Friday, December 31, 2010

Goodbye To The Old

Opera House HDR

2010 has been a strange year, filled with new experiences, joyous moments and terrible losses.

Thanks for reading my ramblings and looking at my photos. I'm glad that each and everyone of you have taken the time to visit my blog (even the spambots). I hope that you all leave 2010 in peace and start 2011 in health and happiness.

For my last post of 2010 I wanted to conclude the year with a photo from my August trip to Paris. The domed ceiling of the Palais Garnier Opera House. One of the most beautiful theatres I have ever visited and an opulent tribute to the performing arts.

Here's hoping 2011 is filled with beauty, love, rabbits and lucrative job opportunities (for me and for you).

My Favourite Poster of 2010

Itaewon Translation

I saw this poster at Itaewon station the other day and it wins hands down as most exciting advertising mistranslation of the year.

Itaewon Translation

It's bold, it's simple and so completely wrong in every way. I love you Itaewon Nich, even your name isn't proper English...

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Remembering Aikawa Masaki

Aikawa Masaki

This means nothing to those who don't follow Korean or Japanese theatre and dance, but a great man died today.

Designer Aikawa Masaki was a genius at lighting the stage. He was able to bring something incredible to each performance he worked on, enabling the Director's transformation of the theatre, bringing each audience member further into the world he helped create.

I had the privilege to meet him for the first time just over ten years ago and worked on a number of productions with him for YiGina Theatre and Mokwha Repertory Company. He was a jovial fellow, always happy and calm, even under intense pressure. I've seen him work with both Korean and British crews and despite not speaking either language well, he was able to communicate his wishes whenever he needed to. He was charming, kind and deeply loved by all who knew him.

The world has lost a brilliant designer today. May he rest in peace.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Street Fighter Korean Style

I made two incredible discoveries today, both involving the video game classic Street Fighter. The first was at Synnara in Yongsan, whilst raiding their bargain dvd bin I discovered this little gem:

Korean Street Fighter Cartoon

거리의 무법자 (Street Fighter) was a 1992 Korean cartoon adaptation of the game, featuring Ryu and Ken (with black hair) as a pair of snot nosed idiots who lust after Julie (based on the always popular Chun-li). They get into various japes, meet up with Blanka, Guile and Dhalsim and work together to fight off the evil M. Bison.

It's a ridiculous 50 minutes of childish cartoon antics, a curiosity of sorts for those, like me, who grew up with the Street Fighter games. You can read more about it in Korean (or English with google translate) here.

My second discovery was whilst searching for info on this Korean cartoon wonder. I stumbled across a Youtube video which, whilst only very short, gives us a taste of what the Korean live action version of Street Fighter was like:

Such style, such panache, such special effects and makeup. It's my new favourite tv programme. 거리의 무법자 사랑해요!

Not Your Standard Korean Christmas Cake

Christmas Cake

Zenkimchi may have the best rundown on Korean Christmas cakes this year, but I''m able to show you something a little different. This tiny Christmas bundle of joy was baked by my mother, brought over by my father and has been maturing for a month or so (as all good Christmas cakes should).

Christmas Cake

A dense fruitcake covered in a layer of marzipan and then a layer of fondant icing makes for a delicious way to celebrate the seasonal holidays. I have no need for ice cream cakes or fresh fruit sponges, this is the perfect cure for the wintertime blues.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas Part Two

I'm back from my eleven hours of shouting at children and I thought I'd finish off Christmas Day with my favourite song for this time of year, an atheist carol of sorts...

Hopefully next year we'll head to the UK for white wine in the freezing bloody cold...

Merry Christmas


It's Christmas Morning and I'm off to work.

Merry Christmas to you all!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Pork Chops!

Pork Chops!

A beautiful sight on Christmas Eve, skin-on bone-in pork chops, courtesy of High Street Market.

I had a few issues getting my hands on them, a slight misunderstanding and a delay of a day, but for a store that has only been open a week, it's forgivable. Plus the owner kept me up to date with phone calls, apologies and even threw in a free ribeye steak for my troubles.

It's good to know that there are still small shops out there that want to take care of their customers and I know that I'll be buying more meat from High Street Market because of theway they've treated me (plus their beef is cheaper than the local supermarket).

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Popularizing Soggy Rice

Sharing Sikhye

It takes guts to stand on a street corner and offer soggy rice to foreign passers by, so I'd like to commend the actions taken by these high school boys who braved the streets of Itaewon last month to let people know about the joys of "Sikhye" (식혜).

Sharing Sikhye

Their leader's grandmother had made up a batch of this sweet rice drink and they were doing their best to introduce this particular aspect of Korean food culture to foreign residents and visitors.

