Wednesday, 31 December 2014


After a rushed and confusing first trip to Costco, several hours of late-night dough preparation, and an early start, I found myself somehow sitting bleary-eyed and only half awake on the subway. Presumably Nick just guided me the entire way as I clutched my unnecessarily large bowl of dough still rising, and a heavy bag of the most blueberries and cream cheese I've ever owned.

We finally arrived at the Global English House, cold and only slightly more awake, and stumbled up the stairs to friendly faces and the best kitchen smells a weary traveller can experience.

Embellishment aside, there was a vat of mulled cider heating on the stove, filled with oranges, cinnamon, and a variety of other things filling the room with seasonal smells. Combined with an array of baked and baking things and the soft daylight that seems to always fill the kitchen, it really does feel like we've left Korea entirely.

I know I've always said that I don't really like Christmas, but I've never been shy to declare my love of Christmas food. Theoretically we were here to celebrate Thanksgiving, but it definitely felt like Christmas to me.

The Macy's Day Parade was rewound and played for us to experience the full impact of the event, and I got to work with my dough while we marvelled at the TV. It was...strange.

Affixed to the wall was Erin's military precision planning for each dish, and I started to roll the dough with the largest vodka bottle I've ever seen.

Braid assembled, 3 different pans of stuffing ready to go, and all manner of autumn vegetables sliced, diced, boiled and prepared and ready to eat. My braid went in the oven, (taking on more of a wreath shape due to my poor planning) and we started to move all of the food into the makeshift dining room downstairs.

Monday, 22 December 2014

Coffee and Bossam with Han and Lina

I stole this photo from 이민정 ^^;

A little while ago, Nick and I met up with some of our EPIK orientation co-ordinators for some dinner and a chat. We went to a bossam place in Hongdae and had a really great time! 

I'm always happy when I can talk freely to people without awkward pauses, and meeting and talking to many Koreans is a big priority of mine here. I can talk to Westerners all I want back home and even in my apartment, but there's so much to hear and learn from people in Korea that's just so much nicer than reading it all in a book. There's opinions and stories there you'd never read otherwise.

What's the point in living abroad if you don't interact with the locals?

After eating, our conversation was mid-flow so we went to a nearby coffee shop which was incredibly adorable and seemed to know what they were talking about. All kinds of mysterious roasts, blends, and coffee making devices could be seen.

It reminded me a lot of the cute, hipster places I love visiting at home. As it was fairly late, the cafe was quiet and service was very fast.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

A Month in Photos: November

Donghyun's Birthday ^^~
November was pretty hectic, and aside from all the things I already blogged about or still have queued up, we do a lot each week that I often think doesn't warrant a full post, but it's nice to share my pictures and experiences. So here's November in photo format, with a few annotations along the way.

Payday I decided to treat myself a little and bought a handful of Copic markers. I've been wanting some for years now, but was always scared to pay that much money to find that I'm awful with them and there was no point. But I've been working away with the Promarkers now, and wasn't doing too badly so I splurged and haven't regretted it.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Seoul Food | 보쌈 Bossam

Preparation!  준비하다
It's a very poorly-kept secret that Nick's favourite food is bossam. It's a slow-cooked pork that you usually eat by wrapping it in a lettuce leaf (쌈) with a bit of that really great sauce I'm always banging on about (쌈장) and maybe some garlic and rice or kimchi or whatever you want really.

It's kind of similar in taste to Filipino sinigang, with a texture similar to pulled pork (pre-pulling), but it can also be a little expensive so we thought why not try cooking it ourselves, seeing as it's so easy to do?

I used a combination of recipes as well as advice from Korean friends, and ended up using:

- 1 onion
- 4 cloves of garlic
- a sizable chunk of belly pork (maybe 300g?)
- a pinky-sized chunk of garlic (basically what I had left from another recipe), chopped finely
- 2 bayleaves
- a sprinkling of peppercorns
- enough water to cover it all
- half a bottle of soju

That last ingredient, soju (Korean rice wine, about 12%) is very important and the aspect most impressed on me by all my sources. Basically, when you boil pork for that stinks. Like, really bad. So, in Korea they add soju which for some reason kills the smell. I'm not sure of the science behind it, but it works and the alcohol cooks off. Due to soju being pretty flavourless (it's like a milder-tasting vodka) there's no flavour left on the meat either!

I suppose you could use white wine (or possibly 'cheap' vodka, which isn't as cheap or nice as soju) and I also saw suggestions stating that a spoonful or two of instant coffee will also do the trick just fine.)

