Thursday, June 30, 2011

I've Got Ginger Nuts

I've Got Ginger Nuts

DISCLAIMER: I'm in a bit of a punny mood today... Couldn't resist putting these two posts back to back.

I strolled down to High Street Market today to see what goodies they might have in store and Heavens to Betsy they're selling McVities Ginger Nuts for a mere 1,300 won (they normally go for the still reasonable sum of 1,900 won). These are the biscuits I've missed the most in all my time in Korea, I bring pack a packet or two every year and have to ration them out. Even worse, my wife has developed a taste for them, so they disappear twice as fast...

I snaffled up four packets, but there are still a fair few left if any of you, my dear readers wish to purchase them. Their "best before" date is the 10th July 2011, but they should survive longer if stored correctly.

If you've never nibbled on a couple of ginger nuts, then now's your chance to give them a go!

I've Got Ginger Nuts

Would You Like To See My Tiny Gochu?

My Tiny Gochu

DISCLAIMER: Pun most definitely intended...

Living in the middle of this metropolis is lots of fun, but I do miss having a garden. As such, we've resorted to filling our windowsills and balconies with greenery and we're starting to see the fruits of our labours.

My Tiny Gochu

While our tomatoes, coriander, parsley, oregano, bell peppers and salad leaves need more time to mature, our chili plants have flowered and our 고추 are growing at an amazing rate.

My Tiny Gochu

While some are in the early stages of development...

My Tiny Gochu

Others are starting to look far more manly. Who wants a taste of my knobbly 고추?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Telling Porkies About Bossam

(For those unfamiliar with cockney rhyming slang "telling porkies" means "telling lies")

Up until last night I believed that 보쌈 (Bossam) was steamed pork. I trusted those who explained the dish to me when I first had it and I trusted that wikipedia knew what it was talking about. I'd only ever eaten Bossam in restaurants (though I have consumed hundreds of platefuls over the years) and I'd never questioned the provenance of the English translation.


Last night my culinary world was rocked when my wife decided to make it at home for the first time. She knew the family recipe and when I got home she was busy putting the finishing touches to the meal. The side dishes were being put into bowls, the jjigae was on the stove and the pork was gently simmering in the pot... Wait? Simmering? Not steaming? As everything I knew crumbled around me, I sank to my knees and let out a scream of anguish. I had been lied to all this time. Bossam was not steamed, it was boiled!

My wife has mean knife skills and my photography is sometimes blurry! Yay!


It turns out that the recipes for Bossam in our Korean books all involving boiling the meat. My wife added 된장 (fermented soy bean paste), onions, spring onions, ginger and garlic to the water and then simmered the pork for about ninety minutes or so. It gave the meat a slightly khaki tinge and tasted delicious.


Side dishes were kept to a reasonable number. A selection of beansprouts, sweet potato shoots and pigweed (appropriate for a porky dish).


Plus the always popular dwenjang stew.


It was a supremely delicious meal and worth the crushing disappointment of finding out my culinary ignorance. Unfortunately we didn't have any fermented shrimp on hand (a superb addition to Bossam), but other than that the meal was perfect.


Remember kids: Bossam is boiled pork! Don't let them fool you!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Tiny Six Legged Happiness

Urban Ladybird

Sometimes a glimpse down at the Gangnam pavement can bring pleasure. On my way to 교대 station I noticed this little fellow resting on a leaf. Urban ladybirds make me happy...

Plus they have the best Korean name ever: 무당벌레 (Shaman insect). I love spiritual bugs.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Mourning The Loss Of A Good Meal

Aubergines and Rice

Just three months ago I discovered a wonderful restaurant called Tour de Table. Everything on the menu was under 10,000 won and the food that I tried was delicious. I fell in love with their 가지덥밥 (Aubergines on rice) which for 7,000 won was one of the best vegetarian deals in the area. I took friends there, spread the word, enthused about this lovely little restaurant serving reasonably priced, delicious cuisine.

Last Saturday I took an old friend out to lunch and decided that Tour de Table would be perfect. We braved the pouring rain, headed up the shabby steps and into the restaurant. Sat down at the table, shook off the excess raindrops and... stared in disbelief at the new menu.

It's one of those terribly sad culinary moments when you realize the restaurant you loved is gone and it won't be coming back. The menu had turned into a rather moribund selection of standard Italian choices. Three boring sounding pastas, a potato pizza and a couple more forgettable items. All 10,000 won or over. No aubergines, no deal.

