EMILIANO & JAEHEE
emiliano@lacasapark.com  917 406 2854
jaehee@lacasapark.com  917 373 1548
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IMG_2757Chow down with Hun, Yoon, Gael and Emi. Cheap and Cheerful Night eating at Gwang Jang Market!

I am sure you all like Korean BBQ. And Me too! But there is so much more beyond BBQ in Korean food and the most fun part is that you can enjoy all sort of eateries in different price, ambiance and based on seasonal specialties. It’s already mouth watering brain storming where to go for tonight or for tomorrow’s lunch. At the night market? All vegetarian Ssam place? North Korean cold noodle soup, Nang Myun? or Freshest Sashimi at the fish market! The possibilities are truly endless and you will need months and months to taste all these wonderfully cultural food that Korea can offer.

My dear cousin Yoon and her husband Hun are maybe the 2 best eatery guide you can ask for ! We have been eating the most delicious food around Seoul and having the best time catching up!  Soju became our new favorite drink and now that Emi had tasted real deal of Korean food in Seoul, I better Up my Korean cooking skill back in New York…!

Now, are you ready for some Korean food?  Then let’s start!!!

IMG_2752First, we are checking the water out at the market.  There are so many banquets of all market and street food vendors.  Market food usually means Noodles, Korean blood sausage, Jun ( pan fried anything that’s dipped in the egg wash), Ttuck boki ( rice cake cooked in chili paste), Oden soup ( fish cake soup), Sashimi and much more!  This runs good half mile long on a long isle between the shops.

IMG_2793Thanks for the big smile!  These little fingerling Korean maki ( Gim Bap) are so good that it has a nick name ” Drug Maki”. So addictive. Carrots, crunch sweet and sour Pickled Radish root, Spinach and touch of wasabi paste. Delicious!

IMG_2744It’s a crab season in Korea and Crabs are everywhere!  These are Soy Crab. Soaked in a tub of soy sauce. These are cleaned and raw.

IMG_2746Chili paste version. Spicy and sweet.

IMG_2764Down and low in local way. Eating is one thing but most of all, the talking and being together in such atmosphere is the key here. Keeping the company over just good simple food.

IMG_2705Sample station.

IMG_2704So much memories with my Ttuck boki. It’s Korean way of comfort food.

IMG_2700Perfection of Dumplings!

IMG_2748Serious set of All kinds.

IMG_2755Post Soju and lots of food face.  We hit already 2 banquets!

IMG_2761Sashimi Section!

IMG_2767Korean Style Sashimi. Cooked and uncooked are mixed. Cooked Octopus, Shell fish and raw salmon and flounder.

IMG_2787Next we are at the BEST Mung bean pancake house.

IMG_2790Yummmm! Yoon and Hun say this is IT!

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IMG_2783Cheap and Deep!  Crispy around the edges with hearty and satisfying fillings. Delicious! Gael just loves loves loves!

IMG_2784Pickled sweet Onions in Soy and Kimch on the side!

IMG_2983It’s very first time my dad and Gael are meeting in person. We had the best 3 days doing little things as a family visiting local markets, garden and a Korean folk flea market.  It makes me feel so happy to see my dad and Gael walking hand in hand. We are going for dinner!!

IMG_2999One area in the west side of Seoul is called ” Mapo” and here we are with dad hitting the most typical Mapo style BBQ place!  I really liked overall vibe in this particular area. There were many little places in sort of 70′s style in such Korean way.

IMG_3008Coals are in!

IMG_3006First, a waitress comes and spread some slightly cooked kimchi on the rim of grill.  I am curious as it is my first time to see this.

IMG_3014Ah ha! the Egg wash goes over the Kimchi! It makes steamed egg from the heat!  Grill’s busy with chopsticks!

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IMG_3016Eggs are all gone and Dad takes charge in Grilling!  We ordered 2 kinds of meat. Pork with simple sea salt and Sirloin slices marinated in typical Gal bi dressing ( soy based). They melt in your mouth. Tender and Delicious!

IMG_3009Dad pouring Soju for Emi. You receive it with 2 hands especially when you are younger than the person pouring. It’s our way to pay Respect. A beautiful tradition.

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IMG_3013Serious grilling here.

IMG_3017Gael learned how to sharpen Scissors from dad. The first tip from grandpa!

IMG_3020The second tip from Granpa. Now you pour with 2 hands to dad. Another beautiful tradition. I love this moment.

IMG_30033 generations together. Love you dad!

IMG_3141Now we are back with Yoon and Hun in Norayngjin Fish market.  We are going to buy our own ingredients and have one of restaurants on the second floor at the market cook for us! It’s a typical way to have your fish and seafood at the market. Isn’t it a brilliant idea?!!!

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IMG_3108The market.

IMG_3118Calling it all!  Avalon, Conch, Cockle, Clam and …and …and!

IMG_3122King Crabs!

IMG_3125Bass. They are big and totally fresh. I mean they are in the water swimming up to the point you purchase it!

IMG_3130Popular wild caught flounder! Great for Sashimi!

IMG_3139You pick one and pay for it . They Sashimi for you right there on a plate to go.

IMG_3110They look like from Mars.

IMG_3146This is Hun and Yoon’s only spot to go to have their freshest seafood purchased cooked. It’s a small and clean place with lovely owner lady. She’s holding our Korean ” Flower” crabs, mixed Shell fish and a whole Bass! You pay the restaurant to prepare the seafood you bought however you wish. Steam, soup, fry, Sashimi… It’s a still excellent deal as the fish itself is way cheaper here at the market than any shops in the city. And also you are eating them at the best quality. I mean how fresher can it be?

IMG_3148Sashimi Bass.