Sharing Sikhye

Their English may not have been perfect, but I commend their attempts to popularize this particular beverage. It's an acquired taste, but a good batch of 식혜 can make a great end to a good meal... though the texture of mushy rice is still a little disconcerting for me.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Monday Night Curry


Monday night is the one time of the week my wife and I actually get to sit and eat dinner together, so we normally make the most of it and cook something more extravagant. Yesterday we went for a three curry feast: Smothered lamb, vegetable curry and an experimental coconut prawn concoction...


I've already written about my version of Madhur Jaffrey's Smothered Lamb here. It's my favourite for warming myself up in these cold months, the combination of slow cooked lamb and coriander makes for a luxurious filling feast.


The coconut prawn concoction is also adapted from one of Ms. Jaffrey's recipes...

Combine the following:
One chopped tomato (peeled and cored)
The juice of half a lemon
A handful of finely chopped fresh coriander (stalks and leaves)
A finely chopped hot green chili
A teaspoon of Korean medium chili powder
Half a teaspoon of salt
Half a teaspoon of sugar
A teaspoon of garam masala
Half a teaspoon of cumin powder
Half a can of coconut milk
A little water

Stir it all together then fry off a teaspoon of mustard seeds and three crushed cloves of garlic in some oil, then add the coconutty mess to the pan.

Leave to reduce to whatever consistency you prefer, then fry as many prawns as you like in a little oil, add them to the sauce and you're pretty much done. Throw in a handful of chopped spinach and allow to wilt. Serve.


Fortunately my wife is a dab hand at making chappatis. We've been experimenting with flour combinations and last night we tried a mix of buckwheat, wholemeal and plain flour. Delicious...


Finally, it is important that your Monday night curry should be served with at least one Winnie the Pooh spoon. If not, then the whole meal just won't feel right without Milne's classic characters staring into your mouth...

Monday, December 20, 2010

헐~ Blue Poopy Horse Doodle

As a special Christmas week treat I'd like to show you a beautiful piece of art that our resident costume designer created this weekend.

My unofficial title is "Blue Poopy Horse Doodle", but feel free to contribute your own appropriate moniker...

Blue Poopy Horse Doodle

It's a mixed media piece using mainly white board, marker pens, a modeling balloon and a piece of sellotape.

Blue Poopy Horse Doodle

The clown in the top left is desperately searching for her sausage (which happens to be in her mouth), whilst the musician (a rather accurate representation of myself) lies wormlike on the floor offering himself up as a sausage substitute. However, it is over on the right hand side of the plastic canvas that the real focus should be placed.

Blue Poopy Horse Doodle

This delightful blue horse has had rather too much powerade and so has pooped out a swirly, curly, whirly little turd that rests below the picture. The horse, shocked, surprised, frustrated or perhaps simply overwhelmed by all this excitement cries out "헐~".

In case you're not down with the kids, 헐 is the hottest word around town (or so I tell myself). This video (which I first saw thanks to The Seoul Patch) perhaps explains it best. A day in the life of a high school student:

This lovely little blog defines 헐 as:
OMG but only for bad things (eg. You find out you have to do pages 1-100 for homework – that’s a 헐 moment)

Why not impress your Korean friends and colleagues with an exciting new word this week...

헐~ I left my wallet in the room salon.

헐~ Lotte Mart fried chicken is no longer 5,000 won.

헐~ G-dragon has released another crappy song/commercial.

헐~ That rash really shouldn't be there.

헐~ The Yeonpyeong live fire drill is still going ahead.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Almost Christmas...


One week to go and plenty of chocolates left in the advent calendar.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Even More Exciting Deli News

In my previous post about Itaewon's new "High Street Market" I was a little skeptical. After ten years in Korea I'm fed up with being charged extortionate amounts of money for small comforts or tasty treats, so I tend to be a little wary when shiny new places open up.

However, this afternoon's visit to High Street Market has proved to be a joyous one. Yes, there may be some pricey items on the shelves, but their English mature cheddar is about the same price as Emart, their wines start at 15,000 won and you can get a slice of traditional Stollen for 2,000 won. They don't have the biggest selection on offer, but they do have some choice items that you won't find anywhere else.

They have a fantastic baker making chili baguettes, rye bread and other baked treats. They have beautiful, but very pricy sweets in fancy jars and they have ridiculously expensive best quality French butter.

Forget about all of that, because the one reason you have to go to High Street Market is their meat counter. One of the owners is a meat importer and has his own factory, they can order in what you want from Korea or from around the world and the selection I saw today was great. Prices are competitive and I have a feeling I may be buying a fair amount of my meat from them. Legs of lamb, turkey mince, rib eye steaks... I drool just thinking about it.

