Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Naengmyeon - Hamheung style

Hamheung, the second largest city in North Korea, is the other city famous for the cold noodle dish naengmyeon. (The other being Pyongyang, whose naengmyeon style I've posted about before.) Although naengmyeon comes in both bibim (mixed) and mul ("water") styles in both cities, the Hamheung is known for the former and Pyongyang for the latter.

Pyongyang naengmyeon noodles are made from buckwheat. Hamheung naengmyeon noodles are made of potato or sweet potato starch, which make them especially chewy and rubbery. Servers at restaurants will usually snip the noodles with kitchen shears at the table, unless you have a perverse delight in trying to consume a neverending tangle of noodles in one go. I've discovered that most people's preference for one style over the other usually depends on the texture of the noodles.

I usually order the mul naengmyeon over the bibim in whatever city style. I'm a soup person. But since bibim naengmyeon is Hamheung's original, I went for the bibim this time.

The naengmyeon is composed of noodles, half of a boiled egg, sliced cucumbers and Korean pears, and slices of spicy hongeohweh (홍어회, pickled raw skate fish), all mixed together in a spicy gochujang sauce. Hamheung style bibim naengmyeon is sometimes called hweh (raw fish) naengmyeon for this reason.

Sliced pickled mu as a side dish, and if the spiciness isn't enough for you, you can add hot mustard to up the tongue-burn factor. (Korean mustard isn't like the western mustard; think of it as a yellow wasabi.)
Bibim naengmyeon is generally served with a cup of hot soup broth. Some restaurants might serve myeonsu (면수, noodle water), the water in which the noodles were boiled in, which is rich in the slightly nutty roasted flavor of the noodles. The restaurant I went to served broth. (See top photo.)

The restaurant I went to was one of those generic naengmyeon places that you'd see in any commercial district; nothing remarkable. But as with Pyongyang naengmyeon, it's better to go to a restaurant that serves naengmyeon as its main dish, instead of one that just happens to have naengmyeon on their menu.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Listen to the rain

Before the thunder and lightning went into full-on party mode, I ventured to go out because I was all out of veggies. I had initially wanted to sing "Bohemian Rhapsody" (very badly) while shooting but an alarming number of people were around so I chickened out.

P.S. What my apartment complex looks like.

P.P.S. Uber-short, because the rain started pounding sideways and I was getting all wet; uber-shaky, because I was trying to avoid puddles while walking.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Skillful procrastination

I have been listening to this song all day, the opening lyrics running through my head over and over, most likely because of a final deadline this week. I'm not freaking out over it, though. One thing I like about being old(er) is that I don't go maniacal stressed-out control-freak batshit crazy as much as I used to. (Hey, I'm blogging in the midst of this - proof enough.)

As the song looped on endless replay, I wondered: are there moments in life, are there moments in my life that I want to replay?

Still thinking about that one. Thankfully, it doesn't need an urgent answer, like most of the pondering I tend to do.

One more song:

Epik High

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Summer nights, ordinary moments

Crossing the Dongjak Bridge, Seoul Metro Line 4

With the exception of horrific sardine-can rush hours, I generally like public transportation. Instead of listening to really loud music through car speakers (which I usually do while driving), I like to eavesdrop on other peoples' conversations, try to guess what song a person is listening to by the fractions of noise and beat that escape their headphones, count the number of people who are wearing black shoes sitting in the opposite row, laugh along with the crowd to the radio program the bus driver has on, look at peoples' faces and imagine their lives and histories.

I also like filming those ordinary rides. Catching moments that just are. Enjoying the juxtaposition of all the reflections and overlaying images from windows and city lights and the camera lens. Fleeting moments that can mean absolutely nothing; moments that make up for much of our everyday life. Grainy footage, scratchy audio, it doesn't matter.

Perhaps I'm in a melancholy mood. This summer is going by far too quickly.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Seonyudo Park - bits of nature with lots of flowers

Before the summer heat descended upon the peninsula, I took a trip to Seonyudo Park on a cloudy day. Seonyudo Park is an island on the Han River; it used to be the site for water purification plants but was closed down in 2000, and Seoul city renovated the island into an ecological park and reopened the area in 2002.

The entryway from the bus stop is on a low slope.

Entry. Being a public park, there is no entrance fee. They control the number of visitors so the park won't groan and moan from overpopulation. It was a weekday when I went (the perks of freelancing) so I was number 242. Weekends are obviously more crowded.

Things you shouldn't do in the park. The hefty fines were actually listed on this sign, the most serious offenses being: damaging and hurting trees; camping, cooking, building fires; cultivating the land for farming (this made me laugh, it's so Korean - people would farm on any open land possible); hurting or hunting the wildlife that lives on the island.

Of course, smoking is prohibited.

Tall young trees create a sound barrier against the city hum.
Thicker foliage would come with age.
Paths to walk on hand in hand.

A particular characteristic about Korean parks, most of the time you're not allowed to step on the grass. I've been told by botany experts that it's because the type of grass that is grown here is different from that in America or Europe, it's so fragile that it dies very easily. Perhaps the foreign types don't grow well on the soil but it's such a pity that you can't just plop yourself down on the lawn somewhere.

Apparently in Seonyudo the grass is let open periodically; this sign declares that it is currently the "rest period".

There's a deck on the west side of the park, where you can overlook the Han River.

The opposite side of the deck with the footbridge, seen from afar. And a clip of my trying to explain this side, quite badly.

There's also a pavilion to lounge and natter on, if you can manage to find space among all the halmonis (grandmas) and harabeojis (grandpas) who are holding court.

There's a cafe which I didn't bother to go into because I found the prices a bit high. (Maybe worth shilling out if you're on a date in the evening.) I was content to sit on a bench with my vending machine drink and some gimbap.

The park is in divisions, this is the flower gardens with daffodils in the forefront. I know that there must be Korean poetry with daffodils as its theme, but I can't help but think of Wordsworth every time I see them.

I took pictures of my Blythe amongst them. (More pics at my doll blog.)

Across the daffodils are water lilies. Many many water lilies.

The gardens are surrounded by walkways and steps.

There are a variety of flowers in all corners of the park.

A small playground and amphitheater are in the middle of the park; great places to play for frogs and kids. (More Wanda Frog pics)

Seonyudo Park (선유도 공원)
Metro line 9, Seonyudo station exit #2 (have to walk a bit, I recommend buses)

Bus lines that stop in front of park gate
From metro line 2 Dangsan station exit #1 : 760, 5714
From metro line 9 Dangsan station exit #13 : 5714
From metro line 2 & 6 Hapjeong station exit #9 : 5714, 7612, 760, 630

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