on philosophy, politics and Taoism.

1,000 won- The face of 퇴계 이황 a contemporary of 율곡 이이 and another important scholar and politician who lived from 1501-1570. He also published many works and served in various political positions under four different kings throughout his lifetime.

As you continue throughout the museum, you can find many interesting photos and information about Korea. Below is a robot that I was hoping to see in action, but it seems to have been charging when we visited.

Another area of the museum that I enjoyed was the presidential hall. You can see photos of each of the presidents throughout Korean history and a hall dedicated to photos and gifts that presidents have received from dignitaries from around the world. There are also several photo ops that are especially fun. Here you can sit at the president's desk.

President 조안나

And even a photo op with the president and his wife right in front of the Blue House!

Lastly, you can experience a little bit of the G20 which was held in Seoul in 2010. Have a seat at a desk or look at some of the photos from the summit which are hung around the room. 

Admission to the Chongwadae Sarangchae is free and is within walking distance from Gyongbukgung palace if you're in the area. 

Spring Skiing Weekend Getaway

This weekend was the last weekend for skiing on the Rainbow ski trail at Yongpyong, so to enjoy our last weekend of skiing for the season to the fullest, the boyfriend got us a condo for the weekend right next to the hill. Now, before you go thinking we dropped tons of money into this thing (because for ordinary folks, it can be over 200,000 a night at these places) let me first explain that the boyfriend has lots of friends with connections. After a call to one friend who called to another friend who called and reserved the room, the price dropped down to the membership price of 80,000 won per night and then down again to the off-peak season rate of 65,000 a night. Heck, we got a two bedroom condo with a full kitchen and two bathrooms for only a little more than a love motel (but without the special packets that those lovely places provide as was introduced by the Qi Ranger this week). We rolled into Yongpyong just after 11 pm and crashed in our room, planning to wake up early to hit the slopes as soon as the slopes opened.

I woke to this sight. Yes, on March 26th there was new layer of snow and all the trees were transformed into 눈꽃 (nun-kot, or snow flowers).

We hit the slopes after a breakfast of kimchi jjigae a la boyfriend and due to the considerably excellent ski conditions (and the fact that the cafeteria on rainbow was closed) we skied all day with only one quick break to split a hot dog. And somehow I didn't feel tired and I didn't feel hungry and I didn't want to stop and take a break. It's one of the best days I've had out there.

After all that, around 4 we retired back to the condo, ate Jjapagetti (instant jjajangmyon) and passed out for a few hours. We were woken to the sound of the phone and the boyfriend's friends invited us out to dinner.

Samgyopsal, doengjang jjigae and bokkumbap later and we rolled out of the restaurant full up to our ears. We spent the rest of the evening watching TV and relaxing and trying to digest our dinner.

Early the next morning we arose again early to hit the slopes once again. This time we didn't fool around with the gondola, we took the dirt road right up to the bottom of the Rainbow slope. We had to meet a friend in Seoul at 5pm so we knew it wasn't going to be a long day of skiing and we wanted to make the most of what little time we had.

Unfortunately, the full day of skiing on Saturday left me pretty sore and exhausted for Sunday. Two runs in and we both had to go in and take a break in the cafe for a bit. Two more runs, and another break. Actually, by 12:30 I was quite ready to call it quits. The snow conditions were a bit icy, perhaps from the rain from last week and then the winter like temperatures this weekend. I didn't enjoy the skiing as much and my muscles were weak from the day before.

The boyfriend took one last run down Rainbow 2 slope, which is the hardest on a good day, and today was closed and had not been maintained in a week. I chose the easy route, thankfully, or it would have meant another hour waiting for me to get down.

We made it back to meet our friend just in time. From where we were in Sillim we could see Gwanak Mountain in the distance, and yes, it too was covered in snow. With this week's forecast showing highs  in the high 50's- low 60's (15-20˚C ish) it's hard to believe that there was so much snow to be seen this weekend.

Apparently, Rainbow slope will be closed for the rest of the season, not due to lack of snow, but due to lack of seasonal help as the skiing season draws to a close. Presumably some trails on the lower mountain will stay open for a little longer, provided there's snow to be had. Lift tickets last weekend were only 10,000 won, so if you're interested in spring skiing in Yongpyong, it could be a very economical time to go. And, as this is the coldest region of Korea they have the best snow for the longest of any other part of Korea. But, of course, it's still spring skiing. Love it or hate it.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Cooking Royal Ddeokbokki and Odeng-Tang

Our cooking teacher at the  Hana Cooking School in Mia

Last Saturday my Korean class held a field trip at a cooking school near Mia Station. We got the opportunity to make 꼬치 오뎅탕 (translated as fishball stick soup) and 궁중떡볶이 (Royal Ddeokbokki). 

Odeng, egg, radish, fried tofu and devil's tounge jelly

Above are some of the ingredients that we used to make our Odeng-tang, or fishball stick soup. Odeng (the fishball), egg and radish pre-boiled in soy sauce, fried tofu filled with meat and the strange twisted looking things are called 곤약 or Devil's tongue jelly. We also, of course, needed the odeng, which is pictured below! Some people who had made reservations to come to our field trip couldn't come, so we had way too many ingredients, as you can see from the photo.

Cut up odeng before putting them on sticks

Heaps of sliced odeng

We cut up flat pieces of odeng and put them on sticks. You don't need to do this, but it just makes it look nicer!

