Monday, June 30, 2014

Gyeongbokgung Palace

 Gyeongbokgung Palace was built as the primary palace of King Taejo in 1395 during his reign in the Joseon period.

It was left in ruins after its destruction during the Japanese invasion of 1592 and again in 1910 when they were annexed by Japan.

Rebuilding works have been consistently been carried out on the palace grounds after 1920s in hopes of restoring the structure in its entirety to its former glory which explains the seemingly new structures in place during our visit.

We decided to take our time before we watched the change of guards at 1pm.
Arrive at least half an hour early to grab your tickets before the ceremony so that you can make your way in once the ceremony comes to a close.

It costs 3 000 won for adults from 19 - 64 years of age and 1 500 won for children between 7-18 years of age. Children under 6 and Senior citizens 65 and above enter for free.

There's currently a National Palace Treasures Museum Exhibition going on with free admission once you exit from the metro so you might want to spend some time there as well.

This is us.
At a very special spot.
Behind the Sumunjang - Chief Keeper of the gates.
These palace guard will leave for about 5 minutes before they appear again in a lineup in order of ranks awaiting the drum beat to signify the start of the change of guards.
We snuck in a shot before the ushers got the public to move to the pavements. 

Right outside the main Gwanghwamum gates.

And there will be crowds.
So be prepared.
Like my cute mum, who's happily posing for me.

The relieving batch of guards meet the current batch of guards in the open spaces behind Gwanghwamun gates.

It is a ceremony of grand proportions.
Comparable to the change of guards at the Buckingham Palace.
And very much more tourist friendly with loads of opportunities for photos and videos in the large space between the inner and outer gates of the palace.

Accompanied by these drummers with very unique drumming techniques.

And a salute to the accompanying Royal Military Band.

The ceremony takes place thrice a day at 11am, 1pm and 3pm.

Head on straight to Keunjonmun where your tickets will be checked and on the right, you'll find a visitor's information centre.

If you are joining the guided tours, there's an English tour that starts at 1.30pm.
The tour takes about an hour to an hour and a half and will end in the north where the National Folk Museum is.

Unless you've done your background research on the palace, let these complimentary tour guides give you an informative insight into the palace grounds.
Everything took on meaning when it was duly explained and pointed out to us along the way.

If it wasn't for Dad's rumbling tummy,
I would've opted to stay on for the tour of the National Folk Museum and wandered around the palace grounds for just that whimsical while more.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Inspired dining by Michelin Star Chef Pino Lavarra @ Tosca, The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong

This June,
Cathay has some inspired Italian treats for passengers with an onward flight from Hong Kong.

Cathay Delight.
A delightful non-alcoholic mocktail with a kiwi juice base.

A view I would never tire of.

Buon Appetito!

An entree of seared beef carpaccio coated with a layer of pesto with delightful parmesan crisp.
Served with truffle shavings, buffalo mozzarella and vine tomato.

Main of Sea bass filet with spring vegetables and pesto dressing.  

Ending dinner with a selection of cheese, biscuits, jellied fruit and a crisp green apple slice to cleanse my palate.

I usually skip the pralines but white chocolate, why not? :)

Suffice to say, my tummy had a good flight. :)

Marco's Oyster Bar and Grill

First time having breakfast at a proper dine-in restaurant that isn't serving dim sum.

Being totally unintiated.
I ordered a main of chicken congee.
With a side of smoked salmon,
fried egg and buttered toast.
The chicken congee was weak at best.
And had random chicken parts that were more bone than meat.

the happy camper with my breakfast of champions.

On hindsight, 
I should've listened to my girlfriend and gone for their beef steak set which she loves.
At HKD $70,
this was quite the steal for a breakfast set.
That's a palm sized beef steak, two fried eggs, ham, bacon, baked beans and buttered toast.
And an orange juice. :)

Next time you're in the mood for some Western style breakfast,
head on over.
Just opposite the road from BP International Hotel.
And you might just meet my happy girlfriend enjoying her favourite morning set.

Marco's Oyster Bar & Grill
169-189 WooSung Street
Jordan, Hong Kong

Thursday, June 26, 2014

New Rong Ge Liang Hong Kong Roast

For all of life's pleasures.

And another $2.50
For all of life's indulgences.

Eat simple.
Live happy.


Blk 269B, #01-235 Queen St
Singapore 180269
9am to 8pm daily
Closed 1st Wed of the month

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A taste of summer :)

There's really nothing more to be said about the versatility of the humble potato.
I grabbed a bag of these Golden Russet Potatoes in a pre-packed 2.27 bag 
which gives you about 15 potatoes at $3.20.
And decided to encapsulate the remains of the summer holidays 
and all its happiness into today's salad.

What you'll need:
Potatoes, peeled and diced
Chicken thigh, roughly shredded
Mayonnaise, Kraft to taste
Corn, Del Monte Fresh Cut
Sea salt
Cracked black pepper

The how-to:
Boil diced potatoes in water with a teaspoon of salt.
Bring to a fierce boil for 3-5 minutes depending on size of the diced potatoes and drain the water immediately to prevent overcooking.
Set that aside to cool.
Drizzle olive oil over chicken thigh pieces and lightly roast till done.
Roughly shred chicken and set that aside too.
Prepare a big mixing bowl and place potato pieces, shredded chicken meat and a dollop of mayonnaise.
Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
Toss all the ingredients together.
Once ready, top the salad with a generous helping of corn kernels for that fresh burst of summer colors.
And finish with a sprinkling of black pepper.

