Get your Crunk on!

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It’s been a while since I’ve posted something about my trip to Korea so to ease into everything, I’m going to do a quick post about one of my favourite products discovered on this trip. No, this is not a makeup review. It’s a chocolate review. Boom.

One of the best purchases we made in Korea was this chocolate bar called Crunky. It’s similar to Crunch, except it’s thinner and you can taste the rice. Liam ducked out to the local convenience store to pick up some water and bought a bar. I don’t know what made him choose this bar because it’s quite modest in its packaging, but it does have a funky name so that could be it.

As soon as I took a bite, the malted, toasty flavour of the rice came through, followed by the sweetness of the chocolate. I prefer Crunky over Crunch because the rice to chocolate ratio is more balanced. It’s quite thin so it goes really quickly. The texture is similar to a wafer biscuit. Luckily most convenience stores in Korea sell Crunky in a combo deal, something like three Crunky bars for 2000 won, which is a little over AU$2. I would have happily bought the whole store’s worth of Crunky but Liam talked me out of it so we went to two different stores to buy a couple of bars.

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A lot of blogs on the internet seem to hate on this humble chocolate, and I don’t really know why. Sometimes you don’t want a chocolate bar laced with chewy caramel and nuts. Sometimes, you just want a chocolate bar with a touch of funk, or this case, some crunk.

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I went looking for the bar in Australia and I’ve found it at a few asian grocers in the CBD but they’re a bit different. First of all, the Crunky we import is the japanese kind, which has a box packaging and the bar is much thicker. Tastes the same though! They’ve also got Crunky in bitter, which I’m assuming is dark chocolate. Crunky is also pricier here, about $2.60-3.98 depending on where you go. The internet says Crunky also comes in strawberry flavour, but I haven’t seen any here.

What’s your favourite Asian chocolate?

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Architecture in Seoul

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Seoul is known for its amazing food and awesome internet but one thing that really took my breath away when we visited Seoul was the stunning architecture, both old and new. From the futuristic Dongdaemun Plaza to the eight gates of Seoul, Seoul is a fantastic place to visit if you love architecture and rich history.

Ewha Womans University

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After we visited the Bauhouse Dog cafe, we headed to Ewha Womans University to look for some lunch and check out the famous university. This university was founded in 1886 by a missionary called Mary F Scranton, who believe all women deserved the right to an education, which was pretty progressive at the time. You can read more about the history of the university (super interesting!) on their website.

The design of the university is amazing. Even though the university has ultra modern and old, almost gothic elements meshed together, it somehow really works.

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After our quick tour of the university, we explored some of the streets in Ewha, and stumbled across this tiny Japanese ramen bar. There was no english on the menu but the guy working there knew some english and helped us translate it.

Both Liam and I ordered the spicy ramen, but they gave me extra egg because I didn’t eat pork and gave Liam my extra pork. So generous!

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The ramen was perfect, just what we needed after fawning over dogs all day. It was spicy and packed with flavour. I felt very nourished after it!

Sungnyemun Gate

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One of the things I miss most about Seoul is heading to the Namdaemun market in the morning to grab some kimchi buns from our favourite bun place and some japchae hotteok.

On our way to meet up with Liam’s friend Jaewon, we passed through the market and spotted a giant gate in the middle of the road. After some research we found out it is the Sungnyemun Gate, which means Gate of Exalted Ceremonies. According to Wikipedia, the gate was used to greet important foreign people, restrict access into the capital city and “keep out Siberian Tigers”. Cool.

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We were comparing the gates to the Angkar Wat in Cambodia, wondering how the gate is still in such great condition. Apparently there was a 2008 arson attack on gate, which meant it needed to go through some restorations, but even before then, it went through some intense damage due to the Korean War and had to be repaired.

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It’s a pretty epic gate (as you can see in the pictures below), and there are a couple around Seoul. We saw one on our last day but it was gated off from the public so we couldn’t visit it.

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After our brief detour, we walked to Seoul Station. One of the best things about Seoul is it’s pretty easy to walk everywhere if you don’t want to use their awesome subway. I can’t remember how long it took us to walk from Namdaemun market to Seoul station, but it was a quick walk.

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Once there, we met up with Liam’s pal Jaewon and he took us to an awesome Tibetan restaurant, where I had the best lassi and naan bread of my life! It was a really lovely lunch, and afterwards Jaewon showed us around the city before he headed home.