Then it's time to make the soup! Put your odeng in the pot with the egg, fried tofu filled with meat, devil's tongue jelly, radish and some carrot with enough water to cover everything. Then add some soy sauce, cooking wine (밀임), black pepper, crushed garlic, seasoning (다시다) and salt to taste.

Let it boil for a while.....

Odeng-tang, the final result!

Next on the list was the Royal Ddeokbokki (궁중떡볶이). This is quite different than most ddeobokki you've tried on the street in Korea. It was considered food for the king and has no hot pepper added to it. It may have even been invented before Koreans started using hot peppers in their cuisine, if you can imagine such a thing!

Veggies for the royal ddeokbokki and odeng-tang

In the royal ddeokbokki, you need to put lots of vegetables. We used green onion, green pepper, onion, red pepper and some black mushroom. Cut them up and get your ddeok (rice cake) ready.
 Boiling the ddeok to soften

Since we used hard ddeok, we needed to soften it in boiling water first. If you're using fresh ddeok this step is not necessary. Season the softened ddeok with sesame oil and soy sauce. This also keeps the ddeok from sticking together as you wait to add it to the frying pan.

Marinating the beef

Also, be sure to marinate your beef for a little bit before you start to cook. We were given a premade sauce made with soy sauce, sesame oil, and garlic. We added some to marinate and saved some for later to cook with.

 Frying the royal ddeokbokki

Once everything is cut up, softened and marinated, add your beef to your frying pan and fry. If you like your veggies well cooked, add them too with some cooking oil. Then add your ddeok. Now it's time to add some seasonings. Add the rest of the sauce that was used to marinate the meat. Add a little sugar and salt and more sesame oil to taste along with a half a cup of water.

 The final product!

And enjoy!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Free Screening of 63 Years On

For those of you who remember my post about the House of Sharing when I visited back in December,  the International Outreach Team will be hosting a free screening of the movie 63 Years On, a documentary about the Halmoni. It will be held at Dongguk University this coming Saturday. I can't be there, but it's a great opportunity to and learn more about the sexual slavery during the Pacific War. I hope some of you get out and check it out!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Dongdaemun at Night

Dongdaemun Gate, Seoul's East Gate, at night. That's all for now.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

White Day Dinner

White Day, Korea's other valentine's day is a day for the guys to treat the girls. It's celebrated on March 14th, one month after traditional Valentine's Day, which here is a day for the girls to do something special for their guys. On White Day I got two packages of candies from two of my boys. One of which (who's in 6th grade) had to point out that it was really from his mother since he felt a little embarrassed giving it to me in front of all his friends.

For dinner the boyfriend decided to take me out to a Japanese bar in our neighborhood that we've been eyeing for a while.

We got ourselves a seat at the bar so we could check out all the food they were cooking. We got some Asahi and ordered some 꼬치 and you can see some of what we ate below. 

As we sat there munching on our grilled meat and veggies we saw them preparing up something else that caught the boyfriend's eye. Some sort of raw, preserved  octopus with wasabi. The boyfriend couldn't pass up trying it. I thought it was ok, but not something I could eat a whole plate of... but he thought it was the best thing since sliced bread and ate up the whole plate.

Anyway, it was a lovely evening and I'm happy I have a boyfriend that likes to try all kinds of food with me. The only problem with eating Japanese food is the price. It always tastes great, but portions are small and it's significantly higher than eating Korean food and drinking Korean beer. But, I guess that's what holidays are for.

Friday, March 18, 2011

A Stroll Through Hwanghak-dong

The place in Seoul most near and dear to my heart is my very own neighborhood, Hwanghak-dong, 황학동. While it's a neighbor to Dongdaemun market which is a ubiquitous tourist destination, it's hard to see any westerners roaming the streets back here. Its winding back alleys and commercial feel doesn't get it on to any tourist maps, but that doesn't mean you should overlook this neighborhood. As I walk through the back alleys every day I can't help but wonder if this is what all of Seoul looked like 30 years ago? If I were to take a time machine to Seoul, 1975, how much would have really changed?

The neighborhood, while selling a huge variety of things, seems to specialize in restaurant equipment. Piles of dishes, pots, tables, industrial sized stoves and sinks, decor, the list doesn't end. Every new backstreet brings a new surprise.

But that's not all this tiny, two block wide neighborhood has to offer. Jungang Market, 중앙시장, is the place to go for all your food needs. We don't buy our fruits and vegetables in the chain supermarkets any more because it's just much cheaper in the market. I also feel really good supporting this local market rather than big corporations. Jungang market has been featured in my blog before, so check out that if you're looking for more info and photos.

As you continue to wander through the alleys, there's all sorts of unexpected finds. Ddeok shops, machinery shops, at night the 곱창, grilled intestine restaurants, open full swing, not to mention the the feeling of having traveled back in time. While visiting many places in Seoul it's easy to get the feeling that Seoul is a modern city full of endless rows of apartment buildings and skyscrapers. So, I highly recommend seeing a different side of Seoul by visiting Hwanghak-dong, or any of the other older neighborhoods of the city.

It's still possible to find old homes, traditional markets and a slower pace of life by just stepping off the main streets and exploring some backstreets. You will probably be quite amazed by what you find!

Come to Hwanghak-dong by taking Line 2/6 to Sindang station. Go out exit 1, 2, 11 or 12 and you're there! Or, find it at the very end of the Dongdaemun night market by crossing the street at the intersection where the yellow tents end.