IMG_3153Steamed Flower Crab. They are plump, juicy and Sweet! The best!!  And of course Soju to accompany.

IMG_3152Mixed steamed Shell Fish.

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IMG_3156The owner will make this sort of fried rice with crab meat and crab juice and sesame oil. Yum!!

IMG_3199After dinner cigarettes. Hun and Emi. After dinner, we are on the 2nd round of fun at Korean karaoke and late night snack at Hong Dae!!

IMG_3191Digesting.

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IMG_4959Happy!

IMG_4427For another fun dinner, here me and Yoon patiently waiting for our table at “ Bong San Jip”  It’s my second time with Yoon and all of us!

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IMG_2637Yay! It’s about to Start!

IMG_2641Thinly sliced beef brisket is maybe one of my favorite thing now! This old school ” Bong San Jip” restaurant only serves 1 menu. Not many sides like other places. Just Beef brisket to grill. But the secret is in this Killer Soy dipping sauce with lots of fresh chopped scallions and sweet green chili peppers. And one pot miso soup again with beef brisket in! You just to have to be here!

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IMG_2648The miso is here!

IMG_2647Cabbage, Tofu, brisket, chili and miso.

Honestly I must say “Fooding till Drop” may the main highlight of this trip. Family get together is absolutely the most precious thing but experiencing all these amazing food in Korea has been One cultural shock even to myself as a Korean.

Like Emi Says, ” Korean Kicks Butt!”

LOvE FoOD, LOvE EaT, LOvE SeOuL!!!

IMG_7250Aunt , Me and Mom in 1976, Korea.

Every time I visit Korea and my family back there, I feel like I am making up for something. It’s a real nice feeling. It makes my stomach warm. We have been always close to Aunt’s family when I was growing up and I had also lived with aunt, uncle and cousin Yoonhee when I was doing the first year at F.I.T as Uncle was in NY for his work.  I was lucky to have them while starting my school years all alone but then it wasn’t actually as I was with aunt, uncle and Yoonhee.  Then it has been many years we kind of grew a part but here now again we get to see each others whenever I go to Seoul for my business trips.  It’s a nice treat to see everyone. There’s always good chatting over delicious hearty food and laughs. Just being together makes me feel very happy and loved.  Aunt recently helped mom renovating her new little home and it was my first time to visit mom’s traditional Korean home as she literally just moved in. It felt extra special to be at mom’s new home as aunt helped with many good ideas and also it was right on brother’s memorial day.

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IMG_7067Beautifully aging Mom in front of her house.  It’s about 150 plus years old traditional home called “Han-Ok” that mom had bought and it’s a kind of architecture that dates back to more than 5000 years of Korean tradition.

IMG_7059Mom’s next project is to add these solid concrete cylinders to the outside fence/wall.

IMG_7049It’s called ” Ogapi” in Korean, a kind of berry. It is supposed to be really good for you.  You will see all these sort of things being dried, getting pickled or soaked in the water at my mom and aunt’s place.

IMG_7038Chestnuts drying on a Pyung Sang ( a quite big scaled low wooden seating deck) in the garden… such a Korean scene!

IMG_6978 These beautiful wooden beams were hidden and the ceiling was lowered when the house was purchased. Can you believe it?

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mom home 2Poured concrete floor feels very modern in contrary to house’s traditional details. And it has excellent heat conduction as most of Korean homes have heated flooring system.

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IMG_7053Happy mom at her new home!

IMG_7083Now we are at Heyri visiting auntie!

IMG_7069Aunt with big big smile and Brandy and Tang right outside of her beautiful Heyri home.

IMG_7074Aunt is an well known fine artist already, Je-soon Kang and she has started making potteries at Heyri studio.  Now mom had joined her a bit!  Mom holding her very first piece! It’s so fascinating. Isn’t it? I would love to try it one day!

IMG_7076Cheese, no ” KIm-Chi”!  Just like an old time. Only difference will be I am the tallest here. Sort of.  Ha-ha!!

IMG_7082Beautiful aunt here for an early lunch with me. Mom went off to work. Next time mom!

IMG_7081We are at this Buckwheat specialized restaurant. Buckwheat dumplings, savory pancakes, cold and warm noodle and even down to this much flavorful Korean Buckwheat Sake! Sooooo delicious. Sooo amazing!  Chat chat and Chatty Chat. Aunt and I ended up having 4 hour lunch catching up on everything. So much fun!

IMG_7110After a good sleep over at Aunt’s place, this hearty do-your-body -good Rice cake soup for breakfast! It was full of fresh oysters, seaweed, korean herbs and most of all, aunt’s love!  So delicious and so good for you!

IMG_7248Aunt holding me for another snap. 1976, Korea

Aunt, thanks for everything and take care till the next time we see! And Mom, I am so happy for your new lovely home!

I love you both, you lovely creative strong sisters!

IMG_2209Typical Summer Dinner on the first night in Korea, Gael and Halmoney (: Grandma)

Actually the flight to Seoul from NY wasn’t too bad. 14 hours on Asiana Economy was much better than what we all expected. Foot rests and private monitors with quite impressive amount and selection of films and hearty meals ( We are talking about Bibimbop served in ceramic bowl and Hot Soup here!).

It’s humid and rainy in Korea right now and Paju where my Mom lives isn’t an exception but sitting out in the garden listening to water running from the mountain and all those birds and insects that cries out their own Summer nights of  Korea brings me right back to where I come from.

I am Home.

IMG_2211Happy with a big dinner table in front. Humble and yummy. Waiting for dad. Pyung Sang is a typical low sitting wooden deck in Korea that is much adorned in Hot Summer time in effort to bring typical floor sitting culture to fresh and breezy outdoor.  You take shoes off and sit on the Pyung Sang for anything you wish. Taking nap to eat meals, drink teas, all those water melons you can chow down, cleaning veggies, neighbor’s visit and late night stories…. Ah Nostalgia!