We walked out and as we steadied ourselves for another foray onto the rainy streets of Hannam-dong, I calmly explained to the waiter that we'd come for good food, but that this new menu was a complete turn off. A boring selection compared to the previous delights. We made our excuses and left.

If I want sad spaghetti I'll go to Sorrento. It makes me both unhappy and annoyed that a restaurant that had charm and an interesting menu, decided to throw that away and play safe (as well as boosting their prices).

Goodbye Tour de Table, I knew you only for a short time, but the aubergines on rice were incredible while they lasted.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Week In Brief, A Coffeeshop Doppelganger And A Tributary Tome

Doughnut and Steadman Tea
Homemade doughnut and my favourite Ralph Steadman mug.

It's been a hectic sort of a week in the Ajosshi household:

Last weekend I was lucky enough to score free tickets to three very different, very exciting performances.

Last Friday night thanks to the Korea Foundation I was able to get on the guest list for their Summer Concert for Foreign Residents. We were treated to a concert featuring the work of one of the world's greatest Gayageum players, Hwang Byung-ki. He is, as our North American cousins might say, "a Bad-Ass Mo' Fo'" musician who has composed some extraordinary pieces for the Gayageum and we were treated to five compositions (two of which were performed by Hwang himself) and a rather extraordinary translation experience where at one point the translator became flummoxed and so Hwang switched to speaking in English, while the translator had to convert his remarks back into Korean. An astonishing and hilarious moment. After the concert I was waylaid by a journalist from The Korea Times and you can read my opinion on Bad-Ass Gayageum Mo' Fo' Hwang Byung-ki here.

Saturday morning I rose early and headed down to the Seoul Arts Center to catch a performance of The Very Hungry Caterpillar & Other Eric Carle Favourites by Nova Scotia's Mermaid Theatre. It's a superb puppet show that manages to faithfully recreate Eric Carle's books on stage, whilst keeping a rowdy bunch of five year olds enthralled. Incredibly simple and yet so very, very entertaining. I thoroughly recommend it for anyone with young children.

Sunday afternoon I headed off somewhere north of Seodaemun to watch a rather complex physical theatre piece by the Sadari Movement Laboratory. The first 15 minutes was an astounding dance-like routine involving seven brightly dressed and wigged ladies and gentlemen engaged in an odd and sometimes painful connection. The rest of the show was decidedly more wordy and involved a few difficult dialects and phrasings, alongside some historical references I was not so familiar with and so my brain worked rather harder than usual, trying to decipher the goings on on stage. It's a brand new piece and this is the first time it has been performed, I love seeing their productions in their earliest forms and then coming back to see how they have transformed over months and years.

The rest of this week has been filled with work. I'm very close to sealing the deal on a new project for the autumn and I've finished my essay for The New Korea Files (Have you submitted your's yet?). Work on Mokwha's Tempest translation is slowly moving forward and at a special press rehearsal on Tuesday I had the pleasure of meeting a journalist from Scotland's Sunday Herald who is over in Korea checking out the artists who are coming to Edinburgh this summer.

Thursday late night I got a text from an old friend which led to me heading down south of the river on Friday to record vocals for a brand new construction video game. It was great to be in a recording studio and hopefully I'll be able to land a few similar gigs in the future.

Finally, I came across a couple of odd discoveries this afternoon. Apparently I have my very own coffee shop near Jamshil... 폴아저씨커피 (also on twitter) opened in November last year and according to these photos seems to be a lovely place to sup a cup of java.

I also discovered that there's a children's book dealing with a couple of Paul Ajosshis. I must get my hands on a copy and see what I've been up to.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Having A Whale Of A Time

Having A Whale Of A Time

This mural is a pretty accurate description of how I feel on days like these. It's too hot, no really, it's too damn hot. I come from Celtic stock and we like our summers wet and windy. At least with the rainy season hitting Seoul tomorrow, there will be a little relief before the real onslaught of summer sun sets in.

Mural found near Noksapyeong station. No whales were harmed in the making of this post.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Bearing It All

Men's Waxing

The Waxing Bar in Itaewon has a novel way of advertising its services for men...

Men's Waxing

I don't think I can say anything else on this matter. It's just too much for me to bear.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Getting Crabby In Itaewon

Raw Crap? Raw Crab!

Bizarre English signs can be fun, but sometimes they fill me with despair...

The backstreets of Itaewon are going through some rather major redevelopments at the moment and where there used to be tiny alleys and houses, we now have boutique clothes shops, restaurants and a brand spanking new length of tarmac for drivers to speed down. There are new shops and cafes popping up on a weekly basis, including a new Brazillian place and a branch of HBC's Gogi Jip, but my story involves a Korean restaurant that has opened up just down the road from me.

