Gangneung: Hwedupbap at Gyeongpo

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My first pit-stop in Korea was Gyeongpo beach in Gangneung.

After I arrived in Gyeongpo in the afternoon and checked into the hotel, I wandered around the Gyeongpo beach-front area, looking for a place amongst the many seafood restaurants for a place to have a late lunch.

I chose an eatery whose owner could speak a smattering of English, and he recommended that I try the hwedupbap. It’s a Korean rice bowl with raw fish, vegetables and gochu-chang.

That was the first time I ate hwedupbap and it was delicious – the raw fish was very fresh and came in thick chunks while the banchan contained most of my favourite side dishes.

These days, whenever I have a craving for hwedupbap, I head to Bukang Tuna at the Red Dot Traffic Building at Tanjong Pagar.

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A long row of seafood shops along the beach-front of Gyeongpo beach.

Postcard From Korea

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My 5-week trip around South Korea happened in November 2010, more than one year ago.  I have been remiss in putting up posts of the trip.

*Procrastinate, procrastinating, procrastinated* 

I feel it is a little too late now to write a long-winded story about the entire trip on this blog.  I have decided to put up selected photos of each place that I visited and write a ‘postcard message’ for each photo. So that I don’t forget where I went, what I saw, who I met and what I ate during that trip. 

Maybe I should write the message Twitter-style – no more than 140 characters per message!

 * Picture from VisitKorea’s website.  My route is marked out in blue and red:

Seoul > Gangwon-do > Jeju-do > Jeollabuk-do > Jeollanam-do > Gyeongsangbuk-do > Seoul

 

Peekture: Strawberry Jelly Hearts On Valentine’s Day

I don’t do Valentine’s Day. I cannot even bring myself to use the word ‘celebrate’. All the commercial cheesiness revolving around Valentine’s Day – exorbitantly-priced and frequently ugly flower bouquets, candlelit Valentine’s Day set dinners, men trotting around carrying heart-shaped balloons – makes my skin crawl.

When I was studying in VJC, 14 February was known as Friendship Day. Performances would be put up by various groups in the canteen and common areas, a singing group would accept song dedications and move from one lecture theatre to another singing songs dedicated to various individuals, and one could buy roses at flower stands for a fairly decent price. I remember the school atmosphere on 14 February to be wonderful – it was like being at a carnival.  Awwww, I miss my college days.

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Like every year, I am staying clear of restaurants and shopping malls tomorrow, and I will try not to spit at anyone who asks me if I am “celebrating Valentine’s Day”.

For the fun of it, I decided to make these jelly hearts and eat them tomorrow.  I am addicted to these things!  Although I prefer eating this dessert without the strawberries, I decided to add the heart-shaped strawberries since it is Valentine’s Day.  They look a little messy with jagged edges, I know!

Peekture: Osso Bucco

Dinner tonight. Delicious home-made osso bucco by C. Ate it with spaghettini, topped with a fried egg.

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I am thoroughly spoilt by friends who cook so well, I just leech off them. 🙂

It was a good weekend. Today, I started a new Japanese class with a really funny teacher. He talks non-stop and cracks all sorts of un-PC jokes in class. Despite my initial reservations about joining the class, I think I am going to be having fun.

Peekture: Tossing Fish Salad

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Now that I am no longer entitled to collecting red packets, what I love most about Chinese New Year now is yusheng.

If I could, I would eat yusheng EVERY DAY throughout the 14-day Chinese New Year period.

In the last couple of years, my favourite place to eat yusheng is Imperial Treasure restaurant. Ths sauce is soooo good! Gonna eat as much yusheng as I can before Chinese New Year ends on Monday.

Tokyo Getaway: Bits & Pieces

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^ Omotesando. One of my favourite places in Tokyo to take a stroll, window-shop, people-watch. I love how charming old and modern buildings are jumbled together on both sides of the boulevard.

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I like murals. I wish we had more displays of such artistic endeavours in our own subway stations.

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^ Late lunch at an izakaya in one of the alleys behind the Asakusa temple.