Best of all, with no fuss or bother I was able to order pork chops on the bone with the skin on. Forgive me if I'm being naive, but I've never seen a skin on, bone in pork chop in all of my ten years in Korea, but they're able to get them to me next thursday.... At a reasonable price: a couple of chops will set me back about 5 or 6,000 won (about 500 grams worth).

It's early days and I don't want to jinx them, but if High Street Market play their cards right they could become the must visit shop in this part of town. I know that I'll be getting my cheese and my pork chops there from now on...

Give them a try, so far High Street Market is living up to its name and I hope they succeed.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Back Where He Belongs?

Sun Bear
Seoul Zoo Malayan Sun Bear, January 2008

If you've been following the news over the past nine days then you'll know about Ggoma the Malayan Sun Bear who broke out of Seoul Zoo and headed for the mountains.

However, "honey, wine and sardines" were his downfall and he was captured yesterday.

I've been to Seoul Zoo a fair few times and while many of the bears have wide enclosures to play in, the Malayan Sun Bear cage has always disturbed me. It's dark, small and far too easy for drunk ajosshis and annoying kids to tease the bears.

It's great that Ggoma is safe and sound, but I wish he and his older bear friend were treated a little better.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Hidden Lands

Tomorrow, for one night only, there's something special going on at the Seoul Art Space Mullae. I'll let Jeremy Neideck explain it in his own words:

Hidden Land
A new work of physical theatre

Director: Jeremy Neideck
Designer: Justin Shoulder
Performers: Tak Hoyong, Jung Minji, Jo Seongeun, Justin Shoulder, Jeremy Neideck

Produced as a partnership between Seoul Foundation for Arts and Culture and REM Theatre. Supported by JUMP, The National Mentoring Program for Young and Emerging Artists (Australia)

What happen when nature shrugs off its skin of steel and concrete?
In the crumbling corners of a vast, concrete city; ancient spirits struggle to survive among the humans who have forgotten they were ever there.

In this work-in-progress showing, Australian and Korean artists collaborate to combine live physical theatre with experimental costume design and video art to explore a hidden land full of strange and beautiful creatures.

They've been working furiously over the past days to create something which will hopefully be both extraordinary and beautiful.

The designer, Justin Shoulder, has produced some fascinating work in the past:

V from Jaan Ranniko on Vimeo.

The Bumblebeez "Misfit" from The Glue Society on Vimeo.

Not everybody's cup of tea, but worth a glance if you're interested in the avant garde...


With a few friends coming round on Monday night for dinner, I couldn't decide what to make. I'd normally put together a lasagna, some ribs or a selection of pastas; but I wasn't in the mood. It was cold and I wanted something a little spicier... Then it hit me, if Dos Tacos can throw together a burrito then why can't I?

Indo Burritos

I whipped up a batch of chili con carne, picked some coriander, grated some cheese, spooned out the sour cream, threw together a simple vegetable curry and coerced my wife into making chapatis (After years working as a props designer/basket weaver, she's a natural at making flatbreads).

The end result?

Indo Burritos

Indo-burritos Ajosshi style...

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Exciting Deli News

I'm a sucker for new food shops and this week sees the opening of High Street Market in Itaewon. Located next door to the Imperial Palace Boutique Hotel (head out of Itaewon station past the defunct Hard Rock Cafe, La Tavola, Helios, Macaroni Market and Spazio Luce, it'll be on your left opposite the Cheil building), this new deli promises many delicious things according to a recent Korea Times article:

Imagine most of the items a host would require to throw a memorable party, and you begin to see what will be available at this wonderland of gourmet pleasures. Among the hard to find food items are various breakfast cereals, European style bread (bread that doesn’t taste sweet!), reasonably priced foreign cheeses, imported directly for High Street market, and fresh roasted coffee beans by weight. Even scented candles to add that romantic touch to a homemade meal will be available for sale.

Plus according to 10 magazine there's a special competition on this weekend starting at the grand opening on Friday 17th December at 9.00 am:

Here’s a list of all the enticing prizes that can be won!
- 2 kgs of gourmet coffee (W80,000 value)
- mixed meat basket: rib-eye steaks, turkey breast, smoked turkey, breakfast sausages (W120,000 value)
- case of wine: 12 different bottles of wine (W300,000 value) sponsored by Perioth Wines International
- gourmet cheese: grok, parmesan cheese snack (10 gr, 1 ea); mini bri (10 gr, 2 ea); happy swiss (10 gr, 1 ea) sponsored by Gourmet F&B
And the grand prizes are as follows:
- 2nd grand prize: W100,000 gift certificate
- grand prize: Illy espresso machine

It all sounds wonderful, but I'll reserve judgement until I see the price tags. High Street Market could be a great addition to the Itaewon shopping scene, or it could be another over-priced, over the top, pretentious shop that caters to those with more money than sense.