At first glance the sign for Sam Gol didn't seem too bad. Fairly coherent English, no better or worse than the usual signage. And then I spotted the "p"...

Raw Crap? Raw Crab!

Mmmh, the "Indongcho-seasoned raw crap" sounds... well not as appetizing as it should have, if spelt correctly.

I had a quick chat with the owner, found out he didn't speak any English and so explained in a very gentle manner that his new sign for his new restaurant was offering sewer fodder instead of the usual sea food.

Raw Crap? Raw Crab!

Fortunately he took heed and a few days later the sign had been neatened up. It may not be perfect, but at least it's describing a more palatable main course. I'm glad he changed the sign as most people refuse to take crap from restaurant owners...

Raw Crap? Raw Crab!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Hooray For English Subtitled Theatre!

It only happens every once in a while, but throw your hats in the air and celebrate another English subtitled theatre performance in Seoul!

Starting tomorrow at the Daehangno Arts Theatre is Seoul Factory for the Performing Arts' production of "The Idiot".

It runs until June 29th and if you'd like a dose of Dostoyevsky in Daehangno then it may well be the show for you.

There's plenty more info over at the 10 Magazine website, the Seoul Factory for the Performing Arts Facebook group and almost no up to date information on their official website... Performing at the La MaMa Theatre is so 2010.

I, on the other hand, am now ankle deep in our translation of Mokwha Repertory Company's production of The Tempest for the Edinburgh International Festival this August. First official translators' meeting tomorrow, which should include plenty of discussion of Shakespeare quotes, the real meanings of various Chinese characters and debates over the use of the letters "j" and "z" when representing characters whose Korean names contain "ㅈ". Fun, fun, fun! Translating mutated Shakespeare back into English is an interesting challenge and not one for the faint of heart.

If you happen to be in Edinburgh from the 13th till the 16th of August then you should head to the King's Theatre and watch us.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

One Year On

Seoul 70

It's one year to the day since a dear friend passed away. Without warning he was gone and many of us in Korea, New Zealand and Australia were left bereft. Roger Rynd was an extraordinary human being. Most of you who might chance upon this blog will never have heard of him, but if you happened to be at the Hi Seoul Summer Festival 2008 then you would have experienced his handiwork.

Seoul 34

Shenzo 16

Voice of the River

Noridan 15

Bows 3

Seoul 31

Roger was Artistic Director of Latt Children's Theatre and one of my greatest mentors and friends, without him the world around us seems incomplete. One year on he is still missed by so many.

An extract from his obituary last year:

Roger was born in Singapore and had spent most of his life in Asia and Oceania. He had an ongoing interest in the relationship of contemporary performance and technology to the traditional stories, music and mythology of the region. For the last 14 years he pursued a particular passion for creative work with artists from Korea and Australia; forging the aesthetic perspectives of these two unique cultures into a critically acclaimed performance medium.

From 1985 to 2002 Roger was artistic director and writer in residence for Australia’s internationally acclaimed REM Theatre, creating dynamic multi art form, cross cultural theatre. In 2002 he became Artistic Director of the LATT Children’s Theatre in Seoul, Korea - arguably the first theatre of its kind in the world. Artists and technicians from Korea, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the USA, Poland and the U.K combine to produce English language performances, workshops and multi media resources.

Roger had been busy preparing Latt Children's Theatre's latest production, "The Little Dragon" and after celebrating the successful opening of the performance he passed away in his sleep in the early hours of the 14th of June.
Roger's work took him to many different festivals and venues as a writer, director, designer and performer. From The Kennedy Centre in Washington D.C. to The South Bank Concert Hall in London to The Australia Abroad Festival in Singapore, his shows have been seen all over the world.

Roger conceived and directed the epic ICON performance for the Sydney Opera House 20th Birthday Celebration and was Writer and Artistic Director of the Opening Ceremony of the “most successful ever” Paralympic Games in Sydney 2000. This spectacular event had a live audience of 110,000 and was viewed by over 2 billion people worldwide.

For the Sydney Olympics Festival he worked with artists from Korea and Australia to create the public art performance “The Maintenance Team’. He was also artist in residence for the Seoul Arts Centre, Korea and created the Opening Ceremony of the Australian Festival in Seoul.

