Punch Cafe At North Canal Road

A new cafe at North Canal Road from the folks behind The Plain and Ronin.  I have been to The Plain many times, but not Ronin.

 photo IMG_8796-160131-v2__zps4p4hqk4c.jpg photo IMG_8595-160131-v2__zps5i2hi1gy.jpg photo IMG_8794-160131-v2__zpsslnbmpey.jpg photo IMG_8793-160131-v2__zpsh071hipl.jpg photo IMG_8602-160131-v2__zpscmjq9uib.jpgPunch has a beautiful space, with a courtyard and a green wall, which is spacious and airy.  We had coffee, and because we liked the warm hospitality showed by the folks (very rare in Singapore), we extended our stay with two glasses of white wine. They let us try their cookie-brownie sandwich filled with an expresso buttercream which was really nice.  Next time, we will try their casual-dining menu.

There is a place I can now go to for coffee after eating beef noodles at North Canal Road.

Seoul: Gwangjang Market

 photo IMG_7114-151128-v2__zps1bzmpxwj.jpgSo glad to be typing away in this blog again.  Something went wrong at the back-end of my blog on Christmas Eve and it has taken me over a month to get it up and running again, including moving the website to a new web-host.

Seoul has got some really interesting markets where stall-holders sell cooked food, fresh food, dry goods, kitchenware, clothes, fabrics and all sorts of stuff for the home (like bedding and curtains).  The market that I frequent whenever I am in Seoul is the Namdaemun market.  I like to visit the stationery shops to pick up crafting materials and haberdasheries for ribbons, buttons, fabrics and what-not.  If I feel sufficiently hungry (or greedy), I would visit one of the cramped and narrow food alleys in Namdaemum for a meal of kimchi jigae or a bowl of kalguksu.

I have been meaning to visit Gwangjang market – possibly one of the most famous food markets with tourists due to its regular appearances in Korean reality shows – and finally got there this time.  Gwangjang Market is quite near to where I stay in Myeongdong – a couple of stops on the subway or a nice stroll along the Cheongyecheon stream.

 photo IMG_7116-151128-v2__zpsvovdcxzq.jpg photo IMG_7096-151128-v2__zpspqtcoftc.jpgI arrived at the market around 3.30pm and well, I do not know what I was expecting, but I certainly did not expect to see the market packed with people at that hour of the day.  The non-food section of the market was fairly quiet but the food section was so crowded I had to literally push my way through.  There was no space for me to compose photographs using my iPhone, and I just snapped whatever photos I could without even looking at the iPhone screen.  Glad that I managed to capture several decent-looking photos with random snapping and people pushing me from behind.

The food section of the market was separated into different alleys specializing specific types of food. Such as bindaetteok which I learnt is Korean mung bean pancakes containing spring onions, kimchi, ground pork. I like eating jeon but have never tried bindaetteok, only because the sight of pancakes frying in oil makes me less inclined to eat it.

 photo IMG_7115-151128-v2__zps2seuwk21.jpgMost of the food stalls in Gwangjang have a small counter where you can sit down and eat your food, provided you can find a seat and do not mind being squashed between strangers.  The above stall sells street food such as gimbap, odaeng, tteokbokki and soondae.

 photo IMG_7159-151128-v2__zpswytp8zcq.jpgPiles of kimchi.

 photo IMG_8770-151128-v2__zps9q7sak8k.jpg photo IMG_7108-151128-v2__zpsaxrsk569.jpgI was not particularly hungry but I just wanted to eat S-O-M-E-T-H-I-N-G, to further soak in the experience of being in the market.  I walked past alley after alley but could not find a seat anywhere, until I got to a kalguksu stall where I spotted a lady vacating their seats.  I maneuvered myself  with some difficulty into the narrow space between two ahjummas, and ordered a bowl of kalguksu.  I love Korean hand-cut noodles, especially the ones cooked in a clam or seafood broth, and I eat them with lots of kimchi.

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Look at that pile of mandu.  I was very tempted to order some to go with my bowl of kalguksu but having eaten like four meals during the course of the day, it was not a good idea to consume more food.  I was so stuffed from eating the kalguksu, I had to take a 30-min walk back to the hotel, which would have been a lovely thing to do if not for the fact that I was getting a bad case of indigestion from over-eating.  I nearly wanted to buy a pin from a shop in the market to pierce my finger to relieve the discomfort, like how you see Koreans do it in Korean dramas.

Seoul: Namusairo Coffee in Gwanghwamun

 photo IMG_6931-151127-v2__zpsziv0eqj8.jpgIf you are in the Gwanghwamun/Gyeongbokgung neighborhood and looking for excellent coffee in a charming hanok-setting, Namusairo Coffee is the place to head to.  I love the vibe of this space, and the wood-panels are gorgeous.  