IMG_2227A morning at Mother’s house is full of excitement! Ducks are chatting up and You will need to do some Breakfast Harvest in Mom’s amazing veggie garden!

IMG_2230For our Salad. Mom and Gael walked to the small river by the house for picking these delicate and sweet edible flowers.

IMG_2233Front garden Back garden. We are in the back of the house now.  Emi picking tomatoes!

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IMG_2247Chemical free All Organic Breakfast from Mom’s.  So beautiful!

IMG_2248Gael and Mom picking cucumbers.

IMG_2250Mom’s Awesome Fiery Chilis!!

IMG_2251Mom bragged about her sweet and juicy water melons. Her 5th growing now.

IMG_2256100 % Mom grown and supplied. It’s impressive and delicious!

IMG_2260After breakfast walking, We meet up neighbor’s 7 pups!  Gael’s dying!

IMG_2272We are starting our first day nice and slowly by visiting ” Bogwangsa” , a 1000 years old beautiful temple in mom’s area.

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IMG_2275Kim-Chi!

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IMG_2288Monk’s Stay.

IMG_2290The Main Temple. I absolutely love perfectly washed out exteriors. So beautiful.

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IMG_2345It’s really lush here.

IMG_2340Water from the mountain.

IMG_2348Jang-Dock. Terracotta pots contain Temple made Soy sauce, Miso paste and all.  Always love the scene.

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Me at Home with Emi and Gael. Meeting Families and Nourishing My Heart and Soul by eating Amazing Food, My culture and again realizing Undeniable my Root in this land.

I am Happy and I am in Love.

IMG_3287Sam Sung Museum of Art,  Leeum Museum, Hannam Dong, Seoul

Our Seoul trip has come to an end and we are doing a few last things on our list.  It has been so wonderful to see  Mom and Dad, Grandma, Aunts and Uncles and Yoon and Hun and whoever came across including countless friendly Seoul citizens ( Here they like to call them Natizen).  This trip, we ate and tasted enough to survive through coming Autumn feeling almost guilty for those who do have not enough to eat… But then knowing not having such access to food that is so deeply cultural in so unique ambiance like in Seoul back in New York, every opportunity felt like it could be the last one that we better maximize all the fun of what really having food means in Korean way.  (Sorry but any K-town in NY does not do the justice at all!!)

All the 2nd and third generation Koreans who live out overseas, Please you must visit Korea and should know where you came from and know and get educated how your home is moving forward and evolving, and what past we love and are attached to preserve. It has been such an eye opening experience for me. My first language is Korean, but Don’t be afraid if you are not fluent in your own language. You will still feel all at your heart and our home will still welcome you no matter what.

I have been noticing Seoul’s quite impressive changes over about 3 years through my short timed business trips. Seoul has definitely opened eyes to good designs and especially for the sense of being in good and quality space, which has made a huge Architectural Re birth all over the city from little cafes to amazing residential homes to hall in the wall small business or impressive standing alone shops and restaurants and galleries… The list goes on and I am especially impressed by Seoul’s effort to create Urban Green Areas for communities by small brooks and major rivers creating bicycle and running lanes that are completely separated from the ones for the cars.

I honestly felt like I could not keep up blogging about so many great things we were doing in Seoul with family but this one would be sort my finale to our first Seoul trip with Emi and Gael together, So here we go, I am putting together a few more moments to share!

IMG_3267You are all familiar with Korean Sam Sung’s technology . Phones, TVs… The list goes on. Leeum is Sam Sung founded Art museum that has impressive permanent collection of International fine art  and Korean porcelains that are dated from 12-14C. And the museum space is to die for. Cutting edge modern architecture that is well surrounded by natural element such as rocks and trees.

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IMG_3232Comme Des Garcons Flag ship, Hannam dong, Seoul

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IMG_3411Doo Ta, Dong De Mun

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IMG_3801Dapsimni Antique Market. The Best Antique market in Seoul!! Smaller scale but it’s enough and it’s a real deal.

IMG_3341I got a small set. SO excited! Korean traditional bronze wear.

IMG_3342Traditional pillows.

IMG_3446Traditional wooden flat spools for yarns and threads.

IMG_3349Wooden stamps to make motives on rice cakes and traditional cookies. So pretty.

IMG_3431Wedding costumes. For her on the left and him on the right.

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IMG_3869With Yoon and Hun, Just about to have Jeuk Suk Ttuck boki at Hongdae. Jeuck Suk means right away. You cook up your ttuk boki on the table! Ahh nostalgia! This came out when I was on Junior years.  And So great ! We LOvE dOTs!

IMG_3878Gael already digging into picked Raddish. Oh boy, He Can really EAT. Best imobu, Hun!

IMG_3879All ready to go!

IMG_3886Busy cooking!!

IMG_3872Woooo, can’t wait! excuse my shiny forehead…!

IMG_3897Busy Hongdae street, Saturday Afternoon.

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IMG_3912A land Outlet in Hongdae. Cool space.

IMG_3916aA Design Museum , Hong Dae. Impressive collection of International mid century furniture and industrial interior design is here. And of course, an Amazing Coffee Shop.

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IMG_3927The Cafe.

IMG_2806Night stroll along Chung gye chun, One of the most visible Urban planning through out the city Seoul is doing. You will see these parks that are made along the small rivers everywhere.  This Chung gye chun maybe more special one as this river was once turned into build-able land and back again as a aprk. Impressive.

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IMG_3949Now Grilled Eel Dinner with Mom, Yoon and Hun, Heyri.  Ahhh, it hurts me that you can’t taste it!

