Thursday, January 31, 2013

Seoul 11.12 - trying to find Hoehyeon underground shopping center

After Namdaemun Market and yummy food and treats, John and I were ready to go and find a few shops at the Hoehyeon underground shopping area.

Hoehyeon underground shopping area is not a super fancy or huge shopping paradise, but I had read about a couple shops that I really wanted to check out for some Korean skincare products and possible luggage options for later.

From what I read, I knew I had to find Shinsegae Department Store first and then one of the entrances to the Hoehyeon Underground Shopping Center would be in sight.

But of course we got lost, but then we saw these people:

They were wonderful guides who helped visitors and tourists find their way! You could also find them near other major attractions in Seoul. Most of them speak English and some of them even speak multiple languages!

So we got to where we thought we were going, but couldn't find the shops that I was looking for. A gentleman saw that we were lost (and we probably looked like it,) and came by to help. At first he talked Korean to me, but soon realized I couldn't understand much of anything he said, so he started using some English words. We told him we were looking for a couple shops inside the Hoehyeon Underground Shopping Center, and he told us we were actually inside the Namdaemun Undergrond Shopping Center.


He tried to tell me how to get to where I wanted to go, and after a little while he said, "follow me!"

And we did.

We then learned he was a guard at the Namdaemun Underground Shopping Center. He was so patient and kind to us, and pulled out a big book/zine that showed detailed maps of major areas in Seoul and pointed to us the map we needed, and explained again where we should go.

He then sent us on our way, and gave us the big book so we could refer to it wherever we went in Seoul! That was so kind and sweet of him!

We did find the entrance to the Hoehyeong Underground Shopping Center and the shops I wanted to visit very soon after that.

The warmth and hospitality these wonderful people (and more others we met later on during our trip) showed us were one of the biggest reasons I loved our trip to Seoul.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Seoul 11.12 - Namdaemun black sugar pastry

Now I remember why John and I couldn't finish our ham hock lunch in Namdaemun. Prior to getting to the restaurant we shared a black sugar pastry. It was so delicious!

it was at this stand.

We were first attracted to the stand because of the sweet aromatics in the air, and there were quite a few people standing near by the stand.

These guys serve the traditional black sugar pastries, as well as fried street foods that people love, such as big corn dogs (!) and french fries on a stick (!) 

The guys made little dough balls with a cinnamon-brown sugar mixture rolled in the dough. They then fried the pastries on a griddle, pressed the balls down with a round-iron-tool. The pastries were done when both sides were golden brown. 

Oh my goodness. This sounded so simple and so delicious!

When we decided to get one, we told the guy who's frying the pastries and he picked up a fresh one off the griddle, placed it in a paper cup (!) and handed it to us. 

The outside of the pastry was hot, slightly crispy, but soft and chewy at the same time, and the cinnamon-brown sugar mixture had been melted during the frying... the combination of the outer skin and the center were just wonderful! mmm.

I had later on seen these pastries sold at little stands in other parts of the Seoul (Dongdaemun, Myeong-Dong, etc..) If you ever visit Seoul and see these, make sure you try one. They are yummy!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Seoul 11.12 - Namdaemun ham hocks

It was just about time for lunch while John and I were browsing through Namdaemun Market. I had read about these delicious ham hocks in an old shop inside Namdaemun, so I had my mind set on having ham hocks for lunch!

The ham hock shop was located inside Namdaemun Market, off and near exit 5 of Hoehyeon Station.

When we got close to where the shop was supposed to be I realized there were two ham hock shops couple door away from each other.

Which was the one that I read about? I couldn't read Korean so I had no idea what I was looking at on the signs. Both of the shops looked fine to me.

So we ended up walking into the one that had more people in it. As I think back now I still can't remember which one we picked!

Anyhow, I don't think you could go wrong with either of these shops. It's ham hocks, baby!

We walked into the shop. It was busy, and we were seated by a small table by the door. A lady came by and started saying things. I replied in Korean that I couldn't understand Korean, so she started using both Japanese and Mandarin Chinese to talk to me. I replied in Mandarin, and it worked!

She asked what size ham hocks we wanted, and if we wanted anything else with it.

We figured we would order a small one so we would have room left to have other yummy food later on.

And then the soups and side dishes came.

The lettuce and sides were for wrapping up the ham hock pieces, or simply for eating on their own. I tried all of them and they were delicious.

And then the ham hock came. The lady told us she brought us the "smallest one."

Yes she said it was the "smallest one."

Oh my. These ham hocks and sides were yummy! The meat and skin were soft and chewy (or as us Taiwanese people say it, "QQ") and when wrapped in the lettuce with various kimchi and spicy miso (?) it was simply amazing.

John and I ate and it didn't seem to dent the pile of ham hock slices much. Remember how it was the "smallest one"? We would take the rest to go if we were heading back to the hotel right away, but since our next stop was Myeongdong, we left the slightly-dented-pile-of-slices-of-the-smallest ham hock where they were. We thank the ladies at the shop and told the lady that spoke Mandarin it was delicious. They were happy, too.

Oh boy. I think I'm craving some soft and QQ ham hocks right now!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Seoul 11.12 - Namdaemun Market

After getting my new pair of glasses, John and I walked around Namdaemun Market. Namdaemun Market is a fairly traditional market, where you can find different foods, clothing, and household items. It's not a hip or hot shopping spot for youngsters like Myeong-Dong, but it's a very "real" people's market where there are  many interesting things to see at Namdaemun Market in my opinion.

a sale on something... I'm thinking it was on winter coats.

Lots of street vendors selling fresh vegetables, kimchi, and cooked silkworm cocoons(!)

We also saw two fun guys selling soft pulled-honey-treats (with nuts.) They even threw a live candy-making show for us! We bought some honey treats with chopped almonds. Yummy.

Ladies selling fresh fruit, vegetables, and homemade treats and pickles.

We also saw quite a few people making meal deliveries where they carries the food on their head!

Mmm. Grilled rice cakes.

Toasted chestnuts!

There was more great food and snacks that I will tell you about in my next post. Namdaemun was fun!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Viet is cool

Our super awesome and talented friend chef Viet Pham beat Bobby Flay and won on Iron Chef of America!

The show was of course filmed a few months ago, and it must have been difficult for Viet not (and he couldn't) share the results with anyone until the show first aired on the Food Network Sunday night.

John and I brought pork belly sliders (with spicy pickles) to the Pham vs. Flay viewing potluck party at Naked Fish on Sunday. It was so much fun!

We watched as Viet used ground meats and created 5 dishes within an hour to impress the judges. His first dish was soft scrambled eggs topped with maple syrup, sausage, and cream, served in an egg shell, and that got him 14 out of 15 total possible points!

From then on he kept making phenomenal food and for the final dish, he made the judges dessert -- beef fat (!) ice-cream! That's right. Ice-cream made with ground beef drippings, and served with cherries cooked two ways, and topped with beef fat powder (!), cocoa, and ground beef crumble!

Oh my! I've had Viet's soft scrambled eggs and they were delicious, but ice-cream made with ground beef drippings? I've gotta have him let us try some soon!!! But then I realize Viet is a big celebrity now, and with his new projects it will probably be a while before I could taste that beef fat wonder.

Anyhow, we are all so happy for and proud of Viet! He is so deserving yet so humble. He's awesome!

at the viewing party. fuzzy version.

at the viewing party. red happy face version.

Yay for Viet!