I added dried cranberries as an afterthought.
Try cherry tomatoes, walnuts, cashews, ham, bacon bits.
Best eaten chilled to beat the summer heat hey! 

Enjoy. :)

Congee House in Myeongdong

And here we go, looking for some abalone porridge in the heart of Seoul.
Take the subway to Myeongdong and take Exit 9.
Once you exit from the station, walk straight and turn into the first left.
A small alleyway where you will then walk straight ahead to the end. If you look up to the right, you would spy a green signage with a big chinese word 粥 for Congee House.

This is their regular set for abalone porridge at 10 000 won.
With jeotgal (pickled squid),
dried pickled radish and kimchi.
And there's a shelf where they stock these items for you to purchase if you can't get enough of these banchan items. 

There's also their recommended upsized version with an extra huge serving of abalone 
at 15 000 won.
Visually stunning.
Equally satisfying for the tummy.

They also have other choices on their porridge offerings ranging from seafood to the regular chicken option.

Run by a cheerful and hospitable old man,
you'll be sure you're getting good service when you visit.

We couldn't speak Korean,
and he could barely understand our English.
Still, he was very keen to find out where we were visiting from.
And when we told him we were from Singapore,
he immediately took out his restaurant's namecard and wrote a 10% on it.
Telling us to show him that for a 10% discount on our next visit.
How sweet is that?

Unfortunately, we didn't have time to repeat our patronage.
Till next time!

4th floor, 12-19, Chungmuro 2-ga, Jong-gu, Seoul
Contact: 02-757-8460

The Second Best in Seoul (서울서 둘째로 잘하는집)

With a flu threatening to happen. 
And a drizzle that just started,
we finally found Beans Bin in Samcheongdong.
But that could wait.
Because just across the street you'd find a humble eatery with a not-so-humble namesake.
Loosely translated,
they've called themselves the second best in Seoul.

I am assuming that this means you'd find a mix of ten ingredients in this bowl of herbal remedy.
We spotted pine nuts, walnuts, red date and tasted a hint of tangerine peel.
And it is served with candied ginger peel because it could be too bitter tasting for some.
Daddy gulped most of it down but he was not a happy camper. :(

And this,
was why we decided to head on in.
Patjuk 팥죽
Pat- Red beans
Juk- Porridge
Traditionally eaten by Koreans on Winter Solstice,
which was the day with the longest hours of darkness.
It was believed to be a day where the yin is stronger than the yang which made it the best time for evil spirits to roam the human world.
Patjuk albeit a simple bowl of red beans is a symbol of the sun, fire, blood, strength and life- the very much needed yang in order to attain equilibrium.

Health wise, 
this is a bowl of nutritional yum.
Red beans stimulate the internal organs and helps in the cleansing of toxins.
And this stall serves it with a massive saealshim 새알심
a glutinous rice ball that was delightfully soft and sticky.
They only serve the unseasoned version so in case you're unprepared for this dessert, 
you have been told here to expect it to be savoury instead of sweet!
This bowl of velvety red bean dessert costs 6000 won and comes topped with cinnamon powder, chestnuts and gingko nut.

Without a comparison of what ranks first in the league of patjuks,
this was a pretty decent traditional dessert break in the boho art enclave of the Samcheongdong district.


Catch the local bus service number 11 from Gyeongbokgung Station for just three stops (if my memory serves me well) and you'll find yourself conveniently alighting a few steps away from this shop.

The Second Best in Seoul (Seoureseo Duljjaero Jalhaneunjip 서울서 둘째로 잘하는집)
Address: South Korea Seoul Jongno-gu Samcheong-dong 28-21 서울시 종로구 삼청동 28-21

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Noryangjin Fish Market

Noryangjin Fish Market is no less stellar in comparison to the world's largest fish market that is Tsukiji in Tokyo. The variety of marine produce gathered in this industrial warehouse of cement organised into orderly rows by its metallic tin interior come from all over Korea and are auctioned out to merchants of smaller markets and restaurants. 

Reputed to be a home to at least 700 stalls and boasting a variety of food items ranging from fermented fish, dried food, vegetables and a myriad of seafood including king crabs, lobsters, abalones, varying sizes of prawns, scallops, fish typically filleted and eaten raw and of course, the notoriously famed sannakji (or live octopus), the fish market tops the list of must-visit places in Seoul. 

Auctions here start at 1 am and run on at intervals for different types of seafood till early morning at about 630am. What I would recommend is for a leisurely stroll around the market while avoiding the lunch (12-2pm) and dinner crowds (7pm onwards).

From Seoul station, walk towards the train line for Line 1 and take it south of the Han river to Noryangjin station. That unmistakable fishy stench which greets you from the time you step out of the train at Noryangjin tells you that you're definitely at the right place. You'll see a few sellers along the overhead bridge selling nuts, candy and fresh vegetables. 