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^ Strolling along the suburbs in Mitaka, enjoying the lovely weather after our visit to the Ghibli Museum.

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^ Bright red lanterns in Kabukicho.

Peekture: OUAM Milkshakes

Milkshakes from Once Upon A Milkshake. Courtesy of Groupon!

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I have recently joined the Groupon craze, turning into what some people term as ‘a Groupon aunty’, one who is constantly on the prowl for cheap deals.  A fellow Groupon-addict friend tells me that she gets mildly depressed whenever her ‘Groupon inventory runs low…’!

Most of the Groupons that I have purchased so far relate to food (such as Meritus Mandarin’s Christmas log cake and salmon yusheng, shabu-shabu meat from Four Seasons Gourmet Market) and services (such as massages).

I think the Groupon deals are quite good, especially if they relate to those F&B outlets which you frequent or would like to try out as well as services which you usually purchase or is thinking about purchasing.  I like OUAM milkshakes alot so this Groupon was a MUST-BUY for me.  I still have another three OUAM Groupons – now that there is an outlet which is five minutes from my home, it is so convenient to go out and indulge my cravings for OUAM with these Groupons.

I look forward to checking my iPhone Groupon app every morning to see what kind of deals are up for grabs.  Hmmmm, should I get the Komala’s Restaurant Groupon, or not…?

Peekture: Gomtang

There is a new Korean eatery near my office which serves soups such as gomtang and soondae gukbap for lunch.

I rarely see these soups printed on the menu in the Korean eateries that I usually visit (which isn’t that many to start with…)

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The gomtang broth was very tasty, especially after adding a little salt to it.  I was very tempted to pour my bowl of rice into the broth,  porridge-style and gobble everything up.

I am heading back very soon, to try the soondae gukbap. I lurrrrve to eat soondae!

I have a long list of Korean food that I MUST eat when I go to Seoul in April. I definitely need more than one stomach to eat everything.  Before that, I am going to have a huge pig-out session with friends this weekend at Hyang-to-gol.

Pintxos & Canapes

Taking advantage of the relatively cool weather, we invited several close friends over for dinner on the second day of Chinese New Year. We wanted to try our friend’s tezukuri tapasu (home-made tapas) or more accurately, pintxos, which he had learnt to make during his three-month internship at Martin Berasategui, a three Michelin-starred restaurant near San Sebastián in the Basque Country in the north of Spain. Pintxos are bite-sized Spanish basque tapas.

For appetizers, he put together three different types of tapas which we enjoyed with a Riesling.

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They were SOOOO GOOD, I am never gonna step into any tapas bar in Singapore.

After we satiated our bellies with tapas, we moved on to the main course which was shabu shabu! Five of us ate a kilo of kurobuta pork shabu shabu and drank sake…! The main course was relatively light and healthy – afterall, it was just thin slices of Japanese pork, vegetables and mushrooms.

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Dessert was a light concoction of stewed nectarines with whipped cream and crushed biscuits.

I bought the nectarines at Cold Storage on a whim because I thought we could have fresh fruit and whipped cream for dessert. I wish I had thought to buy a carton of mascarpone cheese, because we all agreed that dessert would have tasted alot better with it, instead of whipped cream.

Tokyo Getaway: The Great Buddha Of Kamakura

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鎌倉の大仏は日本に有名です。

^ The Great Buddha of Kamakura (Kamukura Daibutsu) located in the Kotokuin temple was our last stop for the Kamakura day-trip.

The Daibutsu is a very famous bronze Buddha statue in Japan.  The other famous bronze Buddha statue that I’ve visited a couple of times is the one in Nara’s Todaiji temple. I like looking at huge Buddha statues – the serenity on the faces gives me a sense of calm and peace.

The Kotokuin temple is located at a different part of Kamukura, and therefore not within walking distance from the temples and shrines which we had visited before it. An overview of the locations of Kamakura’s major temples and shrines can be found here. We had to do a bit of commuting from where we were to see the Daibutsu.