I was so charmed by the inner courtyard, I forgot to take photos of the front of the cafe.  

 photo IMG_7642-151127-v2__zpshbutl0gg.jpg photo IMG_6932-151127-v2__zpsdeqjrrkd.jpgThat’s me, trying to style my photo with fallen gingko leaves. This is a great coffee stop, in between the Gyeongbokgung Palace and the Gyeonghuigung Palace, if you are doing the palace rounds on the same day.

Namusairo Coffee
Address: 71 Naesu-dong, Jongno-gu.
Hours: 10am to 10pm
Directions:  Exit #7, Gyeongbokgung Station (orange line), or Exit #8, Gwanghwamun Station (purple line)

Seoul: Chawoongga In Hongdae

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I had lunch in Chawoongga,  a restaurant housed in this beautiful hanok  with a courtyard garden in hippy Hongdae.  The restaurant serves traditional Korean food such as bibimbap, soups and stews.

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Initially, I wanted to brave the cold and eat my meal in the beautiful courtyard, but just standing there for 5 minutes snapping photos was enough to give me stiff fingers.  So into the restaurant I went.

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I am not such a cam-whore that I take photos in lavatories, but I couldn’t resist snapping the above when I was using the bathroom.  This is the pretty picture that you see while sitting on the toilet-bowl.  LOL.

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View of the courtyard from the inside of the restaurant.  Imagine how pretty it would all look if it had snowed then.

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I ordered the sea squirt bibimbap.  The meal was served and elegant copper bowl filled with loads of fresh vegetables, omelette and what looked like alfalfa sprouts (yucks!).  The bibimbap tasted so fresh, crunchy and wholesome, and I was so pleased that they gave me acorn jelly as ban-chan.

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Toss it all up and tuck in.  Piles of sea-squirt.  My first time eating this and it was quite tasty.  Not as strong tasting as sea-urchin but with a similar texture.

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I think this is a good place to rest your legs and fuel yourselves up with simple yet refine Korean food before you explore Hongdae.

Address: 20-12, Jandari-ro Mapo-gu Seoul 121-893 Directions: Take the subway to Hapjeong Station, exit #3., or Sangsu, exit #1 and follow the directions in the map below.

Opening Hours: 12pm to 10pm.

Seoul: Yukdaejang In Myeongdong

 photo IMG_7645-151130-v2__zps7tgnbr1k.jpgI am so pleased to have found an excellent yukgaejang restaurant in Myeongdong (near the main road where Shinsaegae is).  I love eating Korean spicy beef soup, especially the wild vegetables that go into the soup.  I have not tried a yukgaejang in Seoul that wasn’t hearty and tasty, but Yukdaejang’s is the best that I have eaten so far.  

 photo IMG_7646-151130-v2__zpsdilhgfbe.jpgWhat makes Yukdaejang’s spicy beef soup different from most of the others is the creamy texture of the soup.  I would describe the taste as a spicy version of seolleongtang that is very smooth, creamy and flavorful.  A bowl of yukgaejang costs W8,000.  It is a huge bowl with generous portions of ingredients.  I declined the bowl of rice that comes with the meal because it was impossible to find space in my stomach for rice.

Address: 45, Myeongdong 8na-Gil, Jung-Gu, Seoul, Korea
Directions: Exit #5 at the Myeongdong Station and walk straight, along the main road till you see a side road which is Myeongdong 2-gil.  Turn right into Myeongdong 2-gil and walk until you see a 7-11.  Turn left onto Myeongdong 8-gil and Yukdaejang is on your left.

Seoul: Dumulmeori In Yangpyeong

People always ask me why I don’t get bored visiting Seoul at least once every year.  Somehow, I always manage to find something new to do, or a new place to visit.  I never seem to run out of things to do in that city. One of the new places that I visited during my last trip is Dumulmeori, a water area outside Seoul where the Bukhangang River and Namhangang River meet.  I learnt about this place from reading Discovering Korea and a blog written by Pheuron Tay, a Singaporean studying in Seoul (btw, her blog is filled with beautiful, dreamy photos).