Then, pretty much, you put the slab/s of meat into your boiling water, bring it back to the boil for about 10-20 mins, then turn the heat right down to just about a simmer. Then you leave it. Maybe stir it occasionally, but generally just leave it for about 40 mins to an hour.

So far, I've got the texture down pretty much spot on, but the flavour is lacking and I'm assuming that's just down to experimentation. I tried again a second time and used less water than before, and adding more salt and garlic and it was a lot better. But still not as good as what we've had!

Here's to more experiments in the future :p

Aw yeee

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Pepero Day

Collective Pepero haul from students and each other
Technically the 14th of every month in Korea is a little commercialised 'love'-based holiday. From January's Diary Day where you buy a diary for your loved ones to use in the new year, to the more well-known and largely-celebrated Valentines Day and White Day in February and March.

My favourite is 'Black Day', generally the antithesis of White Day where singletons wear all black and eat 'black' foods to mourn their suffering love lives after 2 months of loved-up celebrations.

November 14th's 'day' is supposedly for movies, but I'd guess that it's generally overshadowed by Pepero Day which occurs on the 11th.

The story goes that on November 11th a group of middle school girls exchanged boxes of Pepero to encourage each other to grow tall and slender. Other people say that it's just because the date (11/11) looks like Pepero sticks.

Text: Happy Pepero Day!
Either way, it's very popular (well done, marketing team) especially with younger people, and the stores were piled high with intricately-arranged boxes of the stuff days or possibly even weeks in advance.

I wasn't really expecting to get anything aside from jokingly trading a box with Nick, but we both ended up with a few at school!

It's cute and silly and I love it even though it is just a big manufactured day to make money. As long as I'm getting tasty snacks out of it, who am I to argue? :p

Friday, 28 November 2014

A Month in Photos: October

Always reward yourself with macarons.
For those that don't follow me on Instagram, you may have been unaware that I took part in the FMS Photo A Day challenge. For those who don't know what that is (I'm assuming most of you) it's where you take a photo for each day of the month, with each day having its own prompt to shape your photo taking.

It's nothing official or special, but I kind of wanted to share it because I've never managed to complete a 30-day challenge before, and I feel like a took a lot of photos that I'm proud of, so I want to share them here.

1: A is for Aladdin Leggings
2: B is for '발리'. Hurry hurry.
3: C is for camera.
4: D is for Daelim Museum
5: E is for Everland

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Actual and Post-Birthday Treats

So, to continue my boastful tirade of "look how wonderful my birthday was!", I'm writing this post. When I got home, after keeping things pretty secret (I didn't want much of a fuss) Nick presented me with a surprise birthday cake which was all kinds of airy cream and chocolate.

The strawberries on top were a sweet bonus, because I'd been growing a little strawberry plant for the past few weeks, and after finally getting it to sprout by placing it in the vanished.

Either my Korean is terrible or nobody reads notes asking you to please kindly not steal my tiny little strawberry that could stand on a 50p piece. But either way, I was a little devastated and Nick convinced me it'd gone to bulk up and become part of my birthday celebrations. Dark.

Birthday cakes are pretty easy to find here for very reasonable prices and they're all far superior to the dry, cloying things you tend to pick up in supermarkets back home. They also have the added bonus of coming with candles, matches, and a little knife so you can celebrate anywhere and everywhere. Super cute.

We also joined Ziggy for samgyeopsal in the gogijip (it's literally called "Bupyeong Meat House") behind our apartment and found out that it's not only a great price but also really delicious! After gorging ourselves on pork and beef, we went to get some bubble tea and generally hang out for fun times. Thank you to you both~

Sunday, 23 November 2014

부산 | Busan (Part 3)

One more shot of that fantastic wallpaper.
Final post for Busan! After the fireworks show, we had the majority of a day to do whatever we wanted, so we took a trip to Haedong Yonggungsa (해동 용궁사) which is an old Buddhist temple by the sea.

We took the subway to a place where we could hop onto a bus that would take us to the temple. Unfortunately, it was a weekend and the temple is a pretty big tourist trap, so the bus was packed.

A flattering attempt at showing you how full this bus is. Hi Erin.
By 'full' I mean most people were standing ear to elbow, with more people being squeezed on at every consecutive stop. After a while, you couldn't get on at the front so the driver began letting people in through the exit door. Nobody was getting off, because we were all going to the same place, save for one poor person who had the joy of grabbing a seat early on...but then had to try and squeeze through the press in order to get off.

I can tell you, we went round a reasonably tight corner and I'm amazed we didn't capsize.