IMG_3948This is thickened Soy ( different from teriyaki) version and thinly sliced Jin seng chips on top. OMG.

IMG_3943What a beauty! Sea salt Eel. On the side, simply sliced potatoes, Ginko, fried eel bone chips.

IMG_3640Myung Ga Ram, Paju.  The last big meal with whole family.

IMG_3642Suk mo, ( little aunt), Gang hun, my cousin little brother.

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IMG_518511 family members today! Yoon on the camera. Little cousin sis, Yujin and my little uncle, Jerim.

IMG_5203My Grandma, the 84 year old Beauty, God bless her and protect her. I just wish her to be healthy to have longer and happy life.

IMG_5207_2Another Grand meal and family. . Ahh it’s coming to an end…

IMG_5219Gang hun and Gael. Can you believe Gang Hun is Gael’s uncle?!! They are only 2 1/2 years apart!

IMG_5230About to kim chi all together!

IMG_3860Gwanghamun Square!

IMG_3849Sanmotungi Cafe, Buam dong.  Seoul is such a lush city. So many little mountains and lots of trees everywhere.

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Emi, only with You would be this much fun!!!

So Much More to Come for Many Many Years!

VivA FaMily!!!  VivA KOreA!!!

IMG_2902Kuk Je Gallery, Sam Chung Dong, Seoul

Every time I come to Seoul for businesses, it sort of feels like I am in this hidden unknown treasure Island.  In a taxi, or by walking, I find myself in such cool and brilliant moments.  If that is space or a business idea or that is an amazing architectural creation.

It has been quite positively overwhelming now that I am here with Emi and Gael to fully experience Seoul for days and nights. What this city can offer you has No such limit to it.

Here come have little taste of how Seoul is moving forward.

Samchung Dong

IMG_2467There are many big and small mountains in Seoul and it actually works as a such bonus point to challenge “how to build” and do business around. Hills are charming and add very interesting rhythm to the city line.

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IMG_2472Again, do not miss what’s on upstairs!

IMG_2473Samchung dong is known for mix of over 150 years old of Traditional architecture and today’s most current living.  This is a Italian restaurant called ” 8 Step” again located in on a hill. Guess how many steps to have to walk over.

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IMG_2904Kuk Je Gallery. There are 3 separate buildings. K1, K2 and K3.  This is K3. They are all very near each other in different setting and style and K3 is my favorite one.

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IMG_2503Awesome Typo.

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IMG_2513Gael After spicy Ttuk Boki : Rice cake cooked in chilli paste. Love the fact this is a Rice Shop.

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Sinsa Dong

& Myung Dong

IMG_2598Mui Mui Cafe and Restaurant, Sinsa dong. I believe Korean’s Love for Coffee is actually based on their Tea Culture. Take your time. Coffee dose not mean intaking caffeine to wake up at 4:00 pm to survive for the rest of the day at your office. Coffee means sitting down with friends to talk in such ambience and space. If you are an architect or have interest in design, a trip to Seoul to only visit coffee shops will make your eyes wide open. The possibilities are endless.

IMG_2588Cafe’s court yard offeres beautiful greenery to customers indoor.

IMG_2599Great glass wear.

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IMG_2593A hall way to the restaurant side wraps around the court yard in the center.

IMG_2619The restaurant

IMG_2628Anne Demuelemeester, Sinsa dong

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IMG_2656You know you are in Myung Dong now.

IMG_2655Give some wings to your phone.

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IMG_2734A land Flagship, Myung Dong. A land is a clothing shop placing themselves in between Urban outfitters and Opening Ceremony.

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Hong Dae

IMG_3159A formal factory space turned to a great coffee shop and a bar, Anthracite.

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IMG_3164Conveyer belt. Looking absolutely awesome.

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IMG_3175Upstairs seating area.

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IMG_4979Night out in Hond Dae. So much fun!

City that breaths creativity and culture through it’s every single pore.

Be here, Be Inspired  and Be SEOUL!

IMG_2374 Happy Aunt and Gael at Heyri, Aunt’s Studio. It’s almost surreal for me to see Aunt and Gael together!

After another hearty breakfast at Mom’s, We are headed to Aunt’s and Uncle’s in Heyri for the first time for Emi and Gael! Aunt and Uncle have not met Gael yet, So we are very excite!

The door opens up, Uncle and Aunt come out in bare feet much welcoming. I see aunt’s eyes get teary with happiness and emotion to see Emi and Gael. Ahhh it’s so good to be here. I get all teary too. Uncle’s the same way. I have never seen him so happy and having a good time. Emi and Uncle hit it off right away on mutual interests. Love for Wine and good food.

IMG_2376It’s always good to see Tang and Brandy.

IMG_2377Emi and Uncle. The first time meet. Deep in conversation on Italian Wine and Mushrooms. Ha-Ha!  Uncle had studied to be a Sommelier as a hobby recently.

IMG_2381All of us enjoying Aunt’s Fermented Ume, Apricot and fresh Peppermint drink.  Sweet and refreshing with nice squeeze of Lemon. So Delicious!!!  Ume is much used in our family daily in cooking meals in place of honey and vinegar as after it goes through fermentation, it gets sweet and sour. Think sort of maple syrup like consistency. It’s delicious and it does body good for you. Talking about rich in vitamin C and good for digestion.

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IMG_2435Beautiful and modern Heyri. Click Here for More Pics.  Now we are about to explore!

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IMG_2396The Best Coffee in Heyri Aunt says: Coffee Coffee.  Heyri’s biggest charm is living a Modern and Artistic life in organic and sort of nostalgic way. There are lots of old school details that are re born in most current setting.