The Tsurugakao Hachiman Shrine is located near the Kamakura station on the JR Shonan Shinjuku Line, the Engakuji and Jochiji temples are situated very close to the Kita-Kamakura station (one stop before Kamukura station) on the same line, but the Kamakura Daibutsu is near the Hase station on the Enoden line.

After visiting the Jochiji temple, we hopped onto the JR train at the Kita-Kamukura station, alighted at the Kamakura station, switched to the Enoden Line (a streetcar-like train) at the Enoden Kamakura station located next to the Kamakura station, and alighted 3 stops later at the Hase station. From the Hase station, we walked about 10 minutes to the Daibutsu, and straight into…

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^ Another big group of school-children. And tourists.

By the time we got to the Daibutsu, we were super tired from traipsing around the entire day.  I was craving for hot food and sake!  Good thing the Kotokuin temple is a small one, with the Buddha being its main attraction. So there wasn’t much more walking required, and because the Daibutsu is so huge, I could admire it from a quiet corner without having to jostle with the crowds near the statue.

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^ Kids staring up at the Great Buddha. Awed…? Bored…?  Fascinated…? Disinterested…? 🙂

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^ The old-world Hase station with its old, wooden beams. Standing on the platform, I felt like I was being transported to the Meiji era.

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^  The streetcar-like train on the Enoden Line. It runs very close to private houses and you can literally stick your face into someone’s open window and say hello to whoever is on the other side of the window.

Goodbye Kamakura! It was a bit of a shame though that we didn’t manage to visit Hasedera, the famous Goddess of Mercy temple and its beautiful grounds.   But it’s okay, there will definitely be another time.

Tokyo Getaway: Jochiji Temple in Kamakura

Of the places of worship in Kamakura that we have visited this time, the Jochiji temple is my favourite. It might not look as grand as the Tsugaoka Hachiman Shrine, or as impressive as the Engakuji Shrine, or is as famous as the Daibutsu at Kotokuin temple, it is the most serene and peaceful temple that we visited that day.

Upon stepping foot into the temple grounds, I saw only the main hall and thought that there would be “nothing to see…” here. But it wasn’t the case. The grounds of the temple are quietly beautiful, without any showiness. It was a place where I could enjoy some solitude. It helped that there were no crowds at the temple – save for a couple of temple helpers sweeping the grounds, TBH and myself, I didn’t see any other visitors.

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^ The approach to the Jochiji temple, leading to the main gate of the temple.

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^ Main hall containing three Buddha statues. The temple ranks fourth on the list of ‘the most important five Zen temples in Kamakura’.

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^ Flowerbeds and a tradtional Japanese home.  I have no idea who is living in the house.  Subsequent to the visit, I read that there is also a graveyard in the grounds, probably some distance away from the flower beds. *gulps*.

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^ The composition of this photo is off, but I love the clear, cloudless blue sky in the picture.  The weather that day was awesome.

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^ A bamboo grove behind the temple.

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^ I get excited whenever I see fruit growing on trees. Fruiting trees are very pretty to look at, and photograph. I love the patterns made by intertiwning branches and leaves. Are these peaches, or persimmons…?

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^ A flight of steps leading to the Daibutsu walking trail. We were game to do a one-hour hike from Jochiji to Daibutsu, but chickened out shortly after we hit the trail because we looked around and did not see a clear path leading to the Daibutsu or direction markers showing the way. We did not want to get lost in the forest! So we back-tracked and commuted to the Daibutsu by train.

This photo is one of those moments that I want to remember always. Of my husband looking very happy and relaxed!  It is so hard to coax a spontaneous smile out of him. 🙂

Peekture: Last Day Of The Rabbit Year

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^ Chinese New Year stalls near my mom’s place.

Unlike previous years, I didn’t do my usual Chinatown walkabout this year. Just didn’t get round to doing so this time around. A bit of a shame, really.

I wished Chinese New Year didn’t come so quickly after Christmas and the New Year, so that we can all have more time to enjoy and soak in the Chinese New Year atmosphere.

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