In a perfect world this place would live up to its name by offering high street prices, I'm keeping my fingers crossed and will report back once I've taken a peek and snaffled all the free samples.

Cakey Cuteness

Dalcom Cake

Last week while wandering round the backstreets of Itaewon I found a cute little cake factory, with some interesting samples on display.

Dalcom Cake

Some decorations were cuter than others...

Dalcom Cake

Some a little more sinister...

Dalcom Cake

And some just impressive (and still sort of spooky).

Turns out whoever owns this place also runs this website and they seem to be running Christmas cake classes for anyone who's interested.

It's amazing to see how Korean baking culture is evolving and great to see bakers who are taking risks and trying new designs.

Monday, December 13, 2010

My Past Is Art

Design in Korea 2010 in Hannam HDR

Today has taken a rather bizarre turn.

I was reading an article in The Korea Herald about Design Korea 2010 and their new project in Hannam dong, it all sounded very interesting, especially since that's my old neighbourhood.

I clicked through to the Design Korea 2010 website and took a look at their maps for the area. Were those my old apartments highlighted? I decided to trot down the hill to take a look.

Lo and behold, my past accomodations have become art installations.

Design in Korea 2010 in Hannam HDR

It was an odd feeling seeing my first apartment in Korea painted pink, with a rastafari back gate. I moved in here back in September 2000. A tiny unfurnished one room place that I slowly made my home. No fridge, no tv, just a futon, a sink, a gas burner and a bookcase.

Design in Korea 2010 in Hannam

And here it is now, redeveloped, turned into an art piece. I don't remember it being this small, but I've got used to 20 pyeong apartments and the memories of my one room hovel have been buried for many years.

Design in Korea 2010 in Hannam

The artists had a big bash last night, so they weren't about, but I hope to go back again with my wife and revisit our old haunts.

Design in Korea 2010 in Hannam

The neighbouring room had a rather different feel.

Design in Korea 2010 in Hannam

Downstairs things were a little fishy.

Design in Korea 2010 in Hannam

Decidedly dark.

Design in Korea 2010 in Hannam

And a tiny bit abstract.

Design in Korea 2010 in Hannam HDR

Onto the next place. I stayed in this house for a month with a group of actors when we came on tour to Korea in May 2000. Then in 2001 I moved into the sub-basement apartment with my director friend, the fabulous Gina Lee.

Design in Korea 2010 in Hannam

This is what remains of our spare room.

Design in Korea 2010 in Hannam

And here's what's become of next door.

Design in Korea 2010 in Hannam HDR

Not all the rooms were open today, and there are a fair few houses to explore, so I'll be back to take a closer look at each installation. The houses are open from 10.00 am to 10.00 pm every day till the 30th of December, if you're in the Itaewon/Hannam-dong area it's worth a detour.

Delightful Dimsum

It has been a busy year for me, so consequently some planned posts have dropped by the wayside. To remedy that I'd like to introduce you to a little Chinese place I visited back in October, a rather high class dining establishment that serves the ever elusive Dimsum...

Mong Jung Heon

You'll need to be prepared to spend a fair amount of money for your dumpling treats, so bring cash and an empty stomach. Here's a selection of Mong Jung Heon's finest:

Mong Jung Heon

First off 당초운탄 (Deep Fried Shrimp Dumplings). Light, crispy parcels of prawn heaven. 8,000 won.

Mong Jung Heon

Next 소매 (Pork, Seafood and Mushroom Dumplings). Traditional Shomai dumplings, staple of every dimsum table. 7,000 won.

Mong Jung Heon

Moving onto 선하부피권 (Deep Fried Shrimp, Pork and Vegetable Rolls) Wrapped in tofu skins, these rolls are both crispy and soft, a paradoxical dumpling that brings pleasure to your tastebuds. 8,000 won.

Mong Jung Heon

And finally, the holy grail of dimsum (at least for me), XO장의 소포 (BBQ Pork Bun). I know them as Char Siu Buns and these sweet and fluffy porky treats are my favourite finish to a dimsum lunch. 7,000 won.

Mong Jung Heon

Mong Jung Heon is located in Bukcheon-dong (behind Anguk Station). Robert Koehler over at the Seoul Selection website gives the best directions, so I'll leave it to him to fill you in...

Now, if only I could find somewhere that serves Cheung Fun, I'd be a happy man.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Alternative Christmas Tree

Alternative Christmas Tree

Over at the Gasum Lounge near Hangangjin station, they've decorated their Christmas tree a little differently...

Alternative Christmas Tree

Old socks, coat hangers, ramyeon pans and bottles of Bokbunja, Bacchus and Sanghwatang adorn this beautiful tribute to a recycled Christmas.