IMG_2384In front of the coffee shop, there’s a true nostalgic ‘ TTong PPang’ machine baking Sweet Red bean cake. The real common name is ” gold fish cake” as the old time cake mold was in gold fish shape but here today’s new version is in ” poop” shape. Now you know what ” TTong” means. PPang means ‘ Bread’.  You eat it while it’s hot. Delis!!!

IMG_2387Gael having fun!

IMG_4246Inside of the Coffee shop. The Coffee Bar. Loving the stools made out of part of barrel I believe?  Just following coffee shops in Seoul can be one good way to see Seoul today especially for innovative interior designs.

IMG_2402The family.

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IMG_2407Now we are exploring Artists’ space in the building where the Cafe is. Light fixtures.

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IMG_2409Creative Open Space.

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IMG_2420Now here we are where Aunt regularly works on her Ceramics.  Gael’s abut to experience Ceramic making!

IMG_4277Gael getting ready!

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IMG_2425After 20 minutes, Gael had made his Noodle bowl and a Tea cup!

IMG_2428Gael putting his Artist’s signature on.  Clay is just too wet for Gael to put his name on. So we are making a tag that can be attached to the bottom and to be baked in a right timing.

IMG_2429Thank you So much Master Choi and Thank you Aunt!  We will be back again!!

IMG_2433Now moving on to a Traditional market next door. It says “From the farmers”.

IMG_4295Mini legume samples and sacks contain them for sale.

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IMG_2439Back home at Aunt’s Studio for power rest. Then we are off for dinner! Some of Aunt’s small work.

IMG_2440Emi on a nap… Zzzzzzz

IMG_2454OK now it’s time for Dinner! This is one of my favorite place to dine!  The place is called  “Old Country Table”.  They serves up typical Korean table that comes with many little side tasting dishes. You get to choose the main dish such as grilled Beef, pork or Pollack. Today we are going for spicy grilled Pollack.

IMG_2453A few different kinds of kim chi, Mountain veggies that are picked, dried, socked and steamed with great seasonings, simple ssam with lettuce and crunch green chili, soy sauce soaked blue crabs, individually prepared amazing miso soups…. It goes on!

IMG_2458Made to order rice is just prepared and served right at the table on  rice cart.

IMG_2459YUUUummmmmm!  Ginko, chestnuts, red beans and rice.  Delicious! So nutty!

IMG_2462Spicy and Sweet Chilli paste Grilled Pollack! Yum Yum Yum

IMG_2455Uncle, Thank You!!! for the great time and all the generous treats!  ( two little legs behind Uncle are Gael’s. He fell on a sleep…)

IMG_2380Aunt and Me. We look alike.

Aunt in Korean is “Imo”.  Which really means “A different Mother” in Korean.  My aunt is a younger sister of my Mom and She is my another mother. Uncle in this case is called ” Imobu”, which means ” A different father”.  I also had lived with Aunt, Uncle and my cousin which actually really is a sister, Yoon hee when I was studying in NY for like a year. So it is very special feeling and love that I have for all of them.

Imo and Imobu, Thank you so much for all your warm hearts and love. We had a wonderful wonderful time!  I can’t speak enough how happy I am that we all got to finally meet and had time together.

For many more years, Cheers to us!

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For more, just be there!

LOvE SEOUL!!!

IMG_6021Setting a table and prepping for a simple and real Korean dinner!

I am a Korean. And I love Korean food. I married a Italian man. And he loves Korean food. We made a boy and he loves Korean food. So it’s oh so natural, we all turn to Korean food time to time. It’s my home and it’s my root and it’s just so delicious and I love to cook so here I am! I like to share a few pics of me making very simple typical Korean dishes. Folks, No B.B.Q tonight here!  We actually have simple yet quite complex cuisine that speaks to many senses that travels way beyond wonderful B.B.Q!  Korean food will be an excellent way to carry vegetarian diet or even raw food diet. We eat all sort of vegetables that are from the ocean, the deep in the woods and beautiful wide open field. We know how to prepare them in so many different ways and we have extensive knowledge about what we eat and what they do to us. We grow up on this. It’s part of our culture. And it gets passed to generations after generations. We got ton of colors and textures that juxtapose high and low, ing and yang, land and ocean and warm and cold. We like to chew. We like it hot and we like it real cold. But there’s also a delicate area where rounds and comforts our body and soul without such things as heavy butter or cream. It’s clean, honest and delicious!

I am making simple dishes that myself and all Koreans have grown up on!  Here’s my Friday night whipping up a few humble Korean dishes!

IMG_5991Pan toasted baby anchovies with fresh rosemaries and arugula bits.  So start with dried anchovies. Koreans use and eat all different sizes and kinds of anchovies or family of anchovies. Usually the size of anchovies dictates the end product. Here I have tiny little ones tonight for hot pan toasting with olive oil, crushed garlic, touch of raw sugar ( I only use raw sugar for a long time by now). And here I try adding ” what’s in the fridge for the moment” touch. It’s spontaneous and it always works for me to just explore a bit.  I do believe though this takes bit of skill: knowing how different ingredients would work together not following written recipes. I am a terrible baker as I just do not have a littlest patient to follow something exactly but in contrary, I like to throw a few things in together to whip up quick simple and delicious flavor.

IMG_5992Here  I have a bag of dried anchovies imported from Korea. I bought this at H mart in Queens or you can easily get any kinds at typical Korean super market or Japanese works just fine for me as well.  As you know one single anchovy that is big as length of your palm size is packed with powerful flavor to make big potful of Dashi ( clear anchovy and kelp broth).

