Friday, December 31, 2010

Sending off 2010

I recently got a new haircut. Instead of going to my regular stylist, I lugged my lazy derriere to the neighborhood salon (which is 7 minutes away) and surrendered my hair to the no-nonsense-efficient-as-heck ajumma whose scissors snipped snipped snipped in a blur of metallic color. I wound up with a very proper middle school student bowl cut. The haircut isn't bad at all, it's just that seeing my old(er) face underneath that style of youth is somewhat disconcerting. It'll grow out. It's only hair.

Another year is gone. I worked hard and played hard but could've done more serious thinking, read more books, been more compassionate, exercise a bit more. Things left to do for the following year.

I've been very fortunate in many aspects of my life. I'm especiallly fortunate in the people who surround me. Family and friends who tolerate my neurotic extrovert type A personality - they are the ones who help me live my life to the fullest, however sappy that may sound.

Several of my wino friends met up for a 2010 goodbye gathering. We congregated at Doma's. Gina cooked the meal, MJ arranged and set up the whole thing, SH brought wine and gifts, I provided dessert.

And the champagne is chilling.

Gina's made-from-scratch olive pomponette was excellent.
Store bought tuna cubes (from Dongwon) were interesting, perfect canape size.
Oysters on the shell. In Korean, to differentiate them from shucked oysters, they're called 'seokhwa' (석화), literally meaning 'stone flowers'.

"Hamburg steak" under sunnyside eggs and garlic chips.

A "mess" of potatoes and cabbage - Gina's homey dish.

We had several bottles of wine that night.

Dry apple pie, peppermint and chocolate pie, vanilla ice cream,
mini peppermint and lemon meringues.

It's the year of the rabbit next year.
I had brought along a tiny bunny to photograph.
(Originally a cell phone accessory. Cut off the strap, made a cap to hide the fastener.)
Doma gave us plush bunnies that double as speakers when connected to a MP3 player.


May the new year bring you all the happiness and joy and growth to make life meaningful.
See you next year.

Friday, December 24, 2010

And so it's Christmas

Christmas tree lights at Shinsegae Department Store (Gangnam)

Aaargh! So when did this happen? It's already Christmas?
I'm in panic mode. It's because by the time the holidays roll around, I finally realize that the year is nearly over and I have to look back at my doings (and undoings) for the past year and start serious evaluation, which is something for which I'm truly not in the mood. Year's end is party time! I don't want to be all pensive and sober, so I'm procrastinating the contemplation bit for a teeny bit longer to take advantage of the festive atmosphere.

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays, wherever in the world you may be.

Genius kid guitarist Jung Sung Ha plays for you:

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Curry, anyone? - Asia Asia in Ilsan

Spicy veggie curry with nan

Rule of thumb about curry in Korea: if it's pronounced 'kah-reh', it's the Japanese style curry we're talking about; if it's pronounced 'kuh-rhee', it's the Indian style. I went for some 'kuh-rhee' at Asia Asia, an "authentic" Indian curry place at the Western Dom in Ilsan.

Gum-achingly sweet plain lassi. There are fruit varieties as well, but I prefer the plain.

Tandoori chicken with spicy sauce and side salad. The chicken, despite being well seasoned, was a bit overcooked and dry. Boo.

The curry. Ample portion for two. I wanted to pour it over pasta, rice, noodles, everything. Made up for the weak chicken.

I really liked the interior. Although not truly Indian, the layout was a well thought out mix of everything South Asian, or with the ambiance of South Asia. Lighting was soft, the music not too loud, no annoying scents that clash with the food (some restaurants have scented candles or burn incense, which I think is nuts), and thankfully the noise from the clients didn't resonate above a certain volume within the space.

Oddly, there was a huge widescreen on one of the walls - when I went Toy Story 3 was playing silently and kept the kids on the other side rather quiet. Not sure what the exact purpose of it is, but if it'll keep kids still in their seats, I'm all for it.

Asia Asia is on the second floor of the Belle Zone of Western Dom, store number I-206 .
We went without reservations and found places in the hall, but for a large party (6 or more) reserve the rooms.

Western Dom is a short walk from Madu Station or Jeongbalsan Station (both line 3) - head towards the MBC Dream Center, or take a bus (check out the list at the bottom of the page for the MBC Dream Center) and get off at Ilsan-donggucheong (일산동구청).