Follow the blue signs up the overhead bridge towards the fish market. 

Once you get to the open air carpark area, just head two flights of stairs down and you'll be greeted with an aerial view of the fish market. It's psychological. Once you see all that seafood, that smell matches the scene perfectly. And then it all becomes much more bearable. Trust me because you'll have that inexplicable urge to get closer to all that stench when you head down one more level to the fish market quickly because there'll be lots of work to be done before dinner. :)

It was close to 5pm when we got in and we had an 8pm Nanta show at Chungjeon-no to be at. After walking down a short stretch of stalls, we realised that most of their seafood was similar.

There are many Chinese sellers so you could decide to bargain in a language you knew or just for the experience, we settled down to bargain with a lively Korean ahjumma in a hot pink apron. We definitely don't speak the same language but the numbers will speak for themselves. You can usually get about 10% off their first suggested price. 
So bargain but do it realistically. 
After all, she's the one with those pincers in her hands.

King crab  'ge' (2.7 kg) - 85 000 won
And the shells from the stall next to hers.

Abalones 전복 'jeonbok' (6 large)- 20 000 won
Scallops 조개 관자 'jogae gwanja' (12) - 10 000 won

After payment, she took our crabs from us and passed it to a lady from Jade restaurant who was all ready to take over our business for dinner but I was skeptical of the relationships between the sellers and restaurant owners so I took a name card and a raincheck on her offer.

We walked down further wanting to look for squids but there were only palm sized ones so we eventually settled on some grey prawns. 

Prawns 새우 'saeu' (18 medium local grey prawns) - 10 000 won

I wanted some fish of which, the ones that abound are the flounder, sea bass and garoupa. But dad, the fisherman is ever so picky on his choice of fish that we didn't manage to settle on any and those salmon slabs while inviting, seemed too greedy a purchase for just two girls. 

And that wraps up our shopping attempt at the market. Heading upstairs to the level where the restaurants were, we played matching to find Hwangje Shik-Dang, 皇帝食堂 in Chinese or 황제식당 in Korean. They have waitstaff that speak Chinese and yes, you can even bargain here. With my haggling antics, I managed to get the table setting per person down to 2000 won (the standard usual being 3000 won) and although the cooking cost was charged by the kilogramme at 6000 won per kilo, its usually just an estimate so get the total cost and get it rounded off. 

Don't worry if you aren't sure what's the best way to have it cooked, they usually would do recommendations for you. We had the abalone butter grilled (it's not that nice eaten raw with a tough texture similar to eating an unripe fruit), the prawns and scallops barbequed and the king crab steamed.

So eat up and eat well. 
Every dish was delicious. :) 
All that sweetness of fresh seafood into our rumbling tummies.
Don't worry if the crab looks too daunting to be eaten. 
Break off the legs and use the scissors provided to cut the shells which are much thinner than we had expected. 
One of the waitstaff came by to help with the pincers that have shells tougher alike those of the Sri Lankan crabs we're familiar with and the body of the crab. 
Here's when you tell her that you want some fried rice because she will collect the crab's eggs and innards together with all that steamed crab essence to fry with rice. 
And each serving of that delicious rice 
(with kimchee, seaweed, sesame seeds fried with sesame oil and all that crab essence) costs 3000 won per portion. 
Each portion feeds two satisfactorily.

Our dinner for 6 pax came up to 160 000 won which works out to less than 40 SGD per person.
So I reckon it's best you come in a group.
Otherwise, there's hardly much seafood that you could be eating between one or two people.

Credits for all prior trip information to:
All other opinions and writeups in this post is solely mine and the prices are as stated on 10/6/2014.

Noryangjin Fish Market 노량진수산시장 [map]

13-8 Noryangjin-dong, Dongjak-gu

동작구 노량진동 13-8

Phone: +82 2 814 2211
Subway: Noryangjin station, Line 1 or 9

Grandma's Bak Chang

Grandma's Bak Chang

1kg pork- thigh meat
300g chinese mushrooms, soaked and cut into halves
6 shallots, chopped and divided equally in 2 bowls
2kg glutinous rice
100g candied winter melon, chopped
3 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp five spice powder
pinch of pepper
150g of dried scallops, contained in a small pot.
30 dried bamboo leaves, soaked till soft and wiped dry.
1-2 bundle hemp/ rafia strings, soaked

For the glutinous rice:

1. Rinse and strain water from glutinous rice.
2. Brown 1 bowl of shallots in oil till fragrant. Take away half of the shallots, leaving the oil and the remaining shallots in the pan.
3. Fry the rice with shallots and oil till half cooked. Put the half cooked rice in a big bowl and set aside.

For the fillings:

1. Fry 1 bowl of shallots till their amora is liberated. Add in the mushrooms and continue frying.
2. Add in pork after a minute or so, followed by the candied winter melon.
3. Before the pork is done, add in soy sauce, five spice powder and pepper to taste. 
*Seasoning based on personal preferences. 

Boil wrapped dumplings for approximately one hour.

Makes around 20 dumplings