Dumulmeori (such a mouthful) is in Yangpyeong, about 45 mins away from Seoul by train.  Which is perfect for a day-trip from the city.  Dumulmeori is at the Yangsuri station on the Jungang Line, and from there, I could cycle or walk or cab to Dumulmeori.  I met an ahjusshi on the train who started a conversation with me.  He was a retired teacher, and wanted to practise his spoken Mandarin.  So he started asking me a number of questions, filling in any gaps with the help of the online Korean-Mandarin dictionary in his phone.  I obliged by answering his questions, also with assistance from the English-Korean online dictionary on my phone.  I was extremely amused by the conversation.

 photo FullSizeRender-150529-v2__zpskoye5ccy.jpgI alighted at the Yangsuri station and found myself at a loss as to how to get to Dumulmeori.  Feeling a bit distressed, I wandered around the station for while, then decided to plop myself at one of the eateries outside the station where I ordered a bowl of spicy cold noodles.  OMG, the noodles were excellent.  The eatery did not use the usual chewy buckwheat noodles, but something similar to cha soba.  If I had made a wasted trip, at the very least, I got a good meal out of it.    I asked the ahjumma in the eatery for directions to Dumulmeori.  She kept pointing in one direction, and firing off in rapid Korean which I could not understand a single word of.  Despite my love for Korea, I have never picked up the language beyond the barest of basic phrases. Like – “Dumulmeori, oh-di-so-yo?”  There is hardly any point in asking where is a particular place in Korean, and not being able to comprehend the response.  I decided to take the next train back to the city.

However, the stubborn streak in me refused to give up.  I was really looking forward to seeing this place and I felt annoyed at having to go back “empty-handed”.  Last ditch attempt was to follow a group of ahjummas sporting exercise outfits and ahjumma aviator caps.  I spotted them leaving the station, and took a gamble that they were heading to Dumulmeori.  “Let’s follow them! Hehehe.  Safety in numbers!” 

 photo IMG_2665-150529-v2__zpscidtgyfy.jpgSomewhere along the way, I lost the group of ahjummas after being distracted by a a shop selling succulents, and plodded my way to Dumulmeori alone.  It was a good 20 minute walk from the Yangsuri train station and I managed to find the park.

 photo L1001079-150529-v2__zpsuhmu3rgc.jpg photo L1001123-150529-v2__zpsgzznhg0s.jpgThe entire park has several parts to it and occupies a fairly large area.  I entered Dumulseori at the lotus pond section of the park.  The lotus pond was huge but it was pity that it was not flowering in May.  I strolled along the pond and came to the “waterfront area”.  The view of the waters and the mountains was stunning.

 photo L1001086-150529-v2__zpsqzm5ft2y.jpg photo L1001084-150529-v2__zps9ogtfec9.jpgIt feels so tranquil and peaceful to look at this view.  I could stare at it all day.

 photo 1047a768-13e3-4fd7-bbde-23dd0be544fb_zpsa4eov7ke.jpg photo L1001090-150529-v2__zps9g48jrhu.jpg photo L1001112-150529-v2__zpskilzlfa4.jpgI just finished watching the Korean drama, She Was Pretty (a lousy show and an utter waste of time), and noticed that they filmed a scene in the last episode at Dumulseori. I recognized the rectangular wooden frame in the drama.

It was such a lovely day, I could not resist zoning out for an hour with a can of beer with this view in front of me.

 photo L1001070-150529-v2__zpszzzekx4l.jpgCross this long bridge and you will get to the other side of Dulmulmeori.  More parks and beautiful open spaces to fill up a couple of hours.

 photo L1001145-150529-v2__zpstspf2pin.jpg photo L1001146-150529-v2__zpsstisewsb.jpgDumulmeori is a great day-trip out of Seoul.  Take the Jungang Line and alight at Yangsu Station, then stroll to Dumulmeori.  Wear comfortable shoes and get ready for plenty of walking.

Seoul: Coffee Libre In Hongdae

 photo IMG_2723-150530-v2__zpszecv1x8i.jpgI have finally tried the coffee from Coffee Libre after putting it off for a while (‘cos it is quite a hike away from the popular area in Hongdae). It is not an easy place to find and I got lost trying to find my way there. Coffee Libre is not the usual hip and cool cafe. It is very tiny, with hardly any sitting space, and looks like a storage room more than a cafe.  Not surprising since its main business is coffee roasting.

 photo IMG_2726-150530-v2__zpsaoyjhx1d.jpgThe cafe does not offer many options – just expresso, Americano, latte, Dutch coffee and hot chocolate.  I was torn between the expresso and Dutch coffee, and went with expresso in the end.  Expresso was very good – very smooth and not too acidic.  I managed to squeeze myself into a small empty space on the bench at the front of the cafe.  It was rather uncomfortable, but it beats standing. 

 photo IMG_2730-150530-v2__zpsn20dakz0.jpgThat is how the rest of the cafe looks like.  Messy, with paint peeling off the walls and boxes and cartons stacked on the floor.  Not a place for hanging out at but definitely worth a visit.  

Coffee Libre
Address: 27-15 Yeonnam-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Direction:  Exit 3 at Hongik University subway stop and follow map below.