How to make this:

1. Heat up an any wider pan you have, drizzle olive oil or vegetable oil.

2. When the pan is hot, add in about 3 cups of dried anchovies, let them sit a minute and stir time to time.

3. When you see anchovies get toasty and brown, add crushed fresh garlic and half teaspoonful of chopped rosemaries and arugula. Keep stiring and toast anchovies. Do this on mid heat.

4. Add a teaspoonful of raw sugar. Stir for another few minutes. Raw sugar balances natural saltiness of anchovies.

IMG_5995Done. Nutty, toasty, salty and sweet that’s grounded by earthiness of Rosemarie. It was my first time trying fresh rosemaries with this dish. They work together Beautifully!  Eat over simple steamed rice! Yum!

IMG_5997OK. Making steamed rice 101. We ran out of brown rice, so I am using white but Jasmine rice. I find Jasmine rice faster and easier to cook, easier to digest than typical Sushi rice ( less gluten). I do not use rice cooker. I am actually quite good at making rice with any kind of pot but it definitely requires low heat, preferably heavier and thicker pot and the cover. Today I am using ALL CLAD.

How to make simple steamed White rice in a regular pot. It takes just 20 minutes.

1. 2 -3 cups of rice ( this gets usually doubled after steamed enough to serve 4-5 people couple times)

2. Rinse and place them in the pot and add water.

3. A simple trick. Add simple cold tap water to the rice to where it reaches bout 1″ above your knuckles when you place your hand open and flat over the rice.

4. On medium heat, let the water come to a boil. Do not cover.

5. Lower the heat, let the water and rice boil and sort of simmer for 7-8 minutes. Do not cover.

6. When you still see water goes up and down of the surface of the rice, cover it and lower the heat all the way. COVER NOW.

7. Do not stir the rice. Let it be for another 5-6 minutes. Add dash of couple spoonful of water and turn the heat off. Cover it and it will keep cooking through.

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IMG_5993OK! Now moving onto an Egg roll ( like a Sushi roll!). This is so easy to make and I can definitely say maybe this is the #1 lunch box menu for all our Korean’s school years!   All moms have their way to do this, add sheet of seaweed in the middle, or add bits of onions and any other veggies, canned tuna, mushrooms, you name it. It’s very similar to your sunday morning omelet but rolled in a smaller scale.

How to make this:

1. Break and beat 4-5 whole eggs in a bowl, add sea salt and bit of milk or water.

2. Heat your frying pan up. Drizzle some olive oil. Don’t burn your pan but  the pan should be hot enough not to have egg sticks to it.

3. Pour the beat eggs into the pan. Medium heat.

3. 2 ways to add topping/filling. Either add chopped scallion, onion, zucchini, mushroom whatever into the beat egg or add them on when the egg is half cooked in a pan then gently spread them on the top.

4. Now you will fold and roll the beat eggs by about 1″. Think you are making a Sushi roll or making home made fresh pastas and rolling and folding the dough. The key is roll half cooked beat eggs by 1″ at a time. Give some time to the beat eggs to be cooked through a bit.

5. When it’s done,  get it out of the pan and let it rest for a couple minutes on the cutting board. It helps the rolled egg to stay together.

IMG_5994Rock and Rolling! My filling was just simply chopped white onion.

IMG_6000Not the best job I did. I overcooked it a bit then I like it that way. Typical ones you see especially in Japanese restaurant you would not see any of these brown marks. They will be flawlessly creamy yellow. Then I also hate Japanese eggs has sugar in it. Definitely savory version for me. Not sugary!

IMG_6001See if you had put some carrots or even caviar, you would end up with prettier faces!

IMG_6008Bit of table setting, By the way, Emi’s in the middle of making a new dining table. We are playing with how we like to finish up the top. Thought we have Gael do some drawing..? We are still thinking.

IMG_6004Toasted Seaweed. Koreans love them toasted crispy with sesame oil and sea salt sprinkled. This is also really good with chilled beer! Sort of like potato chips.

IMG_6019Kimchi in a bowl my Aunt baked. I use it all the time and I always think about her every time I use it. Thanks Aunt!!

IMG_5989Chili and Korean miso hot pot with sliced sirloin, potato, carrot, zucchini and tofu.  The big green pieces are dried kelp. We use them a lot to make base stock and clear broth. They are rich in mineral, iron, calcium and magnesium and also high in sulfur and rich vitamin D. They are really good for you!

How to make it:

1 Start with the Kelp broth. A small pot full of plain water and 5-6 squares of dried kelp. Let them boil for a while and add a tablespoonful of Korean chili paste and 2 spoonful of Korean Miso paste.

2. Add chopped chunks of all the veggies you want. We typically put potato, carrots, zucchini and onion. Here you can also add or switch any with mushrooms and bean sprouts. Or again whatever you would like.

3. Add sliced sirloin pieces. Let them boil a bit like 20 minutes on medium high heat.

4. Add  tofu, sea salt, crushed garlic and chopped green scallions at the end for another 5-6 minutes boiling on medium heat.

IMG_6023Little bowls for rice,  plates for anything

IMG_6043Time to eat ! yeah yum yum!

LOvE Korean!

