Thursday, April 29, 2010

New "Hangover Soup" Restaurant

So, how can I defend back-to-back restaurant reviews? Because I eat three meals a day, perhaps?

Today I went to a brand new haejangguk restaurant outside Deungchon station Exit 1--walk straight out, cross the street, and look to the right of the Papa John's building with the statue of the chrome paint brushes:

Cheongjindong Haejangguk Restaurant

And a nice bowl of soup is definitely in order today, as the temperature remains unseasonably cool. That was me being a master of understatement, since in truth the weather has been unbe-fucking-lievable. Since November, the temperature has not hit sixty-five degrees more than two consecutive days. As soon as the skies clear up and the sun starts to warm one's bones (like Saturday and Sunday) the mercury plummets and a drizzling rain soaks you. Then, the next day it clears a bit but the cold wind whips right through you. It's some kind of record, I'm pretty sure.

So, soup's up, and this place was a good choice! First of all, I like a restaurant which posts its menu outside, especially when they include prices:

I chose the 뼈해장국, bbyeo haejangguk, which is "bone hangover soup", only W4,500. This is the Korean version of ox-tail soup, and it is delicious:

There are several versions of haejangguk, including 선지 seonji-style, which is coagulated ox-blood. The bbyeo soup came with six bone sections from which you remove the meat (a receptacle for discarding them is provided), a bowl of rice, and of course panchan.

Cheongjindong has bench seating and a rustic style, but is brightly lit with a big front window and huge mirrors to reflect the light. I also like that it had old-style kimchi crocks on each table, so you can serve yourself, with baechu and turnip kimchi (on the top in this photo):

Garlic-Fed Duck

The garlic-fed duck restaurant about one block from Deungchon Station. I was invited to a lunch meeting of the Student Volunteering Committee, chaired by Mr Hwang--sure, it meant hanging around school for an extra hour and a half on an exam day, but it's well worth it!

We got the 오리념구이, spicy grilled duck. The heavy cast iron pot is heated up at the table, then the seasoned duck meat, together with sliced potato, string mushrooms, ddeok and onions, is dumped in to fry:

When it's nearly ready, greens are added and cooked down:

You eat all that up until you're down to the scrapings at the bottom of the pot:

The ajumma comes along and puts in some chopped lettuce, carrots, potatoes and rice, and stirs the goodness up from the pot:

Then some dried, shredded seaweed is sprinkled on top, and it's given a few minutes to cook up:


The finish is a soup with vegetables and pieces of white meat in it, kind of bland to cool the tongue after the spicy main course:

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Some Flowers for Today

We had cooperative weather this weekend, so I went to Yeouido Park, my favorite, and got some photos of the spring flowers.

Below, Baby's breath, L.: Gypsophila (the Latin name means "lover of chalk", which correctly describes its preferred soil type):

A red flowering shrub, probably a Rhododendron:

The park has a few Bradford pears (Pyrus calleryana), uniquely fragrant, which are native to China and Korea:

Here is a magnolia flower on the walkway leading to the park. Wikipedia says magnolias evolved before bees; they were pollinated by beetles, so their blooms had to be tough to avoid damage:

Finally, people enjoying the nice weather in the park:

Monday, April 26, 2010

KIA Tigers vs Nexen Heroes

"Best baseball game ever," was the verdict of fellow traveler to Mok-dong Stadium Andy, who attended last Friday's match along with me, Nick and Jeremy. Chris and Max begged off--a big mistake! You will see why.

The game itself was exciting, as it was the first extra-innings game I can recall going to (2 - 2), and so therefore it was the first extra-innings game in which both teams scored in the added time.

The game was between cellar-dwellers Nexen (aka Seoul Heroes, Woori Heroes, Hyundai Unicorns, Taepyungyang Dolphins, Chongbo Pintos, Sammi Superstars, et al.) and the league's reigning champion KIA Tigers, so the result was unexpected. In the top half of the tenth, the visitors scored, but the Heroes pulled even in the bottom. Nexen reliever Son Seung-rok sat the KIA batters down in a hurry, and the Tigers' closer Lee Dong-hyeon started throwing a little wild, with passed balls allowing the winning run to advance to third then scamper home.

Nexen won 4 - 3, but not only that, they whitewashed KIA for the three game series to leap over Lotte into seventh place in the standings. This is all good, but it is not why "best game ever." This is:

We found seats, led by Jeremy, in the third row, right next to the Heroes cheerleaders. We had an up-close view of the action, in more ways than one (if you know what I mean, har har).

So, Mok-dong Stadium is awesome, and its amenities are very nice, as well. On the one hand, it is practically the only stadium that does any kind of security check; but on the other hand, it is the only stadium I've been to with the 1000 cc beer bottles for 6000 W! One full liter, that's big! How big? Look, it's the same size as Hyperion Tower, the tallest building in Korea!

ADDENDUM: My friend Mr Hwang tells me that he saw me cheering at the end of the game--he watched his Samsung Lions play Doosan via streaming video on naver, then switched over in time to catch the last of our game. And there I was.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Going Buggy

In the nineteen months that I have lived in my officetel, I have never seen a single cockroach, or ant, or any creepy-crawly. Likewise, I have rarely seen such critters in the streets or sidewalks--while it's true the unpleasant piles of garbage only lay around for a day or two at most, one would still expect to see a few decomposers seeking a treat.