Galettes & Crepes At The Daily Roundup

Besides pancakes and waffles, I also like crepes and buckwheat galettes. I have given up on finding a place in Singapore that serves good pancakes, and decided that I will make them at home. I get delicious waffles at Assembly Coffee whenever I feel like having one of these crispy-fluffy things with a huge dollop of ice cream.  (I just bought myself a waffle maker on Qo10.com so am looking forward to making some soon.)  

I used to satisfy my crepe and galette cravings at Creperie Des Art, this cosy Brittany creperie at Prinsep Street.  I loved their buckwheat galettes, sweet crepes and apple cider.  They make an excellent crepe suzette – which I usually order for dessert. It is a pity that the owners of Creperie Des Art have given up the business.  I hope they know that they are sorely missed.  Thankfully, there is still Entre-Nous at Seah Street that I can go to for galettes and crepes.  

I am so gonna eat my fill of galettes and crepes when I am in Paris in November!  

 photo IMG_4644-150911-v2__zpswbe3tcdq.jpgRecently, a friend recommended that we try the galettes and crepes at The Daily Roundup.  The cafe is located in a bright and spacious unit in The Working Capital at Keong Saik Road.  After casting our vote early in the morning on Polling Day, we headed to The Daily Roundup for breakfast.  They open at 9am on weekends, which in my view is the latest time that a cafe serving breakfast should open for business.  

 photo IMG_4643-150911-v2__zpsdan4hu2k.jpgWhere is everybody?  We had the entire place to ourselves for quite a while.  Not that we were complaining.

 photo IMG_4658-150911-v2__zpsuxuxtxmi.jpgTBH ordered the ham and cheese buckwheat galette and I chose the plain crepe with yuzu butter and vanilla ice cream.  The food is quite good – not as tasty as the ones at Creperie Des Arts or Entre-Nous but good enough for a repeat visit. 

Seoul: Wangbijib Korean BBQ In Myeongdong

 photo IMG_2738-150530-v2__zps06qhesli.jpgI often get asked for Korean BBQ restaurant recommendations in Seoul but have none to give because this is something that I don’t normally eat when I am in Seoul. If I have grilled meat cravings, I would usually go to a gopchang restaurant.  I prefer grilled fatty innards over pork belly!

During my last trip, my friend wanted to eat grilled meat so I looked up the Internet for some good places around Myeongdong where we were staying. There are plenty of BBQ restaurants in Myeongdong so if one isn’t fussy, you could just turn a corner and walk into one.  

After some research online, I decided to try Wangbijib (왕비집).  Located near the Myeongdong subway station (take Exit #9 of Myeongdong Station, Subway Line 4. Walk straight ahead for about 50m from Exit #9 and turn right at the first corner. Continue straight for another 50m and turn left. Wangbijib  is located on the second floor on the left side of the street), it had mostly good reviews.  We arrived at around 7pm and saw that a queue had formed on the stairway.  Egads!  We hear Singaporean voices too!  So we decided to walk around Myeongdong and look for another grilled meat place. We ended up at another Wangbijib located closer to Metro Hotel (just two streets away from Myeongdong Skypark Hotel II and A Twosome Place) but unfortunately, there was also a long queue at this outlet.  

Okaaaay, this place must be pretty good then.  We decided to return the following evening, at 6pm, hopefully enough to beat the queues!  Which we did, and at 6pm, the restaurant was almost full!  I am not a big fan of grilled meat but I enjoyed my meal at Wangbijib very much.  I can no longer remember what cuts of meat we ordered – a beef and a fatty pork-something.  I felt that what made the food stand out was the use of charcoal to grill the meat. Charcoal gave the meat a deeper and fuller flavor. Oh look at the charred bits in the photo. I should have taken more photos of the food, but was too busy stuffing my mouth to do so.

Just like that, Wangbijib is going to be a regular feature in my dining itinerary in Seoul.

Crocheting: Cushion Cover In African Flower Hexagon Granny Squares

My second cushion cover. It is much smaller that the first one because I ran out of patience to crochet more granny squares needed for a bigger-sized cushion cover. I have always liked the African flower pattern and have been itching to make something with it.

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I joined all the squares hexagons on the reverse side using a single stitch, and the cushion insert has also been sewn in, so it cannot be easily removed for cleaning.

This was quite an easy one to make.

Crocheting: Cushion Cover In Solid Granny Squares

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Didn’t get around to posting a photo of my first hand-made crochet cushion cover

I was thinking about autumn when I first conceived the idea of crocheting a cushion cover.  I don’t think this has a autumn-y feel but I am pleased with how the colors turned out.  The size of this cover is for a 20″ x 20″ cushion insert.  The one from IKEA is a perfect fit for this, if you like your cushion to be soft and cuddly.

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