IMG_0379Ssamji Gil in Insadong, Seoul

This is my fourth time visiting Insadong since the first time I went with Mom and Emi when my brother got married about 9 years ago. Somehow Insadong always brings me some sort of nostalgia that actually I really don’t know about that well… But I secretly love that vague and warm nostalgia about my own fantasy of what old Seoul would have been.  I was born in early 70′s so I wasn’t there to live the middle of all but I would have loved it and I don’t know why, but I think I am right about guessing Insadong today somehow carries that old charm of 70′s Seoul. I just feel it. I really like the fact that good portion of Insadong does not allow any cars around. It’s laid back luxury you can have in the middle of busy Seoul. Or in any metropolitan city. It’s relaxing…  Insadong then (1392-1910) was dominated by  Art school, ” Dowhawon”,  is still adorned by many writers, artists and craftsmen. It’s bit bohemian and very traditional despite how commercial it could be yet I am Sssooo thankful that Seoul really is doing a great job to reserve such an area like this till today keeping much character and authenticity.  How do you know the new is good if  you don’t know the old. I believe. Then a few years ago, Ssamji Gil has opened up in Isandong. Ssmjigil is somewhat a mall with 70 shops of small businesses. Hand made soaps, paper shop, a little boutiques sell their one of kind things… And I believe this small mall became a catalyst for the revitalization of Insadong. Unlike other common malls, Ssamjigil sets back allowing the complex to blend into the street-scape. It was quite a generous and considerate decision from the investor and developer point of view. You know how it can easily become. High-rises of million shops selling whatever that is. More money and higher density.  But Ssamji Gil is bit different. It’s a quite low rise structure made out of concrete, metal, glass and wood definitely feeling modern yet warm and approachable by having this open layout using ramp style passage ways (think Guggenheim Museum in NYC but done in rectangular shape rather circular line being able to to house shops easily on the linear lines).  The overall style of Ssamji Gil is easy and airy with naive looking signage, kind of business and an open court yard. It’s a relatively new mall in this old area yet again it’s modern enough to feel relevant to today’s society.  Ssamji Gil has set a perfect sort of new direction for good old Insadong.

IMG_0315Ssamji Gil Court Yard.

IMG_0317A few of actual stair cases in the mall.  A stair way to get to underground level where there are small Korean restaurants and cafes.

IMG_0320Visitors’ scribbles on the washed concrete wall. It looks quite interesting. Below, cute mural of an elevator area.

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IMG_0318A miniature artist shop. These low sitting tables full of yummy traditional Korean food  and snack with Soju are 2/3 of size of your palm. Cute, ha?

IMG_0376Then, cousin Yoonhee and I stopped by at this traditional Korean Accessory shop, Gabe. Cute window captures our eyes. Below, 2 little hats and a pair of baby shoes.

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IMG_0353I ended up getting one of “Norigae”, a tasseled pendant sort of women’s accessories for traditional Korean dresses. They are all hand made and depends on ow elaborate the design is and materials are, the prices starts from $30.00 up to couple grands.  Norigae ws widely used for women in royal family and “Ghi Seng”, the geisha of Korea. Norigae was attached to “Gorum”, a long tie for the traditional Korean outfit, “HanBok”‘s shirt.

450px-Korean_accessory-Norigae-01Hanbok’s shirt, “jugori” and Noriae.

IMG_0356Colorful paper boxes for ” Norigae”. I picked out the top one. Hot pink with black trim.

IMG_0350The shop, Gabe carries all sort of little accessories as these thimbles as well as small pillows for needles, hairpins, textiles and more…

IMG_0340Another thing that really caught my eyes were this hair accessories. You know Emiliano does hair, so whenever I see interesting thing that related to hair styling or tools, I like to take a look at them. ( and it was a little for Emi ). The hairpiece is called ” Tzchokmuri” a braided hair  and the main big hair pin that is used to secure the braid to the head is called ” Binnye”.

IMG_0357A fabulous Binnye, the hairpin. It comes all different sizes, designs, materials and all ( Gold, silver, white gold….)

IMG_0359More Binnye and other hair accessories.

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IMG_0154A simple hair do here. Just one Binnye and Tzchomuri. It’s quite beautiful.

IMG_0373After quite a time we spent at Gabe, Yoonhee and I headed up to the top floor where there is a lovely passage way with a wooden deck: a garden meets pedestrian board walk like vibe. It’s really really lovely here. I can’t imagine how it would be during Spring and Summer with bloomed flowers and lush green leaves.. and of course more cafes to visit there…

IMG_0312Leaving Ssamji Gil… No that’s not me standing there…!

IMG_0306I just can’t get enough of Korean street food even though most of time i pass it. This is Hottuck, a sort of cryspy pancake that is fried on a hot griddle with sweet syrup inside. Sweet, hot and crispy!  yoonhee and I did not pass it this time. It was delicious!

IMG_0307Crispy Sweet Hottuck!

IMG_0303A herb shop in Insadong.

Insadong is also the best bet to taste varieties of Korean Teas. There are many small and big scaled beautiful traditional tea houses with galleries and beautiful court yards. Kyungin Gallery. is one of many well known Tea Houses where also has a galley And It is my favorite tea house in Insadong.  The Insadong street stretches about 700m offering  fun and rich opportunities to taste traditional culture and art of Korea. And it is my little nostalgia of old Seoul. Go visit and enjoy the laid back old fun and also the new fun of Ssamji gil!

IMG_0201Entrance to down and cool complex fun Hong Ik University town (Hong Dae),  Seoul

Get on the subway line 2 and literally get off at  “Hong Ik University” station in Shin Chon area. It’s very easy to get around in Seoul by Subways. Just like NY. It’s just more pleasant with fancy double sliding glass doors and velvet covered heated seats. Oh and great phone reception on entire subway line! Clean and Fast. Maybe the best way to get around the town for sure. I took Andrew and Jessica with me to stroll Hong Dae ( Dae  means “University”  in Korean) and hope to find a perfect little bar restaurant to sip some good sake and munching on little dishes!

If you were ever been in Tokyo, you would notice it right away. Hong Dae town greatly reminds you of Shibuya and Shimo Kitajawa in Tokyo yet less commercial. Bit grunge, bit bohemian, tiny tiny shops and groups of stream of cute and young people. Especially on the weekend nights, it gets much lively. Little cafes and restaurants and bars are everywhere with cute signs and charming attitude. They look interesting. A huge underground music scenes and weekend artist market called ” Free Market (not Flea Market) is also supposed to be quite cool and hip. There supposed to be many young artists from Hong Ik university and outside selling their art and artsy objects while they are creating them in the market. A few indie bands also joins the weekend art fair. It all sounds quite interesting. Hong Dae town is sort of a small meting pot of Young culture of Seoul.