Saturday, December 18, 2010

20 years of emotion - ballad king Shin Seung Hun

Photo from Mnet

Year's end, the holidays, 'tis the season to be jolly and attend the slew of Christmas and New Year's concerts that pepper December. Although I'd like to join the enthusiastic crowd, the thought of going to and coming from the concert is very dissuading; total traffic chaos descends upon Seoul d and unless you're prepared to curse like mad while driving or curse like mad while trying to catch a cab or curse like mad while waiting to enter the jam-packed metro station or just simply spend the whole night out till morning - home is the best place to be.

Lucky for me, my favorite crooner of the '90s, Shin Seung Hun, started off his 20th anniversary tour in November and I was able to snag tickets. His Christmas show is at the COEX but the first show was held at Ilsan's Aramnuri Concert Hall, which is a more intimate setting. Perfect for Shin's style.

Shin is probably most famous abroad for having sung the theme song for the 2001 film "My Sassy Girl", but he was already known as the "ballad king" since the '90s. As I've mentioned in a previous post, K-pop wasn't always saturated with autotuned-to-the-max idol groups as it is now, there was a lot more serious singing and being a talented singer songwriter, Shin was the cream of the crop.

It's been 20 years since his debut and a commemorative album was released. Although they may be less sophisticated to the ear, I prefer his original versions:

"Your reflection in a smile", my favorite ballad

"Like the first time", a faster number

"Romeo & Juliet", the one that makes you want to happy dance

His concerts are always entertaining and his energy addictive. The zealous enthusiasm of his longtime loyal fans add to the ambiance (I realized how NOT a hardcore fan I was) and time just flies. The concert lasted for three and a half hours. (And Shin is in his mid 40s!)

Taking photos are prohibited during the concert but okay for curtain call; he took his time thanking the fans.

There is always a photozone outside the concert hall. I took a photo of the people taking photos.

Besides the Christmas shows, Shin plans to tour nationwide all next year so there's plenty of time to catch his concert. I went to the very first show where there were a couple of technical glitches so I'll probably take in another one in the spring.

Check him out :

Sunday, December 5, 2010

On a cold winter's night - Cheongjinok

It's cold, you need something hot, and if it's nourishing to boot? You go for soup.

Cheongjinok is a 70+ year old eatery, famous for its haejangguk. The old place was demolished due to city renovation in 2008 and the new place is in a modern building. Although the old charm is somewhat lost, the taste is the same.

It's not one of those fancy-schmancy restaurants, it's one of those I-came-here-to-eat-a-hearty-and-tasty-meal shikdangs. I love those places, feels like you are at your aunt's place; plop down in a seat, eat and enjoy.

What's on the menu: the aforementioned haejangguk (hangover soup), anjuguk (soup to be eaten with alcoholic beverages), suyuk (boiled beef slices), bindaetteok (mung bean pancake), various jeon, donggeurang-ttaeng (small beef and veggie patty, pan-fried) and the regular Korean alcohol selection of soju, beer, rice wine, baekseju, and bokbunjaju (black raspberry wine). They also provide take-out packages.

Water, cups, napkins and eating utensils are set and ready on the table. Seasonings of pepper, sea salt, red pepper paste and a soy based tasting sauce are also there.

The sole reason I go to Cheongjinok is for their haejang-guk. It arrives steaming hot.

The hot soup contains a variety of innards, congealed ox blood, bean sprouts, and Napa cabbage leaves in a deep flavored, doenjang based beef broth. Although the official name is haejangguk, i.e. hangover soup, I rarely eat it when I actually have a hangover. I just like the taste. Plus, the ingredients of the soup are full of iron, which is good for anemics like me.
The soup is served with rice and kimchi and is available in two sizes - regular and special (=big). I might be skinny as heck but I can down a special with no problem.

Cheongjinok (청진옥)
Situated at Le Meilleur Jongrotown (르메이에르 종로타운) building, on the far left side (facing it)
Subway : Line 1, Jonggak station exit #1, walk straight towards Gwanghwamun direction or Line 5, Gwanghwamun station exit #4, walk towards Jongro direction
Tel: 02-735-1690 (No reservations needed)