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Dongdaemun Design Plaza

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We headed to Dongdaemun a few times to get our (OK, my) fashion fix. The design plaza left us awestruck. It is such a cool futuristic looking building with all these curves and perspectives. You could plonk you camera anywhere and still take a badass shot. The design plaza was only completed in March 2014 and was designed by award-winning Iraqi British architect Zaha Hadid in partnership with Samoo, an architecture and engineering service in Korea. I heard a story about its history but I can’t find it anywhere on the web so I don’t want to write it in case I get any details wrong.architecture-in-seoul-19architecture-in-seoul-18

This structure is really unlike anything I’ve ever seen in Australia. It really uses space in a very innovative way, and moulds itself very comfortably in such a dense area.

After our short tour of the plaza, we headed back to the museum of modern and contemporary art to meet up with Liam’s new friends Yesong and Kyle, and their son Shawn. We had a great chat at the cafe and decided to have a kick ass dinner in one of the restaurants in a tight alleyway.

Again, everything on the menu was in Korean, so Yesong and Kyle helped translate it.

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Guys, it was here that I had the best kimchi of my life. It was so good, so perfectly balanced in acidity and salt. I could not stop eating it. Liam ordered a kimchi stew which he LOVED and I ordered a seafood broth with slices of noodle dough. Mine was nice, but I was having some intense food envy because Liam couldn’t get over how good his stew was.

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We also had Makgeolli, which is a fermented rice drink, served in a giant pot. We even drank out of bowls, which is so cool. I remember seeing photos of my great grandfather drinking liquor by the bowl. I didn’t like makgeolli the first time I had it but it definitely grew on me. It looks like asian soy milk but it tastes nothing like it. It’s a bit acidic, with a slight boozy buzz.

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So there you have it, a quick recap of the cool architecture in Seoul. Hope you’ve been enjoying my Seoul posts. For more of my posts on Seoul, check out the links below:

First day in Seoul

Exploring art and laneways in Seoul!

Dog Lovin’ at Bauhouse dog cafe

Exploring art and laneways in Seoul!

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Well, I had these grand plans to blog while I was in Seoul but it obviously didn’t happen. I’m back in Melbourne now and am working out a bunch of blog posts for the next few weeks. I’m trying out this thing where I write for an hour every day to get myself into the habit of writing, and might as well use it to get myself blogging more consistently!

The night after our first awesome day in Seoul, Liam and I decided to head to Hongdae for some dinner and drinks! Hongdae is a university district so it’s a younger, hipper crowd with exciting bars and things to do at night. We noticed pretty much every restaurant was a fried chicken and beer joint. While I love fried chicken, we had some the night before and wanted to try different Korean food so wandered around and ended up at a Koread BBQ. We should have looked at the menu before entering because there weren’t many beef/chicken options, mostly pork. I ordered a very expensive plate of wagyu beef while Liam had some pork. It was really nice but it was nothing special.

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The next day we wanted to go to the National Folk Museum but when we got there it was closed! It was OK though as the area the museum was in was very picturesque so we just took some photos of a few of the palaces!

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We ended up going to the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, which I was pleased about because it was on my list. It was a great museum/art gallery but I felt like the there wasn’t much there as a lot of events or exhibitions weren’t ready for the public yet. We saw the Bauhaus exhibit, which was the creepiest fucking thing I’ve ever seen. I never had issues with clowns until that exhibit. Bauhaus was a design school from the early 1900s to 1930 and was famous for its unusual approach to teaching design and construction. I don’t know why, but I got this really cult-ish vibe from the exhibit.

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The best exhibit was the Lee Bul one! She had two installations, one was a massive room decked out in shards of mirrors and lights, like a scene in a sci-fi film where someone lands on a new planet. So cool. I didn’t realise it I wasn’t allowed to take photos so I got told off. Her second installation was even more epic. I’m gonna let the images speak for themselves. It made me feel like I was in The Matrix or something and the sentinels are coming for me.

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After the museum, we decided to head home but we stumbled upon an alleyway full of cool little shops and cafes. We went to Jaws Food after they enticed us with their croquettes. They’re actually more like deep fried fish balls stuffed with cheese. Yum regardless!

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This particular area had some really stunning views and architecture. I could have spent hours exploring all the laneways. We even stumbled across a little egg tart place! Overall, a very awesome second day in Seoul!

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First day in Seoul: Namdaemun Market, Myeongdong and Shinsegae Mall

WASSUP WORLD? I’m in Korea! Liam and I arrived in Seoul last night and after a refreshing sleep in our cosy apartment, we went exploring today. So much to eat and so little stomach space! I can’t wait to get elbow deep in some shopping (feeling a bit self-conscious because the sizes are tiny), and visiting some awesome towns outside of Seoul. Here’s a quick recap of our first day!