We arrived safely, and after a slightly harrowing walk up a hill that for most other people was reasonably easy, we arrived at a sort of bustling marketplace crammed amongst some trees. There were people shouting and waving things in every direction, as well as traffic wardens, tourists, as well as the omnipresent pushy ajummas.

We didn't have all the time in the world to hang about shopping for trinkets, but we did pause to appreciate the 12 anthropomorphic statues of the animals of the zodiac, all lined up in various kinds of hanbok and armour. There were also a couple of skittish, grumpy cats lurking about, presumably disgruntled at their lack of representation in the astronomical committee of pseudo-deistic animals. (Try saying that 5 times fast)

Much to our amusement there was also this incredible shrine to "traffic safety"
We joined a worryingly long queue for the entrance and admired the little worship shrines dotted here and there for rather specific purposes such as "giving birth to a boy" and "exceptional results in school exams" while we waited.

Friday, 21 November 2014

부산 | Busan (Part 2)

Picking the best spot on the roof.
So in the last post I left off with us freshening up and having naps before the main event. Cool? Cool.

First of all, I'd like to share with you the slightly-creepy, incredibly-amazing joy that is a little Korean hotel/hostel/motel:

That wallpaper, man.
It looks like they went to various DIY stores, grabbed as many samples as they could, and went to town. Every wall, ceiling, and room are dressed up like this. It's so good. Apparently quite a lot of older Korean hotels are like this.

We went to find a place to eat, and the seafront was already heaving several hours before the show was due to start. Police cordoned off the pavement but people were still spilling out onto the road (which, for the most part, seemed to be closed off) to dart in and out of the stores and visit street food vendors that were dotted all the way along the beach.

We managed to find a place that seemed to specialise in tea and bingsu which sounded great, considering it was unusually warm. I think it was a chain store but it really felt quite homely, and the huge concertina windows had been thrown open to let in the breeze. Most of the chairs and tables were arranged around this window so we could sit and people-watch comfortably.

5 berry bingsu and an apricot tea that tasted kind of alcoholic.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

부산 | Busan (Part 1)

Above: A beautiful sight from the Mysteron Display Team.

Towards the end of October, Nick and I went on a trip to another part of South Korea, something we haven't done so far other than visiting Gangwha and Seoul.

We went to Busan with Erin and Morgan, by way of a WINK (When IN Korea) tour, which involved catching a bus at about 9pm on a Friday straight after school and driving overnight. The map at the top is what I sent to Sammy when we were paused in Daejeon, already a few hours into our journey.

Aside from my usual travel problems (most legs suffer on a long coach ride, let alone my lanky limbs) the ride went smoothly enough. We did have a worrying moment where we were pulled over by a police car, which it turns out was for something like going a bit too fast in the bus lane. There was also the time when we pulled away from a service station and had a phone call from someone wondering where the coach was. At 2am. In the middle of nowhere. Terrifying for them, but really weird considering we saw two different people do a headcount and they'd had a seating partner! Look out for your bros, even if they are a stranger! Who knows what would have happened if she hadn't had a phone.

Anyway, we arrived unscathed at about 5am, and while some people went into a hostel to sleep for a few hours we roughed it on the beach, enjoying the fact that we could actually see STARS for the first time in about 5 months. The main bridge was all lit up and there were some interesting things going on in preparation for the big fireworks display later that evening (which is what we'd travelled down to see), so we watched that for a while and got excited for the main event.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Pre-Birthday Treats

In the ongoing series that is "My Birthday Celebrations", I will tell you about the weekend beforehand, where we went out for Korean BBQ (understandably the best thing ever and so my favourite thing to eat in Korea)

Nick and I went with Erin and Morgan and we basically had a bit of a food adventure around Hongdae. After a rather large amount of BBQ, and possibly the best I've had so far at this point in time, we headed off in search of something sweet. We grabbed some fruit Mochi, which I failed to take a photo of because we were too busy devouring it, but it was so soft and velvety and the filling of a chunk of fruit was far preferable to the usual red bean paste.

Then we decided to get something to drink, whereupon we were introduced to O'sulloc, the land of tea, tea and more tea. Everything is tea and nothing hurts.