Below, one of many small shops. It says ” Avenue, Hong Dae”

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IMG_0216_2To top off great reputation to have the best Fine Art  major in Korea at Hong Dae University, the vibe at this university town is Artsy and Carefree.  It’s still commercial yet got lots of character and attitude. You will also find good amount of vintage shops selling accessories and vintage clothing that are  from 70′s and on.

IMG_0213_2One of vintage shops in the town, Cat’s. Their website.  www.lunabagel.com 

IMG_0210_2Andrew trying on a vintage fur vest with leather trim! You know fur is super “In” in Korea and the rest of world. You know!

IMG_0205_2The ultimate Street food, Thukbokki house. Spicy chili sauce rice cake with fish cake, garlic, sugar and more. This is The national street food of Korea.

IMG_0203Ttuckbokki man stirring Ttuckbokki and next to it,  Oden (Japanese fish cake ) on sticks simmering inside Dashi (dried fish based clean broth). Dashi is well known to be the base broth for Udon noodle soup.

IMG_0214_2It’s typical to see many commercial places located on the second floor in Korea. Or let’s say in Asia in general. Especially in Korea though. A small country and crowded city makes the real estate market impressively expensive. I am not kidding the Seoul real estate market is way way more expensive than Manhattan!

IMG_0236_2Karaoke building, ZillerOzone.  Karaoke, Norebang in Korean, gets quite fancy here in Seoul. Individual rooms with drinks and food you can order in. Private service for private parties and free recording of your entire singing session during the stay. You can walk away with a CD with your own recording.

IMG_0218After a few days of hearty delicious Korean food, We are up for some yummy sake and Japanese bites!  We find this small yet wonderful place, ” To-Ra”, a Japanese sake Bar with many tasty dishes!  Traditional looking wooden facade and Japanese sign attracted us right away!

IMG_0217The first floor of the sake bar. A tiny place. We almost walked out thinking not enough space for 3 of us but friendly owner stopped us to try the second floor. Actually the third floor. Their entrance is on the semi second floor. The restaurant is located on a smooth hill. You can actually see well lined up sake bottles from the outside. The entrance floor may be able to serve only 10 people in total. 

IMG_0221The third floor and To-Ra’s actual second floor. Many more tables and bigger space up here. Low ceiling, mixed and matched chairs and tables are cozily covered by dim and warm orange lighting.  It’s perfect for us to tuck ourselves in and do what we wanted to do for this freezing cold night. Order some sake and delicious food and chat the night away…

IMG_0220_2Little nibbles to start. Bean sprouts. It’s on the house. Delicious!

IMG_0224_2Hot Oden pot on the table cooker. Various shapes and kinds of Oden. Mushrooms, scallions and Dashi broth. Let it all boil and just dig in!

IMG_0228_2Fried Squid bites with black squid ink.  So crispy and fresh. Squeeze of lemon and Yum Yum Yum!  Below Jessica and Andrew…

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IMG_0230_2Quick fried soft tofu sitting in a soy based broth…  This was one of my favorite. So tender and so much flavor. I loved it!

IMG_0231Seared tuna with ponzu sauce and side of grilled wild mushroom. It was bit too cold at the center but still yummy. Or we may have been quite full by the time this dish arrived. Regardless, isn’t it pretty!?

IMG_0223Me and Jessica cheering to the night. The last night of great week at the Korea office together.

IMG_0233_2A view of Hong Dae through a cozy window of “To-Ra” Sake bar. 

IMG_0242_2After a long lovely dinner with Andrew and Jessica, we headed out for a little strolling for the town a bit. ( also needed to walk after that big dinner!)  You will find quite many Taro Card readings in the town. About $4.00 a session.

IMG_0241Another Bar, ” Po Cha”.  An old traditional signage for a bar: a wooden box lamp. These small details add lots of little charms to Hong Dae town.

IMG_0243Expect to see millions and billions of coffee shops in Seoul. The least interesting thins is the Star Bucks chain in Seoul. There are so many big and small independent coffee shops that make kick ass authentic coffee!  I was told most of coffee shop owners will go for a year or two of intense training to Italy to learn roasting coffee beans to making a heart on your cappuccino.  No place has disappointed my Italian native trained tongue for a good cup of coffee yet in Seoul.

IMG_0244_2Good interior and exterior design adds more fun to your cup of coffee.

IMG_0239_2A cute Sashimi and Japanese cuisine house, ” Wha Dong”. Wha means Flower in Korean.

IMG_0235_2Bit dirty and cute at the same time. A small street…

IMG_0245_2People are lined up to get into a club, Cocoon.  So Hong Dae town apparently has much appetite for all sort of music like Hip Hop, Jazz, House, Rock, Trans,  drum and base and more… The last Friday of each month  is a “Club Day”. You can do a club hopping with one single ticket you have purchased. Also it’s a great area to try  many small indie bands and other live concerts in Seoul.

IMG_0246Tented Food Carts= Pojang Macha= The best way to taste the most common street food in Korea.

I would say visiting Hong Dae Town is may be the best way to taste the heart of  Young culture in Seoul. With much tiring and suppressing education system in Korea, getting accepted into a college is the biggest deal of your life. And that is ‘ THE TICKET’ to start your true life as an adult. And they will truly enjoy that freedom to live, argue, read and think. And Hong Dae is a really good short cut to glance that Young culture of Korea.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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