First night in Seoul:

We were bloody exhausted from our flight to Seoul so we want to have a quick dinner then head home and sleep. There’s a chicken and beer place near our apartment called Bbo Bbo Chicken, which means kiss chicken so we ordered a plate of fried chicken (half chilli, half original) and two giant glasses of Hite beer. It was just what we needed!

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The chicken was really nice, very juicy! The sauce was really lovely: a sticky, sweet chilli sauce with hints of red pepper. So yum!

Day One: Namdaemun Market, Myeongdong and Shinsegae Mall

We wanted to take it easy today and just wander around to see what’s up. We found ourselves in the midst of the Namdaemun Market, where they sell all kinds of things, mostly clothes, shoes, bags and food. We arrived a little early, so there weren’t that many food places open and we weren’t quite ready to shop so we just walked around and picked up a few snacks.

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One of the larger food stalls was frying up these delicious-looking pancakes. They’re called hotteok and you can get them with sweet and savoury fillings. The ones we got had japchae in them, which is a noodle stirfry. The noodles in particular are those chewy glass ones made from potato.

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As you can see, they were delicious. The Japchae was lightly seasoned, crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. It was awesome! It cost 1500 won for two, which is about AU$1.70.

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We also had some fresh steamed buns with a kimchi filling! They were really delicious too, and the tart filling meshed well with the sweeter bun. It was like 2000 won for two buns, which is AU$2.25.

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Liam found this little stall that makes coffee espresso style, but they heated the milk first then added the coffee, which was a little strange, but it wasn’t too bad. Apparently he’s had some coffee in Sydney that’s worse than anything he’s had in Seoul so yay! I’ve noticed there are a lot of cafes in Seoul, but most of them are kinda Starbucks-y.

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After exploring Namdaemun market, we went to Shinsegae Mall, which is like a fancy ass mall that’s probably similar to Harrod’s in the UK. We were mostly interested in their food section, which was INSANE! They have a vegetable, seafood, meat, cheese, dessert and supermarket sections, plus a swanky food court. Sorry I didn’t get many photos of the place! We tried some samples of kimchi, exclaimed at things (um truffle salt, anyone?!), and bought some drinks. It was all so luxurious! I can’t really imagine anyone actually shopping in these places on a regular basis unless they’re extremely wealthy.

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After Shinsegae Mall, we wandered through the Hoehyeon underground shopping centre and reached Myeongdong which is a shopping district. The streets were lined with heaps of Korean makeup brands like Etude House and Nature Republic, as well as clothing and accessories stores and eateries. I really liked how bustling the area was! A lot of the people at the shops could speak a bit of English and some spoke in Chinese to me. I felt really envious of the people who could just switch from Korean to Chinese to English. Must be awesome to be trilingual!

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We stopped at Yoogane for lunch, where we cooked our meal on a iron pan. I think I was stirring it wrong because the waitress was all like “STOP” at me haha. We ordered the chicken Bulgogi, which had spring onions, mushrooms, marinated chicken and those potato noodles! It was so delicious. Our meal was 22000 won, which works out to be about AU $24.80. Not the cheapest lunch, but it hit the spot!

After lunch we wandered around some more and we saw this majestic creature:

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IT’S A CHOWCHOW THAT LOOKS LIKE A PANDA! So cute, look at his/her paws!

Anyway, after some more wandering, we found ourselves at the Myeongdong underground shopping centre and I bought this awesome fried egg ring!

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Isn’t it cool? I’m going to paint my nails pink so it will look like I’ve got bacon and eggs on my hands!

Today’s shopping:

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From left to right:

Fried egg ring: 6900 won from a shop at Myeongdong underground shopping centre, about AU$7.80

Etude House Precious Mineral Any Cushion foundation and refill, 28,000 won AU$31

Etude House nail polish, 3000 won, AU$3.40

So that’s my quick recap of day one in Seoul! Hope you enjoyed it. If you want, you can follow me on instagram, which will have more photos of my trip: instagram.com/chouxchoux

I’m Seoul Excited!

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I’m going to Seoul next month with Liam! Flights and accommodation have all been booked and now comes the fun part: PLANNING AND RESEARCH! I’ve been reading lots about Seoul’s food and fashion scene and I just CANNOT wait to get there.  I’d like to blog while I am there but we’ll see.