I ordered a rather exotic sounding Tangerine tea that I think used various ingredients from the lush mystery island of Jeju. (I say mystery because I know barely anything about it other than it has Olles and it's very gorgeous)

The waitress placed the little lid on top, saying "Wait. 3 minutes. Enjoy happily."
And enjoy happily I did! It was great tea, with wonderful presentation, and a couple of little biscuits on the side that I am fairly sure were flavoured with tea. They might even have been traditional Korean tea biscuits in a bundle similar to that of the tea set we bought at the guesthouse in Fukuoka. They certainly go with herbal teas a lot better than a Rich Tea ;p

We also grabbed some (second) dessert. Nick had the Green Tea tiramisu on the left, and I had the monstrosity on the right. I'm pretty sure it was just called "roll cake" and there were a lot of interesting-sounding flavours but of course I had to go for the one that was simply named "black".

It looked like a car tyre full of ectoplasm, and when I tasted it...I was confused. The texture was really nice, but very different to what I was expecting. The green tea filling was just as expected, just the right amount of bitterness, but I couldn't work out what "black" was.

Turns out it was just very dark chocolate, hahaha. It was great!

We also got a little art card with each of our orders and I'll definitely be back for more tea!

Friday, 14 November 2014

The Strongest Man in Incheon

So, after Orientation week, we ended up hanging out with some of the people we'd met, and made the most of the fact that we had the majority of a Friday off of school. (For me, that meant going to the bank and finally replacing my lost bank card, oops.)

We decided to go to Wolmi and take in the cool sea breeze and go on some rides. But of course, forgetting that we are cursed so that any time we do this the rain is heavier than any other time of the week, month or year.

Needless to say, we ended up totally soaked to the skin, and totally unprepared. Cue all the 아줌마 and 아저씨 shaking their heads and laughing at the crazy foreigners.

I'm doing a rain dance to beg the weather gods to JAM THEIR HYPE
We realised that we're like the BBC's dream team for a minority representation sitcom.

Twist potatoes and fried-things-on-sticks galore! I know it seems like I eat nothing but junk food, but I assure you... you're, uh, probably right. Haha.

(You're not right, thank you very much. But healthy food is far less interesting to blog about ;p)

We went on the Viking whereupon a Korean man shouted at us through the tannoy and laughed at our horrified screams, I can only assume if he was asking when we wanted to die and "AAAAAGH!" in Korean means "Higher and faster, please!!"

I don't know if the ride was made better or worse by the fact we were the only people on board, haha.

We wandered on into the arcade and played all sorts of games, mainly Tekken whereupon I whupped a lot of butts, and one of those strength-test games. This is where the weird title of this blog post comes from, by the way. Our friend Justin managed to get the high score, as well as 2nd and 3rd, so he was duly dubbed "The Strongest Man in Incheon". For the record, I briefly held 3rd position.

Upon reflection, we're really bad at selfies.
Party at our place!

Monday, 10 November 2014

EPIK Orientation

Timeframe context: Late September.
So this is a story all about how our lives got flip-turned upside-down, because we had about 3 days notice that the orientation week we'd been told we wouldn't have to attend was now happening and mandatory.

I'll be honest, we were pretty stressed, and annoyed. A week or two advanced notice would have been nice. I had my Open Class that week, and Nick was meant to be helping out with his school's sports day, so we were both pretty bummed (and I was scared I'd have to replan my class that I'd been working on for months now.)

Not to mention sharing a dorm when we have our own comfy apartment 45 mins away.
Not to mention orientation is meant to be for newbies. We'd been in Korea for 5 months, we didn't need to learn what a Korean school is like, and how to say "annyeong haseyo".

Not to mention we weren't in the mood to end up as glorified mentors to all the other inevitable newbies that would want to know everything about anything.

Bitterness and sulking aside, we went along, signed in, and...ended up having quite a bit of fun by going to lunch with Nick's roommate and one of their next-door neigbours. We found out they'd been here a while too (first clue).

Photo of some great people. And me. ;p
It turned out that, actually, a lot of the people there had been here at least a month (which made sense, considering the new intake had arrived at least a month or so prior) and the lectures we went to were at the very least vaguely aware of this and adjusted their talks to accommodate for us. Mood lifting.

Dongdaemun at night!
The first night we ended up with a few hours spare in the evening so we went for a walk with some actual newbies, who were very fun to talk to and I hope we managed to get them realistically excited for the coming year, haha.

We sat and talked for quite a few hours before heading back and preparing for the next day.
Did I mention I lucked out with my roommate? Yessss.
Did I mention the showers were very...Korean? Noooooo.

We were in a government dorm building, which was a bit old and...not mosquito-proof, but hey free accomms. The only problem really is that I forgot to pack a towel and Korean towels are...hand-sized. Not great for making a dash to the bathroom. So I would end up getting undressed IN the shower and hanging them strategically.

blogger template by lovebird