From 1997 he started working in Korea with Sadari Theatre Company, creating several beautiful performances with them over the years. He was also invited to direct the 10th Anniversary ceremony for the Seoul Arts Centre and in 2008 he was made Artistic Director of the Hi Seoul Summer Festival.

Roger Rynd was made an Honorary Citizen of Seoul in 2007 and will be greatly missed by all those who worked and played with him.

Everland Group Shot HDR

Roger and the cast, crew and staff of Latt Children's Theatre in 2008.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Faith, Hope and Chastity

Chastity Belt

For the past couple of months, Charles from KTLIT, Andy from Seoul Art Fiend/Concrete Experience Magazine and myself have been gathering together every couple of months, sitting on the floor next to a computer and babbling about all sorts of topics for the Korean Culture Report podcast.

We'll be recording the next one sometime very soon and will be discussing Daehangno's Lock Museum among other things. I toddled down there yesterday for a quick gander at their superb selection of locks, latches and other antiquated key based oddities and encountered the above specimen. An honest to goodness real-life Chastity Belt, this vicious looking thing is known as a 정조대 in Korean. I'm not sure if they were ever used in Korean society or whether this one has been brought in from foreign climes, however a brief search on the internet revealed a rather surprising piece of (possibly incorrect?) information:

"In August, 2002, Korean clothing manufacturer Intarsia briefly offered a line of lockable womens' panties, ostensibly to prevent spur-of-the-moment sexual assaults."(Source)

The world we live in truly is an odd sort of place. I'll be sure to lock my door tonight.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Two Snapshots Of Sunday Happiness

Sleepy Cafe Kitten

A sleepy five month old kitten at a coffee shop around Yangjae station...

Sublime Spaghetti

And a dish of sublime spaghetti from the Bar Dopo near the Seoul Arts Center.

Sunday happiness.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Ukulele Crazy

Rainy Day Ukulele

This Saturday marks the first ukulele festival ever to grace the Korean peninsula. Up at the Hyeri Cultural Village in Paju, Gyeonggi-do between 1.00 and 9.00.

It's free, it's fun and there'll hopefully be hundreds of small stringed instruments strumming away.

You can get the 220, 2200 or 900 bus from exit two of Hapjeong station (supposedly it only takes twenty minutes) and if you enter the raffle you can win a round trip ticket to Hawaii...

Hopefully I'll be packing up my uke and heading down on Saturday afternoon. Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Tea Time

Tea Tea Tea

I'm archiving my shots from the last couple of months and I thought I'd post a few that didn't make it into the 10 Magazine article (and one that did).

I had great fun galavanting from tea shop to tea house, trying my best to dig out the tastiest places to sup on a cup of leaves in hot water. All these places are mentioned in the article and are worth a look if you happen to be in the area (Further info/addresses/phone numbers can be found here).

Tea Tea Tea

At the Old Tea Shop (옛찻집) in Insadong you're greeted by a flock of feathered friends who perch on branches, sculptures, plates and cups and keep a watchful eye on your snacks.

Tea Tea Tea

It's a fun place to bring guests who are looking to try a cup of tea in slightly odd circumstances and is not just for the birds...

Tea Tea Tea

I ordered a cup of double harmony tea, perfect for when you're feeling a little down in the dumps, but certainly an acquired taste (think medicinal christmas pudding).

Tea Tea Tea

Next slightly more simple fare from the Insadong Traditional Tea House (인사동 전통 찻집). I chose the "Middle Leaves Green Tee", which turned out to have nothing to do with golf.

Tea Tea Tea

There's a beauty in the way the saturated leaves rest in the empty pot. Almost seeming to crawl up and out in front of your eyes.

Tea Tea Tea

Five flavour tea from Jidaebang (지대방), ice cold, sweet, sour and slightly fizzy. It felt like a naughty treat. The Chilsung Cider of the Korean tea world.

Tea Tea Tea

A rather more austere offering from the Da Kyeong Hyang Shil (다경향실), yellow tea made with oxidized tea leaves.

Tea Tea Tea

At Tea 22233 in Itaewon I sampled Puer tea along with a slice of homemade mugwort bread. The hippest tea joint I've found in Seoul so far.

Tea Tea Tea

Royal milk tea at Trinitea near Ewha University.

Tea Tea Tea

It looks like a traditional British cuppa, but has been made with condensed milk. Super sweet and perhaps not to everyone's taste (Though, I will be going back for more).

Tea Tea Tea

Finally the house speciality tea from The Garden For Drinking Tea (차마시는뜰). A mix of leaves and petals that looked gorgeous in the pot...

Tea Tea Tea

And sublimely simple in the cup.