If anyone has any recommendations on where I should go or any blogs/websites I should check out, let me know! I was actually really keen on visiting the Kimchi Museum (!!) but it’s closed down for now and won’t reopen till March. But I hear there’s lots of shopping around Myeongdog, Dongdaemun and Hongdae and loads of food everywhere.

This trip has come at a really great time. Liam was finally able to take leave from work and I will be leaving my current job just before Christmas. I don’t have anything lined up (I and am looking!) but I hope to use the spare time to work on my art, get into shape and learn Korean!

If anyone else is also doing Seoul research, I’d recommend you check out Seoulistic. It has pretty much everything you need to know about Seoul food, culture, shopping etc. I’ve also just created a Pinterest board to log all the useful articles and blogs. There’s nothing in it just yet but it will fill up soon!

:D

Getting Oily

Liam and my housemate Lucas infused three bottles of oil a few months ago: chilli, mandarine peel and rosemary. We haven’t properly used them in any cooking so I can’t wait to drizzle some over pasta or, god forbid, a salad.

One night Lucas borrowed my Lightcase, which is this nifty little box that diffuses light and adds a nice backdrop when photographing small things. Lucas used it to photograph a bottle of whisky but the whisky was a little too tall for the light box. I decided to photograph the infused oils as they were bottled in smaller bottles.

The Lightcase is designed so you can photograph amazing photos with your phone. I had my dadd’s special Nikon camera with me so I dedcided to use that instead. It’s just amazing what good light and a good camera can do!

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I’m looking forward to using the Lightcase to photograph some baked goods or new jewellery. Oh and this photo of our cat Bearclaw is too cute not to share. He’s been really naughty these few weeks, killing rats inside the house. I don’t care about the rats so much, but it bothers me when he brings the dirty things into the house for a rumble. Germs much?

Who knew such a pretty face could be a vicious killer.

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Meatballs in a tomato, carrot and spinach sauce with cous cous

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I’ve had a stressful few weeks. Work’s been crazy, and I don’t see it calming down any time soon. I’ve realised I’m handling the stress badly because I’m not looking after myself. I’ve made a pact with Liam (we even made pinky promise) to eat healthier next week.

A few weeks back, I had really bad stomach pains, probably some kind of acid reflux. I couldn’t find time to see a doctor and when I did find some free time, the pain was gone. I made this meatball dish to help my stomach, although it didn’t really help. I think there was too much acid in the sauce, BUT it did taste great and the housemates loved it so I’m chuffed.

It’s a really hearty and homey dish so it’s perfect for the looming Autumn chill.

Meatballs in a tomato, carrot and spinach sauce with cous cous

Serves 5

1kg of beef mince
2 carrots, diced
1 onion, diced
2 tins of chopped tomatoes
250g of baby spinach
2-4 cloves of garlic, minced, or a tablespoon of the minced garlic in jars
2 tsp of dried thyme
2 tsp of dried cumin seeds
2 beef stock cubes
1 cup of water
1 tbsp of powdered garlic
1 tbsp of balsamic vinegar
2 tsp of sugar
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine mince, salt, pepper and garlic powder together in a bowl. Once well combined, roll 1 tablespoon of the mince mixture into balls and put them on a plate or in a bowl. Put in fridge when all mince have been turned into balls.

Dice your onion and carrot and set aside.

In a heavy set pot, put 2 tablespoon of oil and heat up. Fry the meatballs in batches until they are brown. Set aside and keep warm with foil.

Discard the oil and add a 2 tablespoons of oil to the same pot. Saute the onion, carrot, garlic, thyme and cumin until onion and carrot soften.

Add the meatballs, tomatoes, water, stock, balsamic vinegar and sugar to the pot. Stir and slowly bring to boil.

As the mixture boils, make the cous cous. I like to put dried cous cous in a bowl and pour boiling water over it, enough water to cover the cous cous (a bit more is OK too). Cover with a plate or cling wrap, wait 3 minutes.

While the cous cous is soaking, taste the meatball mix. Add salt, pepper and sugar to taste. Turn off heat and stir in the spinach.

Serve the meatballs on top of a bed of cous cous.

Variations:
– Add zucchini and eggplant if you want more veggies.
– Add chilli and paprika to the sauce to give it more of a kick.
– Add a handful of sultanas or raisins to the meatball mixture if you want some more sweetness.
– If you love herbs, add basil when you stir through the spinach or garnish the meatballs with some coriander and spring onion.

What’s your favourite meatball recipe?