And the same is true of flying insects--I can count on my fingers the number of mosquitos I have seen. They are big 'uns, though, I'll give 'em that. I have on a few occasions spotted the mosquito truck, however, with a small crowd of children trailing behind, dancing merrily in the noxious cloud it emits.

Therefore, I was a little surprised to read an article today in the Times about widespread fear resulting from reports that a species of mosquito transmitting viral diseases causing brain inflammation had been found. Apparently, the insect repellent aisles have been swept clean by worried citizens arming themselves against winged pests. Even though they've only been spotted on Jejudo, an island at the far southern tip of the peninsula, about as far from Seoul as it's possible to be, and still be in Korea!

I for one welcome our new insect overlords. But the article wasn't really about the mozzie scare: its headline is "Koreans Swayed by Herd Mentality"--not that that's necessarily news to some of us. According to a Seoul "analyst" quoted in the report:
Koreans are susceptible to herd mentality. When their neighbors do or believe something, many of them just follow suit. I regard Internet witch-hunting, real estate speculation or regional dominance of a certain party to stem from such a perspective.

Even the country's top financial officer worries about the unforseen effects of massive liquid asset shifts on the markets, particularly in real estate, once the recovery is on full steam.

In the bluntest language I have heard on the topic, the article, written by Kim Tae-qyu, also has this to say:
Another downside is that the mindset may call for mere conformity while intruding upon innovative thinking as amply demonstrated by partisan regionalism. In other words, herd mentality may choke innovation.
The nation's partisan regionalism, basically the long-lasting conflicts between Gyeongsang and Jeolla provinces, has been improving over the past few decades.
However, such antagonism has still sprouted up during national elections. [... T]he only factor that counts is which party supports the candidate.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Of Folklips and Chine

The first grade is in the midst of a unit on food, and at the end of this week's lesson, they get to spend fifteen minutes drawing (and labeling) their favorite Western-style meal. Here are a few pictures:

This leads me to a humorous moment that exemplifies how the Korean tongue makes learning English (and other languages) so difficult. Koreans exhibit considerable confusion over the 'l' sound and the 'r' sound; similarly the 'b' vs. the 'p' vs the'f' vs. the 'v'. Just as I have difficulty with ㅗ, ㅓ and ㅏ.

I am looking at student drawings, reading their labels, and one kid has called the lump of meat on his plate folklips. Read that again. Folklips. There was a time not so long ago when I would have been totally flummoxed. Oh, I would have known he didn't actually mean the labial organs of fellow humans, but I wouldn't have known where to go from there. Now, of course, it's patently obvious to me:
Folklips=Pork ribs

Speaking of pork, I went with my new friend Chris to a restaurant near the Gangseo Saggori where he introduced me to something called 가브리살 gabeurisal:

It is a cut of pork from near the shoulderblade end of the loin, just above the backbone, cf. chine. It is similar to samgyupsal, but much leaner and cut thicker; sweet, tender and delicious. 6,000 W a serving, with lettuce, sesame leaves, samjang and all the panchan, really outstanding!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Street Scenes VIII

Yes, that's a street vendor selling mixed drinks with full alcohol content. This city never ceases to amaze.

I caught that image on Sunday when I went to the Lock Museum. Turns out, this area beside Hyehwa station (Line 4) and Marronnier Park has quite an active nightlife, with live theatre, music and restaurants in abundance.

I decided to eat at this last restaurant below, Hobnob, because it was well-set-up for outdoor dining. The pizza was fair--the toppings were great but the crust just wasn't crispy. I should have gotten something off the (outdoor) grill, because what I saw of that looked and smelled great.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Lock Museum at Hyehwa

Sunday was not a great day to sit in the park, but I wanted to get out of the house, so I decided to visit the Lock Museum on a whim. It is located near Marronnier Park out Exit 2 of Hyewha station on Line 4.

The architecture of the building is really cool, with a neat courtyard/stairwell arrangement:

The Lock Museum is on 4F, and cost 3000 W to enter. It is not well-lit for photography but it does have a great many locks, latches, bolts and hinges from Korea and all over the world.

Above, part of the collection of ㄷ-shaped locks, mostly used in Jeolla province.

These are gate-latches, used to keep gates between sections of a house closed, but not locked.

Some animal-shaped locks from Korea. It was believed that fashioning the locks like the animals would invoke the talismanic power of the animal, both to ensure the safety of their property and to garner the particular blessings the animal's spirit was noted for. The turtle, for instance, symbolizes good fortune and longevity.

A nice lotus-shaped lock and below it, a few locks and latches from Africa.

A pair of locks from eighteenth century Nepal.

This is the workshop of a metal craftsman, designated "Important Intangible Cultural Properties No. 64", although it looks pretty tangible to me.

Finally, below is a letter from a museum curator in Germany who writes about how the architecture of the building and the collection of the museum impressed him so. He includes as a gift, a key made in his great-grandfather's workshop for the house in which he now lives.